French Alps- Great family hikes/ Best Chamonix Experiences

I'd love to hear about your favorite Chamonix area family hikes and or experiences. We did Mannlichen hike and the First Flieger at First last year in Switzerland and despite the partial cloud cover it was astonishingly beautiful. I hope I am wrong but it seems like the Swiss Alps are more famous or more dramatic than The Mont Blanc area. I don't see as much written or mabey this is because the area is new to me. We plan on taking the cable car up from Chamonix, possibly going over to Italy via cable car and certainly see the glacier tunnels. Any advice for this area -- also we will be there during Bastille Day.
Thanks for any suggestions or sharing Carol

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3207 posts

Hi Carol, we did two hikes in RS France guide, #2 and #3 combined together... La Flagere to Lac Blanc and La Flagere to Planpraz. We took a lift up. It was easy and beautiful. We love Mt. Blanc (it's so dramatic). For me, it's better than what you find at the top of the Jungfrau in the Berner Oberland, but, we like being in the BO more than Chamonix. Hard to explain why... we stayed in Murren twice and being 5000' up and surrounded by the Alps was amazing. Didn't have that sense of being enveloped by the Alps in Chamonix. We liked the "hikes", walks really, more in the BO - through meadows with flowers, cows and cowbells ringing... the scenery is just more dramatic in the BO imo. That's not to say we didn't like Chamonix, we did, been there twice, we just like BO better. But Chamonix is a wonderful area and the town is very nice. We also rented bikes in Chamonix and rode along the Arve River for several hours, loved that. The Luge ride is very fun. Chamonix also has paragliding, which my son did in the BO and LOVED it... If that appeals to you :)

Posted by Carol
Lynn, MA, USA
74 posts

Thanks Susan for your reply. We also spent a few nights in Murren and were stunned walking around when the clouds finally cleared. Thank you also for the information on the hikes as we have children and want something worth while timewise as well as something we can all do together. I had a real tough time trying to decide between staying in Annecy and driving to Chamonix or just staying in Chamonix. I can still be swayed if there are experiences to be shared or opinions on the matter. Annecy looks great too,

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

Carol, you didnt say when you are going or if you will be traveling by car. The BO and Chamonix/Mt. blanc are in my top 10 favorites.

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

If you decide on Chamonix, make sure you do the Helbronner portion. Also, if you are driving, you can do day trips to Annecy, Grenoble, and Lyon. I'm forgetting exact date of Bastille day, I know it's in July, but you'll be very close to some of the better Tour de France stages ( Le'alpe d'huez). Have stayed at Hotel D'Arve in Chamonix, it was good for us. Rick Steve's guide books cover this very well. We plan to consider a train trip to Martigny in Switzerland from there.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3207 posts

Hi Carol, I haven't been to Annecy so can't give an opinion. I very much want to go there someday though b/c I've heard and read so many good things about it. I guess it depends on how long a drive it is from there to Chamonix. We stayed at Hotel Morgan in Chamonix and loved it, but it's not budget. I hope you have a wonderful time!

Posted by Carol
Lynn, MA, USA
74 posts

We will be there on July 14th, 15th and 16th. We are driving from the Riviera - and that is one of the days I a dreading but we are open minded and actually enjoy the road, it just a long drive. I have to figure out the two best things to do which I think are the cable car to the middle and then walk to the glacier and the Hellbrunner part but I have to figure this out. Having done the BO, it all makes sense to me now but reading about the cable cars has me a little puzzled. Is this an all in one day thing? the cable car-glacier walk and cable to Italy or two days? Thanks Carol

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3207 posts

Hi Carol, I sent you a private message on the 4th, hope you got it :)

Posted by Ray
Saint Helens, OR, USA
208 posts

Regarding the lifts over Mt Blanc into Italy. We heard from Steve Smith himself last weekend that the lift on the Italian side ("La Palud" I believe it's called) will be closed for maintenance starting this spring, for 2 years! The lift from Chamoix to Aiguille du Midi, and the upper lift from there to Helbronner will be open as usual.
We attended Rick Steves Fall Travel Seminar last weekend and listened to Steve Smith's presentation on France (he co-wrote the French guidebook with Rick). Our mouths dropped open when he mentioned this news, as it drastically effected our travel plans this summer. We had wanted to go from Courmayeur over Mt Blanc into Chamonix. Not possible now. Mt. Blanc, by lift, will only accessible from the French side.