We've chosen several outstanding options for day hikes amid the splendid scenery of the Mont Blanc area. The trails traverse France, Italy, and Switzerland so you'll get a full complement of the fantastic scenery. Breakfast and lunch are included each day. After breakfast, the guide will lay out a variety of fixings for a delectable gourmet picnic lunch, including special regional cheeses and cold cuts, yogurt, fresh breads, plenty of fruits and vegetables, chocolate, and trail snacks. You'll fix your own lunch and carry it in your daypack. Each night you're free to take dinner in a local restaurant of your choice. We'll have a festive farewell dinner at the end of our final day of hiking (Day 5).
Possible excursions include the following:
Aiguille du Midi-Montenvers (France)
In 1741, the first tourists to Chamonix were transported to Montenvers on the backs of mules in order to admire the glaciers. Today, most travelers take a bright red cog train up the steep slopes to reach the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), the second-largest glacier in the Alps. We begin our hike from the hotel, crossing the town of Chamonix and entering the forest. Ascend a steep trail passing the Blaitiere farm to reach the "Grand Balcon," from where we have a fabulous view of the Chamonix Aiguilles towering above us. We traverse below these towering peaks toward the Montenvers railway sitting high above the Mer de Glace glacier. We may see alpinists on the glacier. Return to Chamonix by the cog railway. (5 hours hiking)
The Lakes of the Aiguilles Rouges (France)
North of Chamonix the massif of the Aiguilles Rouges offer beautiful views of the Mont Blanc massif. A telepherique allows us to quickly escape the valley floor for hikes to luminescent mountain lakes. According to the group's hiking abilities (and the weather forecast), two hiking options are available: one to Lake Cornu, a five-hour hike with an ascent/descent of 1,500 feet; or a hike to White Lake, an easier three-hour hike that offers a reduced 600-foot ascent and a 1,500-foot descent.
Courmayeur to Bonatti Refuge (Italy)
On the Italian side of Mont Blanc is the resort town of Courmayeur (4,014'), spectacularly situated beneath the Grand Jorasses and Brenva Glacier. Here the views of Mont Blanc are Himalayan in scale - the mountain rises in a breathtaking abruptness from the Veny Valley to the summit 10,000 feet above. We'll hike two hours from the town to the Bertone Refuge, with its views of the entire Aosta Valley of Italy. We can continue to the well-known Bonatti Refuge, which faces the famous peaks and needles of the Grandes Jorasses. From here we descend into the Val Ferret, a beautiful valley connecting Italy and Switzerland, and meet a waiting vehicle that takes us back to Chamonix. (6 hours hiking, 2,100' up, 1,500' down, 35-minute transfer)
Emosson Dam (Switzerland)
Not far from Chamonix in Switzerland is a dam from which there are several splendid hiking options. Starting from the Passet Pass, we follow a trail to a terraced plateau with unobstructed views of the Tour Glacier, neighboring Swiss summits, and a background view of the summit of Mont Blanc. We descend through the wild and narrow Veudale gorge and reach a transfer vehicle for a return to Chamonix. (7 hours hiking, 2,100' up and down, 1 hour total vehicle transfer)
The Combe of Fours (France)
With a little distance from the Mont Blanc massif, we can get a full appreciation of just how magnificent it really is. Just above the village of Sallanches in the Aravis massif is a small valley where reclusive mountain goats called chamois live undisturbed. From this valley, we'll have views of the Mont Blanc massif in all its majesty. (6 hours hiking, 2,400' up, 2,400' down, 45-minute transfer)
The Junction (France)
This is another challenging hiking option, one of the best the region has to offer. A classic route on the circuit, this trail connecting two glaciers is absolutely spectacular. (8 hours hiking, 3,600' up and down)