Secret Chamonix: The hidden summer gems

Following on from my Chamonix summer must-see post, here’s a few places that are less well known than the big sights, but have a charm all of their own. As a bonus, none of these places need lifts to get to, so they are more accessible to pushchairs, the vertiginous or anyone who would like a more relaxing view of the mountains – and also much less expensive!

Charousse

A very special place – just a handful of picture perfect chalets in a high meadow lush with flowers, with the snow covered peaks of Mont Blanc and its surrounding summits behind. Tranquil and beautiful – find a rock by the stream and appreciate  a perfect summer day. From Les Houches (access via bus) , follow signs to Les Chavants and then the Ecole Physique (uphill on the Mont Blanc side of the valley). Footpath is well signed from the road, a 15 minute uphill walk. A lovely day at Charousse –  with photos

Mont Blanc behind Charousse
Mont Blanc behind Charousse

Plateau d’Assy and Lac Vert

A marvellous fifties modernist masterwork, a new organic garden, gallery and cafe, a classic alpine lake and a spectacular panoramic view of Mont Blanc – this is an area that has loads to offer, and all easily drivable, though a car is pretty much essential. Plateau d’Assy and Lac Vert – more photos

Mont Blanc reflected in Lac Vert

 Lavancher & Le Chapeau

Tranquil, lovely le Lavancher. It also has a very nice restaurant, “Le Rosebud” at the Jeu de Paume hotel. I must confess I think the restaurant is a touch overpriced, but the food is very good and the setting matchless. Walk up from Les Praz or down from Argentiere.

 

Cows at Le Lavancher
Cows in the meadows in at Le Lavancher

The real joys of Le Lavancher are the walks – cows graze in the peaceful alpages, the village is very pretty, and the walk to Le Chapeau is a Chamonix classic – leading you up past the gorge to a spectacular glacier overlook point (NB – not suitable for pushchairs) There’s a lovely chalet near the overlook which serves drinks and simple meals.

Berard

When the Chamonix valley is busy, slipping into the adjoining Berard valley makes for a relaxing day away from the crowds. Accessed from near the station at Le Buet, a 15 minute walk takes you to the lovely chalet, built over a rushing cascade. Climb up to visit the cave behind the waterfall, where a forger is supposed to have hidden.

The chalet restaurant at the Cascade du Berard
The chalet restaurant at the Cascade du Berard

Further along, a gentle uphill walk by the river  (NB – not suitable for pushchairs)  leads eventually to a refuge in a lovely setting, wild and peaceful. This area is full of ibex who seem to enjoy posing for the camera!
Access: train to Le Buet, bus, or car

Col des Montets

High, wide and open on the Swiss border, the Col des Montets has a beautiful view over the Mont Blanc massif. Huge glacial boulders are dotted around – it’s a popular bouldering spot. Small ponds and streams are bordered with flowers, and the old, widely spaced larch trees give it a distinctly different feel to the rest of the valley. It’s a lovely place for a picnic. A chalet contains nature exhibitions and books, and provides drinks and toilets. The “Chemin des Diligences”  is a very accessible walk here, leading to the Vallorcine train station. Access: train to Le Buet, bus to Col des Montets, or car

Path from Col des Montets to Lacs des Chéserys @ Hike to Lacs des Chéserys, Lac Blanc, Lac Cornu & Lacs Noirs @ Réserve Naturelle des Aiguilles Rouges @ Chamonix

Photo from the Col des Montets by Guilhem Vellut, used with kind permission under Creative Commons.