Laffrey, Isère, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Laffrey is a French commune located in the department of Isère in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Positioned on the northern edge of the Matheysin plateau which dominates the Romanche valley, this small mid-mountain town is famous for its road climb called “Rampe ou Descente de Laffrey” and its lakes, but which are not all located on the territory.

Historically, the city also owes its fame for its site of the meadow of the meeting. A monument celebrating this passage in Napoleonic history is located to the south of the village, along the national road 85, also known as the “Route Napoleon” for the same historical reasons.

Laffrey is a tourist resort, famous for its lakes. It is located on a plateau between 900 and 1,200 m above sea level, 23 km south of Grenoble on the Route Napoleon. The Laffrey lakes are 4 lakes located on the Matheysine plateau between the town of Laffrey and the town of Pierre-Châtel in Isère in the Taillefer massif. The primitive Romanche glacier created the 3 natural lakes: the lake of Pierre-Châtel, the lake of Pétichet, the Grand lake of Laffrey; the dead lake being a hydroelectric lake operated by EDF.

The village of Laffrey is a mid-mountain resort located in an authentic and preserved natural site, bearing history; which offers many nautical activities and a multitude of leisure activities: sailing, rowing, diving, fishing, swimming, rental of boats and pedal boats, walks, hikes, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, adventure trail, etc.

The territory of Laffrey during the Gallic period is located at the northern limit of the territory of the Tricorii, Liguro-Celtic people.

The village is famous by the meeting of Napoleon I, March 7, 1815, on his return from Elba Island, with the royal troops, responsible for arresting it.

After disembarking at Golfe-Juan on March 1, 1815, Napoleon took the Alpine route (the current Route Napoléon) to Paris, a route considered safer than the Rhone valley deemed favorable to the royalists. It then passes through the Matheysin plateau. After spending the night of March 6 in Corps, he passed through La Mure then headed for Grenoble.

On March 7 in front of Laffrey, on the plain, there is a battalion of the 5th of the Line sent by Louis XVIII to arrest it. Napoleon advanced alone to meet the troops on what is henceforth called the ” Prairie de la Rencontre “and spoke to them at first thus:” Soldiers of the 5th of the Line, I am your Emperor, recognize me! “, Then, faced with the indecision of the soldiers, pale with emotion facing him, he approaches within range of a gun, opens his frock coat and exclaims:” If there is a soldier among you who wants to kill his Emperor, Here I am.” At these words, the 5th of the Line laid down their arms and rushed towards Napoleon, weeping…. After this episode, Napoleon said to General Cambronne: “It’s over.” In a week we will be in Paris. ”

Historical heritage

Napoleon statue
Equestrian statue of Napoleon in the “prairie de la Rencontre”, on the shores of Lake Laffrey. Installed there since 1929. Previously, it was in the center of Grenoble, on the Place de la Constitution, renamed Place de Verdun, after the First World War.

The village of Laffrey sheltered a mining concession exploiting outcrops of lead and zinc on a set of 10 sites comprising galleries, a mine shaft and various surface excavations are characterized by research trenches. According to BRGM data, the first operator of the site was the “Compagnie équatoriale des mines” from 1 st January 1846 then from 1 st January 1847. Still according to BRGM data, one of the sites was operated by the Bornettes mines from 1 st January 1846until 1908, then by the “Compagnie équatoriale des mines” until 1957. The entire concession will be taken over by the Alcatel company, which will decide on a total security of the site in 1999. The final closure will take place in 2000 with the security of the site. Nearly a hundred workers will have worked on this concession which produced 2,000 tonnes of lead and zinc ore.

Rampe de Laffrey or Descent de Laffrey, long section of the RN 85 with a steep slope and relatively straight which crosses the municipalities of Laffrey, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage and Notre-Dame-de-Mésage and ends in a tight bend before the bridge crossing the Romanche and entering Vizille. This very accident-prone road was the site of four of the deadliest accidents in France.

Laffrey Church
Laffrey Church is what is known as a Concordance Church. As such, it represents historical interest. The concordat signed by Napoleon I with the Catholic Church in 1804 settled the relationship between the state and the church after the upheavals of the French Revolution of 1789. Its construction corresponds to the creation of the town of Laffrey following its detachment from the parish of Saint Jean de Vaulx.

This religious building, located in the center of the village, was built during the French Concordat regime, corresponding to the period of the Consulate. Under the stone of the altar, a tin box contains the relics of Saint Victor and Saint Alexander. This box is embedded in the lower stone.

Natural heritage
The territory of Laffrey has no notable watercourse on its territory, with the exception of the small Jouchy stream, which is 4.13 km long. This joins the Romanche at Vizille, after having followed the Laffrey ramp, on its eastern part. However, the town has two lakes, Lac Mort and the northern part of the great Lac de Laffrey. the other lakes known locally as Laffrey Lakes are located on the territories of neighboring municipalities, themselves located further south. Lac Mort was used as a reserve lake supplying the Vernes de Livet-et-Gavet power station. He thus allows a small stream called the dead lake river to escape, 2km long and which joins the Romanche at Séchilienne.

