Chamonix is widely known as the home of extreme sports, and when it comes to mountain biking, there’s no exception. The same steep slopes which make Chamonix famous for skiing are unveiled as the snows melt to offer some technically challenging trails, but there are also Chamonix mountain bike routes for all levels and lift access for those who prefer to save their energy for the downhills!
Get started mountain biking in Chamonix
Chamonix mountain bike trails are classified by a colour-coded system to help you choose the one best suited to your level. If you’ve already skied in Chamonix, the grades will be familiar to you as they are the same ones used for ski slopes. Colour codes apply to cross-country and downhill runs.
- Green – novice / absolute beginner
- Blue – beginner
- Red – intermediate
- Black – advanced
Chamonix mountain bike trails for beginners & families
Beginners can start out with any of the many easy cross-country trails along l’Arve river. Take a leisurely ride along these well-maintained paths which don’t require a lot of technique and which pass through many of the Chamonix valley’s villages where you can stop off for refreshments and a break!
Around this area of Bois du Bouchet and Les Bois there are may trails which intersect so you can loop around and make circuits without riding the same trails all the time, making it perfect for beginners and especially children.
The next step is to follow the low altitude trails on the Petit Balcon Nord or Sud. They run the along the length of the valley and are well-signposted and accessible without any lifts. You’ll head a little way off the valley floor so some uphill cycling is required and the trails themselves are a bit more technical with rocks and roots to navigate. Don’t panic though, as you can always push your bike the challenging sections and the trails aren’t too steep either so you won’t find yourself careering towards something you can’t handle!
Once you’ve built up your confidence, it’s well worth trying out the full loop of both the north and south ‘balcons’ for a longer outing of 3-4 hours.
Mastered mountain biking? Try some other Chamonix summer activities.
Dedicated Chamonix mountain bikes zones
The Chamonix valley has cultivated two dedicated mountain bikes zones in the quieter opposite ends of the valley – Les Houches and Le Tour. Free from the crowds (though still keep your eyes peeled for hikers!), these areas have specially maintained mountain bike tracks for all levels, so they are perfect for medium-skilled bikers, as well as more advanced.
Le Tour has lovely rolling green hills and offers sweeping views all the way down the valley, taking in Mont Blanc, for when you stop and have a breather. The area looks inviting and approachable even if you’re still working on your mountain biking skills.
There is a green track back down to the village which is easily accessed from the mid-station as well as a blue run from the top of the next chairlift for when you’re ready to take it to the next level.
Intermediates can head over the back of Le Tour towards Vallorcine and all the way down to the village along the tree-lined runs. Then jump back into the lift back up to Le Tour or take the train back to Chamonix.
Les Houches offers more scope for intermediate to advanced mountain bikers. Since 2013 there has been a new area which is accessed from the top of Prarion offering variants onto blue and red tracks for a nice mix of abilities. The old trails from the Bellevue cable car still exist but are not maintained and their use is not recommended unless you know where you’re going!
Advanced Chamonix mountain biking
Chamonix has a whole range of mountain bike trails off the beaten track for advanced bikers. From Le Tour into Switzerland or Les Houches to St Gervais, or in the areas of Brévent-Flégère and Les Grands Montets, Chamonix’s famously steep terrain offers something for everyone including the most experienced bikers.
Bear in mind that north of Flégère is the Aiguilles Rouges nature park, so make sure you know where you’re going and don’t stray over the boundaries into this protected area.
UPDATE: For Summer 2016, no mountain biking will be permitted in the Brevent as the Parsa chairlift is being upgraded.
Top tips for a great day on your bike
- Take plenty of water – the summer months are often scorching and you’ll be working hard so keep hydrated!
- Don’t forget some snacks – you’ll need to keep well-fuelled too so some snacks in your bag are a must
- Protect against the elements – that might mean sun cream or waterproofs, check the forecast but be prepared for anything as the weather changes quickly in the mountains
- Protect against falls – if you’re doing more technical or downhill riding, you may want to wear body armour. Check if it’s included in your bike rental.
- Know where you’re going – book a guide, buy a guide book (we strongly recommend Chamonix Bike Book which is produced by locals) or at least pick up a free trail map from the Tourist Office
- Hire your bike – get discounted bike hire from the shops in Chamonix
Mountain biking code of conduct
Your free map of the mountain biking trails from the Tourist Office will cover off these points, but see below to swot up before you get here so everything is second nature when you head out on your first Chamonix mountain bike ride.
- Respect pedestrians, especially when overtaking
- Be courteous when overtaking and adhere to the highway code
- Make sure your bike has a horn or bell to make others aware of your presence
- Be realistic about your abilities and keep your speed under control
- Wear a helmet
- Check your bike is in good condition and carry a repair kit
- Respect the mountain – the local flora and fauna as well as private property – and close gates
- Taking short cuts increases erosion – stay on the paths
- Take your rubbish with you and behave discreetly
- Make sure someone knows where you’re going, as you would for any mountain expedition
Good to know for Chamonix mountain bike
To get around the valley with your bike, check out the train times of the valley’s Mont Blanc Express service. The train runs the length of the valley (Vallorcine to St Gervais) and is free with your guest card between Vallorcine and Servoz. Most buses don’t take bikes, but check your timetable for the bike bus too which runs in the summer.
The majority of cable cars open in the middle of June and close in early / mid-September, but bear in mind that mountain biking is restricted throughout much of the valley in July and August when pedestrians have priority on the trails. You will still have the dedicated tracks at Les Houches and Le Tour to enjoy but be prepared for access elsewhere to be limited.
For the widest range of slopes available, try to visit in the later half of June or the first part of September, when the lifts are open but the peak summer crowds won’t be at their height. If you’re prepared to do some pedalling uphill, then May and October can also offer good conditions for Chamonix mountain bike activity too.
The Tourist Office produces a free map (like a winter ski piste map) of mountain biking trails. As well as covering many of the most popular routes – both lift-accessible and non – it also includes a guide to the signposts you’re likely to see and the code of conduct for mountain biking in Chamonix.
If you have any questions about a Chamonix mountain bike holiday or trying this as one of your summer holiday activities, don’t hesitate to get in touch.