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One of the most popular day hikes from Chamonix as well as a common stop on the Tour du Mont Blanc and the Walker’s Haute Route, which also happen to be two of the top long-distance treks in the world, stunning Lac Blanc is everything keen hikers are looking for in a mountain lake. Remote but accessible, calm and reflective, surrounded by wildlife, featuring a rustic but comfortable hut and, most importantly, some of the most spectacular views in the Alps.
Found high up in the Aiguilles Rouges Nature Reserve, the incomparable Lac Blanc is well-known for its epic panoramic views of the Mont Blanc Massif looming directly across the Chamonix Valley, seemingly close enough to touch. With two separate lake sections and consistent mountain reflections, it is very popular and definitely one of the best things to do in Chamonix.
For more info on the Tour du Mont Blanc and Walker’s Haute Route, including all the details you need to plan your own trek, check out:
Lac Blanc Near Chamonix
Lovely Lac Blanc, which translates simply to White Lake, was named in honour of the hardy patches of snow that often stick around all through summer (by September lingering desperately in the shadows, but still). Located high up at 2,350 metres, it isn’t surprising that it gets plenty of snow (or that the powdery stuff is reluctant to leave even in summer).
There is a hint of irony to the name, however, considering Refuge Lac Blanc is also quite famous for the vibrant colours that appear when the setting sun reflects off the opposite Mont Blanc Massif.
I can tell you from personal experience, while we expected the panoramic views, we were not at all prepared for the explosion of colour presented to us as the sun went down behind Lac Blanc. Luckily, while many of us were content tucking into our portion of exceedingly average dessert flan, Laynni ventured out in hopes of seeing something special. Well, mission accomplished, and I am just thankful I spotted her frantically waving me outside in time to catch the best parts as well.
The tricky part is fairly dividing your awe among all the various Lac Blanc highlights. Upon arriving, the first thing you’ll notice, of course, is the stunning line of sharp rocky peaks (aiguilles) visible in all directions. Then you’ll probably notice the amazing mountain reflections decorating the picturesque water, as its protected location often keeps it calm and glassy. Third is the classic Refuge Lac Blanc, perched above the lake standing sentinel over the Chamonix Valley like an artist’s vision of a mountain hut.
Then, assuming you’ve stayed long enough for the crowds to disperse, you can probably expect to catch a glimpse or four of the many local ibex that live in the area. Also called “steinbock” or “bouquetin”, these unique mountain goats feature huge, ridged horns, neat beards and enviable agility as they bound up and around the rocky terrain.
If you have the time to spend a night you can experience Lac Blanc at its most glorious. However, even if staying the night isn’t in the cards, Lac Blanc is a worthwhile hiking destination, a fabulous picnic spot and an incomparable place for an afternoon nap in the sun (for instance). Swimming isn’t allowed, unfortunately, in order to protect the delicate environmental balance of the lake. Which may be for the best, anyway, since the water is VERY cold, and this way you can tell all your friends you were perfectly willing to brave it, if only it weren’t for those pesky rules. A shame, truly.
However long you are there, be sure to explore all sides of the lake to get a look at the second section, as well as experience the phenomenal views from all angles.
For the aforementioned snow reasons, Lac Blanc is unreachable until late June or early July and is usually off-limits again by mid-September. It is possible to ski in the area in winter but by then the lake itself usually just looks like a particularly flat stretch of snow. The views of Mont Blanc would still be amazing, though.
Staying at Refuge Lac Blanc
If you’re looking for a classic, rustic Alps mountain hut, well, Refuge Lac Blanc is just the place. Also called Auberge du Lac Blanc, it may not be particularly modern or well-equipped but what it lacks in amenities it makes up for with its stunning location and friendly welcome.
While most people reach Lac Blanc on a day hike, spending the night up there gives you a chance to enjoy the beautiful surroundings once the day trippers have gone. Refuge Lac Blanc is typically open from mid-June to the end of September and features a huge terrace with exceptional panoramic views.
The original Lac Blanc refuge was destroyed by an avalanche in the 90’s, then rebuilt and, as the popularity of the Tour du Mont Blanc continued to grow, it was renovated and expanded in 2005. Today it can hold around 40 people, all in dorm beds.
As for what it’s like to stay there, let’s start with the Refuge Lac Blanc negatives – no electricity, no showers, no drinking water, no wifi, no official check-in until 5 pm (although they were nice enough to let us in at 4 pm). There was occasionally a very weak phone signal in one corner of the deck.
As for the positives, well, it’s all about the scenery, isn’t it? Plus, you’re not going to die of dehydration or anything. They sell 1.5-litre bottles of water for €3. Personally, we always carry Aquatabs on our hikes for exactly these situations and were able to treat water, save money and not create more plastic waste.
Most rooms have 2 bunk beds and a single, so they aren’t as crowded as some dorms along the TMB. The bathrooms were fine and there is a boot room downstairs as well.
