Grand Balcon Nord

Aiguille du Midi

Chamonix

Packed with incredible views—likely the best bang-for-your-buck hike in Chamonix!

Hiking Difficult

Distance
6.2 km
Ascent
187 m
Descent
588 m
Duration
1-2 hrs
Low Point
1.9 km
High Point
2.3 km
Gradient
22˚
VIEW ON MAP
Grand Balcon Nord Map

Description

Grand Balcon Nord may be the best bang-for-your-buck hike in the Chamonix area. This stunning high alpine traverse is packed with unbelievable views of the Chamonix Valley, the surrounding mountains, the Mer de Glace glacier, and so much more!

While of course you can always access any trail in Chamonix under your own power (check out this trail running route for a loop of the Grand Balcon Nord from the valley floor), the appeal of the Grand Balcon Nord to most tourists is that unlike almost every other hike in Chamonix, you don’t have to climb over a thousand meters to access the views. Instead, you can purchase a round trip ticket to the mid-station of the Aiguille du Midi for €33.50. Then, you can hike across the Grand Balcon Nord, enjoy the stunning views, and down load on the Montenvers cog railway with the same round trip ticket. A stunning hike without the gut-wrenching climb? That's a winning formula for many people!

While by Chamonix standards this hike is about as easy as it gets, you’ll still need to be prepared to do some work. At about 6km long, and with 178 meters of climbing and 574 meters of descending, this hike will still leave you feeling as if you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day. It’s not like riding up the Midi and looking at the views. Here, you actually have to do a little bit of work.

The Grand Balcon Nord trail traverses across the mountainside, undulating up and down along a rocky bench. Some of the rocks and small ups-and-downs can be steep and bouldery, requiring some care to navigate. However, in most places the trail is reinforced with beautiful rockwork that almost makes it feel like a cobblestone road.

About two-thirds of the way into the trail, you’ll reach a fork where both signs point toward Montenvers. The recommended itinerary follows the upper fork in order to reach a stunning overlook of the Mer de Glace glacier. This ascent to the overlook is the one somewhat significant climb on the trail, and can be steep and rocky in places. Enjoy the stunning views along the exposed rocky sections of trail.

Once you get to the top, a mind-blowing panorama will open up below you. Be sure to stop, grab a bite to eat, and savor this surreal location.

From here, it’s downhill all the way to Montenvers. The descent can be steep and loose in places, and you can expect to encounter uphill traffic from Montenvers. Be sure to share the trail with all of the other hikers and bikers.

Once at Montenvers, consider adding on the Grotte de Glace as an additional bonus hike!

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September

Features

  • Alpine
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Family friendly

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area