🍁 Autumn, before ❄️ the snow arrives (and even when ❄️ the snow arrives!), is a lovely time for a family stroll or hike here 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc . . . the temperatures are (usually) fresher than the ☀️ summertime, and 🍁 the burnt seasonal colours adorning the trees and covering the ground are just beautiful. Next to a lake, you’ll perhaps see 🍂 autumn colours reflected in the water, and even 🏔 some snowy peaks . . . this, and the golden autumn light, is sublime for photography enthusiasts!
Granted, it is a trade-off: the days grow shorter (and so we can’t dither on our hikes!), but the trees give us a spectacular show, and 🍂 the leaves become so colourful and playful! The 🌳 oaks and other broadleaf trees (les feuillus) turn from 🍃 a green to 🍂 a rusty palette, while the 🍁 maples turn crimson, other leaves turn golden and yellow . . . Before the broadleaf trees take their cue and shed their leaves – 🍂 the leaves fluttering to the ground to create a blanket underfoot – there is a splendid scene of different colours: 🌲 the green of the evergreens constrasting with the yellow, gold, copper, red and brown of 🌳 the broadleaf trees.
The ground underfoot on your autumn hike may be wet and slippery, so do be careful, and dress accordingly for wet and cold weather! Maybe you’ll find some muddy puddles for little ones . . .
I have put together this article for you, with some ideas for 🍁 family strolls or short hikes with young children to do over the next month or so . . . All of these suggestions are easily accessible, and often there is a bonus like a playground or games to play along the way. Some of the hikes are annotated, so you can learn along the hike too. The hikes listed do not have much dénivelé, and some are even possible to do with buggies.
[ disclaimer: you must always keep in mind that in autumn hunting season is upon us (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday), this year from 13th September 2020 ⇒ 17th January 2021 / pay heed to signs and always wear bright clothing / see here for more details ]
[ ⇒ for further ideas for 🍁 parks and gardens in autumn, see separate MBFF article here ]
Colour code for listings:
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, Bionnassay & environs
Megève, Praz-sur-Arly & environs
Les Contamines & environs
Le Paradis des Praz (Les Praz de Chamonix)
🌲 Le Paradis des Praz is a natural summertime playground, a hidden jewel cocooned in the woods, well-known to families living in the region. A little stream runs through a spot that has been transformed into a small eden for children, with 💦 shallow water in which to paddle and splash about in! Later in the autumn, when the days are colder, paddling will not be a preferred option, but a stroll through the woods is still lovely!
👨👩👧👦 buggies – YES, you can get to the Paradis des Praz with an all terrain buggy, and the path is also ideal for bikes and draisiennes;
➕ extra fun – you won’t be paddling in the stream (or maybe?) as the days get colder, but the buvette often opens on fine weather weekends and over the Toussaint holidays – the perfect spot to warm up with a hot chocolate or crêpe / you’ll still find the playground facilites for little ones;
🏔 further hikes – if you have more experienced hikers in your group, then you could send them off on a hike to the extremely photogenic Lac Blanc via 🚡 the Télécabine de la Flégère, which open again during the Toussaint holidays;
🅿️ parking – if coming by car, the most obvious way to reach 🌲 Le Paradis des Praz is to park next to the golf club in Les Praz-de-Chamonix (route du Golf). From the car park, you can walk with buggies past the 🏌️♂️ golf course and then through 🌲 the woods / alternatively, you can park in Les Tines;
🚞 by train – you can take the train and get off either at Les Praz or Les Tines; after this, it is a short walk;
Parcours d’Orientation (Chamonix Valley)
The 🏔 Chamonix Valley has developed 🗺 6 orienteering routes for you to enjoy, and many pass through 🌳 forest, so this is lovely in autumn! MBFF has tried out a few now, and we have really enjoyed them all! Here is where you can find them:
- 🌲 Chamonix (le Bois du Bouchet) – read about Baby-Cham‘s experience here;
- 💦🌳 Les Houches (Lac des Chavants) – see MBFF article 🍂 autumn leaves orienteering;
- 🏡 Servoz (le village);
- 🏰 Servoz (le Château / Le Lac) – we tried this one with friends this summer, and found it quite challenging!
