Turn right over the bridge in Sixt, following signs for the Cascade du Rouget and carry on up past the waterfall until the road ends at Le Lignon. Park here, or as close as you can get, as it gets very busy in Summer and at weekends.
The entire walk is within the Sixt-Passy National Nature Reserve, which covers some 9,000 ha ranging in elevation from 900 m up to more than 3,000m. The diversity of the environment within the reserve means it supports a wide variety of fauna and flora and even on this relatively short walk it's possible to see bearded vultures, chamois, marmottes, and bouquetin (ibex).
The route climbs steadily through the woods for the first 30 minutes or so towards the waterfalls of Sauffaz and Pleureuse.
At the crossroads follow the path to the right for the GR96 towards the 'Refuge de Sales'. After a little more uphill the path soon reaches a stunning, wide, hidden wide flat valley called the Clos de Sales.
Cross the Torrent de Sales river via the footbridge and follow the path up the rocky Pas de Sales, passing the Sales and Trainant waterfalls at the far end of the valley.
Just before the refuge you'll reach a cross and a chapel. The walk ends at the refuge where refreshments, including wonderful homemade myrtille (bilberry) juice, are available in summer. It takes 2 – 2.5 hours to get to the refuge from Le Lignon and it's a height gain of just under 700m..
The pastures at Sales are the oldest in the valley. The remains of a chapel probably built in around 1207 can be seen just to the left of the existing chapel which dates from 1630. In the early 1800s these summer pastures supported around 100 chalets and 500 animals. There's more information on the history of the pastures in the guidebook "Walks and treks in the haut-Giffre valley".
Note that there is quite often considerable snow (névés) towards the top of the valley in late Spring / early Summer meaning it’s not possible to get as far as the refuge (which opens in June).
However, the Clos de Sales valley that you walk through en route is stunning – we call it the land that time forgot – and well worth the trip itself – it’s about 1 hour to the start of the valley.
Retrace your steps to return via the same route, perhaps stopping at Le Lignon on the way home for refreshments.
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