Hiking

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Hiking

A 350 km (217 miles) trail network / 160 theme hikes and circuits to suit everyone

Some of us prefer staying low, walk the valley bottom and enjoy the scent of the pine forest, others will prefer a higher grounds and enjoy beautiful panoramas, whereas the most active will take pride in collecting vertical gain records. The hiking range is very varied and the choice will depend on the mood of the day.

Regulation/restricted access

Day-hikes

BALCONY TRAILS

Petits balcons trails present very little difficulty. Mostly in the forest, they are at a near valley-bottom altitude (1200m/3’960; 1300m/ 4’290).
They are accessible them from pretty much anywhere, and an ideal choice on rainy days. 

  • “Petit Balcon sud “goes from Servoz to Vallorcine, following the southern aspect of the valley.
  • “Petit Balcon nord” runs up the valley from the hamlet of Les Bois to the village of Le Tour, along the northern aspect of the valley. 
  • Grand balcons trails are easy active panoramic trails, accessible from the top of the lifts at mid altitude (tree line)
  • “Grand balcon nord” starts from the mid station of Aiguille du Midi and goes across the mountain to the Montenvers site: 2h30/3h00.
  • “Grand balcon sud” is across the valley and goes from Flégère to Planpraz gondola. 2h00

ALPINE LAKES

On the sunny southern aspect of the Chamonix valley in the Aiguille Rouge and Carlaveyron preserved areas:

–Cornu Lake –Lacs Noirs – Lac Blanc –Cheserys lakes and Brévent lake

Average hiking time is between 2h to 4h/5h, is shorter if using the lifts to access the trail. 

On the cooler northern aspect of the valley:


-Lac Bleu can be reached from the Plan de l’Aiguille in 30 min, or 3h30/4h from the valley bottom.

-In the Fiz mountain range: from Pleine Joux or Chatelet d’Ayères: Pormenaz lake (2h30) - Anterne lake (4h00)

GETTING CLOSE TO GLACIERS

  • Montenvers – Mer de Glace: from Chamonix: 2h30
  • Argentière glacier – Point de vue : from Argentière : 3h30/4 h00. From Lognan: 1h15
  • Refuge Albert 1er / Le Tour glacier: from the village of Le Tour: 4h00; or 2 h00 from the top of the chairlift at col de Balme
  • Bossons glacier – the Junction: from the hamlet of Les Bossons: 5h00

REJUVENATE IN THE ALPINE PASTURES

  • Blaitière pasture: from Chamonix: 2h45
  • Charousse pasture: from Les Houches: 1h30
  • Charamillon pasture – Balme – col de Balme : from the village of Le Tour : 1h15 to Charamillon and 2h30 to col de Balme.
  • Loriaz pasture: from the village of Le Buet: 2h15
  • Pormenaz pasture: au départ de Servoz (le Mont) en 3h00

OVERNIGHT IN A MID MOUNTAIN HUT

A waymarked and well-maintained trail network makes access to mid-mountain huts easy. Using the lift reduces hiking time in some cases. Huts provide blankets. Visitors must bring an individual sleeping sheet. Booking is mandatory. 

  • On the Aiguilles Rouges southern aspect: Bellachat – Flégère and Lac Blanc huts. 
  • On the northern aspect of the Mont Blanc range: Plan de l’Aiguille hut and hôtel du Montenvers 
  • Valley upper end: : Lognan hut from Argentière –Albert 1er hut from the village of Le Tour –Lac Blanc hut from col des Montets –Pierre à Bérard and Loriaz huts from the village of Le Buet.
  • Several huts on the Fiz mountain range: Varan – Plate – Sales – Anterne Wills – Moede Anterne from Passy – Plaine Joux


Reaching the summit of Mount Buet (3099m/ 10’320). Mount Buet can be reached right from the village of Le Buet in 6h00(very fit hikers). Overnight stay at Refuge de Pierre à Bérard splits the hike in 2 days.

