Chamonix is loaded with steep, gnarly singletrack. Here's your guide to navigating this complex trail system.
Chamonix is one of the most stunning mountain destinations on earth. The idyllic town center sits in the bottom of a narrow valley with mountains soaring straight up on all sides. The Mont Blanc massif forms one side of the Chamonix Valley, with the mountain slopes culminating in sheer rock cliffs covered in glaciers. Mont Blanc itself, visible from just about everywhere in the valley, rises to 4,809 meters above sea level—the highest peak in Western Europe.
This well-developed tourist destination serves every mountain sport, including mountain biking. You'll find tons of gnarly singletrack to ride here… but unlike most mountain destinations in the Alps, don't expect Chamonix to roll out the red carpet for you. While mountain bikes are legal on basically all of the trails, bikes are not allowed on the public bus system, aren't allowed on the cog railway, and most of the ski lifts ban mountain bikes for the majority of the summer. The Brevent lift is an exception that allows bikes after 4pm during the summer bike ban, and Les Houches does have a small bike park. In late August, most (but not all) of the lifts will lift the ban and start hauling bikes. But by that point, the season only lasts for a few short weeks before the lifts shut down in mid-September.
It feels like Chamonix is saying, "you mountain bikers are the new kids on the block—you should be grateful for whatever we give you." And in some ways, they're right: Chamonix's history as a mountaineering destination goes back hundreds of years, with the first ascent of the Mont Blanc recorded on August 8, 1786. Yeah, mountain bikes are pretty new on the scene.
Don't let the feeling of being a second-class citizen dissuade you from heading to Chamonix to mountain bike. Instead, use these tips to your advantage so you can optimize your visit. Travel to Chamonix in late August and early September when the crowds have thinned out and most of the lifts have opened to bikes.
If you do, you'll find a nearly endless web of steep, technical, challenging singletrack trails spread throughout the Chamonix valley… and really, connecting to the rest of Europe. Whether your goal is to rip technical enduro descents like Charlanon and Merlet, or you want to check off the epic multi-day Tour du Mont Blanc, Chamonix can provide as much challenge as you're ready for!