It is incredibly hard to categorise walks, as people’s standards of difficulty and fitness are so widely varying, and everyone responds differently to altitude. There doesn’t seem to be a usable official standard, so I’ve made my own.
The only thing I would definitely advise is: unless you are an extremely fit and experienced hiker or trail runner, start with an easy walk where you can turn back at any point. Don’t start out with a big, committing high altitude full day out. And please have a look at our Walking Safety page with tips for what to take.
Different walks have different issues so if you have any specific concerns, I recommend a visit to the Maison de Montagne.
Our list of some of our favourite Chamonix walks here.
1. Very easy, flat or very little climbing.
Suitable for anyone without mobility problems.
Valley floor walks, Charousse, Cascade du Berard, Lac Vert, Cascade du Dard (can be reached in 5 minutes), Lac Gaillands, Pointe de Vue, Col Des Montets nature trail, Chemin des Diligences.
2. Straightforward walking but at higher altitude, or with more climbing.
A bit more commitment needed, but those with a reasonable level of fitness ( eg you run or cycle once a week) will not find these difficult. The less fit can do them too, but allow plenty of time and set off early. You don’t want to be rushing for the last lift down!
Short and easy walks in this category: Chalet Floria, Le Chapeau, Le Prarion, all 1-2 hours.
Longer walks of 3-5 hours: Grand Balcon Nord and/or Forbes Signal from Montenvers, Grand Balcon Sud, Lac Blanc, Aiguillette des Posettes
3. A bit more challenging.
This may involve some short ladder sections or easy clambering with pegs. Or possibly a long sustained climb, or some exposure. Reasonable level of fitness required.
Loriaz, Col des Glieres, Lac Noir & Lac Cornu, Albert Premiere, Lac Emosson to the dinosaur footprints.
4. A big, full day, requiring fitness and confidence when walking.
May involve lots of steep ascent, exposure, longer ladder sections.
Examples – La Jonction, Trelechamp to Lac Blanc, Tete de Prapator
5. For very experienced and equipped walkers only.
Tete Rousse hut (short section of glacier to cross). Col de Salenton to Servoz (steep col, and very very long).
Any harder than this and you will probably need a guide – EG Couvercle hut crossing the glacier.