Given hiking times are for the way up to the hut. A more detailed hike description is available in the “Sentiers du Mont Blanc “guide book. Visitors can purchase a trail map of the Chamonix valley from Vallorcine to Servoz for 4, 50€ from all the valley tourist offices. 

Family hikes

HIKES TO CREMERIES AND REFRESHMENT HUTS


Hiking to “Crèmeries” and refreshment huts in the Chamonix valley is easy, with hardly a very small vertical gain, which makes it ideal for families.


Download hike list

Hiking with a dog

CONSERVATION AREAS 

Dogs are not allowed into the following conservation areas:

  • Aiguilles Rouges
  • Carlaveyron
  • Vallon de Bérard
  • Passy
  • de Sixt
  • Fer à Cheval


Hikers are allowed to bring their dog along in the Contamines conservation area, as long as it is held on a leash. 

Conservation areas are well marked on IGN maps and other hiking maps. The presence of dogs is accepted on the Italian and Swiss sections of Tour du Mont Blanc, as long as the dog is muzzled and on a leash. Local authorities may ask hikers to present a vaccination certification for their pet.

LIFTS

Dogs are allowed on the following lifts:
  • Chamonix – Planpraz gondola
  • Brévent cable car
  • Praz -Flégère cable car– La télécabine de Charamillon
  • Montenvers cog train
  • Argentière – Croix de Lognan – Grands-Montets cable cars
  • Bellevue cable car – Prarion gondola
  • Tramway du Mont-Blanc


Dogs are not allowed in the following lifts:

  • Plan de l’Aiguille and Aiguille du Midi cable cars
  • Aiguille du Midi – Helbronner gondola
  • Flégère – Index chairlift
  • Col de Balme chairlift

MOUNTAIN HUTS

We strongly recommend visitors to contact hut keepers directly to find out if they allow the presence of 4-legged pets.

Questions / Réponses

When is the best period to hike around Chamonix?

To hike in the Chamonix valley it is best to come during the summer period or more extensively from the middle or the end of June to October. In June, it is not uncommon to find substantial remaining snow fields above tree line (7000ft). Lifts run from mid-June to mid-September. They are a good way to considerably reduce vertical gain and therefore hiking times. Most of the lifts close down near the middle of September. In order to have a good view of the surrounding summits, it is necessary to hike above valley floor and reach tree line, an average vertical gain of 2 800 ft ( 800 to 900m).


Do I really need a map ?

Naturally, hiking doesn’t mean wandering outdoor blindnessly. Even if trails are well marked, we strongly advise you to carry and use a trail map or guidebook. Besides topographic maps, which can be difficult to read, local trail maps and simplified guidebooks are available. They are a simple and appropriate source of information for classic hikes available in the area.


What is the best period to see mountain lakes ?

In the area, most of the lakes are found above 7 600ft (2300 m). As a general rule, mountain lakes are still under snow and ice in June and July. They only start thawing from mid-July until mid-October.


Can I drink water from mountain creeks ?

Water from the Mont-Blanc range is crystalline, which spares its creeks from contamination. However during your hike and before drinking water from creeks and streams, you should look around to check for pastoral and other signs of human activity, which may have an impact on the surrounding water sources.


Do I need booking to overnight in a hut ?

Booking huts is in most cases mandatory. In winter and outside hut catering periods (hut keepers provide food and lodging service from mid-June to mid/end September), CAF (French Alpine Club) huts provide access to a restricted section of the building, providing hikiers with a shelter and blankets. Private huts are ofter closed out of summer months. There is no hut accessible for shelter in the Aiguilles Rouges.


How are hiking times estimated ?

On most of the trails there are signs and markings that indicate direction and respectively hiking times. Hiking times are based on elevation gain, not distances. Basically, an hour hiking allows to gain 1 000ft (300m), cover a flat distance of 2.5miles (4 km) and descend 1 500ft (400/500m) on average. One must also take age, group size and fitness level into consideration in order to calculate hiking times.


Is hiking adapted to all children ages ?