- 🌲 Vallorcine (La Poya) – we saw some of the balises on our way to the Cascade du Bérard;
- 💦 Argentière (la Moraine) – see MBFF article 🐸 an aire de jeux, a mare aux têtards, and a parcours orientation;
🗺 Orienteering is a sport in which one follows a very precise route from 🗺 a given map. It is a fun activity for the whole family, and it can be a great motivation to get everyone outdoors and enjoying nature, and to develop navigational skills at the same time. To do orienteering, you will need to understand the concept of reading 🗺 a map (to align it with the terrain, to understand a “legend”, to understand a map’s scale, and to pinpoint landmarks). The 🗺 Chamonix Valley orienteering routes are made up of numbered balises (grey posts), planted at points on the terrain where they stand out, and which are outlined on the map; you need to stamp your maps at these balises au fur et à mesure . . . you’ll not need 🧭 a compass for the Chamonix Valley parcours! / download here or pick up in paper form from the tourist offices;
👨👩👧👦 buggies – you’ll be able to take buggies on some parts of these parcours, but not all, as at times you’ll need to head off the path and into the woods and clamber across boulders to reach some of the balises! The more appropriate parcours for buggies would be Bois du Bouchet and Lac des Chavants, but even then you’ll have to stay on the path with the buggy, and let others find the balises! Baby carriers would be more efficient for this activity en famille!
Here are some 🍁 autumn photos of our experience au Lac des Chavants (Les Houches):
Passy & Plaine-Joux
Lac de Passy (Passy)
🍁 Autumn is my favourite time of year to visit 💦 Lac de Passy: the lake becomes tranquil again (the summer visitors have moved on!), and the light can be striking, with 🍂 the warm autumn colours reflected in the water . . . as with any season, you can visit: on foot, with a buggy, with a baby-carrier or backpack, with a draisienne, with bikes, with a child-seat on your bike . . . and 🐶 dogs are allowed in autumn! / for a detailed article article about Lac de Passy, see here and to read about 🍂 Lac de Passy in autumn, see article here;
👨👩👧👦 buggies – YES, you can loop around the lake with a buggy!
➕ extra fun – 🏖 the sandy beach is still great for games in autumn! / ⚽️ there is plenty of green grass for ball games, 🏐 a volleyball pitch and a parcours santé / 🌳 the accrobranches ® is open on fine weather days at the weekend (and sometimes on Wednesdays) and during the Toussaint holidays / 🌈 there is a sandy playground, and other play options (including a slide) dotted around the lake / 🌳 you can explore the woods on foot or on a bike / 🚵♂️ there is a small VTT park (4+years), / 🌈 the bouncy castles are open at times;
Lac Vert (Plaine-Joux)
💦 Lac Vert is an ethereal mountain lake at any time of the year, but it really comes alive in 🍂 autumn, when the tarnished 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). With babies, you’ll need a baby-carrier (buggies not possible!), and young children can WALK and scramble (be vigilant at all times, as the rocks can be sharp, the tree roots slippery, and there is always the possiblity of falling into the lake!). The loop around the lake will take about 20 to 30 minutes with little ones / to read the more detailed MBFF article about 💦 Lac Vert, see here.
👨👩👧👦 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!
➕ extra fun – there is 🧭 a geocache here at 💦 Lac Vert! / at 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 ® (do check opening hours for autumn and Toussaint holidays) / 🧗♂️ rock scrambling (be very careful in autumn especially, as the rocks can be slippery);
🏔 further hikes – you can send more competent hikers further up into the Réserve Naturelle de Passy – the hike to Lac de Pormenaz is lovely in autumn!
Sallanches, Combloux & Cordon
Lacs des Ilettes (Sallanches)
💦 Lacs des Ilettes are another autumn favourite for our family! . . . AUTUMN is the perfect season to appreciate the light, the reflections on the water, 🍂 the autumn leaves . . . there are three lakes here, but the third lake – Le Lac de Promenade – is the best for a walk or a bike or draisienne / for a detailed MBFF article, see here, and to read about 🍁 a visit to the lake in autumn, see here;
👨👩👧👦 buggies – it is easy to get around the Lac de Promenade with a buggy, bike or draisienne;
➕ extra fun: a 🐟 fish & bird-watching cabin, 🦆 ducks, 🧗♂️ a couple of large boulders to climb, the parcours santé in the woods . . . / there is also a 🗺 treasure-hunt & geocaching / 🌈 playgrounds – there is the Saint-Martin playground nearby, with its fabulous tunnel slide, and the Vieux Pont in Saint-Martin (geocache here!);
🗻 further hikes – with good walkers, you could head to nearby 💦 Cascade de l’Arpenaz, and do a loop through the village of Luzier;
🚾 toilets – there are public toilets at the car parks of the Lac de Pêche and the Lac de Baignade;
address: ancienne route impériale, 74700, Sallanches;
« Sur Les Traces des Graniteurs » (Combloux)
🍁 Combloux’s annotated walk, ⚒ « Sur Les Traces des Graniteurs », leads you on the trail of the old granite workers, and it is fascinating! / it will take you about 1h30, with stops to read the pannels and to explore the old equipment used to cut and shape the enormous boulders! / see MBFF article here and Combloux website details here;
autumn light . . .
