Another great attraction in Chamonix on many families’ list is the Montenvers train journey up to the Mer de Glace glacier. The famous little vintage red coggle train will take you on a relaxing 20 minute journey up the mountainside, through forests and tunnels cut through the rock, and up to the glacier at 1,913 m (an ascent of about 1000m). Children from the age of 12 months are allowed aboard.
Montenvers Departure Station
The departure station for the Montenvers train is just behind the Gare SNCF, and there is an old locomotive for children to play on as they wait.
«Légendaire Montenvers» – fresco by Collectif Chamshake
In September 2017 – next to the Montenvers departure station – a fresco was completed . . . it was conceived and painted by Sow (of the Collectif Chamshake) and her two helpers, Djé and Andrien. On an exterior wall of what was an old warehouse, the mural tells the story of the discovery of the Montenvers Glacier and the development of the coggle train, as well as depicting two important alpinists (Bonatti and Rebuffat) and a lady tourist from the 19th century, travelling up to the glacier by mule.
Watch a video showing the progress of «Légendaire Montenvers» here:
Activities at Montenvers Arrival Station
There are beautiful views from the arrival station, though a view upon the glacier is also a stark reminder to us of global warming.
Once at the arrival station, there are plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained:
- Glaciorium – an interactive and educational space highlighting the formation of the Mer de Glace, its history and its future evolution;
- Ice Grotto – a 30 mins walk via a trail, or a 5 mins gondola ride (with 400 steps), takes you into the heart of the Mer de Glace glacier!
- Temple of Nature – an optical theatre, with rear projection on glass, here stories are told by the scientists and artists who loved this nature spot;
*NB – do check opening hours of all of these attractions, as there are seasonal changes!*
Terminal Neige: Refuge du Montenvers
The newly renovated Terminal Neige: Refuge du Montenvers (it belongs to the Maisons et Hotels Sibuet label) was originally built in the 1880s and was then called the Grand Hotel du Montenvers – its purpose was to accommodate the first travellers and mountaineers who came to visit the legendary Mer de Glace glacier. The grand old hotel has been stylishly refurbished, retaining its original charm. You can stop for a warm or cool drink or snack in the café/restaurant, or you can even spend the night in the hotel! For more information about the hotel, rooms, restaurants and events, see here.
Hikes from Montenvers
One trail from Montenvers leads along the Grand Balcon Nord to the Plan du Midi, from where you can take the cable-car back down to Chamonix.
There are also several trails leading back down to Les Praz or Chamonix. The gentlest of these is the trail via the lovely Buvette des Mottets, where you can stop for a homemade tart! (this buvette also offers a “nuit dans une bulle” over the summer months – three transparent tents suspended from the trees).
If visiting in wintertime, then there are some well sign-posted snow-shoe circuits that leave from the Montenvers arrival station;
Address of Departure Station:
35, place de la Mer de Glace,
Tel: +33 (0)4 50 53 22 75
Parking: free parking opposite, at the Parking des Planard;