FAMILY HIKES: Sentier des Arpelières (VAL d’ARLY)

A couple of 🍁 Novembers ago, MBFF set off on a short hike that I’d been wanting to do for a while: Le Sentier des Arpelières in Crest-Voland (or Les Saisies), Val d’Arly.

I have hiked all over the world, but – hand on heart – 🍁 the autumn colours and 🍄 the magical nature of the terrain on this hike make this 🍂 one of my all time favourite autumn strolls! This hike is easily accessible for the whole family, and it is annotated in a way to keep little ones engaged from start to finish!

The Val d’Arly website describes the hike as ” un petit air de Scandinavie flotte sur la Réserve Naturelle Régionale de la tourbière des Saisies, un site naturel protégé de 290 hectares, et vieux de 10 000 ans “. Having hiked a little bit in 🇳🇴 Norway and 🇮🇸 Iceland, I can see from where hails this comparison! 

The Réserve Naturelle Régionale de la Tourbière des Saisies – Beaufortain – Val d’Arly (292 hectares) is located on le plateau du Lachat, between 🗻 the massif du Beaufortain and 🏞 the vallée de l’Arly, between 1550m and 1718m altitude (in the Forêt Communale de Crest-Voland), and it is a relic of the last ice age! The Sentier des Arpelières was built in the heart of this reserve, and it allows you to discover the fragile biodiversity of 🌱 the tourbières (peat bog wetland), by using the wooden walkways.

You’ll walk through : 🌿 high altitude sphagnum moss; 🌱 moorland; 🌳 forest;

. . . and you may spot : dragonflies; 🦉 mountain owls; the tetras-lyre . . . / the extreme conditions of the tourbières (cold, permanently damp) means that only certain species can survive here – in total, there are more than 100 protected or rare species living here! / more information here;

The trail will remain open until 🗓 22nd October 2021, so you only have a couple more weekends to enjoy it!

Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com

Hike details

📏 distance: 1,2km ⇒ 3,6 km (a longer or shorter trail available);

⏱ timing:1h30 to 4 hours (depending on trail);

↗️ dénivelé: +/- 100m;

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 buggies: NOT possible with a buggy, so take a baby-carrier;

🗺 detailed map: see here;

Crest-Voland & Les Tourbières @ OT map Megève 5330

The perfect picnic spot

We started our hike with 🍏 a picnic! There is a picnic table by 💦 the Nant Rouge river, right by the start of the trail . . .

Sentier des Arpelières – the perfect picnic spot (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières – the perfect picnic spot (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com

There are also 🍏 picnic tables and plenty of benches along the trail – beautiful !

Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) – picnic table @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) – picnic table @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) – plenty of benches @ montblancfamilyfun.com

A 📷 photo treasure hunt

I decided to set my boys – big and small – 📷 a photo challenge for the trail! They had to take photos of about 15 items, and they loved this:

🍄 mushroom – ✅;

🍂 peat bog – ✅;

🐜 ant – ✅;

pine-cone – ✅;


The hike step-by-step – in 📷 photos

At the start of the hike, you’ll find a couple of panels with some information about the tourbière and the Sentier des Arpelières and 🗺 a map of the possible boucles . . .

Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) 2021 @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) 2021 @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com

You’ll spend much of the time on wooden walkways and wooden stepping stones (it can be very wet underfoot!) – kids love this!

Sentier des Arpelières – wooden walkways (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières – wooden stepping stones (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com

The hike starts in 🌲 the forest . . .

Sentier des Arpelières – wooden walkways (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com

Along the trail, you’ll find 🗺 maps and arrows reminding you where you are . . .

And then, still in the forest, you’ll be rewarded with 🍂 an explosion of colour . . . the myrtilliers in October are so photogenic!

Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com

On our 2021 visit (very wet underfoot!), there were still some myrtilles to pick and eat – as you can see, my little one really made the most of this!

Be sure to stop to read the instructive 🗺 explanatory panels along the trail – you’ll learn lots about the tourbière and the endemic flora and fauna! And the panels have some fun games for kids . . .

Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com

At a certain point, the forest begins to opens up, and 🍂 in autumn, the colours are just amazing on the tourbière surrounding you . . .

Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com

Soon after, you’ll come across a cabane d’observation – be sure to leave it as you find it!

Sentier des Arpelières – la cabane d’observation (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelièresla cabane d’observation (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelièresla cabane d’observation (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com

After this, the path divides – you can head off to the orange liaison path and smaller yellow boucle, or you can finish the boucle that you are on . . .

If you carry on walking along the red boucle back to Covenan, then you’ll head back into 🌳 the forest . . .

Sentier des Arpelières – the forest (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières – the forest (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com
Sentier des Arpelières (Crest-Voland / Les Saisies) @ montblancfamilyfun.com

Be warned that the nature of 🌿 a tourbière is that is is extremely 💦 WET – for this reason, AND to protect the flora and fauna, you are asked to stay on the wooden passerelles, where applicable . . . small children (or bigger ones too!) may end up with a wet foot or two (certainly muddy feet!), so it would be a good idea to keep a spare pair of socks (and shoes) in the car for your return!


Maison des Tourbières (Les Saisies) – summer opening only
Learn more about a 🌿 tourbière (peat bog), its unique flora & fauna, and the réserve naturelle, at this exhibition centre: films, games, maquettes . . .
🗓 opening dates (summer only): from early July ⇒ late August / SHUT Saturdays, open Monday to Thursday 10h to 12h and 14h to 18h, Fridays 10h to 12h and Sundays 14h to 18;
⇒ more information: here;
address: Parking du Col, 73620, Les Saisies / tel : 04 79 38 90 30;

Practical Information

🚙 how to get there:

  • from Crest Voland, follow the D71a (towards Les Saisies) for about 4km, and pass 🅿️ the Parking la Croix des Ayes. A bit further along on your right, is the panel designating the start of the sentier (🅿️ park by the bridge on Nant Rouge river, and by the télésiège Covetan);
  • from Les Saisies, followe the D71a towards Crest-Voland, drive down past 3 bends in the road and find the panel on your left;
  • longer hike:from Le Cernix, follow the route forestière de la Palette and leave your car at the obligatory car park; then walk along la route forestière for 20mins, and find the starting point;

🗺 map: here;

address: La Croix des Ayes, 73590, Covetan, Crest-Voland;

⇒ more information: Réserve Naturelle la Tourbière des Saisies and here (carte d’itinéraires pédestres Val d’Arly on sale at Office de Tourisme);

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