The meals were basic but decent, although the portions weren’t as big as we saw most places along the TMB (catering to starving hikers). It was fine for us, though – dinner included soup, bread, a thin slice of pork, polenta and yogurt for dessert.
Thanks to its unbelievable location and famous sunsets/sunrises, Refuge Lac Blanc fills up quickly so if you want to spend the night it is a good idea to reserve a bed well in advance.
The cost is €80 for half-board and you can order a packed lunch for the next day for €10. They don’t accept credit cards so you’ll need to bring cash.
To book your spot you can email or call:
+33 7 67 56 74 14
Lac Blanc Camping
If Refuge Lac Blanc is already full by the time you contact them or you simply prefer the privacy and familiarity of your own tent, maybe camping is the way to go. While the area directly around Lac Blanc is a protected reserve and off-limits to campers, it is possible to pitch your tent on a slightly lower plateau next to Lac de Cheserys.
You need to get permission in advance from staff at Refuge Lac Blanc, are only allowed to stay one night and need to follow standard “leave no trace” camping policies.
Lac Blanc Hikes: How to Get to Lac Blanc
Thanks to the relatively easy access from Chamonix and its location on the very popular Tour du Mont Blanc, Lac Blanc can get quite busy in July and August. Not busy enough to miss out, of course, but it does pay to get an early start and beat the main set of hikers. Or, even better, stay the night and have it practically to yourself from 4 pm until 9 am the next day.
There are several different ways to get to Lac Blanc, most of which originate in Chamonix and all of which involved some uphill hiking. Plenty worth it, though, in every case.
Cable Car and Hike to Lac Blanc from Chamonix
1. Chamonix to Lac Blanc Hike from La Flégére Cable Car
7 km / 550m elev gain / 3-4 hrs
The most direct way to reach Lac Blanc is to take the Flégère cable car from Les Praz (near Chamonix Golf Club) to Refuge La Flégére at around 1,900 metres. From there, a fairly clear path leads north toward the lake. It is obviously uphill all the way, but not overly steep at any point other than at the rocky steps just before reaching Lac Blanc. Most people take 1.5-2 hrs to reach the lake via this route and slightly less to get back down.
There is a free bus from Chamonix to Les Praz cable car station but both can get quite busy in summer so it is a good idea to start early.
Wikiloc: La Flegere – Lac Blanc
2. Chamonix to Lac Blanc Hike from Le Brévent Cable Car
13 km / 800m / 5-7 hrs
Another option is to take the Le Brevent cable car to Plan Praz and hike the Grand Balcon Sud from there. This is a longer, more difficult route but at least you are treated to fabulous views the whole way. It usually takes a couple of hours to reach Refuge La Flegere from here, then you join the hike described above.
We followed this route in reverse, hiking from Lac Blanc first down, then back up to celebratory drinks at the magnificent Le Brevent viewpoint.
Wikiloc: Le Brevent – La Flegere
Hike to Lac Blanc – No Cable Car
3. Lac Blanc Hike from Chamonix
20 km / 1,350m / 6-8 hrs
Fit hikers looking to do it themselves can hike all the way from Chamonix to Lac Blanc. Of course, making your way from the valley at just over 1,000m to Refuge Lac Blanc at 2,350m is going to be, well, challenging, although certainly possible.
Many people opt for a hybrid version, either taking the cable car up to La Flegere, hiking to Lac Blac and back, then walking all the way down (saving quad muscles but sacrificing the knees) or hiking all the way up to Lac Blanc, back down to La Flegere and taking the cable car back down (saving the knees but putting the lungs and quads in for a tough day).
Then there are a few other routes coming from alternate locations. They might be a little bit less convenient (if you’re staying in Chamonix, at least) but you will probably see far fewer other people on the trail.
Wikiloc: Chamonix – Plan Praz
4. Lac Blanc Hike from Col des Montets
13 km / 900m / 4-6 hrs
From Col des Montets, along the highway between Chamonix and Vallorcine, it is possible to hike a strenuous but very scenic route up to Lac Blanc. Starting behind Nature’s Reserve chalets you head up steeply to La Remuaz plateau. From there, you continue to Tête aux Vents, take a right and follow a ridge with extraordinary lake views (different lakes, not Lac Blanc). Once you are past those you have to navigate some ladders and cables to make it up the final stretch to Lac Blanc.
Wikiloc: Col des Montets – Lac Blanc
5. Argentiere to Lac Blanc Hike
11 km / 1,500m / 5-6 hrs
While this is the most strenuous hiking route to Lac Blanc, it is also usually the quietest and much of the trail is in the forest, providing some much-appreciated shade on hot summer days.
From the town of Argentiere, you follow the trail toward Plagnolet and then Paravalanche before eventually reaching the final plateau and climb to Lac Blanc.
Wikiloc: Argentiere – Lac Blanc
6. Lac Blanc Hike from Tre le Champ or Le Frasserands
10 km / 950m / 4-6 hrs
These two villages are only a few minutes apart, and both are relatively close to Lac Blanc. This is the route we took to reach Lac Blanc while hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc.
