Setting off from the centre of Chamonix simply follow the river east (direction Argentiere) alongside the sports centre, past the tennis courts and through the Bois du Bouchet. Follow the trail to the road and take the underpass that pops out beside the Hotel Arveyron, keep left of the river until you come to the wide open area known as the “Desert Blanc”. If all you want is a short ramble with fantastic scenery then this area is perfect with dense forest on either side, towering peaks in every direction and a glacial river roaring straight through the middle - if you’re lucky you might also get to see the mountain rescue patrol taking off from the helipad. At the far end you’ll come to the biathlon shooting range, take the bridge to the right and carry on round to the right on the other side.
You’ll soon come to a hiking sign showing the way to Caillet, Rochers des Mottets and Montenvers Mer de Glace. Follow the path up into the cool scented pine forest that winds up surprisingly quickly above the valley. It’s not massively steep but it is fairly relentless, with barely any flat sections, so it’s not long at all before you’re looking down on aerial views of Chamonix and across to a sweeping panorama of the Brevent-Flegere side of the valley.
The higher you climb, the less dense the forest becomes, affording wonderful views of the valley and the snowcapped peaks beyond. After about an hour of climbing the footpath will cross a 4x4 track where you can choose to turn right to Chamonix, straight on to Caillet or left to Montenvers via the Mottets buvette - a charming little mountain shack serving refreshments beside a stream.
From here you can either continue on up to Montenvers, from where you can take the train back down to the valley, or do as I did and follow the trail back down to Chamonix. Steep in places and littered with rocks, you may find hiking poles useful here, but there’s nothing too technical to worry about and it is a popular trail running route with lots of nice little twists and turns along the way.
After crossing the railway track you continue on the marked route back down to Chamonix where the path eventually spits you out onto what is a ski piste in the winter at Les Planards.