The Best Trails around Chamonix using Gondolas, Lifts or Trains
This is our personal list of the best trails around Chamonix that use a cable car, gondola, chair lift or mountain train to either take you up or down the mountain and reduce the amount of vertical gain and/or loss you need to tackle. The Chamonix valley, any many of the surrounding valleys, tend to be surrounded by steep mountains that have a plateau with great views. In the case of Chamonix, these plateaus tend to be at an altitude of 1800-2200 meters requiring you to pass through 800-1200 vertical meters of mostly dense pine forest before you get to "the good stuff". Luckily, there are a large number of gondolas, chair lifts, cable cars and mountain trains that you can use. In the case of Chamonix, the vast majority of those are typically operational from mid June to mid September. So while they are open, we suggest you use them. The only down-side of the easy access is that more people will be up there with you. So if you want a quiet mountain, go for one that is not served by a lift system.
A mountain train ride, an ice cave in a glacier, restaurants, a crystal clear lake and amazing views of Mont Blanc
This is probably the most popular trail around Chamonix as it single handedly combines so many of the main attractions in Chamonix. It starts with the Montenvers mountain train which departs from the center of Chamonix. The train brings you to the Montenvers mountain station where a small gondola provides access to the Grotte de Glace ice cave inside the Mer de Glace Glacier. Really amazing stuff. Montenvers also features a snackbar, the Montenvers Hotel and a glacier information center. The traverse to the Plan de l'Aiguille is easy enough to be handled by children. As an extra you can add on a visit the the Refuge de Plan de l'Aiguille and the beautiful Lac Bleu mountain lake. Lastly, you can add a visit to the Aiguille du Midi. At a spectacular height of 3842 it is one of the highest cable cars in Europe. All in all, so much to see and do in this fantastic day out. The only down side could be the crowds that are likely to be on the same trail with you.
Really great views of Mont Blanc on a high altitude traverse between the lift stations of Flegere and Planpraz
Right across the valley from the Grand Balcon Nord, you can find the Grand Balcon Sud. This part of the grand balcon runs between the gondola station of Flegere and Planpraz. The Flegere gondola departs from Les Praz and the Planpraz gondola returns you right above the center of Chamonix. Where the grand balcon nord offers a variety of things to see and do, the grand balcon sud impresses by the views it provides across the valley towards the peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif and its glaciers. The trail is family friendly and does not include too much technical terrain or elevation gain. Just like the balcon nord, the balcon sud can get pretty busy in the peak season when the gondolas are operational.
A beautiful trail with views into the Chamonix Valley followed by a visit to the Tour Glacier and Refuge Albert 1er
The Refuge Albert 1er is located right next to the Glacier du Tour at the north-eastern end of the Chamonix Valley. The refuge sits an impressive altitude of 2707 meters but thanks to the Charamillon gondola and Autannes chair lift you can reach the refuge with a lot less effort. The trail from the Charmillon mid station to the refuge is absolutely stunning. Starting with nice views over the Combe de Vormaine and across nearly the full length of the Chamonix valley. From there you will turn the corner and get your first view of the refuge and the glacier. Once you reach the refuge you will be impressed by its size and the quality of its food menu. Behind the refuge you will have a good view of the glacier and appreciate how far it continues on. Its an excellent spot to hang out for a bit before going back. This trail sees an impressive number of families with children, considering the length and elevation gain. It is definitely worth the effort though.
An easy trail leading to amazing views of the Argentiere Glacier followed by one of our favorite Refuges
This trail uses the Plan Joran gondola to give easy access to the Argentiere Glacier above the town of Argentiere. During the trail you will turn the corner and suddenly be hit by the view of the glacier and it will be very impressive. The glacier at its terminus has big jagged ice peaks crumbling off and falling down of the glacier. The trail runs right next to the glacier so the views are up close and personal. As you climb higher you will gain more of a top down view of the glacier and appreciate its size and length as the view travels deep into the mountains. The rest of the trail visits the very nice Refuge de Lognan which serves excellent food and has nice views towards the Aiguilles Rouge. From there you simply loop back to the Plan Joran lift. Overall, the Argentiere glaciers is one of the most beautiful ones in the valley with a relatively easy trail that has very close-up views of the glacier.
Two funiculars and a panoramic mountain train take you to two massive dams and two beautiful lakes
The Verticalp is a combination of 3 rides that take you from the valley floor at Le Chatelard to the biggest lake in the region: Lac d'Emosson. The journey consists of 2 funiculars and one panoramic mountain train. The train is fully open, without windows and as such gives amazing views. The Emosson dam is gigantic and very imposing and it forms the very large Emosson lake. The trail we then suggests takes you to the old dam and lake, the Lac du Vieux Emosson, which dates back to 1955. This is a nice loop trail with great views. On the way there are 2 restaurants you can use to have a meal or take a break: the Restaurant du Barrage Emosson and the Cabane du Vieux Emosson. At the start you will be visiting the charming little Chapelle du Notre Dame de la Neige chapel. Lastly, there is a harrowing zipline that runs across the full length of the valley below the dam. Its pretty spectacular.
A short little trail offering great panoramic views in all directions from a grassy summit above Les Houches
Mont Lachat is grassy flat summit on the big ridge that runs all the way from Servoz to the summit of Mont Blanc. This little summit is easy to reach thanks to the Bellevue cable car which departs from Les Houches. A small loop trail start of at the Chamonix Valley facing side and then loops around to the Mont Lachat summit. From there you will have wide open views in all direction including far west into Mont Joly and the Chaine des Aravis above Sallanches. North you will look into Rochers de Fiz above Passy and Servoz. To the east you will have a view deep into nearly the entire length of the Chamonix Valley. All in all a fantastic position to really get a good lay of the land and discover areas that you might want to explore further.
Looking for more trails that use a gondola, chair lift or mountain train?
The trails we have presented above as the best trails around Chamonix that use a lift system, is only a small selection of all the trails we have on our website. You can use our detailed search function to find trails based on a large number of variables, including length, elevation gain and loss, technical difficulty and much more. There is also a tag called "With Lift" which you can use to find trails that use a cable car, gondola, chair lift or mountain train. Using the search box below you can put in your own parameters and find your perfect trail.
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