Starting and finishing in Orbey, this loop walk climbs high into the Vosges mountains, passing winter ski pistes, Alpine pastures and the lakes of Lac Noir and Lac Blanc - and the nature reserve that surrounds them.
From Orbey, a short bus ride from Kaysersberg, the path begins to climb more than 800 vertical metres through Vosges Regional Park. This large elevation change allows you to see the great diversity of this mountain range, and the impact it has on the people who live there. Long gone are the vineyards, which cannot live at these heights or survive the winter frosts, and replacing them is pastoral farmland and native woodland. As you reach the higher altitudes around Col du Calvaire (1134 metres) ski pistes and ski-lifts carve channels through the woodland, hinting at the makeover that takes places each winter.
The most pleasant surprise of the walk is as you enter the ‘Two Lakes Biological Reserve’. Your view is dominated by the sprawling glacial cirques of Lac Blanc and Lac Noir – White Lake and Black Lake - far below you. But, from this lofty vantage point your view extends far beyond the lakes, stretching through the textured folds of the Vosges mountains, across the Alsatian Plain and to Germany’s Black Forest.
As you begin to descend you will pass through the same environments in reverse; woodland, pasture, and eventually the welcoming village of Orbey, from where you can return to Kaysersberg by bus.
The buses run at irregular intervals, with the last suitable bus before 9am, and the final return bus to Kayserberg around 6pm. Check the schedule before embarking on this walk - https://www.fluo.eu/ftp/documents_CG68/fluo-grand-est-68-ligne-145.pdf
Ask your hotel for the nearest bus stop to you.
There are some exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk; be careful and remain on the path.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp left bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required. Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Points of Interest
The Sacre-Couer or Sacred Heart statue depicts Jesus with his arms open and embracing. It has stood atop a hill overlooking Orbey and providing comfort to the residents since 1933. In 1934 there was a collapse at the hydroelectric plant of Lac Noir which killed 9 workers; locals gave thanks to the Sacre-Couer statue that the disaster wasn’t worse.
Deux Lacs (Two Lakes)
Lac Blanc (White Lake) and Lac Noir (Black Lake) make up the so-called Deux Lacs region. Both are glacial and naturally-formed, though have been adapted to generate hydroelectric power. Despite Lac Blanc being 100 metres higher, they are connected by a pipeline; when energy demands are low, electricity is pumped up to Lac Blanc, so that when energy demands are high, gravity returns that water to Lac Noir and generates electricity.
Food and Drink
After leaving Orbey you will reach the Refuge du Lac Blanc after 6.3 kilometres, a restaurant on the Col du Calvaire after 7 kilometres, and a restaurant on the shore of Lac Noir after 13.5 kilometres.
There are several opportunities to enjoy a picnic throughout the walk, if you come prepared with your own provisions.