Chamonix has beautiful walks in winter – whether you ski or not, it’s wonderful to stretch your legs and stroll through the stunning landscape.
Safety note – this list is for suggestions and inspiration only. Take a proper map (we have them at the chalet or you can buy them easily in town), and always adapt your route and equipment to the conditions and your fitness. Have a look on the Chamonix site for locations – on this page, choose “snowshoeing trails” to see the starting points of the routes.
Make sure someone knows where you are going and when to expect you back, and be sure your phone is fully charged and kept warm. Most of the info in our Summer walking safety guide also applies – make sure you have warm layers and ‘chaînes à chaussures” – traction chains that slip onto your shoes for icy conditions. These are available at almost all sports shops.
Always contact the Office de Haute Montagne for current conditions – though the day may be sunny, there may have been significant snowfall previously.
Or you can contact the refuge itself in the case of walks like Loriaz or the Chapeau.
N.B. Many walks that are safe and popular in summer are extremely dangerous in winter so even if you are familiar with the valley please do check your plans carefully with the OHM. Tragic fatalities have occurred here. In very extreme weather even the valley floor walks can be dangerous.
Now…onto the fun part!
Valley floor walks
Marked and groomed walking trails criss-cross the valley floor. Many are clearly signed as they weave around the cross-country ski trails.
Snow bikes, dogs and walkers all share the same trail, which is often next to the cross-country pistes. It’s very important for pedestrians to keep out of the groomed ski areas as walking on them will damage them.
Dogs should always be on a lead (apologies for bad example set by this photo!) – they can often be excited by skiers and try to chase, which is very dangerous for them.
Turn left out of the chalet, walk 50metres down the lane and then join the trails.
Here, you can cross the river bridge and bear right past the Arveyron hotel and under the tunnel to walk into Chamonix (more later on this).
Or you can follow the river upstream towards Les Bois…
At the end of the wide flat space “Desert Blanc”, bear left to join the snowshoe track around Les Bois. Keep on the more level pedestrian track, rather than heading uphill on the snowshoe route.
You’ll come back down shortly to the beautiful village of Les Bois.
The golf course becomes a scenic public park in winter, and is a lovely place for an easy walk
Usually accessed via the back of the golf course car park, pathways will lead you over to the lovely Paradis des Praz on the other side of the valley.
Walking to Chamonix
The walk into Chamonix is 2km on level, groomed trails.
Stop in halfway for a coffee or Vin Chaud at Le Robinson (now called the Index) to warm up if needed!
A more adventurous winter walk, this is signed from Le Lavancher. Park just past the upmarket and lovely Les Chalets De Phillippe hotel and it’s around 45 minutes walk. Uphill but not too strenuous.
Snowshoes rarely needed – call the refuge to check. Poles and ‘chaînes a chaussures’ are normally useful though. Also it’s best to book for lunch as it can get busy! Wonderful food from the friendly host.
Head up behind the golf course on signed paths to Chalet Floria. It doesn’t open in winter but it’s always a justly popular walk with its steady gradient and beautiful viewpoint.
Drive up to the top of Les Houches, signed to the Ecole Physique, and park at the end of the road. A 15 minute walk takes you to a postcard-perfect hamlet of a dozen old chalets. A peaceful and beautiful spot where you can walk for an hour happily, with beautiful views.
Chalet du Cerro
A well signed snowshoe loop leads through the woods from Les Bossons. The chalet is sometimes open for winter – check their Facebook page for details and call to confirm. A good option for a snow day – there are fleeting views through the trees but this walk is more about the beauty of the snowy woods.
Vallon de Berard
Walk up to the buvette by the waterfall and on through the wooded valley until it opens out – don’t venture out into the open valley as it is very prone to avalanche. The path by the river is very pretty even in overcast weather and you can access the waterfall by a walkway below.
A lovely walk up through woods to a tiny, exquisite hamlet with beautiful views. You may need snowshoes, check with the OHM.
Returning back from Les Granges, Vallorcine glows under the blanket of snow…a Christmas dream
A big day out with significant height gain (about 800m depending on where you start), Loriaz is a high mountain meadow (alpage) with absolutely spectacular views over the Mont Blanc Massif. Park at the village of Le Couteray just before Vallorcine, it is signed from there. Or train to Le Buet and then walk to Le Couteray. An easy walk but a long one, and you may need snowshoes – in big years they have had 8m of snow accumulated here! Call to check the refuge is open if you are planning on eating there.
NB – Later in the season you need snowshoes for Loriaz.
Walk up to this lovely spot for classic views of Mont Blanc. Walk around the lake and then up behind it (take the fire road, signed to Chalets d’Ayeres, and then double back to the lake) for a different perspective.
There’s a whole network of well signed snowshoe paths round here. You don’t always need snowshoes. If there isn’t a lot of snow then boots with grips, and walking poles, can be fine. You can walk up from the parking at La Cote, a lovely loop of around 45 minutes.
Or drive to Plaine Joux and walk from there. The walk is not as nice as the one from La Cote, but Plaine Joux is a lovely little ski resort that has a couple of pleasant restaurants with amazing Mont Blanc views, if the resort is open. L’Auberge des Gorges de la Diosaz in Servoz has a very good restaurant. This whole area has lots to explore! Call Passy Tourist Office to check details on 04 50 58 80 52
Walks for snowy or cloudy days
In the snow, it is generally not advised to venture too far from the valley floor. You may prefer not to drive in the snow if your car doesn’t have snow tyres, so all these walks are accessible from the chalet, or by train from Les Praz station. Trains are reliable but not that frequent. Check train times on sbb.ch.
The webcams can be useful to check visibility high up. Always click through to the actual image – the previews sometimes show a default picture which can be misleading.
If there’s fluctuations in the snow level, it’s useful to know the chalet is at1050m
• From the chalet, all the valley floor walks: next to the cross-country trails, Les Bois, the Golf Course (also nice for lunch or apero at La Cabane) or into Chamonix. All around 1000 -1100m
• Train or drive to Vallorcine (1260m), walk around the village or beside the river, lunch at Cafe Comptoir (reservations essential)
• Train or drive to Le Buet (1330m), walk to the Buvette de Cascade de Berard (1430m). Lunch at the buvette if it’s open, or walk back down to Cafe Comptoir in Vallorcine (reservations essential) or Les Trois Ours near Le Buet station.
• Train, bus or drive to Argentiere, walk up to the Cremerie de Glacier in Argentiere (1300m) for lunch or dinner (reservations essential)
• Drive to the base of Maison Neuve lift in Les Houches and walk 30 mins uphill to the beautiful Vieilles Luges restaurant (1300m approx?) on the Maison Neuve piste. Call them first for conditions as you may need chains on your shoes or even snowshoes. Reservations essential.
Want to go further? Try some snowshoeing! Some snowshoe routes may accessible in walking boots, depending on conditions.