Standing tall as one of France’s 8 great national parks, Parc national des Écrins boasts a striking array of rock strata, an increasingly rare abundance of flora and fauna, cascading waterfalls and hanging valleys - all enveloped by a warm feeling of a bygone era.
Straddling the departments of Isère and Hautes-Aples and embracing most of the colossal Massif des Écrins, the 918 sq km park is unusual in the Alps, as there are no roads across the area, forcing visitors to plan their outdoor activities in a more environmentally friendly manner. The weather was hot during my visit, even at higher elevations, and bar a few days where orange sand and dust locked in clouds formed in North Africa fell across the landscape in rain droplets, the vistas were clear.
Aside from carbon clad pelotons of cyclists, a steady stream of Dutch licensed motorhomes transporting Nederlanders to lofty ground, and concentrated parties of dirt baggers looking for their latest belayed adrenaline hit, the park was very quiet, often not seeing another soul for hours at a time on the trails.
With a noticeable absence of vehicle traffic and heavy industry, the landscape seemed to breathe confidently and was bursting with life. Winged bugs galore accompanied industrious ground insects, eagles flew high above Chamois running, and Marmots chilled through dusk, whilst glowing fireflies illuminated my nightfall descents.