FAMILY HIKES: « Sur les traces des Graniteurs » (COMBLOUX)

I had been wanting to do the short themed walk « Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux for a while, and last springtime MBFF finally managed to go . . . At the time, I was looking for a lower altitude hike (and not too long!) to do en famille, as there was still lots of ❄️ snow up high . . .

Shortly after our spring visit, those 🌧 July storms in 2019 wreaked havoc in certain spots 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc and in the Arve Valley, and they 🌲 felled numerous trees, rendering this themed hike too dangerous for the public – it was shut, with notice from the Mairie!

I have, hence, been holding off publishing this article, which was ready for you last spring! And then, last week, I saw that a group of volunteers – around 40 to be exact – had got together to clear and prune the path, making it safe again for visitors! Bravo!

« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » – les bénévoles! © OT Combloux et Florence DUC

So what exactly is the themed walk « Sur les traces des Graniteurs » ?  It is a short hike with explanatory panels, which explains a rich moment in the history of Combloux village and its patrimoine and savoir fairegranite exploitation and cutting!

« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » © combloux.com

Where did the granite blocks come from?
When ❄️ the glaciers moved through our mountain valleys, they carved 🏞 the landscape that we see today . . . And when ❄️ le grand glacier de l’Arve receded from the Arve Valley in 12,000BC, erratic granite blocks from 🏔 the Massif du Mont-Blanc were deposited in various spots, one of these being in large concentration just below the village of Combloux.
Combloux’s erratic blocs are not the only ones to be found 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc – you’ll also see some in: Chamonix (which has its own Sentier des Graniteurs), Servoz, Argentière, the Col du Montet, Médonnet & La Pesse, just above Sallanches, Cordon, Domancy . . . to the great delight these days of 🧗‍♂️ local boulderers!
La moraine boulder, Argentière © montblancfamilyfun.com
La Pesse boulders © montblancfamilyfun.com
Servoz © montblancfamilyfun.com

What story does « Sur les traces des Graniteurs » tell?

Before the 19th century, the local paysans had neither the savoir faire, nor the right tools to work the granite. It wasn’t until the King of Sardinia, Charles Albert (Roi de Sardaigne, Duc de Savoie and Prince de Piémont), brought over skilled workers from Piémont, that the locals learned how to work the granite!

These 🇮🇹 Italian workers were sent over to reconstruct Sallanches after the infamous fire of 1840 all but destroyed the town. Sallanches’ 🏛 La Grenette was built later on in 1868, with its columns and floor built from Combloux granite!

After Sallanches was rebuilt, certain enterprising workers bought blocks of granite from the locals and cut them for the Comblorans’ domestic use: basins, door and window lintels, pig troughs, crosses, vaults, lavoirs . . .

Many of these Italians stayed on in Combloux, and they certainly left their legacy; you’ll see lots of Italian surnames prevalent in our valley!

La Grenette © montblancfamilyfun.com
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © combloux.com

The granite parcours – what to expect
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » is 1,4km long. It is located at the entrance to Combloux village, coming from Sallanches (where you see the big roundabout that says COMBLOUX!), and it starts in industrial zone Plan des Mouilles . . . but it is also perfectly hidden in 🌲 the forest!
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux – the start of the walk © montblancfamilyfun.com
The walk uses the paths and granite ramps of access created at the start of 19th century by the granite workers . . . you’ll learn, through the panels dotted along the way, different aspects of this arduous work – reconstruction of a forge, the tools used ( winches, cranes, loading docks) . . . By walking this trail, you’ll get an understanding of how very hard these graniteurs worked to make a living!
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com

Some of the erratically strewn blocks of granite have been given names . . .

« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com

There are informative pannels to read (in French):

« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com

It is fascinating to glimpse the vestiges of the old quarries: winches, slides, access ramps, boarding wharfs, the tools used to smooth the granite . . .

« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com

Children will find the trail fun: little ups and downs, bridges to cross, little streams, 🧗‍♂️ granite blocks to clamber over . . .

« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com

And, of course, there are the requisite 🏔 mountain views . . .

« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux – panoramic shot © ONF

MBFF Tips

🍏 pack a picnic – there are plenty of spots to stop and enjoy a picnic . . .

« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com
« Sur les traces des Graniteurs » in Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com

Laurenzio Granits – guided visits

There is still a granite cutting workshop in Combloux – Laurenzio Granits – and you can visit Laurenzio’s workshop! Every Friday at 17h there are guided tours, where you can discover the trade of being a granite stonemason: find out about how they extract the granite from various sources, and then see the finished prodcucts – from kitchen work tops, to chimneys, to fountains . . . you’ll be treated to demonstrations of block splitting in the quarry, flaming, cutting and the polishing of Mont-Blanc granite blocks . . . see here for more information about the guided tours.

Laurenzio Graniteur © combloux.com
© Combloux Tourisme

Laurenzio Granits is a family company that was set up in 1967, but with the experience in granite and stone cutting that stretches over 4 generations. As well as the guided tours, they produce granite products for clients: ” In our quarry, in Combloux in Haute-Savoie, we extract the granite from Mont-Blanc in the form of erratic blocks from glacial moraines. We cut the blocks at the corners and in the mass as in the old way, which preserves the quality of a natural and rustic cut, without weakening the stone. These quarry blocks are then transported to our workshops, which are equipped with numerically controlled machines. This is where our blocks will be cut, softened, polished, flamed, or even bush hammered. “

address: 340 route de la Barme, 74920, Combloux / tel: 06 73 02 13 84; 

website: www.granits-montblanc.fr;

Further activities nearby

As this is a short walk, you might want to make the most of your time in Combloux to try out some other activities and sights on offer:

🚵‍♂️ pumptrack, skatepark & city stade – make sure you pack skateboards, bikes, scooters and balls for fun here! / see MBFF article here;

🌈 playgrounds –  you have a choice of THREE playgrounds in Combloux / see MBFF article here;

💦 Plan d’Eau Biotope – naturally cleansed by plants, this swimming lake is popular in the summertime / see MBFF article here;

⛪️ Église Saint-Nicolas de Combloux – one of the several beautiful Baroque churches of the Pays du Mont-Blanc, this church was built at the start of the 18th century;

🥗 cafés and restaurants – you have plenty of choice for restaurants in Combloux, but here are some suggestions:

  • 🥗 Marmite & Co – this restaurant in the centre of Combloux gets great reviews from my Combloux-residing friends / see FB page here;
  • 🥗 Le Coin Savoyard – located just opposite the pumptrack, this 200 year old building houses a restaurant and hotel (with small swimming pool!);

    © Le Coin Savoyard
  • 🍰 Miss Clafoutis – a little tea-room and concept store in the centre of Combloux / see FB page here;
  • 🍻 La Tanière – a new bar with many local beers to try / see FB page here;
  • 🥗 Le Dandy – you can’t beat this restaurant’s location, overlooking the Plan d’Eau Biotope, and with Mont-Blanc twinkling in the background! / see FB page here;
Le Dandy © Le Dandy, Combloux

Walk details, access, parking and map

The walk is a mere 1,4 km, but you’ll take time to read the pannels along the way, to observe the granite quarry machinery and to clamber on the rocks, so expect to take around 1h30.

For access to the « Sur les traces des Graniteurs » from Combloux centre, park in the 🅿️ Parking des Cristaux (just above the Plan d’Eau Biotope), and follow the marked trail that takes you past the Ferme à Isidore (Musée de Pente) . . . if you have smaller children or less able walkers, then you can park nearer the beginning of the trail in the 🅿️ ZAC de Plan Mouillé (right next to ⚽️ the Combloux football pitch).

The hike is open all year-round, but do make sure that you have good footwear especially in the winter months, when the paths can be slippery! / Combloux Tourisme link here;

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