The hike to 🌼 l’Alpage de Charousse (alpage means high mountain meadow) in Les Houches is one of my favourite short hikes in the Chamonix Valley, and one that MBFF has really enjoyed en famille with two small hikers.
Description of hike
The main highlight of this walk is arriving at the postcard perfect meadow – 🌼 the Alpage de Charousse (1200m)- when the blue, pink and purple lupins are in bloom (May and June time), next to 🏚 the five rustic farmhouses (18th century), beautifully restored in keeping with the traditional style. These farmhouses show off the local rural architecture: a base of solid stone (so that the mice couldn’t reach the grain), and above this, wood – browned by the elements over the years – and shingle (ancelle) roofs. This alpage was an intermediary station, before taking 🐑 the troupeaux (herds) up to higher pastures. It is also 🌿 a glacial field, with a few erratic granite blocks lying about, and you’ll have a 🏔 magnificent view of the Aiguilles de Chamonix and the Chaîne des Fiz!
The walk is easy and the distance is perfect if you have young or reluctant walkers. There are suitable picnic spots and the walk is a boucle (loop).
The nearest place to park near to the start of the walk is up at la Côte des Chavants, and from here you will soon arrive (20mins) at 🌲 a small wood of spruce trees.
This then opens up onto a world of d’antan (of yesteryear), a picture postcard of 🏚 chalets, browned with age (these rustic chalets are still occupied, so do be respectful during your exploration!).
[ good to know: to read more about the history of this alpage, and its use as a location in certain films, see here ]
From the 🌼 alpage, you then head up to 🏚 the Grange des Chavants (1280m), and from here you’ll have super views of 🏔 Mont-Blanc.
For any sporty members of your group, you could suggest that they head on up to the 🏔 col de la Forclaz (1533m), where there is a borne romaine . . . or, in the other direction, up to 🏔 col de Voza (1653m), and then across to 🏔 Bellevue (1801m) to take the 🚡 Télécabine de Bellevue back down to Les Houches. Alternatively, you could hike up to Prarion (1860m) and take the 🚡 Télécabine du Prarion back down;
We found 🍏 a lovely open picnic spot, just up from the 🌼 Alpage de Charousse, where the boys could run wild.
Hike details and getting there
You can start this hike at the departure station of the 🚡 Télécabine du Prarion, or you can park a bit closer at 🅿️ Parking de la Côte des Chavants, if you have less able or younger (or much older!) walkers. From the 🚡 Télécabine du Prarion, you head up the quiet, residential route des Chavants (a few little shortcuts take you off the road) and then up onto chemin de Charousse . . .
[ good to know: this is also ❄️ a snow shoe route! ]
🚗 parking & departure point: 🅿️ Télécabine du Prarion, 🅿️ Lac des Chavants or closest at 🅿️ Parking de la Côte des Chavants / 🚉 nearest train station: Les Houches SNCF (this adds on a bit of distance) / 🚌 bus stop: Prarion / max altitude: 1280m / ⏱ duration: 2,5h (with long picnic stop!) / more information;
[ note: 🐶 dogs must be kept on a leash on this walk, due to 🐑 the farm animals grazing in proximity! ]
Further activities in the area
After this short hike, you could enjoy what the 💦 Lac des Chavants has to offer: a small lake, 🥤 refreshments at La Guinguette, a playground, an orienteering parcours (be sure to print this off beforehand, or pick up a copy from the Tourist Office);
Or, depending on opening hours, you could head to the Musée Montagnard in Les Houches, to further understand the use of these alpine granges and alpages. Albert Laprade, an eminent early 20th century architect-urbanist (see here), took a particular interest in the Alpage de Charousse, and fought to protect its patrimoine, while also collecting many local mountain domestic objects, many of these now on display at this great little museum, which he gifted to Les Houches in 1977, shortly before his death.