Tour du Mont Blanc Hightlight: The Contamines-Montjoie Nature Reserve

Col des Montets - proud male ibex

One of my favorite stretches on the Tour du Mont Blanc goes right through the Contamines-Montjoie nature reserve. It’s the highest nature reserve in France and offers an unbelievable mix of picturesque alpine landscapes, dramatic mountain scenery and an incredibly rich variety of flora and fauna. It’s home to many iconic alpine species and has one of the most legendary passes for hiking in the Alps: the Col du Bonhomme mountain pass.

Iconic Alpine Wildlife  

Many mountain animals feel at home in the protected area, including;

  • Alpine marmots
  • Alpine ibex
  • Chamois
  • Golden eagles
  • Bearded vultures
  • Mountain hares
  • Rock ptarmigans
A marmot near Lacs des Cheserys. Photo by Simone van Velzen.

These species are characteristic for high mountain areas, but the protected area is not only the highest nature reserve in France, it also has the largest difference in elevation. The surface of the protected area spreads between 1,100 and 3,892 meters above sea level. This enormous difference in elevation adds to the incredible richness in species. While the highest parts of the nature reserve are home to the alpine species, the lower part hosts the usual forest fauna, roe deer, red deer, foxes and badgers and also nocturnal species like pygmy owls and Tengmalm’s owls.

Marmot near Lac d'Anterne
Marmot near Lac d’Anterne on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Photo by Simone van Velzen

Day 3 of the Tour du Mont Blanc

Day 3 of the Tour goes right through this special nature reserve. The extraordinary experience starts at a relatively low altitude (1210 m) at the 15th century baroque chapel of Notre Dame de la Gorge. An ancient Roman road and bridge lead straight into the spruce forest past stunning waterfalls of the Bon-Nant river. When the trail leaves the forested gorges, the scenery opens up into a wide valley with picturesque mountain meadows. At the end of the valley the trail starts to climb to the Col du Bonhomme (2 329 m). The climb to the mountain pass is hard work, but the reward is magnificent. It offers breath-taking panoramic views of the highest nature reserve of France.

Enjoy!

TIP – When you get to the Col du Bonhomme mountain pass. Soak up the stunning views and have a good look at the sky. Our Alpenwild guides often report sightings of majestic bearded vultures!

More Nature highlights on the Tour du Mont Blanc

 

Simone van Velzen

About Simone van Velzen

In her work as an alpine naturalist Simone adds an exciting new dimension to your Tour du Mont Blanc trek with insights into the incredibly rich flora and fauna of the Alps. Simone studied Wildlife Management at the Van Hall Institute in the Netherlands. After her studies she left her home country (which is flatter than a pancake) and moved to British Columbia. In the Canadian Rockies, she discovered the astonishing richness of mountain environments. Her passion for mountain nature was born. And when she returned to Europe, she based herself in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, the perfect setting for exploring and studying the natural history of mountain environments. As an alpine naturalist she writes for outdoor magazines and leads excursions in the natural world. If you step into the natural world with Simone, her passion for all living things—wild flowers to lichen, birds to mammals—can’t help but rub off on you. She’s excited to meet you on your Tour du Mont Blanc and share the amazing natural wonders in the Alps.

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