Grottes des Echelles

The Ladder Caves - Anim' Grotte

Useful Information

Location: Saint Christophe La Grotte, Chartreuse, north of Grenoble. (45.450500N, 5.792300E)
Open: Easter to JUN Sat 14:30-17:30, tours 14:45, 16:30.
JUN three last Wed 14:30-17:30, tours 14:45, 16:30.
01-JUL to 05-JUL Sun, Hol 10:30-18, tours 11:30, 13:45, 15:15, 16:30.
06-JUL to 13-JUL daily 10-18, tours every 45min, first tour 10:30, last tour 17:30.
14-JUL to 15-AUG daily 10-18, tours every 30min, first tour 10:30, last tour 17:30.
16-AUG to 24-AUG daily 10-18, tours every 45min, first tour 10:30, last tour 17:30.
25-AUG to 31-AUG Sun, Hol 10:30-18, tours 11:30, 13:45, 15:15, 16:30.
01-SEP to All Saints'day Sat 14:30-17:30, tours 14:45, 16:30.
Or by reservation.
Cave Trekking tour: only by reservation.
Fee: Adults EUR 6, Children (3-18) EUR 4.
Groups (+): Adults EUR 5, Children (3-18) EUR 3.
Cave Trekking tour: per person EUR 20.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: electric.
Dimension: T=9°C.
Guided tours: D=90min.
Cave Trekking tour: D=3h.
Bibliography: R. J. Fone (1903): Les grottes des Echelles, Spélunca bulletin et mémoires de la socièté de spéléologie tome V n°34 (aout 1903), 52 pages, Rennes.
Address: Anim' Grotte, Mairie, 73360 Saint Christophe La Grotte, Tel: +33-479-366595, Fax: +33-479-365798. E-mail: contact
Auberge du tunnel ("Tunnel Inn"), 73360 Saint Christophe La Grotte, Tel: +33-479-657508.
Tourist Office, Les Echelles, Tel: +33-479-365624, Fax: +33-479-365312.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


Roman road built.
1667-1670 the Sardinian Way constructed.
1820 Napoleon ordered the tunnel to be built.
1877 a delegation of the Club Alpin Français de Chambéry recognizes the touristic value of the caves.
1884 la société anonyme des grottes des Echelles created.
1885 caves developed by the Club Alpin Français.
1886 opened to the public.
1898 caves leased by nearby Hotel Durand.
1923 managed by the Syndicat Mixte des Echelles.
1995 closed.
1996 Anim' Grotte association created to manage the caves, the Tunnel Inn and the Sardinian Way.
29-JUN-2002 Grotte du Grand Goulet reopened to the public.
2004 management of caves by the municipality of St Christophe la Grotte..


Anim'Grotte is the name of an association created in 1996 to manage the Sardinian Way site, a part of the Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse (Regional Nature Park of the Chartreuse). Here, close to the village small village Saint Christophe La Grotte, which has less than 500 inhabitants, is a special place. There is an escarpment, a limestone ridge, which is part of the southern outskirts of the Alps, and a narrow gorge cutting through this escarpment allowing to cross it.

The first who used this special location were the Romans, who built their road, the major route between Chambéry and Lyon, through the gorge. Today the Roman road is only a minor road, little more than a comfortable footpath, but still some Roman remains are left, like the impressive Saint Martin's Bridge.

Between 1667 and 1670 the Dukes of Savoy converted the already ruined Roman road into a royal road fit for carriages, called Voie Sarde (Sardinian Way). A monumental, 400m long dressed stone ramp was built. Also the Charles Emmanuel II Monument was erected, to commemorate the man behind the Sardinian Way project. The 20m high monument is listed in the national register of Historical Monuments.

The Voie Sarde was now used for centuries. Famous travellers have used it, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Pope Pius VII when he came to France in 1804 to consecrate Napoleon I as emperor. And Napoleon was responsible, that the Sardinian Way was abandoned. In 1820 he found the road too arduous, and ordered a tunnel to be built.

But now about the caves, both are located along the Voie Sarde and they are guided together. Tourist reception and ticket sales are located in the Auberge des Grottes (Cave Inn), an old road-mender's house dating back to when the tunnel was built. The caves are called Grottes des Echelles (The Ladder Caves), as they are located right at the steps of the Voie Sarde. It seems they are known for a long time, but especially the Grand Goulet is hard to enter.

The caves were developed in the 19th century, to provide a tourist destination for the people bathing at la Bauche les Bains. The iron laden thermal water was used to cure various illnesses, especially blood related diseases. The caves were owned at this time by the Périnel family, who created a company for the developments of the caves in 1884 and stared to sell stocks. One year later the development started and in 1886 the caves were opened to the public.

The Grotte Supérieure (Upper Cave) is noted for various impressive speleothems.

Grotte du Grand Goulet (Great Great Gully) is also called Grotte Inférieure (Lower Cave). The entrance is a huge portal with a gorge below, which makes it very hard to enter. To access the cave, a path along the right hand cliff face and across a bridge into the cave has been built. This path was completely renovated before the cave was reopened in 2002. There is an old legend, that Mandrin, the famous Dauphiné smuggler, used this cave as a hideout.