Known as the “Ladder Route”, it is quite short but still relatively strenuous, featuring many ladders and cables. And not ideal for people who don’t like heights or have agility issues.
It is also generally quiet, with mostly just TMB trekkers heading in either direction.
Wikiloc: Tre le Champ – Les Frasserands
Lac Blanc Hike Variations
It is also possible to combine any two of these routes to maximize the amount of new scenery you see. With public transport around Chamonix quite frequent in summer it is usually easy enough to start or end somewhere other than the main town.
Keep in mind, though, that despite their popularity, these are all high alpine hikes. Wear proper hiking shoes or boots, don’t overestimate your fitness and be prepared for sudden changes in weather. The ladder sections, in particular, can be very treacherous in rain or snow so pay close attention to the weather before setting out.
Tips for Visiting Lac Blanc
Start early to beat the crowds.
The trail is rocky and rough in places so be sure to wear proper hiking shoes or boots.
Getting trash down the mountain from Refuge Lac Blanc is a problem so all visitors are encouraged to take their own trash back out with them.
They don’t accept credit cards so be sure to have some cash on you.
Dogs are not allowed at Lac Blanc.
Keep an eye out for ibex, chamois, marmots and deer (for photos, not because they’re dangerous).
The sun is surprisingly strong at this altitude so take all necessary precautions – hat, sunscreen, plenty of water.
As warm as it can be in the afternoon, rain is always a concern in the mountains and it gets cold very quickly at Lac Blanc when the sun drops behind the mountains (well before normal sunset). Make sure you pack layers.
Swimming is not allowed in Lac Blanc.
Accommodation Near Lac Blanc: Chamonix Hotels
If Refuge Lac Blanc is already full or you simply prefer someplace a bit more modern and comfortable, there are some excellent options in and around Chamonix.
Chamonix Lodge was a great value in a number of ways. First, €66 is very cheap for Chamonix. Second, because they weren’t full they upgraded us to a room with a private bathroom at no extra charge. Three, we had an extra bag of stuff we didn’t need while on the hike and they let us leave it in their storage room the entire time. There was a nice yard with hammocks, a shared kitchen we could use, and a basic continental breakfast provided in the morning. The only downside was the hot 10-minute walk from the centre of town.
Plan B Hotel – Living Chamonix
Very close to Mont Blanc, there is a restaurant, lounge, bar and beautiful rooms at a very reasonable price for this area. There is also a scenic terrace, a pool table and a highly recommended buffet breakfast.
Grand Hotel des Alpes
If you feel like your exertions have earned you a splash-out, consider this gorgeous 5-star hotel with incredible mountain views. All the facilities are as perfect as you’d imagine, plus it is an easy walk to Aiguille du Midi cable car. This is a great place to finish off your TMB adventure.
Things to Do in Chamonix
Chamonix is a beautiful, relaxed ski village that is arguably even better in summer. Filled with terrific restaurants, excellent accommodation (see above) and surprisingly impressive shopping options, Chamonix is a great place to spend time either before or after your visit to Lac Blanc.
Obviously, hiking is the big draw here in summer, with the Tour du Mont Blanc being the big undertaking. There are also a lot of excellent day hikes in the area. However, mountain biking has long been a popular Chamonix activity and it has really taken off in recent years with the rise of the ebike, which has made many of the more difficult trails accessible to the average weekend biker.
Then, of course, there are the stunning Mont Blanc viewpoints. Aguille du Midi is the big star and it is well worth taking the cable car up to see it at least once during your stay. You can do it on your own or join a sightseeing tour that includes Aguille du Midi, Mer de Glace and all the best spots in Chamonix.
For a real once-in-a-lifetime look at this phenomenal region, though, the adventurous should sign up for a tandem paragliding adventure. Soar high above one of the best mountain ranges in Europe with nothing between you and these amazing peaks but clear blue sky.
Finally, if you don’t mind a short drive or bus trip, the lovely little town of Annecy is a real gem. Sometimes described as the Venice of France (boy, there sure are a lot of Venices around the world, aren’t there?), Annecy has gorgeous, flowery canals lined with cafes and restaurants, plus a picture-perfect lake framed by the Alps. Not bad, not bad at all.
Trip Planning Resources
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Lac Blanc Summary
Arguably the most beautiful lake in an exceptional mountain range full of them, Lac Blanc should sit firmly atop every mountain-lover’s bucket list. The views are obviously the main attraction, but then throw in some surprising wildlife, a classic mountain hut and a variety of excellent hikes in the surrounding area and it is easy to see why Lac Blanc is one of the most popular summer destinations in Europe.
The best part, though, is that 90% of visitors only stay long enough to take a few photos and rest their weary legs, then head back down to Chamonix. If you have the time and are okay with a pretty basic night in Refuge Lac Blanc, you will soon have the place almost to yourself and will possibly be rewarded with a pair of the best sunsets and sunrises you’ve ever seen.
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