| by Ed Noel
The Chamonix valley has a lot to offer keen mountain bikers of all abilities. For beginners there are easy trails to ride like the river path to Argentiere and the Balcon Nord and Sud trails. For the more experienced bikers there are plenty of steep, technical freeride descents to explore. The valley caters for all disciplines - enduro, all mountain and downhill. At opposite ends of the valley there are two dedicated bike park areas with lift access - Le Tour and Les Houches. While not as developed as dedicated bike park resorts such as Les Gets and Morzine, in the Portes du Soleil, these bike parks are well maintained and are a lot of fun.
Here’s a few suggestions of our favourite mountain biking routes in the Chamonix valley.
The Classic Valley Loop
This loop can be done in either direction and has a few variations to make it easier, harder or longer depending on what you want to do. For beginners the easiest route is to take the river path from Les Praz up to Argentiere, then cross over and join the Balcon Nord from the Choselets village. From there it’s a gradual climb for 20 minutes or so and then a fun descent down to Lavencher village followed by another short climb. The last section is a fast 4x4 track through the forest back to Les Praz. This loop takes approx. 1.5 hours.
For a more challenging variation you can start on the river path and then take a steep climb up onto the Balcon Sud trail. This comes out at the same place in Argentiere village. Then you can carry on up to Le Tour and join the Balcon Nord and ride all the way back to Les Praz. This route take approx. 2.5-3 hours.
Chamonix to St Gervais
For an epic day of riding take the Prarion lift up from Les Houches. From there it’s a short climb to the start of a long descent down to St Gervais with jaw dropping views on the way down. Stop for lunch then take the Tramway du Mont Blanc back up to Les houches and finish with a descent of the bike park downhill trail.
The Merlet is a fun technical decent. It features rocky and off camber sections and is quite exposed in places so it’s one for the more experienced rider. Starting from Les Houches train station it is a 5km climb on the road to get to the start. As it’s on the road it’s also possible to drive up if you are feeling lazy!
Flegere to Tré le Champ
After taking the Flegere gondola up you ride down the open piste until you get to the forest and the start of a single track trail. This is a high mountain single track trail which has breathtaking views over the valley as you tackle rocky and exposed sections of the trail. It’s not for the faint hearted!