This hike gives you an overview of the Domaine de Balme, a rolling expanse of alpine meadows interlaced with streams and hiking trails on the Franco-Swiss border.
Starting from the tiny village of Vallorcine, go behind the train station and turn left. There are two options for the ascent; the wide 4x4 track that is a winter ski run or the narrow footpath up Plan Envers. The 4x4 track is far less steep but follows a slightly more meandering route that will take longer, the footpath is a bit of a beast to start with but mellows out a bit once you get into the forest - the choice is yours.
Either way, you’ll soon leave the valley behind and start climbing up through a beautiful forest where you can sometimes come across bouquetin and chamois. Little streams trickle down over the rocks and you quickly feel quite far away from civilisation.
If you’ve come up the 4x4 track then once you’ve reached the bottom of the Tete de Balme chairlift (out of action in summer) you need to keep an eye out for a right hand turn up to Col des Posettes. If you’re on the footpath then turn right when you come out of the forest and you’ll be heading in the right direction.
The route continues upwards, winding it’s way up to the top of the Vallorcine gondola. There can be snow up here even in early summer, so make sure that you have decent boots on if you’re up here before mid-June.
The terrain flattens out soon after the lift station and you’ll come to the wide open expanse of the Col des Posettes; a mountain pass where you can see the meadows unfolding beneath you and Chamonix valley stretching out into the distance. The peak to your right is the Col des Posettes, the highest point of the Marathon du Mont Blanc and worth a scramble up there if you’ve the time and the energy.
From the Col des Posettes you can more or see your route down to the Le Tour lift station, as the paths are all fairly visible. Follow the signposts for Charamillon and you’ll find yourself on a nice wide path that skirts around the mountainside, crossing a small ravine where the Torrent de Balme flows through.
The path brings you to the top of the Charamillon gondola, which you can ride back down to the Le Tour car park. If you want to continue on foot, then the signposted route that sets off just before the lift station is quite short and very beautiful.
The landscape up here is rugged with lots of heather, bracken and wild berries packed tightly in amongst the rocks. It feels very different to the other Chamonix hiking areas, in that once you’ve made the ascent it feels more like rolling moorland than high mountain terrain. The views down the valley are quite breathtaking, with the Mont Blanc Massif on your left and the peaks of Le Buet, Flegere and Brevent on your right.
- Distance: 7km
- Highest Point: 1997m
- Vertical Gain: 718m
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