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Grand Balcon and Signal Forbes

Intermediate
 4.8 (6) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Many of Chamonix's highlights packed into one short hike.


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Map Key

4.1

Miles

6.6

KM

Point to Point

7,511' 2,289 m

High

6,261' 1,908 m

Low

600' 183 m

Up

1,837' 560 m

Down

11%

Avg Grade (6°)

66%

Max Grade (33°)

Dogs Off-leash

Features River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers

Family Friendly A great option for the whole family with plenty for the kids to see and explore along the way.

Overview

Tram ride: check. Stunning alpine trail: check. Up close with a glacier: check. Wildflowers and streams: check. Train ride back to town: check.

Though you can make this much harder and longer if you want, this short hike packs in an amazing number of highlights in just a couple miles.

Need to Know

Dogs are common on this trail, but only allowed up the Montenvers train, and not the Aiguille cable car, making for a long circuit. A few sections offer exposure that are best done with a lead.

Description

Take the lift up to the Plan de l’Aiguille and head downhill on eroded switchbacks to a cute restaurant a couple hundred yards below. The scenery is already stunning in all directions. Follow signs for Montenvers and traverse across towards the Mer de Glace glacier. It rolls a bit but is never taxing.

You start just above treeline, but near the end you'll get into more vegetation and a prettier section of trail, if that's possible. When you get to the trail junction with the Signal Forbes Trail, go left for an easier and faster route to Montenvers, but this Featured Hike takes the steep switchbacks up Signal Forbes for several hundred feet before leveling off and curving around to huge views of the Montets and then the Mer de Glace. There is a huge field of cairns that seems to amuse people... Follow them right to the western edge for the best views of the pointy spires in all directions. After soaking it in, continue on the north and follow switchbacks down to the train station.

Once at Montenvers, take the tiny tram down to the glacier and explore around. The well-documented glacier retreat is terribly sad. Find the sign that indicates where it was when you were born and you'll realize just how fast the glacier (and world) is changing. You can either hike back to Chamonix or take the train like most folks. This trail is immensely popular, so it's a bit rough and crowded, but well worth that small price.

History & Background

The hotel at Montenvers has been around a long time - in the 18th century, Victorian-era tourists would take mules up and walk the glacier. The glacier was much larger at the time, and extended almost to the valley floor.

Shared By:

Nick Wilder with improvements by David Ryan

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 6 votes

#986

Overall
  4.8 from 6 votes
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Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in France

#986

Overall
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5,874 Since Jul 4, 2016
Intermediate

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Photos

Approaching the top of the Sentinel.
Jul 12, 2016 near Chamoni…, FR
The Dru, the Aiguille Verte, the Grepon... all high above the Mer de Glace glacier.
Jul 12, 2016 near Chamoni…, FR
The Aiguille du Midi looming HIGH above.
Jul 12, 2016 near Chamoni…, FR
Heading down the Sentinel towards the Mer de Glace.
Jul 12, 2016 near Chamoni…, FR
Aiguille du Dru taken from above Montenvers, Chamonix, France
Aug 4, 2016 near Chamoni…, FR
Heading up Signal Forbes from Refuge du Montenverse with Mer the Glace glacier in background
Oct 18, 2019 near Chamoni…, FR

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Check-Ins

Aug 3, 2019
Olga Combes
Superb hike — 2h 30m
Jul 30, 2019
Rich
9h 30m
Jul 15, 2019
Jason Test 2
Sep 5, 2018
David Ryan
Deserving of the praise of "best of Chamonix in one take". A slightly expensive trail to access, given the cable car in and train out, but worthwhile. — 3h 00m