Three Hops Above Grenoble: La Bastille, Mont Jalla, and Mont Rachais

Surely one of Earth’s beautiful cries for help, late November in the Rhône-Alpes region was practically balmy by almost-winter standards. Good snow-traumatized New Englander that I am (used to assuming, come winter, that the ground will disappear one day and the temperature will pull an “I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up” until April), I took full advantage of the weather to tromp some more mountainsides a couple of weekends ago.

The three-viewpoint ascent of La Bastille (big hill), Mont Jalla (about 600 m), and Mont Rachais (about 1000 m) is one pretty-much continuous climb suited to shorter, colder days. Starting in Grenoble from the Porte de France across the river from the SNCF station, a series of paths and staircases winds through the Jardin des Dauphins to the Bastille.

From there, Mont Jalla, with a nice open view and military memorials, is easily attained via a wide, well-signed gravel path. The signage from Jalla to Rachais is pretty ambiguous (the word “Rachais” not even apparent until the very end), but once you find the ascending path there are few possible errors; the goals are visible from the start. Mont Rachais is wooded so a bit anti-climactic, but the views along the way of Grenoble and the surrounding sharp, dark blue and gray mountains (whose snow-cloaked peaks will make you ooh and shiver) as well as some interesting terrain (pitted limestone covered in ferns, steep grassy slopes, and a chance to explore some cliffside grottos) give the climb some character.

Difficulty: Low. However, if you’re out of shape you’ll huff and puff for sure. On the other hand, the hyper-fit may be tempted to join the many spandex-clad overachievers sprinting the same hike that I trudged.

Time needed: At a pretty leisurely pace (note: I am in relatively good shape) and with a couple of stops, it took me somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-4 hours, total, to get from the main Grenoble train station to Mont Rachais and back.

Grenoble gets further and further away…
View from atop Mont Jalla
Cable car that runs to and from the Bastille, if you feel like cheating. (I won’t judge; cable cars are the best.)

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