Nestled in the east of France sits the stunning French Alps. There are a number of places to visit in this region, but one of the most famous is the charming town of Chamonix.
The alpine town sits in a valley framed on all sides by towering mountains and features an almost surreal view of a glacier from its centre.
One of the best known mountains in the region is Mont Blanc, and hiking enthusiasts from around the world descend on the region to tackle this mountain or do the famous multi-day Tour Mont Blanc circuit, taking in the view of Mont Blanc as well as many other mountains in this part of the Alps.
But you don’t have to take on high altitude or multi-day trails to enjoy the Alps. There’s also plenty of day hikes to enjoy from Chamonix. I hiked every day for six days in Chamonix and below are the hikes I chose. Each one was as beautiful as the next, offering unique perspectives of the surrounding mountains.
How to get there
If you don’t have a car, you can access Chamonix by bus. FlixBus is probably the most convenient way to get there with routes available from parts of France, Italy and Switzerland.
To get to the trailheads, local buses run regularly to the main starting points so you don’t need a car while you’re there. You can get a free bus pass if you’re staying in Chamonix from the local Tourist Office for the duration of your stay. This pass enables you to take as many buses as you want to and from the trailheads. The most useful buses go in the direction of Glacier des Bossons and Le Tour.
Montenevers/Mer de Glace
Duration: 3-4 hours circuit
Starting Point: Plan d’Aiguille cable car station
There’s several options to reach Montenevers and the Mer de Glace (Sea of ice) glacier. The route I chose started from Plan de l’Aiguille, which is the midway point for the cable car up to Aiguille du Midi. I opted to head up to Aiguille du Midi on the first cable car of the day, and then stop at Plan de l’Aiguille on the way down to do the hike to Mer de Glace and the man-made ice cave.
Aiguille du Midi is well worth a stop on your Chamonix itinerary with its breaktaking views over alpine regions of both France and Italy and Mont Blanc. If you head up there with one of the first cable cars and the weather is good, you’ll be able to enjoy the views in the soft morning light and without the crowds. You’re also likely to see the alpinists heading up Mont Blanc.
From Plan de l’Aiguille, follow the signs to Montenevers. It takes about two hours to hike from Plan de l’Aiguille to Montenevers. The hike between Plan d’Aiguille and Montenevers is mostly flat with some small inclines and declines. It’s best to start the hike early as it’s quite exposed and the morning light across the Chamonix valley is stunning.
The Mer de Glace is accessible from Montenevers by a short gondola ride followed by a long set of stairs. On the way down the stairs, you’ll spot signs showing where the glacier used to be over the preceding years as it receded. The stairs have been added to over the years as the glacier receded further and further.
You can return the way you came or take the scenic train from Montenevers back to Chamonix. If you don’t want to do the hike between Plan de l’Aiguille and Montenevers, you can also take the train up direct to see the Mer de Glace.
Duration: 6-8 hours circuit (depending on starting point)
Starting point: Tre le Champ carpark or Teleferique de la Flegere
The hike to Lac Blanc is a popular hike – but for good reason. You can start the hike from a few different directions depending on how long you want to hike for.
I started the hike from the Tre le Champ carpark so I could do a circuit, but you can also start the hike from the top of the Teleferique de la Flegere for a shorter hike. Both starting points are accessible from Chamonix by taking the bus towards Le Tour.
The hike from Tre le Champ starts off in a forest, before taking you up some ladders built into the rock and then traversing some rocky steps. On the way, you’ll pass the Lacs des Cheserys. All up, you’ll ascend more than 1,000 metres of elevation from Tre le Champ.
At Lac Blanc, there’s a mountain hut where you can grab some food or a drink, or simply take in the views before walking around the lake.
If you’re on the circuit route, head towards the Teleferique de la Flegere from Lac Blanc. You can descend via the Teleferique de la Flegere gondola or return to Chamonix on foot starting from below the gondola station.
