In the same spirit, the Ballons des Vosges Regional Natural Park oversees actions to protect local heritage while contributing to the economic vitality of this mid-mountain region. Its project is therefore centred on land use planning, management of natural spaces, support for agriculture, passing on know-how and promoting local products. Other actions include high-quality rural town planning, welcoming visitors and informing and raising public awareness.
With the Hautes-Vosges at its heart, the Ballons des Vosges Regional Natural Park sweeps down towards the Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté valleys. The Plateau des mille étangs (plateau of a thousand ponds) in Haute-Saône is the area’s second great natural treasure.
This vast territory spanning some 3,000 km² is teeming with extraordinary landscapes: high stubble (high-altitude pastures), peatlands, glacial cirques, rocky cliffs, scree, lakes and rivers come together in perfect harmony. Further down, meadows, pastures, orchards, vineyards and calcareous grasslands line the valleys in a spectrum of colour. These exceptional natural systems have received European recognition under the Natura 2000 programme. Their most prestigious habitats and species are subject to conservation measures involving the National and Regional Nature Reserves and other protected areas.
These environments are all home to some exceptional fauna, such as roe deer, stags, wild boar, chamois, badgers, foxes, eagle-owls, falcons, peregrine falcons, wood grouse and hazel grouse. Its rich flora reflects the diversity of the natural environments.
Walking is undoubtedly the best and gentlest way of taking in the Park’s treasures. Whatever your pace, there’ll always be a reward…
As you ramble through the Hautes-Vosges, the many paths sweep down into the Vosges and Upper Rhine valleys. They snake across the Plateau des mille étangs, venture into the Pays Sous-Vosgien area and stretch out towards the Alsace piedmont. The ideal way to explore and experience this mountainous territory is on foot. Whether you like walking for half an hour or hiking for several days, there is something for everyone. This is hiking country, crossed by some of the finest GR paths that reach splendid heights in Ballon d’Alsace. Make use of the TOP25 maps published by Club Vosgien and the IGN, a reliable source covering the thousands of kilometres of paths maintained and consistently marked out by the club’s volunteers. Thanks to the shelters and activities provided by Club Alpin Français and Club Vosgien, hiking always respects the landscapes. This ethic is also shared by mountain guides for whom hiking is the ideal opportunity to raise awareness about species and fragile environments.
The very varied landscapes in the Ballons des Vosges Regional Natural Park naturally lend themselves to an array of outdoor activities such as walking on the signposted paths, mountain biking, horse riding and trekking, climbing, water sports and paragliding.
The Park is keen to support activities that respect the area and its habitats.
Everyone can choose their preferred way of exploring the natural surroundings. However, the same respectful approach is required from all. Because these accessible and appealing environments suffer the combined effects of a harsh climate and large visitor numbers.
Three goals: raising awareness, engaging with and being understood by residents and visitors. With this in mind, the Ballons des Vosges Regional Natural Park has a number of welcome centres. They are hubs of activity, open to all, and make the ideal starting point for exploring the southern part of the Vosges massif.
They offer a range of resources for every kind of visitor, offering advice, documentation and educational tools and hosting exhibitions.
A team of specialist nature facilitators can also be found out in the field, on hand to help mountain users along the Vosges ridge and in other popular areas, . Their role is to raise awareness among visitors and encourage good practices to be applied in the natural environment. They also share information on the fauna and flora specific to the Hautes-Vosges.
If you meet them on your way, feel free to approach them with your questions!
This visitor centre is located in Haut-du-Them Château-Lambert in Haute-Saône. The “High Environmental Quality” building is the work of Haute-Saône Council and is perfectly at home in this charming hamlet in the Vosges Saônoises. It is the ideal starting point for visitors to this part of the Vosges.
Located at the foot of the Grand Ballon discovery trail along the Route des crêtes – or ‘road of peaks’ – this building belongs to the Strasbourg branch of Club Vosgien and houses Park staff during the summer season.
The Ballons des Vosges Regional Natural Park has set up 17 interpretative panels along the route from Col des Bagenelles to Hartmannswillerkopf (Vieil Armand).
They provide information on the various forms of heritage found on the great ridge, along with ideas for walks, local services, safety guidelines and good habits. Every summer, there is a programme of free guided walks that start from these panels, based on a special theme linked to the site.