Camping & Hiking in Chamonix

Camping & Hiking in Chamonix

Despite being a very keen hiker, and happy 'van lifer' it took me several years to really get into camping and a couple more to build up the courage to do so alone. Due to this, I spent a lot of time with overweight, cumbersome and really not very comfortable (or warm) gear- which consequently fed into my lack of confidence in camping and thru-hiking.

It may seem obvious to say but the difference good gear makes to time spent outdoors really is night and day- and it isn't really tangible until you try both. It was a three-day thru-hike with an outrageously heavy bag, a lot of camera gear, and some fairly optional Scottish weather that really pushed me to reconsider my set up.

If I could enjoy that trip as much as I did with the wrong gear, how much could I enjoy a Summer in France with the correct gear?! The answer? A LOT! Despite sharing my bed with the pushiest dog on the planet who will steal my bed and most importantly my pillow at every given chance, although in her defense she makes an excellent hot water bottle! This August I spent a month hiking and camping my way through the French Alps, and below are my three favorite overnights of the month.

Heading Out

This blog covers my favorite hikes and camp spots in and around Chamonix, which is situated in the heart of the French Alps. It is a haven for hikers and campers. This alpine wonderland boasts a vast network of well-marked trails, catering to all levels of hikers.

Whether you prefer forested paths, rocky ascents, or glacier crossings, the terrain varies widely, offering diverse experiences. Chamonix has a very ‘village’ feeling, and its close-knit layout and feeling makes it very popular with hikers, campers, climbers, and all manner of outdoorsmen!

Navigating Chamonix is very easy, as a lot of hikes starting from the same cable car stations. It is also worth noting that it is easy to negotiate Chamonix with little to no French as there is a large community of expats working in coffee and outdoor shops. But as with all trips abroad, it is worth learning the basics in French as a courtesy.

First hike: Mont Joly

The hike to Mont Joly, located near Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in the French Alps, offers a challenging yet rewarding adventure for hikers.

Starting in the village of Saint-Nicolas-de-Véroce, (parking wise the earlier you get here the closer to the trailhead you can park.) Parking spaces are in allocated lay by’s along the dead-end road to the trailhead. The trail takes you through a variety of terrains, including lush alpine meadows, forests, and rocky sections. It is a pretty uphill slog but technically it is not very challenging. The best thing about most Alpine hikes is the abundance of fresh water points to fill your bottle up- due to the amount of cows grazing up in the mountains! While the exact distance and duration of the hike can vary- depending on your speed and whether you stop in one of the Alpine huts for refreshments (another perk of hiking in the European Alps!), but it typically takes around 4 to 6 hours to reach the summit and return. Throughout the journey, there are incredible views of the Mont Blanc massif, including the iconic Mont Blanc itself. The scenery includes glaciers, alpine lakes, and the picturesque village of Saint-Nicolas-de-Véroce nestled far below. As you ascend, there are some steep and rocky sections, so sturdy hiking boots are essential- but the paths are well-marked and easy to follow.

Reaching the summit of Mont Joly is a rewarding experience, offering a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding peaks. It's an ideal spot to take a well-deserved break, enjoy a picnic, and soak in the beauty of the French Alps.

However, after a late start and lacking in energy I opted not to reach the summit itself, and setup a bivy camp on a flat and grassy stretch just below the summit, where I was rewarded with a very comfy night and views just as good as the summit itself!

Second Hike: Lac De Cheserys

The views of Lac de Cheserys are some of the most iconic in all of the French Alps, and one that has been made incredibly popular thanks to the wonders of social media.

You can access Lac de Cheserys from either side, either Flegere cable car or Tré-le Champ Le-Haut. We opted for the cable car which covers a decent amount of the elevation for you, although there is still plenty of elevation to tackle once you are up there. *It is also worth noting that dogs are not allowed into the nature reserve where the lakes (Lac Blanc as well) are situated. Pip was allowed as we could prove that she was a verified assistance dog.

From Le Praz cable car you head up to La Flégére where you start the long slog up to Lac Blanc which is the first lake stop (and also provides the option to sleep at the alpine hut- although this comes in at a whopping €80 which is one of the most expensive in the area) it is also worth noting that if you intend to camp up at Lac De Cheserys you have to register online (new in 2023) and answer a few basic questions. As with most of the hikes in this area, it’s incredibly easy to follow the trail and it’s just a case of following the path. Whichever way you choose to access this hike it is worth noting that there are metal ladders set into the rock faces that are unavoidable. However, if heights aren’t your thing opt for the chair lift side as the ladders are much shorter and much less exposed.

Another thing to note is that as mentioned earlier, this is a very popular hike so its worth arriving as early as possible to secure a good camp spot (but you are not allowed to set up your tent before 7pm, and must be down by 9am).

Third Hike: Les Posettes

Now for my all-time favorite spot in the Alps, and as hikes here go, by far the easiest. Les Posettes.

Your journey commences at the Le Tour cable car station, which you can reach from Chamonix by car or public transportation. Once you exit the cable car, you'll find trail markers indicating the start of the hike, if you head left, you can see the trail (a dirt 4x4 track) curving around to the left of the mountains and it's this you walk on for a decent chunk of the hike. The trail itself is moderately challenging, with plenty of epic views as you head to the summit of the hike.

There are a couple of great camp spots once you get up to the top and 360 views which provide epic photo opportunities and the perfect place to catch both sunrise and sunset. We were treated to an epic evening of Alpen glow over the Mont Blanc Massive.

N.B These hikes are usually best undertaken during the warmer months when snow has melted, typically from late spring to early autumn. During winter, the trails may be covered in snow and ice, making it suitable only for experienced mountaineers. Before embarking on the hike, it's crucial to check current weather conditions, trail accessibility, and any local regulations or recommendations. Adequate preparation with appropriate clothing, water, and snacks is essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure.

 

Amelia Le Brun is a travel and lifestyle photographer who was born in Germany, and raised all over the world, she is currently based in Norfolk, United Kingdom.