Hautes-Alpes is located in the Alps mountain range. The average elevations is over 1000 m, and the highest elevation is over 4000 m. The only three sizable towns are Gap, Briançon, and Embrun, which was the subprefecture until 1926.
The following rivers flow through the department:
The Queyras valley is located in the eastern part of the department and is noted by many as being an area of outstanding beauty.
The inhabitants of the department are called Haut-Alpins.
The extremely mountainous terrain explains the sparse population, which was originally about 120,000. It changed little during the 19th century, but fell to about 85,000 after World War I. Thanks in large part to tourism, the population has risen from 87,436 in 1962 to 121,419 in 1999, principally in the town of Gap.
The tourist industry is largely dependent on skiing in winter. In summer the Alpine scenery and many outdoor activities attract visitors from across Europe(sailing, hiking, climbing and aerial sports such as gliding). The Tour de France passes through the department regularly. This draws many cycling fanatics to cycle the cols and watch the race.