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Chamonix walks – Lac Blanc

Lac Blanc, at 2352m, is one of the most famous walks in the Alps – hugely popular for its straightforward access to a spectacular panorama over the Mont Blanc massif.

It really is an amazing view – the peaks frame the lake and surrounding landscape perfectly, and on a still day, the reflection is incredibly dramatic. There is usually snow around at the lake in summer, though in very hot years there may not be. Poles are very useful, especially if there’s any snow around. Allow a minimum of 4-5 hours for the walk, including time to explore around the lake and take photos. It’s in the nature reserve, so dogs are not allowed. You may well see ibex and marmots along the way!

It’s usually begun in one of three places:

  • The Index lift at the top of Flegere (2525m)
  • The Flegere midstation (1913m)
  • Tré-le-Champ just above Argentiere (1417m)

At first glance, it seems clear that it would be better to go from Index (2525m), the highest point accessed by a lift. However, it’s worth noting that this is a more technical trail to walk on, with some areas of loose scree with a lot of up and down along the way. Experienced walkers should have no trouble but it’s not necessarily the easy option it appears at first glance, and may not be suitable for small children or the less fit.
It also can be inaccessible even in summer, as it’s around the same height as the lake and can have dangerous hard packed snow (névé) in the couloirs.

If you walk from the Flégère mid station (1913m), it’s a straightforward walk on an easy trail but with a climb of around 500m. You can either walk directly there or via Lac Cheserys, which is rather longer but also slightly easier, on a wide track for part of the way.

Going from the top of the Index lift to the lake, and then walking down to Flegere mid station on the way back makes it into a nice loop and is perhaps the ideal solution if the Index path is OK for you.

To go from Tré-le-Champ makes it into a beautiful full day for those who’d like more of a challenge.

On the way up to Lac Blanc

Walk through a lovely open larch forest which is good place to see wildlife, and then take one of two variants. Either via the Aiguillette d’Argentiere, which takes you past a beautiful climbing crag, or the easier route via Chalets des Cheserys. NB There are laddered sections on the Aiguillette variant, it is recommended for experienced and fit walkers only. Here’s my separate page covering this walk.

When to go
July, August and the first part of September are the best times to go. However, snow levels and ease of access varies wildly from year to year. Sometimes you can get there in mid June, sometimes it remains difficult well into July. It’s best to check with the staff at the lift station or the Office du Haute Montagne and ask which route they recommend.

Autumn and Winter
Sometimes the Flegere lift runs in October or November for the Toussaint holidays, and Lac Blanc may be accessible. And of course you can walk up from Tre-le-Champ at any time, in theory. However, conditions vary yearly and daily! Always check with the Office du Haute Montagne as the lake is in an area prone to avalanches in winter. In winter it can be only accessed via ski touring or snowshoeing, and since the lake is invisible under the snow, it loses much of its impact. If you want to see almost the same view in winter, I recommend the Flegere inbounds snowshoeing trail.

Névé below Lac Blanc
Névé below Lac Blanc

Food
There is a pleasant refuge at the lake where you can get drinks, snacks and simple lunches. By far the nicest thing to do, I think, is to take sandwiches and find a quiet spot away from the crowds – you don’t generally have to go far.

Time
It’s really much better to do it first thing in the morning. Once you’re above the mid station it’s a true high alpine environment with little shade or greenery, and the heat can be fierce. It also gets very busy, especially at weekends – well worth getting up early for some peace and quiet!

Walking down from Lac Blanc
Walking down from Lac Blanc

Lac Blanc plus points 

– Often has snow until later summer for a lovely high mountain atmosphere
– Amazing panorama reflected in the lake – photos really don’t do it justice.
– Beautiful views along the path
– Ideal for less experienced walkers, older people and families. It doesn’t have much of the precipitous drops of many trails, the “out and back” route is not committing, and the path from Flegere is very straightforward walking and well signed.

But

– Can be extremely crowded. Not a place to go for Alpine peace.
– Beautiful but somewhat bleak on the higher route from the Index, not so many flowers and few trees.
– At considerable altitude – most people will feel some shortness of breath

My personal view
If I had time for one or two walks only, this might not be one of them. I think the Balcons are prettier and have nicer trails, with essentially the same views. For high rocky alpine beauty I prefer Lac Noir and the Col des Glieres. But this is being very picky! It’s got to be in the top ten, and if you get there early it’s a magic spot.

Linked walks
If you are fit, it is completely feasible to link it with other walks and I highly recommend this.

Ascend or descend from Tre-le-champ (or the nearby Col des Montets)

– Combine with the Grand Balcon Sud, finishing at Brevent for an amazing Mont Blanc view. Probably my favourite option. A big day, but doable, and you can always bail at Flegere if you like.

– Could be combined with Col des Glieres & Lac Noir for an in-depth traverse of the south side. To do this would be a very big day, though it is certainly possible for a fast walker or trail runner. It wouldn’t allow much time for photo taking or just absorbing the view, however. Of course, it’s relatively straightforward to split it up via the cable car stops and take as long as you like!

Access from La Petite Forêt
The Flegere lift is a five to ten minute walk from the chalet, so you can start directly from the door…
or more importantly, return directly to the hot tub!

If you want to do the bigger walk from Tre-le-Champ, there’s plenty of parking.
You can get there by public transport which is also useful if you want to take a different route back. To go direct to Tre-le-Champ, you need to take two buses – several routes from from Flegere to Argentiere, and then the No. 21 to Tre-Le-Champ. It is probably easier to take the more frequent bus or train to Montroc Le Planet – Tre-le-Champ is about 15 minutes walk from there.

A note on safety & maps
These walks are all ones that I’ve enjoyed myself, and they are here to help you with inspiration and planning. It’s not intended to be a full guide to each walk and I really recommend a book such as Mont Blanc Walks: 50 best walks and 4 short treks (Cicerone Guides)  or Mont Blanc Trails (with accompanying map). If you’re staying with us, we have copies which you are welcome to borrow. If not, they are easily available from bookshops in Chamonix. The tourist office does a little map for a few euros which would be more than enough for Lac Blanc.
These are summer walks only – and conditions vary enormously throughout the summer. Please read my accompanying post on walking safety, and happy trails!