This full day hike offers some stunning panoramas of the Chamonix Valley as well as some challenging descents / ascents, depending on which way you choose to do this walking loop from Vallorcine.
This hike takes you from from the train station at Vallorcine up to an immense dam in the Swiss side of the Alps.
You'll pass by the beautiful stone huts at Refuge de Loriaz, where there are some great views of the valley toward Chamonix and on a clear day you can see the Aiguiile du Midi with Mont Blanc just behind it.
From there you follow the Col du Passet, across the border into Switzerland. Once at the Emosson Dam you can admire the lake and learn about some dam's history or you can continue your walk back down the mountain towards the Cascade de Barberine and then to Vallorcine.
Emosson Dam is an immense hydroelectric dam, 180m high and 554m long. It forms a large blue lake, surrounded by forests and hiking trails. It is a spectacular place to visit in it's own right.
This hike has the excitement of scrambling up and down some steep terrain, as well as via ferrata. Via ferrata is a technique used for crossing high mountains using fixed chains, rails, steps and ladders - you don't need any experience but you do need a good head for heights!
Watch out for...
This walk is best avoided when raining or if there has been rain the night before, this will make the rocks and via ferrata sections very slippery.
Who should go...
This walk is suitable for fit keen hikers who are confident doing steep descents and using Via Ferrata. It isn't suitable for children, as some of the scrambles use chains and metal railings for support and there are some sharp drops to take care around.
What to bring
Plenty of water and snacks to keep you going, it's a long hike and refreshments are few and far between.
Footwear with a good grip. It is not advisable to wear trainers as they won't give you good traction on some of the steep rocks - especially if they are wet.
If you wish to take a map, the IGN3630 is recommended.
What to see
Panoramas of the Chamonix valley towards Mont Blanc and Switzerland as well as the Lac du Emosson and the Emosson dam.
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Where to lunch
You can eat at the Refuge de Loriaz on the way up, or there is a cafe with sunny terrace at the Emosson dam. There are also plenty of good picnic spots along the way.
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To start this walk, follow the same direction as for the walk to the Refuge de Loriaz. Once at the refuge follow signs to the Col du Passets which leads all the way to the Emosson dam. The path starts to the right of the refuge if you are facing up the mountain. This part of the walk begins as very flat and tranquil. However, as you near the dam there are number of steep Via Ferrata.
Just before you reach the dam there is a turning to the right which will lead you back down toward Vallorcine if you do not wish to explore Lac d'Emosson.
The path down to the valley floor is very steep and follows the original river bed. Half way down the path splits and you can follow either section. The path to the left hugs the river bed more closely and comes out at the Cascade de Barberine. From here follow the sign posts back to Vallorcine which traverse the valley on a flat path and come out at the far end of the village. All you need to do then is follow the road back to the train station.
It may be preferable for some to do the walk in reverse - although the ascents would be pretty sharp and punishing, it may be more favourable than doing those parts as descents.
Also see: Maps of Chamonix, France
Location: Chamonix - Vallorcine
Typical Duration: 7 hours