After a visit to 🇯🇵 Japan during the magical time of 🍁 « autumn leaves », I never thought that autumn would inspire me in the same way again . . .
But then I returned home to the 🏔 Pays du Mont-Blanc, and was charmed all over again by 🍁 the palette of red, ochre, orange and gold covering 🌳 the trees, crunching under my feet and reflected in the 💦 lakes of our environs. Sometimes, out with my camera, I was even rewarded with the picture perfect combination of 🍁 autumn leaves + 🏔 snowy peaks !
Fast forward a couple of years, and my 🍁 autumn hikes TO lakes had transformed into 🍁 autumn hikes AROUND lakes and they had begun to take the shape of 🍁 autumn buggy strolls or autumn baby-carrier strolls . . . a troublesome back meant that the buggy was the main transportation for both mini MBFF boys . . . and having two lakes within walking distance from home – and a first baby that loved to sleep in the buggy (he especially loved to doze off to the rhythm of tree roots underfoot!) – the 💦 lakes au Pays du Mont-Blanc became a top destination.
As 🍂 autumn is upon us in all of its splendour, I thought that I would highlight some easy strolls – perfect for buggy walks, family walks with reluctant hikers and bike outings – around some of the 🏔 iconic lakes au Pays du Mont-Blanc . . . (and beyond) . . .
Colour code for listings:
Pays du Mont-Blanc
Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Argentière, Les Houches, Servoz and environs) & Vallorcine
Passy & environs
Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy
Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Le Fayet, Saint Nicolas de Véroce & environs
Megève, Praz-sur-Arly & environs
Les Contamines & environs
🇫🇷 Further France
Chamonix Valley & Pays du Mont-Blanc
Lac des Gaillands (Chamonix)
💦 Lac des Gaillands is a small lake, but a lake all the same! Walking around it will only take about 10mins, but you can then head along the path next to the climbing rock, through 🌲 the woods and along 💦 the Arve river. If you go far enough, then you will end up at this playground in Les Bossons! There are picnic tables along the way or you could stop at Le Vert for lunch at the start or finish of the walk.
Lac des Chavants (Les Houches)
💦 Lac des Chavants is a small lake, ideal for a buggy walk or a small bike or draisienne, and you can also head into 🌲 the woods, do 🗺 the parcours orientation, do some 🧗♂️ climbing at the Rocher d’Escalade, or stop off at the playground. The lovely ☕️ Guinguette café is open until 30th October, and there are also some picnic tables.
Lac de Passy (Passy)
Due to its proximity, 💦 Lac de Passy has always been at the top of our family’s list of places to visit en famille . . . the kids love to play in the shallow water during the summer months, but I personally prefer any season over the summer, because the lake becomes tranquil again, and the light can be more striking. We have explored this lake thoroughly during every season: on foot, with a buggy, with a baby-carrier scarf, with a baby-backpack, with a draisienne, with a child-seat at the back of my bike, with the whole family on bikes, with a luge . . .
[ ⇒ for a detailed MBFF article about Lac de Passy, see here ]
🍁 Autumn is a delightful time to visit: the summer visitors have moved on, the air is crisp, the warm autumn colours are reflected in the water . . .
Different options for family visits to Lac de Passy during the autumn months:
buggies – a boucle around the lake is a FLAT walk, easily accessible with a buggy, and a gentle stroll around the lake takes about 30 minutes (longer if stopping for photos or to play at the beach or at the various new play areas: playground, climbing structures, slide) . . . and if you have a buggy with decent wheels, then you could head into the woods or even run around the lake (I’ve never done this, but plenty do!);
draisiennes (push bikes) – what a wonderful invention: the push bike . . . our bigger boy moved effortlessly from one of these to a pedal bike . . . he was so speedy with a draisienne, and it allowed him to explore, without the whining that often accompanied walking the same route! Little brother loved his hand-me-down just as much, and now it has been passed on to a friend for another season of pleasure! The loop around Lac de Passy is just perfect with a draisienne;
🚵♂️ VTT – as the MBFF family can get to 💦 Lac de Passy by bike, we regularly take the route through the woods on our VTTs . . . we have had some highly amusing stuck-in-the mud scenarios, and we have emerged caked in dirt, but it is SO much fun . . . you can head into 🌳 the woods behind the mini-golf or next to the horse stables. Do be careful, as there are some narrow trails and a small bridge or two across 💦 the Bialle stream, which runs through the woods. There is a small 🚵♂️ espace VTT in the woods, next to the mini-golf (4+ years);
🌈 playgrounds – there is a sandy playground and features all around the lake too: slide, climbing frames . . .
⛱ sandcastles – it is still possible to make sandcastles in autumn, you know . . . so if you have really little ones, then bring along your buckets and spades!
🌳 accrobranches ® Passy Accro’Lac – open in autumn on sunny Wednesdays and at the weekend (🗓 check opening times for autumn weekends and the Toussaint holidays);
🤸♂️ parcours santé – in the woods, our boys love this!
