Chalets de Sales: an historical moutain pasture
Summer hike
Chalets de Sales: an historical moutain pasture

Chalets de Sales: an historical moutain pasture

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An itinerary along numerous waterfalls where forest progressively disappears to reveal meadows alternating with mineral environments. This round trip follows an old path leading up to the moun-tain pastures, ideal for a discovery of this mountain heritage.
This site, full of beaty and history, was part of the Programme Commun de Recherche (joint research program) initiated by the Departmental Council of Haute-Savoie. Based on interdisciplinarity, this research has provided knowledge on the history of human occupation in the mountains. We invite you to learn more about these discoveries throughout this itinerary.

9 points of interest

  • Flora

    Human impacts on landscape

    This forest is the landscape that should cover almost the entire valley if humans had never settled in these high alpine valleys. If the landscapes that you will see along this trail seem wild and unspoiled to you, they are nevertheless mainly the result of human activities adapted to the mountain environment. To understand and explain these landscapes, it is necessary to cross different disciplines, which was done in the Programme Commun de Recherche which gave interesting information on the past of the mountain pasture of Sales.
  • Moving landscape

    Landscapes change over time and according to different factors. Le Clos de Sales, this vast flat area on which you are standing, is a typical illustration of these changes.
    Le Clos, first located under an ice mantle for a long time, hosted very different plant species(birch, cembro pine, etc) than the ones you can observe today. The geomorphologist who studied the geological situation in order to understand the establishment conditions of flora and fauna and the settling of humans, assume the presence of a lake after the retreat of the ice mantle. The surrounding terrain was gradually worn away, leaving the marks of its slow erosion on its slopes. Then came human intervention: the area was hosting forests, which were cut down in order to obtain grassland, and is now slowly but surely reverting to forest.
  • No mountain pasture at Sales without the Sales' mountain pass

    Once snow had melted and grass had started to grow again, some of the villagers used to move with their animals to the mountain pastures for the summer: that is what's called the inalpe! But without human intervention, the access to the mountain pasture of Sales was much longer than by this route. Dug out of the rocks with rudimentary means during the 19th century, one can easily imagine the colossal efforts and risks that this works must have required to facilitate access to the mountain pastures.
  • Living on the slopes

    From this flat area where the Sales torrent reappears from underground, you can observe many grassy slopes. Not easily accessible for the herds, the inhabitants used it for grass mowing and stored the hay up there or took it back down to the valley. It was necessary to have enough reserves to feed the animals during the winter, a season that lasted for 6 long months in these mountain areas! The resource was so precious that every patch of grass was used, even at high risk.
  • A religious helping hand

    When you are aware that an avalanche or a falling rock can wipe out your life in only a few seconds, it’s worth trying to stack the odds in your favor. Beliefs were important at the time, which explains the effort made to build a chapel here at 1800 meters above sea level. It also shows the existing link between this mountain pasture and the Abbey of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval. The presence of the parish made it possible to consult many archives in order to better understand the history and social organization of the valley.
  • Flora

    Munk's Rhubarb or Alpine Dock

    With these large leaves and large spikes of flowers, the Alpine Dock can’t go unnoticed. This plant indicates a frequent presence of herds, because it proliferates on soils rich in nitrogen (animal excrements enrich the soil with nitrogen). Plants and remains of animals are excellent indicators for other disciplines to understand the history of a location, especially to identify areas suitable for archaeological excavations.
  • To the women of the mountains

    It's the inalpe! While the men stayed in the valley for haymaking activities, the women and children of the village went up to the mountain pastures with the herds, taking advantage of the mountain grasslands. Hard work was part of their daily activities: milking cows, making cheese, watching over the herds... If you could go back in time, you would be surprised by the lively atmosphere of these places!
  • Lapiaz: indicating rocks

    Lapiaz are these limestone rocks with very characteristic grooves. Created by the runoff of surface water, their presence are indicators of an underground karstic network. This very effective natural drainage leads to the drying out of the massif on its surface. Water was therefore a vital and precious resource for humans and herds living here. Locals built a system, which is colossal regarding the technical means of that time, to optimize water: this large basin in rough stone, still visible and used.
  • A commercial mountain pass

    A last effort to walk 3 km with an elevation of 280 meters for a beautiful final view on the Mont Blanc massif … What do you think about it?

    In the past, the Portette pass, and later on the pass of Le Dérochoir after the landslide in 1751, were frequently used routes for buying, selling or exchanging mountain pastures products (cheeses, quartz crystals, donkeys, horses) with the inhabitants of the Arve valley and on european commercial circuits. So no, Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval was not isolated from the rest of the world!


  1. At the Lignon river, go up the forest path to the Chalets de Sales.
  2. After the Cascade de la Pleureuse, continue straight forwards on the path following the Chalets de Sales.
  3. When you arrive on a flat area, follow the path always straight ahead.
  4. At the Chalets de Sales, continue on the main road and cross the village, direction "le Grand Pré"
  5. At the "Grand Pré", turn back by the same route.
  • Departure : Parking « le Lignon »
  • Arrival : Parking le Lignon
  • Towns crossed : Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval

Altimetric profile

Sensitive areas

Along your trek, you will go through sensitive areas related to the presence of a specific species or environment. In these areas, an appropriate behaviour allows to contribute to their preservation. For detailed information, specific forms are accessible for each area.
Impacted practices:
Aerial, , Land, Vertical
Asters - Conservatoire d'espaces naturels de Haute Savoie


Always be careful and plan ahead when hiking. Asters, CEN 74 can not be held responsible for the occurrence of an accident or any inconvenience on this itinerary. Access possible from late spring until autumn. Significant snow cover and avalanche risk in winter. Crossings of steep and exposed snowfields until the end of spring.

Presence of herds protected by patous, adopt an appropriate behavior, adopt the right behavior

Soyez prudent et prévoyant lors de la randonnée. Asters, CEN 74 n'est pas tenu responsable en cas d'accident ou de désagrément quelconque survenu sur ce circuit.

Access and parking

Reach the village of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval. In the village, turn right and following the sign "Cascade du Rouget", cross the bridge. Always follow the road to the Lignon parking lot.

Parking :

Parking le Lignon

More information

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