Lac Blanc – Chamonix Hiking

Lac Blanc early in the morning

Lac Blanc is easily the most popular day-hike destination around Chamonix, perhaps the most popular in the Alps. And after a visit there, you’ll find it isn’t hard to see why. There’s the iconic panorama reflected photogenically in the waters, a refuge serving lunch alongside, plus a gondola and chairlift to take some of the effort out of getting there. In fact, about the only downside to Lac Blanc is just how popular it can get. The number of people hiking here means that you can be queuing on the steeper parts of the paths. It’s also given rise to large signs forbidding swimming, camping and other activities some might regard as a natural extension of walking in the mountains.

With this in mind, we’ll cover the various ways to reach Lac Blanc, as well as a few ideas to avoid the crowds.

Although a popular summer spot, the lake sits high in the mountains at 2350m. Snow can cover the approaches well into June and sometimes July. Thunderstorms and even snow showers can hit at any time of the year. So check the weather forecasts and pack an extra layer or two.

If you’re looking for a guided hike to Lac Blanc or around the Chamonix Valley, have a look at our Classic Day Hikes page

Lac Blanc descent - hikers with mountains in background
Lac Blanc Descent

Refuge du Lac Blanc

One feature of Lac Blanc that definitely adds to its appeal for many people is the refuge alongside the lake. Seen by many as a handy café for a lunch break, it’s also a true mountain refuge providing basic overnight stays to hikers and climbers.

The building of the first refuge started in 1938 but wasn’t completed until after the Second World War. The original building was severely damaged by an avalanche from the Col du Belvedere in 1986. MOving out of the avalanche zone, reconstruction started in the current location a couple of years later. The present refuge opened its doors in 1991 and the annexe was added in 2005.

The refuge offers a restaurant, snack bar, and dormitory accommodation. Most hikers staying here overnight are trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc, and it is certainly a spectacular place to spend a night high in the mountains.

Easiest routes to Lac Blanc

The quickest way to reach the lake is from the top of the Index chairlift. This lift takes you slightly higher than the lake itself, so you are descending on average. There are still a few uphill sections though, as the path is quite undulating. From here to the lake and down to the Flégère gondola covers about six kilometres, 160 metres of ascent and almost 700 metres of descent. The path is a little exposed around Tête Aubury, so make sure children stay close to you. You can also reverse this route and climb from Flégère to Lac Blanc, which is about the same distance but with more uphill.

These direct paths from Flégère and the Index to Lac Blanc are some of the busiest in the valley, so it’s worth looking at some of the alternatives below.

A longer (and slightly less busy) route from Flégère is to follow the Grand Balcon Sud as far as La Tête au Vents, passing via Chalet des Chéserys. From here take a left (signposted to Lac Blanc) to follow the path that winds around the Chéserys lakes. After the biggest of these lakes, the path climbs steeply. You’ll climb a ladder and smooth rock slabs to arrive at the refuge side of the lake.

Chamonix mountains reflected in a lake
A view from the path to Lac Blanc

Direct routes from Argentière

Argentière village is right underneath Lac Blanc, so it makes sense to start from here if you’re walking up from the valley. A benefit of the longer climb is that you’ll see fewer people. At least until you join the more popular routes higher up.

The path starts between the Hotel Couronne and the Art Coiffure hair salon on Argentière high street, first following a steep access road serving wooden chalets, then on a rising path that heads leftwards through the woods. At the first junction, you could turn right to meet the path from Trélechamps (described below) or continue straight on. Reaching the second junction, the path straight ahead leads to Flegère and the paths mentioned above. We’d recommend taking a right turn and climbing to reach Chalet des Chéserys. This small stone house marks the intersection with the Grand Balcon Sud, which you can follow to Tête au Vents. Continue past the Chéserys Lakes to Lac Blanc as described earlier. There is also a less frequented path which connects the Chalet des Chéserys to the regular Flégère path.

Trélechamps and the Col des Montets

The two paths beginning close to the Col des Montets have the highest start points, and hence the smallest vertical ascent without using the lifts. However, they aren’t the easiest or quickest routes. Both join the routes described above at the Tête aux Vents. They follow the Tour du Mont Blanc route, and one of its variants, over challenging steep terrain.

Our favourite is the route from Trélechamps, which climbs below the Cheserys Slabs to reach the Aiguillette d’Argentière – an impressive rock spire that is popular with climbers. From the Aiguillette, a series of ladders threads its way through bands of cliffs before a steep climb to Tete aux Vents.

Another good alternative its to start from the Col des Montets. There are no ladders but the path zigzags up an incredibly steep hillside. This one is a challenging path too. High above the col, the path reaches flatter ground and traverses left to the Tete aux Vents.

Hiker on ladder up steep section of path
Aiguillette d’Argentière ladders

Avoiding the Crowds

Being among the most famous destinations in the Alps, Lac Blanc suffers from its own popularity. On a summer afternoon it can get incredibly crowded – a far cry from the solitude of the mountains. Here are a few tips on how to avoid the crowds.

  • Go early – the earlier you go, the fewer people you are likely to see. So check the opening times and hop on the first lift to Flégère. Better yet, set off from the valley at dawn, an hour or two before the lift opens. The main image above was taken at 9am in August after an early start from Argentière.
  • Go late – take the last lift to Flégère and enjoy an evening hike. In June and July you’ll have enough daylight to reach the lake and then hike all the way down to Argentière before dark (but take a headtorch just in case).
  • Spend a night in the refuge – this way you can spend the evening at the lake. You’ll be able to see it at sunrise before the crowds arrive as well. You could also camp overnight at the nearby Lacs Cheserys (camping is banned next to Lac Blanc itself).
  • Take the less popular paths – if you start at Col des Montets, you won’t see too many people until you reach Tête aux Vents, although it will be busy from then on.
  • Go out of season – after the Flégère lift closes in mid-September, Lac Blanc is far quieter. You’ll have to walk up from the valley, but the autumn colours are worth the effort. You could go in spring as well, but the paths can be impassably snowy some years.
  • Go on skis – okay, this is a little outside the hiking theme of the article. But in winter, Lac Blanc is on the route of several classic ski tours, including the Aiguilles Crochues and the Col du Belvedere. While these are popular, you won’t see the summer crowds at the lake. You’ll also get to cross the lake on skis which is a memorable experience. Unlike in summer, this is a more serious mountain activity, with avalanche risk and steep icy terrain to consider.


Map showing routes to Lac Blanc
The main routes to Lac Blanc

On the map above, the main routes described are in solid red, while the other paths mentioned are in light red.

Lac Blanc start points

A – Flégère (top of gondola lift)
B – Index (top of chairlift)
C – Argentière village
D – Trélechamp parking
E – Col des Montets
F – Col des Montets alternative parking


There are regular buses between Chamonix, Flégère lift station, and Argentière village. Getting to the Trélechamp or the Col des Montets is more difficult without a car. There is a very occasional bus to Vallorcine which stops at the Col des Montets. Alternatively you could get the bus to Montroc and walk up to Trélechamps or the Col, adding about half an hour in each direction.

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