Lac Blanc sits above Chamonix at an altitude of 2352m and is regarded as one of the most beautiful high Alpine lakes in the region. It is on the opposite side of the valley to Mont Blanc and so gives the most incredible views of the whole mountain range, stretching over 22km from Le Tour to Les Houches.
In winter Lac Blanc is snow-bound and only sensibly reached on skis following an off-piste route. However, by mid to late June the snow has normally gone and the area opens up to walkers and is a must-see attraction for any visitor. Located within the Aiguilles Rouges National Reserve the lake is flanked by rocky aiguilles (needles) that glow a deep red at sunset and the area is home to a large number of ibex,. These wild goats, known locally as bouquetin, have a beard and thick ridged horns and can occasionally be seen in large groups.
There are a number of different ways to reach Lac Blanc, though none of them can be regarded as easy walks. You can choose to take a cable car to gain altitude or, if you are really fit, start walking from the floor of the Chamonix Valley (1040m) and head up through the forest.
The simplest route is to take the single cable car ride from Les Praz to the Chalet de la Flégere and then walk on the obvious track heading in a northerly direction. The top station of the cable car is 1877m and so the ascent to Lac Blanc is just under 500m. Most people will manage the walk to the lake in one to two hours, depending on fitness and acclimatisation. The route is clear and you ascend a series of large steps as you near the lake. Once at the lake, most people stop for lunch or take a coffee in the Refuge du Lac Blanc – a small mountain hut that sleeps 40 people in dormitories. There are hot showers and dinner and breakfast is provided, but you need to book well in advance. Most people descend on the same path to the Flégere cable car, though it is possible to walk back to Chamonix in 1.5-2 hours stopping off at the delightful Chalet de la Floria for a cold drink. The café has the most beautiful flowers throughout the summer and a rather strange mannequin that is dressed like Julia Roberts in the film Pretty Woman!
Due to its easy access from Chamonix and that it is located on the Tour du Mont Blanc, Lac Blanc is understandably crowded in the height of summer. However, there are alternative approaches that will be longer, but will give you a more peaceful walk:
- Take the Brevent lift to Plan Praz (1999m) and follow the Grand Balcon Sud that traverses high above the Chamonix Valley to the Chalet de la Flégere (2 hours). From here, follow the easy trail to Lac Blanc (2 hours).
- Start in Argentiere and follow the route via Plagnolet and the Paravalanche. This is one of the quietest routes and spends the first hour or so in the forest, so is nice in the summer as it offers some shade from the sun (3-4 hours in total).
- From Tre le Champ, head to the Aiguillette d’Argentiere and then follow a series of short, but steep ladders and hand-lines up some steep cliffs. Although designed for walkers, you need to be confident with heights and comfortable using fixed equipment (3-4 hours in total).
- Head the Col des Montets and follow the trail in a south-westerly direction to Lac Blanc (3 hours in total).
All of these routes can be followed in the opposite direction as descent routes or added together to make a longer day. It is best to do the walks during periods of fine weather. If the weather is misty or wet, it is easy to become disorientated and lost.