The large lake of Laffrey
This body of water with an area of 120 hectares, often simply referred to as Lac de Laffrey, is located near the town is the best known of the four lakes of Laffrey. It is also the largest, the most frequented because it is the closest to Grenoble, by road.

The large lake of Laffrey bordered by the imperial road and equipped with 2 nautical bases and a naturist base, is a natural site at the same time tourist and historical. Its equipped beaches are places of relaxation and water sports very popular with the people of Grenoble who are looking for a little freshness in summer. The Grand Lac de Laffrey has a depth of 39 meters, an area of 120 hectares. It forms an attractive setting, a charming link between the valley and the Matheysin plateau which makes it a paradise for windsurfing and dinghy enthusiasts. The large lake of Laffrey is the eighth natural lake in France, its water is of high quality which supplies the village with drinking water.

The Lake Death, peaceful lake popular for its scenic beauty, is primarily a hydroelectric dam operated by EDF. A dike built in the 1930s collects the water flowing down from the north face of the Grand Serre: the streams of La Morte, Grand Rif, Maladraye and Méolles. This reserve of more than 5 million m3 of water is filled in the spring with the snowmelt and is mainly used during the winter when electricity needs are greatest. A one-kilometer-long penstock descends the water 600 m below to the Lac Mort power station on the banks of the Romanche; the force of the water then drives a turbine which produces electricity. The power of the Lac Mort plant is equivalent to that of 5 wind turbines as a witness and actor of a sustainable rural development policy. Laffrey did not wait for the 21st century to take his part in renewable energies. A clean and discreet technological and economic heritage that could be the subject of industrial and technological tourist visits.


Hiking and mountain biking
This route offers a beautiful view of the Laffrey Lakes. An easy walk that can also be done with the family. Departure from Cordeliers beach in Pierre-Châtel. Walk along the lake by the beach and follow the path towards Les Thennaux. In the hamlet, turn left on the path which borders Lake Petichet to the end. Once at La Fayolle, follow the tarmac road in the direction of Bergogne and after the houses, turn right on the path that goes up to Chollonge. Take the road towards Villard-Saint-Christophe and after the farmhouse turn right on the path. Pass at Troussier and at the exit of the ferry take the path on the right which runs along the road and which brings you back to your starting point on the shores of Lake Pierre-Châtel.

Air Park Laffrey
The Air Park, fly in the Air between forest lakes and rivers in a natural setting. Access to the beach as well as picnic areas, hanging chairs and hammocks are available, it’s the perfect cocktail to spend a good day with family or friends. After being equipped, your operator gives you safety instructions on one of the demonstration routes. Then you go on an adventure on one of the 8 courses: From the most fun to the most sporty, you move in complete safety on our modules (more than 45 new features), 2 large zip lines above the lake, the twist ladder, the Bascule, Téléskirolienne, skateboarding, escal’arbre, crossing the net, not to mention the essentials: the boat, the tightrope walker, aerial surfing, the tarzan jump, the Cultrempé and all the others…

Free Flight
Lieudit les Fauries, a new runway for paragliders above the Romanche valley. This track is intended to be accessible to people with reduced mobility. The Laffrey site, constitutes a natural border between the Matheysin plateau and the Romanche valley. Decorated with several mountain lakes, it is bordered by the Taillefer massif and the Connex mountain. As such, it benefits from grandiose landscapes. It is particularly exposed to valley breezes as well as to the north wind in all seasons. This aerology and this geographical configuration give it a very important potential for the practice of free flight. It allows it to offer freeriders in all seasons a departure for long aerial ballads but also and above all for long contemplative flights. With complete respect for nature, they can indulge in the practice of paragliding in a majestic environment.

The Envol sud Isère (ex Envol matheysin) manages all the free flight sites in the south of Grenoble, Trièves and Matheysine. These sites, when they are developed and secured, contribute to the increase in tourist traffic in these areas, particularly in the spring and during the summer period. A real tourist diversification tool, this achievement is therefore intended to greatly enrich the tourist offer of Sud Isère, and this in all seasons, given the particularly favorable aerology of the site. It is open to FFVL licensees practicing paragliding and hang gliding. the high attendance expected from this site will promote the sustainability and filling of nearby accommodation structures, lodges, campsites or hotels.

Pedal boats
Spend a moment of relaxation on pedal boats, conviviality with family or friends – to browse and discover the natural site of Lake Laffrey.

Vinceland: children park
The Vinceland is a project carried by Sylvia and Victor on the route du Lac. They offer inflatable games, an aquatic area as well as go-karts in a very safe place for children.