YAfter 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, gold and orange 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 autumn leaves + snowy peaks combination!
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 of home – and babies that loved to sleep in the buggy (one who 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 lakes au Pays du Mont-Blanc:
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, with a draisienne, with a child-seat at the back of my bike, with the whole family on bikes, with a luge . . .
Autumn is a delightful time to visit: the summer visitors have moved on, the air is crisp, the 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 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 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.
More fun – 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! Lac de Passy also hosts a parcours santé, which our boys love; or there is the accrobranches ® Passy Accro’Lac (check opening times for autumn weekends and the Toussaint holidays); and there are the new 2018 playground facilities too.
Eating options in autumn – the wonderful Buvette des Criques shuts early September, so you will need to bring a picnic (plenty of picnic tables). 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 horses).
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)
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!
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 (though you can easily walk down from Plaine-Joux with a buggy along the paved road), 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! 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 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 / Toussaint holidays). A short drive down the road brings you to the lovely Jardin des Cimes in Plateau d’Assy (open until 30th September 2018, and then re-opening at the end of May 2019) or in Servoz, the Gorges de la Diosaz (until September 2018).
Lacs des Ilettes (Sallanches)
Lacs des Ilettes is another family favourite all year round . . . last winter, with the first snow, we even managed to drag a luge around the lake . . . but back to AUTUMN, 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/push-bike.
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/walk available as a free leaflet from the tourist office, or in pdf format: «Circuit des Ilettes» (randoland.fr). 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 . . . and Sallanches Tourisme has a leaflet available for free or to download called: «Circuit Ilettes -VTT»; this cycling route is about 9,8km, takes about 2h, and leaves from Parking Saint Martin. For the more hardened cyclists, you can continue along the Arve river up to the Cascade d’Arpenaz and then head uphill onto one of the VTT pistes.
Geocaching – as a family, we are yet to try this thoroughly modern Smartphone/GPS activity! And there is one to do at Lacs des Ilettes & La Cascade d’Arpenaz (also available as a free leaflet from the Sallanches Tourist Office, as well as some other circuits around town).
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)
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:
Eating options in autumn – you can picnic at the adventure playground, or there is the Dandy restaurant 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, trotinettes, skateboards!), where there is another great (and new!) playground 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;
More lakes au Pays du Mont-Blanc for autumnal walks
Lac des Gaillands (Chamonix) – this is a small lake, but a lake all the same! Walking around it will 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) – this small lake is ideal for a buggy walk or a small bike/draisienne, and you can also head into the woods, do some climbing at the Rocher d’Escalade, or stop off at the playground. The lovely Guinguette café/restaurant is open until 30th October, and there are also some picnic tables.
Lac de Javen (Megève) – a longer family walk (4,4km / 1h30) will bring you to this small fishing lake in Megève. See here for more details.
More autumnal outings recommended by MBFF
- Les Houches’ Parc de Merlet animal park (shutting end September 2018, until spring 2019 re-opening);
- Servoz’s Les Gorges de la Diosaz (shutting end of September 2018, until spring re-opening);
- Plateau d’Assy’s Le Jardin des Cimes (shutting 30th September 2018 until May 2019);
- Geneva’s Botanical Gardens (open all year);
- Le Fayet’s Parc Thermal;
- a walk in the autumn woods: Le Bois du Bouchet;
There are also some lovely autumn walks to be had around Lac d’Annecy (Réserve Naturelle du Bout du Lac in Doussard and Saint-Jorioz reed walk, both accessible with a buggy; Le Roc à Chère . . . ); or along the shores of Lac Léman (Evian, Yvoire, Thonon-les-Bains, Morges, Nyon, Montreux . . . ).