Chamonix, France

Snow covered peaks, countless glaciers, and never-ending hiking trails, Chamonix is France’s best destination for outdoor exploration. Near the borders of France, Italy and Switzerland, Chamonix sits at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps.

Chamonix has always been high on my mom’s bucket list, and since we were in France for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, we set out to explore the French Alps. Coming from Lyon, we took a train…a bus…two more trains…and finally a tram before reaching the resort town of Chamonix. While this made for quite an adventurous day, our travel wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. We stopped halfway in Annecy, the most picture-perfect French alpine village, but more on this later — I promise I’ll be posting about all about our adventures in Nice, Lyon, Annecy and Paris!

an afternoon exploring Annecy, France

With two and a half days in Chamonix, we didn’t waste any time. Our first evening in Chamonix, we explored the village — drinking, eating and taking in all the sights. There are so many shops and restaurants in Chamonix, you could easily spend an entire afternoon busying yourself. Plus, there is nothing quite like gazing up at the crystal clear, star-filled sky, with Mont Blanc looming in the background.

Chamonix at sunset

Our first full day in Chamonix, we woke early and purchased a multi-day cable car pass. The pass is expensive — about 60 euros for one day or 90 euros for three days, but the pass gives you access to every cable car, lift and tram in the Mont Blanc area. In my opinion, the views of Mont Blanc from literally any lift are worth a million dollars.

From Chamonix, we took the cable car to Plan de l’Aiguille, 12,605 feet above the village of Chamonix. As it was a bit foggy and Mont Blanc was hiding high above the clouds, we decided to hike Grand Blanc Nord to Montenvers Mer de Glace.

Plan de l’Aiguille

recreating my favorite movie, The Sound of Music

hiking above Chamonix

Grand Blanc Nord is a well-used, mostly flat, five mile hike. Once you reach Montenvers Mer de Glace, you discover France’s longest glacier — eight miles long! To be completely honest, I had no idea where we were hiking to, so once we reached the glacier, I was completely shocked you could enter the ice caves. This was one of those pinch-me moments — I could not believe it was real!

Grand Blanc Nord

Grand Blanc Nord

As you make your way down to the ice cave entrance, you see plaques on the rocks, signifying how climate change has melted and shrunk the glacier. Here is a really interesting article documenting the change to Mer de Glace over the years.

Montenvers Mer de Glace. In the winter, this becomes a ski route

Mer de Glace

Mer de Glace

Mer de Glace… notice where the glacier was in 2005

After exploring the ice caves (and almost freezing to death!), we took the cogwheel train back to Chamonix. It was mid-afternoon and Mont Blanc was still hiding above the clouds, but we decided we might as well take the Aiguille du Midi Gondola to the top of Mont Blanc. Well… we got to the top of Mont Blanc and you couldn’t see more than a few inches in front of you! Oh well, the experience was worth every moment of not knowing what you were looking at! Mont Blanc stands 15,771 feet high above the ground, and on a clear day, offers the most spectacular views. Don’t forget sunglasses and a heavy coat!

the view from Mont Blanc

the top of Mont Blanc appeared for just a few quick seconds!

Our second full day in Chamonix, we decided to hike to Lac Blanc. Unfortunately, the cable car that takes you to the trail head (La Flegere) was under construction, so our hike turned into a very long, adventurous day. We rode the Le Brevent cable car and hiked the Grand Balcon Sud — an amazing three hour hike offering unparalleled views of Mont Blanc, glaciers and wildflowers.

Grand Balcon Sud

Grand Balcon Sud

Grand Balcon Sud

Once we reached La Flegere, we embarked on another two hour hike to Lac Blanc. With legs sore from the day before, trekking to Lac Blanc (all. up. hill.) was quite the struggle. After countless “I don’t think I can do this anymore,” “Who’s idea was this,” and “Can we turn around yet,” we made it to Lac Blanc — and I am so glad we did! Glacier blue water and snow covered peaks, this is the perfect place for a panoramic view of Mont Blanc.

Lac Blanc

Lac Blanc

at the top & all smiles, knowing there is no more elevation to climb!

With the cable car under construction and sunlight slowly disappearing, we had no other choice than to hike down over 7,700 feet to Chamonix. The gravel path is steep with many switchbacks, and it isn’t uncommon for yourself or others to slip and fall (ouch). Fortunately, there were aperol spritz’s awaiting our arrival in Chamonix!

Lodging
We stayed at Hotel L’Oustalet, a chalet-style hotel at the base of Mont Blanc. The hotel was beautiful, and the staff were incredibly kind, making every effort to ensure we had the best stay.

the view from our hotel room

Where to Eat & Drink
There are so many restaurants and bars in Chamonix! A few of our favorites were La Tablee (traditional French, the meat and fondue is a must!), Munchie (modern Asian cuisine), and Annapurna (Indian). We loved Big Mountain Brewing Company, and we also checked out Micro-Brasserie de Chamonix — the French know how to beer good beer! Restaurant Josephine was the perfect spot for a post-hike aperol spritz, located in the center of the village — great for people watching!

fondue at La Tablee

big mountain brewing company

no better view after finishing a long day of hiking!

Leave a Comment