👨👩👧👦 buggies – it is NOT possible to do this hike with a buggy (narrow paths and steep in parts);
➕ extra fun: head into Combloux for lunch or goûter, there are plenty of restaurants / 🌈 playgrounds – you have lots of playground options in Combloux (see here) / pumptrack and City Stade (see here) / Plan d’Eau Biotope is pretty for a short stroll in autumn (see here);
🚾 toilets – there are public toilets at the car park in the centre of Combloux;
« Forest Discovery Trail » (Cordon)
🌲 Cordons’s « Forest Discovery Trail » is a 1 hour annotated loop in 🌲 the spruce forest, at 1360m, and with a dénivelé of 240m! / you’ll learn about the local forest flora and fauna, perhaps you’ll see 🐜 an anthill or hear some 🐦 woodpeckers . . . / in late summer & early autumn, you’ll find myrtilles and other wild berries / this hike may well be wet and muddy underfoot! / for more details in PDF see here;
👨👩👧👦 buggies – this hike is NOT possible with a buggy!
« Sur la Piste de Charlotte la Marmotte » (Le Bettex ⇒ Les Communailles, Saint-Gervais)
🍁 « Sur la Piste de Charlotte la Marmotte » is a 1h mountain hike from Le Bettex (1400m) to Les Communailles (1420m), with a very small dénivelé of 20m, and it is possible to do it with a mountain buggy! / you’ll learn about 🐄 the mountain environment along the way, by reading the annotated pannels! / 🏔 great mountain views!
👨👩👧👦 buggies – YES, this hike is possible to do with an all-terrain buggy!
➕ extra fun: you can head into Saint-Gervais for 🍰 a goûter, go to the playground, or admire the street-art of 2KM3 (car park and other locations);
Megève & Praz-sur-Arly
Circuit de l’Arly (Praz-sur-Arly)
Praz-sur-Arly has 3 walks that are possible with a buggy (one with an all-terrain buggy!). The Circuit de l’Arly heads along the Arly river and takes around 30 minutes (it is lovely to play in the water over the summer months!).
➕ extra fun: 🌈 playgrounds – you have the fabulous 🌈 Base de Loisirs des Belles, and a smaller playground for tiny ones near the 💦 Arly Plage / there is also 🚵♀️ Ludik Parc VTT area / for more information about the playgrounds, see MBFF article here / there is also artwork by Adriana W along the route at the moment;
🚾 toilets – there are public toilets at the car park on route des Varins;
The other buggy walks are:
- Circuit de la Plaine des Belles – a more “urban” stroll, with access to the playground at Les Belles!
- Circuit de Cassioz – along the cross country ski zone in winter;
Sentier Découverte (from centre of town, along the Nant Borant, up to Notre-Dame de la Gorge)
The 🗺 Sentier Découverte is an annotated walk, with panels explaining the history, nature and patrimoine of the area, and it starts in the centre of Les Contamines-Montjoie, heads along 💦 the Nant Borant river and up to 🌈 the Parc de Loisirs du Pontet and Notre Dame de la Gorge – you can do the whole hike, or you can just opt for a section / you can also take bikes along this stroll.
👨👩👧👦 buggies – YES, you can do this hike with a buggy!
➕ extra fun: 🌈 playgrounds – you have the fabulous 🌈 playground and pumptrack at Le Loyer, as well as the newly renovated playground at the Parc de Loisirs du Pontet (during the Toussaint holidays, there should be some activities on offer at the leisure park, including bouncy castles and hiking with a donkey with Les Anes et Les Mômes);
🏔 further hikes: autumn is sumptuous up high in the Réserve Naturelle des Contamines-Montjoie, and so you could send more experience hikers up to les tourbières de Sololieu, les tourbières de la Rosière (protected spaces, formed by glacial movement; see here), les Chalets de la Laya or up further to Lac Jovets / we frequently took (and still take!) our (then) small boys on the 1 hour hike up the Roman road to the Toman bridge / it is also lovely to walk from the Notre Dame de la Gorge baroque church up to the ⛪ Sainte-Chapelle chapel on the rockface;
Look out for the soon-to come follow-up article: 🍁 10 ideas for AUTUMN FAMILY HIKES & STROLLS with small children beyond the Pays du Mont-Blanc!