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Chamonix to Mer de Glace

A varied walk with great valley views and France's longest glacier at the top

featured in Hiking & walking routes Updated

This beautiful walk takes you up to the Mer de Glace and the Montenvers station. For those that prefer downhill walks you can take the train up and trek back down, or you can do a complete loop lasting approximately five hours.

The Mer de Glace is famous worldwide and is the longest glacier in France. The hike up to it is steep in places but not too tricky for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.

There are plenty of places to stop and catch your breath en-route, as well as a little refuge where you can stop for a drink and a look at the incredible views.

This hike can be done as one big loop or, thanks to the Montenvers train, you can either do the ascent or the descent and ride the train in the other direction.

Worth knowing

The Mer de Glace was featured in Mary Shelley's famous novel "Frankenstein", as being where the monster hid out amongst the ice.

Watch out for

If you're hiking in May or September, be aware there is likely to still be snow on parts of the trail. Check conditions before you go and if you don't have the right gear or footwear, don't risk it.

Who should go

Great for keen ramblers with an ascent of over 850 metres. Families do often take this route as there is the option of taking the train up or down if the kids get too tired. 

What to do

Explore the ice caves, visit the museum and have a drink on the terrace of the Hotel du Montenvers. 

What to bring

Plenty of water, snacks and lunch if you don't want to eat the cafe at the Mer de Glace or the refuge.

For a detailed map, we recommend a 'Carte Sentiers' from the Tourist Office and has details of all routes in the valley. IGN3630 map also covers this area.

What to see

The vast glacier known as the Mer de Glace, the Ice Caves and beautiful views across the Chamonix Valley.

Where to lunch

The Mer de Glace Cafe, Hotel du Montenvers or the Rochers des Mottets refuge. 


The route starts at the Les Planards ski area. Walk up the piste taking the blue run that leads off to the left, after about 100 metres or so the run will open up again to the right. Here you can choose either to carry on to the left on a shallower route to the Mer de Glace that passes via the Rochers des Mottets refuge or take the steeper trail which starts half way up the section of piste to the right, entering the forest on the left hand side. The steeper trail leads through the forest towards the arches of the Montenvers train track and is a more preferable route down. 

On the shallower trail to the left, you'll cross the train track, following the path up through the forest. There are plenty of breaks in the trees so you can admire the views across to Brevent and Flegere.

When you come out of the forest there is a fairly steep ascent over some rocks until you reach the refuge, taking about an hour or so to hike and scramble over. The refuge is a great place for a quick snack and a drink with views of the end of the glacier across to large waterfalls. 

To continue up to the Mer de Glace, follow the path upwards rather than round to the side. There are a couple of ladders and foot holds on this section of the trail so it may be tricky with younger children.

Halfway up the path splits in two; you can take either route but the path to the left is wider and more direct. The path brings you out under the bubble car that takes you down the the ice caves and then up to the top of the lift station. This section should take approximately one hour depending on conditions. 

If you don't want to take the train down, the path back to Chamonix starts by the station, following the trails to the left past the Caillet refuge and back down to the Planards. This path is steep and fairly narrow in points, passing via the arches of the Montenvers train track.


Map of the surrounding area