2 - 3
FATMAP difficulty grade
This route is one of the best tours to see the Chamonix valley by foot.
While it is not extreme or long by any means, this is an awesome route to run when you first arrive or return to Chamonix.
You get to view both sides of the valley, explore the some amazing refuges and experience the small town of Le Lavancher.
While the route can be done in either direction, it makes a difference.
One way is not necessarily easier than the other but sun and heat can play a large role here.
If you are wanting to avoid the sun and are starting before noon, take this in the drawn direction (after noon vice versa) and if you want to stay in the sun and are starting before noon, take this in the reverse direction (after noon vice versa).
Our tour begins and ends just north of the high street near Place du Mont Blanc (PMB) and the Alpina hotel.
Head towards the Planards chair lift and start the first climb towards the Buvette de Caillet - a small refuge which had some food and drink when it is open.
This fist climb can be deceiving in its steepness.
Start the first climb easy and when you arrive at the refuge (you will notice as it has a red roof) go out on to the deck and get a look at the first big view.
We are looking directly across at where we will finish our last climb - see if you can spot it.
This view looks out over at the Aiguilles Rouges ("Red Peaks" or more literally "Red needles") - the peaks opposite of the Mont Blanc Massif.
The two resorts you are seeing are Brévent and Flégère.
The north end of the range hosts preserved land.
Make sure to hike in this area to get some introductions to the local Chamois.
Now we make our first descent all the way down to Les Bois ("the woods").
With good, dry conditions, this descent should be very fun to fly down.
It is not very technical or steep and allows us to get back to the valley floor quickly.
A fun fact here: All trails funnel down to Les Bois from here as there is no way to get to the other side of the Mer de Glace without going onto the glacier.
Les Bois is one of the most relaxing areas in Chamonix.
It has tons of flat terrain and trails to try your hand at mountain biking, take a dip in the runoff of the Mer de Glace or go bird-watching.
Once in Les Bois, we prepare for our second ascent.
Les Bois can be a bit of a maze but the end goal is to follow the main road up to Le Lavancher.
Hands down the easiest and fastest climb of the tour, the terrain is very easy and not steep at all.
It is a nice break from the normal Chamonix terrain.
As you follow the 4x4 track up, you will meet a paved road - welcome to Le Lavancher.
This town will be sure to give you that "small alp village" feeling that Chamonix doesn't.
Additionally, this might be a good place to stop and get something to eat at one of the few restaurants here.
As we descend, we will not be at another location until our last stop.
Begin the second descent from the top of Le Lavancher down to L'Arve - the main river in Chamonix.
L'Arve is truly the beating heart of Chamonix as all major glaciers and snowmelt feed into it.
When you reach the road, be extra careful when crossing as this is a very busy one.
Additionally, this is the Le Lavancher bus stop if anyone has an injury or want to bail.
Once on the other side of the road, you will cross a bridge and meet up with the Petit Balcon Sud - one of the most popular trails in Chamonix.
Watch out for bikers and other runners as this trail is shared for all sports.
Continue to enjoy the descent next to the river and in the forest as it won't last too long before we are climbing again. When we reach our next turn, our final climb begins.
We are actually still following the Petit Balcon Sud for a little while.
The first section of the climb is average and not very step or technical.
We will cross the home run of Flégère and continue to the next valley over.
Once we arrive there, we will shoot straight up.
Again, this is a bit of a maze and you can take the road or a trail that cuts through it but just do not miss the trail that enters the woods and heads backs towards Chamonix as this is our exit.
Once here, we make our final (steep) descent to La Floria.
Once you reach a junction, you are almost there and the rest of the run to the La Floria is on flat or slightly downhill terrain.
Arriving at La Floria will be impossible to miss as the trail goes right through the view point. Welcome to La Floria and congrats on getting up the last climb.
The view from La Floria is one of the best in Chamonix.
You are looking directly at the Mont Blanc Massif and the sharp demeanor of the Aiguilles with Mont Blanc in the background.
If you have nice weather, you're going to love it.
Additionally, you can see the exit of the Mer de Glace and the first refuge we stopped at - can you spot it (it has a red roof)? When open, La Floria usually serves some food and drinks.
If not, the trail is all descent from here on into town.
On the final descent, simply continue the trail from La Floria and meet up with the Petit Balcon Sud for a little bit.
Be careful here as well as this tends to be a very popular place for people to hike and visit and the trail tends to be crowded.
Then, keep descending towards our start until you have reached town again.
That is it! You have completed Le Petit Tour du Chamonix.
It is an awesome way to ease into longer runs here in the alps or just to get out on a nice day and see the entire valley.
The route has plenty of points where you can branch off and extend.
You could break-off earlier on Le Petit Balcon Sud and make the steep climb up to Flégère and then cross over to Brévent before descending.
You can also explore further north from Le Lavancher where Le Petit Balcon Nord continues from.
There are tons of possibilities but this is a solid one to get some awesome views in on a medium sized run.