Hiking is an activity adapted to children as long as adults can assess their physical capacity. Under 3 years old young children should be carried in a comfortable and well- adjusted children hiking backpack. Toddlers aged 2 and 3 are able to walk a short distance on an easy trail. Children aged 4 to 7 can achieve longer distances (hiking 2 to 3 hours with a 1 700ft (500/700m) elevation gain. In spite of this they are not able to evaluate their own needs (hunger/thirst) or fatigue. From 8 years old up, endurance increases clearly and hiking times can be extended. “Peformance” can vary from one child to another, according to morphology and training. In all cases, parents should take frequent drinking brakes and carry plenty of snacks. The Chamonix valley offers a large hiking choice for the entire family.


What are the rules I should follow when entering a mountain wildlife sanctuary ?

The following rules apply to human behavior in natural protected areas found in the Mont-Blanc area (Carlaveyron, Aiguilles Rouges, Passy, Vallon de Bérard) and in the French national park :

It is forbidden to pick flowers and/or collect fossils,

Dogs are not allowed, even on a leash,

It is forbidden to camp and to make a campfire (only bivouacs, overnight camping is allowed),

Waste and other garbage must be carried back down.

Motorized vehicles are prohibited for outdoor leisure activities. Only access to pasture, forest or refuge maintenance are allowed.

It is forbidden to flights below 1 000ft (300 meters of the ground is prohibited, even 1000 meters for Bérard valley.


What should I do in stormy weather ?

Ideally you should anticipate the storm by checking the weather forecast before setting off for the hike. Leaving early or finding shelter when the storm arrives is strongly recommended. We suggest you keep an eye on the threatening clouds during your hike, and do not hesitate to turn around. If you still find yourself exposed, stay calm, avoid running, stay away from metallic items or higher places, and avoid the shelter of isolated trees. If you are in a group, you should keep apart from one another, crouch low with your feet close together in order to minimize ground contact. Avoid exposed areas (ridges, crests, isolated trees) or leaning against rocks. Sitting on your backpack provides good isolation from the ground. Avoid using your phone.


Is it possible to use trails for snowshoeing in winter ?

In summer time the Chamonix valley is undoubtedly the ideal place to hike. In winter though, things are significantly different ! Above Chamonix, mountain sides slope down onto the valley in numerous narrow gullies and steep slopes. This specific geographic feature increases avalanche hazards, hence allowing snowshoeing in few carefully selected areas.


Are all lifts accessible to children ?

Cable cars are definitely not recommended for young children to use. A very fast ascent may cause damage to their eardrum. In addition the lift operating company (Compagnie du Mont Blanc) prohibits access to some of the lifts to children under 3 years old. The lift operator can provide further useful information with regards to this matter. Both Montenvers and Tramway du Mont Blanc (to Bellevueonly) cog trains are suitable for very young children (1 year- olds and up). However at higher elevation the Nid d’Aigle (2372 m) is not accessible to children under 2. In any case, we also recommend you seek medical advice from your doctor.


What time should I start a hike ?

Generally speaking, hiking is best done in the morning, during the coolest hours of the day. It is a great way to make the most of your hike, with plenty of time to enjoy breaks, to face and deal with eventual problems such as weather changes or lost items etc.


What is the difference between a refuge or hut and a “buvette” ?

“Buvettes”are refreshment bars offering meals and drinks only. They can also serve evening meals under reservation. Mountain huts provide the same service plus accommodation.


How can I contact mountain rescue if necessary ?

The emergency number to call is 112, which will transfer you to the competent rescue service. If there is no cell-phone network, we suggest you walk around until you find mobile coverage. Do not hesitate to dial 112 even if your telephone shows no signal.


Is there public transportation access to hiking trails ?

Tourism accommodation provide visitors with a “Guest Card” (“Carte d’hôte”) which gives free access to buses and trains running up and down the Chamonix valley. It is an ideal way to get to most hiking circuits.


Can I camp in the alpine ?

Setting up a camping site anywhere in the mountains is forbidden. However staying overnight under a tent is tolerated from sunset to sunrise. This is what we call a “bivouac”. Camp fires are forbidden.