Where do we start on describing the Chamonix Valley terrain and trails? In such a vast area with 100’s of trails, with possibly the most beautiful setting you could imagine, Chamonix could keep us all entertained for years on end, still finding new paths that we didn’t know existed. We pretty much see it as a trail runners paradise!
There is so much to do in Chamonix, with 350km of very well kept trails, from gentle jogs to leg burning missions into the mountains, you can run all week from the refuge front door and see so much. We have our own GPS routes that we share with all of our guests.
Chamonix is located in the Haute Savoie area in the Rhone-Alpes region in the south-eastern part of France. In between the massive peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges and the Aiguille du Midi, Mont Blanc.
The Chamonix valley includes 18 villages and hamlets from Vallorcine, by the Swiss boarder Le Tour (1462m), Montroc, Le Planet, Argentiere (1252m), Les Chosalets, Les Tines, Les Bois, Les Praz de Chamonix (1060m), Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Les Pecles, Les Mouilles, Les Barrats, Les Pelerins, Les Gaillands, Les Bossons, Les Houches and Servoz.
If you are looking up the valley to the north and Switzerland, on the left side sits the Aiguilles Rouges, a huge conservation area with massive peaks and stunning rugged scenery. You can often spot wildlife such as Ibex, Marmottes, Chamois and Golden Eagles. There are many mountain lakes, rivers and streams. If you head over the back of the Col de Montets or col de Brevent you will be rewarded by panoramic views. It is somehow away from all of the tourists and you might not see a soul.
Closer to Chamonix, on the mountain side there are the main trails, the petit balcon sud stretches the length of the valley and has many trails linking and winding up and across, through the pine forest.
On the Valley floor runs the River L’Arve, a track runs along side it, and is a good option for those not wanting steep paths.
To your right side there are some very popular routes, you can run to Mer de Glace, underneath the Aiguilles de Chamonix and to the mid station of the Aiguille du Midi. This side is very dramatic, the higher trails are stoney and steep, once you are above the tree line the views are just incredible, this is high mountain running at it’s best.
Further along the valley in Les Bossons has the famous route, The first ever ascent to Mont Blanc that Saussure and Balmat took back in 1786. It winds up through the forest to the impressive Bossons Glacier and keeps winding up to la Jonction, the last piece of land, where the Bosson Glacier and Taconnaz Glacier meet. Here you are at the gateway of the high Alps at 2589m. It’s truly a fantastic experience for those who want a challenge and to see Chamonix at it’s absolute best.
Lower down on the right side of the valley, runs the Petit Balcon Nord, through the forest it connects the valley and you can run through pine forests, rolling fields, past alpine cows and sheep and over streams.
If you want to go further a field there are popular Expeditions. For these long distance activities, we would advise a guide or a Leader to help you or book your huts, for your night stays in the mountains. We can help you with recommendations.
The Haute Route
This is a trail running from Chamonix to the Matterhorn in Zermatt, a distance of 118km, with 11 passes and a height gain of over 12000 meters. The best months to do this would be between June and September.
The Tour Du Mont Blanc
The Tour Du Mont Blanc is a loop of 250km around the French, Italian and Swiss Alps. With stunning views of Mont Blanc, you can achieve the whole loop or do sections of it too. The best months to to is this in June to September
A great local dedicated runners website is here: http://www.valleedutrail.com/en/ with news on trails, maps and a guide to the trails around Chamonix
The lifts in the summer open in the middle of June and close again in the middle of September. Apart from the Aiguille du Midi which is open all year round. You can take the lifts to reach the higher trails by lift, there are plenty of trails at the foot and at the top of the ski lifts.
There is so much to do in Chamonix, from picturesque trails to challenging races… You don’t need to plan for any of these to stay at RR but we thought you might like to look at some of the popular challenges available this summer. We share our GPS trails with all our guests, from gentle jogs to leg burning missions into the mountains. Check out our blog and twitter feed for up to date news, runners tips and latest new trails.