🍏 eating options in autumn – Les Criques shuts early September, so you will need to bring a picnic after that (plenty of picnic tables). Nearby, the Restaurant L’Ecureuil (132 route de l’Arve, Passy, Rhone-Alpes – tel: 04 50 93 76 10) is open in autumn-time. Another good option is to head to the restaurant La Grange de Domancy (820 route de Sallanches, 74700, Domancy – shut on Wednesdays – tel: 04 50 53 97 84), which is located next to the little chapel on the main road between Sallanches and Domancy, AND is accessible from Lac de Passy on foot or by bike (you leave from behind the 🐴 horse stables);
🚾 toilets – there are public toilets at the beach-end of the lake and behind the First Aid hut;
🅿 parking – there are three car parks at Lac de Passy and it is free to park all year, apart from the busy summer months: Parking des Granges (this serves the criques end of the lake, and is the first car park you arrive at if coming by car) / Parking des Criques (the second car park if arriving by car, right by Karting du Mont-Blanc) / Parking Plage (at the beach-end of the lake);
Lac Vert (Passy Plaine-Joux)
💦 Lac Vert is an ethereal mountain lake at any time of the year, but it really comes alive in 🍂 autumn, when the golden leaves of the trees can be seen reflected in its shallow emerald green water. And if you look very, very carefully, you might just see Excalibur rising from the waters (several scenes of the TV series Kaamelott were filmed at the Lac Vert). At the very least, you should be able to spot some fish!
[ ⇒ to read the more detailed MBFF article about 💦 Lac Vert, see here ]
Different options for family visits to 💦 Lac Vert during the autumn months:
Buggies are NOT an option for a clamber around this small mountain lake (you can easily walk down from Plaine-Joux with a buggy along the paved road, though it is uphill all the way back!), as there are enormous tree roots and boulders and the sentier is very narrow in parts! So, you’ll need either a baby-carrier, or children that can WALK and scramble! (note: sometimes at this time of year, some of the wooden walkways are submerged!) I remember a particularly challenging walk here with a 3-year old on strike andy myself heavily pregnant! There are 🗺 annotated panels around the lake, describing the flora, and it is a fun route for little legs, perfect for an autumn day! The loop around the lake will take about 20 to 30 minutes with little ones.
🌈 more fun – head up to Plaine-Joux, where there is plenty of space to kick a ball, watch the parapentes taking off on a clear day, visit the Maison de la Réserve Naturelle de Passy, or try out the accrobranches ® Passy Plain’Wood (do check opening hours for autumn and Toussaint holidays). You could also extend your hike, across the Himalayan bridge at Plateau d’Assy. A short drive down the road brings you to the lovely 🌻 Jardin des Cimes in Plateau d’Assy (🗓 open until early October) or in Servoz, the 💦 Gorges de la Diosaz (🗓 shuts end of September, then re-opens in springtime);
Lacs des Ilettes (Sallanches)
💦 Lacs des Ilettes is another family favourite all year round . . . AUTUMN is the perfect season to appreciate the light, the reflections on the water, the leaves . . . there are three lakes here, but the third lake – Le Lac de Promenade – is the best for a walk or push or pedal bike.
[ ⇒ for a detailed MBFF article about 💦 Lacs des Ilettes, see here ]
Different options for family visits to 💦 Lacs des Ilettes during the autumn months:
buggies – Le Lac de Promenade (and even the middle lake) is ideal for buggy strolls . . . a nature reserve, there are 🗺 informative panels describing the flora and fauna. At the far end of the lake, there is also a 🐟 fish & bird-watching cabin, and there are a couple of large boulders to climb . . . you can return to the car park (if you are with a car!) via the parcours santé in the woods;
🥾 hiking & strolling – Sallanches Tourisme has a fun 🗺 treasure-hunt & geocaching walk available as a free leaflet from the tourist office. If you want to do a longer hike with older children or good walkers, then you could extend your walk to include 💦 Cascade de l’Arpenaz and do a loop through the village of Luzier;
draisiennes (push bikes) – the perfect lake for young bikers, either on push-bikes or small bikes . . . do be careful, as there are a couple of small jetties, and we nearly had our littlest overboard!
🚵♂️ VTTs – as well as the shorter loop around the Lac de Promenade, there are longer 🚵♂️ VTT routes leaving from 💦 Lacs des Ilettes – this cycling route is about 9,8km, takes about 2h, and leaves from Parking Saint Martin; it continues along the Arve river up to the Cascade de l’Arpenaz and then head uphill onto one of the VTT pistes.
🍏 eating options in autumn – Le Transat, which is located at the beach end of the middle lake, is NOT open during the autumn and winter months (yet!), and so your only options on-site are a picnic . . . forgive the product placement, but this was one of our autumn picnics a couple of years ago!
