Sentier de Salanfe
From the Vallon de Van up to and around the idyllic Lac de Salanfe at the foot of the Dents du Midi. The trail leads through wild and alpine, fascinating landscapes.
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The Lac de Salanfe is a high-altitude reservoir (1,909 m) with a dramatic setting and a fascinating history. The hike begins at the end of the public road in the idyllic Vallon de Van, and starts with a steep climb through the upper reaches of the valley to the Salanfe dam. The reservoir beyond occupies the floor of a vast glacial bowl, framed by the serrated pinnacles of the Dents du Midi and the dramatic Tour Sallière. As it leads around the lake, the trail offers a thrilling experience of a high-altitude landscape, with a wealth of alpine flora and fauna. Highlights include surreal rock formations and a magnificent natural delta at the far end of the lake dominated by the hanging glacier of the Glacier Noir, high up on the Tour Sallière. The landscape is blissfully peaceful now, but in the early 20th century the southern slopes of the bowl were a hive of activity, thanks to underground deposits of arsenic rich in gold. Between 1904 and 1907, miners extracted 23.8 tons of gold here – plus another 30-odd tons during the 1920s. The trail completes its loop of the lake before redescending the Vallon de Van to the start of the walk. Highlights Bracing climb through the upper Vallon de Van Lac de Salanfe – alpine lake in a spectacular mountain bowl Auberge de la Salanfe – friendly restaurant/refuge overlooking reservoir, panoramic terrace.