“The trail from the Refuge to the summit of Piton des Neiges. Enjoy amazing views the whole way up!”
— Karl W
Need to Know
If you plan to stay in the Refuge you should reserve a bunk in advance. Despite being a tropical island you should expect temperatures to drop below freezing, especially at night.
There are three routes you can take to access this trail: the GRR1 & GRR2
from Cilaos; the GRR1 from Salazie; and the GRR2
from La Plaine des Cafres. All of these routes are longer and have more elevation gain than this summit trail. The three routes up and the beginning of this trail all meet at the Refuge de la Caverne Dufour (also called the Gite du Piton des Neiges
) a staffed and heated hut that you should reserve in advance if you plan to spend the night. You can also buy dinner and breakfast there. Also beer.
From the west side of Refuge look for the clear trailhead sign. The trail has large white blazes, reminiscent of the AT. The blazes are every few feet/meters as many hikers choose to depart from the Refuge before daylight to watch the sunrise from the summit. The frequent blazes help hikers stay the trail in the rocky alpine terrain.
The trail is fairly easy going considering it's the summit trail and covers 2000 feet in less than 2 miles. You'll encounter some large rocks/steps that may require minimum hand-work to keep your balance, but no real scrambling of any type. It is very rocky most of the way though. The trail actually gets easier the higher you get, with the final stretch essentially becoming a gravel pathway.
The summit is very large and open so it can accommodate a good number of hikers without feeling crowded. The views are incredible from the summit, but also good the whole way up and down as you're well above treeline. Keep that in mind should the weather change!