🌈 playgrounds – there is the Saint-Martin playground nearby, with its fabulous tunnel slide;
🚾 toilets – there are public toilets at the car parks of the Lac de Pêche and the Lac de Baignade;
🅿 parking – there is free car park at the Lac de Pêche and also one between the Lac de Baignade and the Lac de Promenade;
address: ancienne route impériale, 74700, Sallanches;
Plan d’Eau Biotope (Combloux)
[ note: currently under renovation! ]
Combloux Tourist Office suggests a great family walk, called Balade 100% Bio, starting at the Tourist Office, passing the Ferme à Isidore, around the 💦 Plan d’Eau Biotope (the lake is shut for swimming until the summer, but it is a beautiful spot and you will will find 🗺 annotated posts explaining the flora and fauna), and ending at the adventure playground just above the lake. The walk can be done with a good buggy and takes about 30 mins en famille (1,3km, with a short uphill to the playground) . . . also, next to the 💦 Plan d’Eau Biotope, you will find some boulders that children can clamber over. The views on this walk are amazing!
One of MBFF’s favourite 🌈 playgrounds in autumn:
🍏 eating options in autumn – you can picnic at the adventure playground, or there is the ☕️ Dandy restaurant (check opening hours) right next to the lake, and plenty of restaurants in Combloux.
🌈 more fun – if this isn’t enough, then you can walk up to the skatepark & pumptrack (don’t forget draisiennes, bikes, trottinettes, skateboards!), where there is another great playground, parcours freestyle and terrain multisport (bring basketball, etc . . .). For more information about Combloux playgrounds, see here;
🅿 parking – just above the adventure playground;
address: chemin du Perret, 74920, Combloux;
Lac de Javen (Megève)
A longer family walk (4,4km / 1h30) will bring you to this 💦 small fishing lake in Megève, splendid in autum!
[ ⇒ see here for more details ]
Lac de Baignade du Parc du Pontet (Les Contamines-Montjoie)
Another small lake au Pays du Mont-Blanc, set within the 🌈 Parc de Loisirs du Pontet, is the 💦 Lac de Baignade – the lake is too small for a decent walk, but you can have a pretty walk along the river up to the church at ⛪️ Notre-Dame de la Gorge (possible with a buggy) or further up the Roman Road to Nant Borant (baby-carriers here), to the Cascade de la Combe Noire . . . or try out a donkey ride with Les Ânes et les Mômes (highly, highly recommended by MBFF and open, upon reservation, in autumn!). The fabulous (newly renovated) playground here is accessible in autumn and there is also a new annotated walk – Le Sentier Découverte – and the new playground at Les Loyers and the new pumptrack.
and a longer walk in Les Contamines-Montjoie (a hike, not stroll!), gorgeous in 🍁 autumn, is up to the Lacs Jovet . . .
Beyond the Pays du Mont-Blanc
Lac d’Emosson (Valais, Switzerland)
Another superb place for a hike or stroll (or even a buggy walk!) en famille is the 💦 Lac d’Emosson (in fact, you can enjoy 3 lakes and dams at this site: 💦 Lac d’Emosson, 💦 Lac du Vieux Emosson and the 💦 Lac de Barberine). This spot is especially lovely with a dusting of fresh snow on the surrounding peaks! There are various ways to access the site and lots of hiking options too.
[ ⇒ for more information about VerticAlp and the site, see MBFF’s article on VerticAlp Emosson (we especially loved the Village des Branchés when we were there!) ]
There are also some lovely autumn walks to be had around:
💦 Lac d’Annecy (Réserve Naturelle du Bout du Lac in Doussard and the Saint-Jorioz reed walk, both accessible with a buggy; Le Roc à Chère . . . );
💦 Lac Léman – along the shores of this huge lake are some great walking paths (Evian, Yvoire, Nernier, Thonon-les-Bains, Morges, Nyon, Montreux . . . );
💦 Lac du Bourget . . . see here for some ideas;
🇮🇹 Italy – and a superb lake hike in 🇮🇹 La Thuile, Italy: 💦 Lac du Verney (an article to come!) . . . or further afield lakes like 💦Viverone, Orta, Maggiore, Como;
Further autumnal outings recommended by MBFF
There are plenty of articles on the MBFF website, to help steer you towards some great autumn fun:
- 🍁 10 FOREST & WOODLAND strolls au Pays du Mont-Blanc – article here;
- 🍁 Le Bois du Bouchet – a walk in the autumn woods – article here;
- 🌳 Médonnet & La Pesse boulders and woods – article here;
- 🍁 Sallanches: les Golettes, La Vigne & La Fley – article here;
- 🍁 Le Fayet’s Parc Thermal (open all year) – article here;
- 🍁 Geneva’s Botanical Gardens (open all year) – article here;
- 🍁 10 ideas fo autumn hikes au Pays du Mont-Blanc – article here;
- 🍁 10 more ideas for autumn hikes beyond the Pays du Mont-Blanc – article here;
- 🍁 AUTUMN PARKS & GARDENS au Pays du Mont-Blanc – article here;