In the summer, the high mountains are a favourite place for mountain bikers. There are several routes with different levels of difficulty. From beginners to the most experienced and thrill-seeking cyclists, everyone can enjoy a pleasant day’s cycling in the heart of the Haute Savoie. A mountain bike ride in Chamonix is also an opportunity to enjoy unforgettable views, including those overlooking the legendary Mont Blanc. So, when you’re ready to get on your bike, here are the best mountain bike routes around Chamonix.
What makes Chamonix appealing to mountain bikers?
Chamonix is a destination that appeals to winter sports enthusiasts, but it should not be forgotten that the high mountains are also one of the best playgrounds for summertime outdoor activities. And among them is mountain biking. The good thing is that beginners can have fun with flat routes, and experts can find many trails that start from the heights, from where they can then go on adrenaline-fuelled mountain bike descents to Chamonix with Mont Blanc as a backdrop. What could be better than a trail made up of dirt and stones for a more technical experience? Not forgetting the greener parts of the descent, which offer breathtaking panoramas of the mountains and snowy summits.
There is no need to hesitate for a second, mountain biking is one of the activities to try at all costs during a stay in Chamonix in the summer. Alpine sports professionals also organise guided tours, so you can discover Mont Blanc by bike, whatever your level. You don’t need to bring all the equipment yourself either. Specialised shops offer rental solutions for classic mountain bikes or electric bikes for a few hours or several days. Make sure you check out their offers in advance and ask for a reservation for the activities you are interested in, especially if you are visiting Chamonix and Mont Blanc during a busy period.
The best mountain bike itineraries in Chamonix
The Chamonix Valley in Haute Savoie is arguably one of the most famous places in France when it comes to mountain biking. The Alps provide thrilling descents for those with a fairly advanced level, while more reasonable distance trails await the less experienced riders.
Les Bois du Bouchet
From Le Refuge des Aiglons, there are many trails for those who want to enjoy a mountain bike ride in Chamonix. To get started at low altitude, you can head to the Bois du Bouchet area. The trails here are flat and perfect for family outings with children who also want to participate in the bike rides. You can cycle along the river and enjoy the beautiful views of the landscape. There are no difficult passes to cross, but this mountain bike track is easy enough and provides an ideal route for a very relaxing time.
Le Petit Balcon Nord et le Petit Balcon Sud
Once you are more comfortable, you can take another mountain bike route in Chamonix in the area of Petit Balcon Nord or Sud. There is no need to take the gondola to access these routes, you just have to follow the signs. You will then practice your climbing, with a little more technical paths in some places, but no major difficulties. The view over the valley is incredible!
These trails invite you to go a bit higher without being subjected to a frightening difference in altitude, which makes it ideal for an introduction to the joys of downhill mountain biking.
For those who feel comfortable with an intermediate level of difficulty, then a mountain bike rental in Chamonix has some great surprises in store. In the municipality of Le Tour, you can take advantage of the green slopes to train for the descent and take a break when you have reached the best view of Mont Blanc. These more “enduro” oriented courses are flat in places to let you admire the landscape better. They can also get more technical to allow you to savour the pleasures of a slightly more ambitious gradient. A green trail accessible from the intermediate station runs towards the bottom of the village, then a blue one awaits you at the top of the chairlift thereafter. If you like beautiful tree-lined runs, take the back side towards Vallorcine instead. The ascent is done by gondola or on the little train that will take you back to Chamonix.
Expert bikers who just want to get their dose of adrenaline can take the cable car to the Prarion plain. The mountain bike itinerary allows you to enjoy a variety of sensations, and to go from flowery meadows to ridge paths, passing through the trees. A good command of the handlebars is necessary, but one thing is certain, you will enjoy the view. At the top of the ski lifts you will find some of the best mountain bike routes in Chamonix. All the beauty of Haute Savoie is yours to enjoy.
Another alternative is Planpraz, which you can reach with the Brévent cable car. The descent by mountain bike to Chamonix is then made via a well sloped route. This is the time to play with the brakes and test your ability to pick up speed and avoid the small obstacles. And then, as a reward, the path becomes easier and easier as you go down, and you end up quietly reaching the town of Chamonix, with a lot of sensations in your wheels and beautiful panoramas in your head.
Les domaines skiables
Well known to intermediate and advanced mountain bikers, the Les Houches ski area has been reopened in 2013 and is accessible from the top of the Prarion. It offers blue and red trails which will allow you to test all your skills. If you choose to go to Les Houches for your mountain biking activities, beware of the old Bellevue cable car trails which, while still there, are no longer maintained.
Les Grands Montets, Brévent-Flégère, Balme Vallorcine, Servoz, Les Tines and Argentière also offer superb routes of varying distances and gradients. The itineraries starting from Argentière will particularly delight lovers of traditional architecture.
A few tips for mountain bikers in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region
If you don’t know the region by heart, don’t set out to conquer the passes without a mountain bike trail map. You can get one free of charge from the tourist office or from the mountain biking schools in the area. These maps will also tell you when the lifts and gondolas are open during the summer.
Knowing the timetable of the Mont Blanc Express trains is also very useful. The cable cars are generally open from mid-June to mid-September, but don’t just set hop over to any of the valleys without checking. Many of the routes are reserved for pedestrians in July and August. If in doubt, you can stick to the Les Houches and Le Tour trails. An electrically assisted bike is then recommended for the less trained cyclists. Far from being restricted to beginners, these electric mountain bikes can bring about a whole new mountain biking experience for even the most experienced sportsmen.
One last tip: don’t forget to bring a bottle of water and a camera! Even if no photograph can do justice to the splendour of Mont Blanc, it would be a shame not to immortalise your adventure.