Chamonix is a good place to escape summer heat! Although it can get hot, you can escape by going higher, and even if it can get hot in the afternoons, mornings and evenings are much cooler. Choose your timings and activities accordingly to enjoy the hot weather.
As always, I’ve provided approximate info but these lists are for inspiration rather than reference or maps. All these walks are very easy to find either online or in the guidebooks at the chalet, who have accurate info.
In the Chalet
When it’s really hot, it’s better to open the doors in the early morning to let cool air in, but keep them shut during the day. The roof is very well insulated which does make a difference. However set against this, we often get a nice valley breeze, so see what works best for you.
It stays naturally cool downstairs in the little chalet, as it has thick granite walls
The garden has natural shade on one side to the other all day long, and we also have forest areas which are much cooler.
It’s never a popular option on holiday, but getting up early makes a huge difference if you can do it. The mornings are usually pleasantly cool and the light is beautiful. It’s nice have lunch high up (either restaurant or a picnic are equally enjoyable!) or on a shaded terrace somewhere.
The afternoons are best for relaxing and snoozing, though my suggestions for cooler walks are below. Or head for the water….swimming, paddle boarding, rafting, canyoning or hydrospeeding are all good options.
Evenings are much cooler and are also a nice time to enjoy the garden or balcony
Where to swim
Our nearest swimming lake is Lac Passy – a wonderful place on a hot afternoon. Paddle boards are available for rent. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed on or even near the water in summer 🙁
Annecy and Yvoire are worth a day trip at any time of year, and never more so than when temperatures are high! Both lovely towns with great swimming. Or you can hire paddleboards or canoes.
The Chamonix outdoor pool is scheduled to re-open in 2023, but there’s a big indoor pool with children’s areas and waterslides.
There is a shallow but cold stream that runs through the Paradis des Praz. I find just a paddle or quick plunge if possible in the very cold water is really refreshing on a hot day, and it’s a nice shaded area. It’s best to follow the stream up from the Paradis des Praz and look for an area that’s deep enough to at least get under.
Do note that the glacial Arveyron river close to the chalet is not safe for swimming (and is bitterly cold!)
Where to walk
Don’t forget to check our post on walking safety, and especially remember to take plenty of water, a sunhat, sunblock, and a buff or bandanna that you can soak with water.
It is always cooler high up…still, for big south facing walks with little cover, like the Grand Balcon Sud, the Posettes or Lac Blanc, it really is important to set off early in the morning. Choose walks that are adapted to thee conditions – a hot spell is perhaps not the time to do very big and committing ascents like the Jonction, La Buet or Loriaz.
The Grand Balcon Nord is in general a bit cooler and has some shade, especially before lunchtime.
Pointe de Vue goes from the top of the Plan Joran lift in Argentiere to a spectacular glacier overlook. North facing with plenty of water on the walk – it’s not drinkable but nice to splash around and cool clothing with. High up with a lovely cool breeze from the glacier. Very spectacular just as an ‘out and back’ of around an hour each way, or you can add an hour at least by continuing around the glacier’s edge, though this is more difficult walking
Shaded walk from Vallorcine / Le Buet to a beautiful hamlet with gorgeous views. About 45 mins uphill. Lovely spot for a picnic at the top, or continue to Vallorcine for lunch at Cafe Comptoir (reservations essential)
30 minute walk behind the Prarion lift at Les Houches to a little summit that has amazing 360 degree views. You can take an alternative way back which shows you the pretty rolling plateau of Les Houches. Extend the walk if you like by various itineraries that are clearly visible and signed on the plateau.
The walk by the river (technically still Chemin des Lots, 100m from the chalet), is cool and pleasant in the morning, and there’s usually a nice breeze from the glacial water. Do note that this river is fast and dangerous – don’t do more than dip your toes in (having tried this once, you probably won’t be tempted again!) and be very careful if you have a dog that’s impulsive around water.
In the afternoon, the walks on this side and up to the helipad can be very hot – it’s better to go to the other side and walk around the Paradis des Praz.
Paradis des Praz and the valley side walks just above it (Petit Balcon Sud and Promenade de Vorgeat are pleasantly shady. You can walk from the chalet (about 20 minutes) or drive and park at the back of the Golf Club. It’s especially nice to just walk beside the stream (Promenade de Paradis des Praz), as the river is ok for paddling and you can cool your feet.
If you have kids with you, the Paradis des Praz itself is an absolutely great place on a hot summer day, a cafe with lots of swings, slides, bridges etc and pony rides on offer.
If you don’t have kids you may prefer to skirt around the Paradis itself, admiring the idyllic scene from a distance, and continue upstream where there are lots of calmer spots to enjoy. This is signed as a bike path (small red arrows) and it’s a very nice ride on bikes or e-bikes.
You can walk into Chamonix via the Bois de Bouchet which is shaded most of the way, and there are a couple of nice cafes to check out. Cremerie Gite De La Montagne and the Index (was Le Robinson, now under new management).
Finally, although it’s not a shaded walk, if you feel like a short stroll to a nice apero spot, the Hotel Prairie in Les Bois is a slice of old-fashioned Chamonix…there’s very little like this left in the valley. Have their Kir Maison and enjoy the peace.
Shorter walks with shade and drinks spots
Cascade de Dard doesn’t have much in the way of mountain views but is a lovely cool spot with a very nice cafe that can be reached by a five minute walk from the road to the Mont Blanc Tunnel – ideal for very lazy days! Park here. NB check the tunnel traffic first as tailbacks can go past the turning. There are plenty of signs on the road if this is the case.
Cascade Berard is an easy out and back walk with lots of shade. About half an hour to the lovely Buvette de Cascade de Berard which also does occasional evening openings, and you can continue further up the gorge if you like, it’s a very pretty walk.
The Floria is a shaded walk of around 45 minutes that starts on the opposite side of the valley to us (walk 15 mins or park, by Rabbit On The Roof). Lovely view from the cafe at the top.
Rochers des Mottets is about an hour and a half walk from the chalet, almost all shaded and north facing. Lovely buvette at the top with spectacular view of the Dru. Cash only
Le Chapeau. Lovely food, often gathered by the owner or friends. Their Saturday Brunch is fast becoming an institution! Park at Le Lavancher, about 45 minutes walk up, mostly shaded. Can be reserved for evenings too.
Lac Vert is an easy and pretty stroll of about 2 km from Plaine Joux (where you now have to park in summer). Enjoy a leisurely wander around the lake – walk up behind it for more views – or there are various well signed itineraries from it. On a hot day it can be lovely to visit the Gorges de Diosaz or of course to go and swim in Lac Passy.
You can drive up to Lac Emosson in Switzerland – it’s a hydroelectric lake and the barrage itself is spectacular to walk over. Lots of easy walks (and big ones) around the lake, and gorgeous views. Don’t forget your passport! It has a slightly bonkers funicular if you’d rather take that up to to the top.
Cable Cars and Railways
Head high for cooler air and enjoy the cable cars and mountain railways! The Aiguille du Midi will give you the biggest drop in temperature (also in bank balance) but all will make a big difference and of course are really beautiful. More details here.
Rafting, canyoning and hydrospeeding are all fun ways to keep cool. More info here
Restaurants with nice terraces
The best views of course are from the mountain restaurants – however there are some valley restaurants with particularly nice terraces also. La Cabane near us is a good choice – sit on the right for Mont Blanc views. In town, Le Monchu has a lovely terrace.