La Jonction (view of Glacier Des Bossons)
Duration: 6 to 8 hours return
Starting point: Teleferique du Glacier des Bossons chairlift
The hike to La Jonction was my favourite hike in Chamonix as you get right up close to Glacier des Bossons. But it’s not an easy hike with an elevation gain of more than 1,000 metres, and a steep, scrambly stretch as your near the upper reaches of the hike.
The hike starts from the top of the Teleferique du Glacier des Bossons chairlift, which is situated at 1,425 metres. Take the bus towards Glacier des Bossons from Chamonix.
From there, it takes about an hour traversing through the forest to reach the Chalet de Pyramides, which is where you’ll start to get a glimpse of the glacier.
From the chalet, it’s all uphill from here, mostly along a narrow and winding dirt trail. But you’ll be rewarded with fabulous views of the surrounding mountains, as well as Glacier des Bossons to the left and Glacier de Taconnaz on the right.
The last 45 minutes or so of the hike is more of a scramble up rocky terrain and scree slopes until you reach La Jonction, which sits at 2,589 metres. Here you’ll be standing right in the front of Glacier des Bossons – so close you can touch it, but don’t go onto the glacier.
Allow some time up here to enjoy lunch and soak up the views. Return by the same route.
Lac du Brevent
Duration: 2-3 hours return
Starting point: Plan Praz cable car station
I did the hike over to Lac Brevent as my ‘rest day’. After two full on hikes ascending and descending more than 1,000 metres of elevation up to Lac Blanc and La Jonction, my legs were getting sore!
But I was keen to keep getting out there, so I took a gondola up to Plan Praz, and then the cable car over to Le Brevent, which sits at 2,525 metres. The Plan Praz gondola station is located in Chamonix and is walking distance from the town centre.
From Le Brevent telecabine station, it’s about an hour’s hike down to the shores of Lac du Brevent, with some great views along the way. It’s a popular trail so start early to avoid the crowds.
You can see the lake from the top of trail. From the main trail, you need to take a rough trail to the right after about 40 minutes to reach the lake. From this right turn, it’s about another 20 minute hike to the lake depending on your hiking pace, with some rock scrambling. Care is needed on this section of trail.
After going down to Lac du Brevent, you can then choose to walk a little further towards Refuge de Bellachat for more panoramic views across to the surrounding mountains and into Chamonix Valley. You’ll also probably spot some paragliders cruising above you. Return by the same way.
Les Sources de L’Averyon
Duration: 1-2 hours
Starting point: Les Tines bus stop
For another easy hike, you can head over to the Les Sources de L’Averyon. This is a short forest walk taking you to a waterfall and a pretty river.
You can start the hike from the Les Tines bus stop. To get there, take a bus from Chamonix in the direction of Le Tour. From the bus stop, there’s a small trail to your left up to a small village and then there’s signage to Les Sources de L’Averyon. You can return the way you came or walk back to Chamonix following the signs along a network of walking and mountain bike trails.
Duration: 2 hours return (including train trip)
Starting point: Bellevue gondola station (Les Houches)
Heading up to Nid d’Aigle is not really a hike but you do get a view of more glaciers and see a different view of the mountains.
To get to the Nid d’Aigle train station and view point, take a bus from Chamonix to Les Houches and then take the cable car up to the Bellevue plateau. This is also where you can start the Tour Mont Blanc trail if you’re so inclined.
From the Bellevue cable car station, you can walk to one of the Mont Blanc Tramway stations in about 20 minutes.
The scenic tram takes you up to the Nid d’Aigle station. From there, all you have to do is to walk for less than 10 minutes and you’ll get a view of the Glacier de Bionassay. There’s also a nice view of the surrounding mountains. Return the same way.
2 thoughts on “The best day hikes in Chamonix, France”
Hi, I am interested in doing a couple of one day treks, based around Chamonix.
Something with an elevation of 800m, 5 miles, 4/5 hours would be fine.
Any suggestions would be most welcome.
Lac Blanc is a good option, more than 800 metres elevation gain if you don’t take the cable car up but about the length you want. Lac Brevent and Montenevers are good options too. All are listed in the blog.