A visit to a 💦 waterfall or gorge is often an awe-inspiring and sensory experience, allowing you to appreciate nature in its wildest, purest form. It can also be a great option for a family hike, or a chance to escape ☀️ the heat of summer, with a cool breeze and brume emanating from the cascade of water.
We are lucky 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, as we have so many 💦 waterfalls and gorges to visit! Some hikes to waterfalls and gorges are fairly short, and so particularly suitable for 🌈 families with young children, and some a bit longer, and so in this article, you’ll find different options for the whole family!
And the bonus is that ALL of the following 💦 waterfalls and gorges are FREE to visit, except the historic 💦 Gorges de la Diosaz, which are worth the entrance fee as they are part of our patrimoine here, and it costs money every year to keep the wooden passerelles safe (and they are spectacular!).
[ good to know: in ⛈ adverse weather conditions, 💦 gorges may shut to the public, as the walkways become too slippery and hence dangerous. Due caution should therefore also apply to 💦 waterfall walks! This said, on ☀️ a sunny day after rainfall, gorges are incredible to visit, with powerful torrents of water! ]
🗓 calendar: the optimal time of year for visiting 💦 waterfalls and gorges would be late April to early November; over the ❄️ winter season, many waterfalls freeze and become ❄ ice-climbing zones and the paths would be dangerous and require special equipment (and the gorges hibernate and shut to the public). During ☀️ the summer months, some of the gorges are used for canyoning – a sport requiring protective gear and ropes, and a guide is needed! ]
Colour code for listings:
Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Argentière, Les Houches, Servoz and environs) & Vallorcine
Passy, Plateau d’Assy, Plaine-Joux & environs
Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy
Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Le Fayet, Saint Nicolas de Véroce & environs
Megève, Praz-sur-Arly & environs
Les Contamines-Montjoie & environs
PAYS du MONT-BLANC WATERFALLS
Cascade du Dard – 1233m (Chamonix)
This 💦 lovely waterfall is located at an altitude of 1233m, is 20m high and will reward you with views of 🏔 the Aiguilles Rouges, the ❄️ glacier des Bossons and the majestic 🏔 Mont-Blanc. You can reach it either by walking up from Chamonix in about 45mins, or you can have a shorter walk by parking on the road up to 🚇 the Mont-Blanc tunnel (2mins walk) / there is a buvette located at the waterfall, and concerts and events held over the summer months (FB page) / more information here;
🅿️ departure point & parking: 🅿️ Parking de Grépon or 🅿️ Parking des Pélerins, or the 🅿️ Parking de la Cascade du Dard, on the road leading to 🚇 Tunnel du Mont-Blanc;
Gorge du Glacier (Argentière)
Recently, while my boys were at their Art & Nature art workshop with Cat Kartal, I went to explore the 💦 Gorge du Glacier, a hiking path which is located just above 🚁 the Hélicoptères du Mont-Blanc . . . you can’t find much information about this hike online, which is why I decided to try it out (and I always love being next to water in a gorge!).
This is a great option for a short ☀️ summer hike: in the shade of 🌲 the forest moraine, with 💦 the cooling torrent streaming beside the path, a playground nearby and a buvette to stop in at!
[ ⇒ read more about the hike in MBFF article here ]
Cascade de Bérard – 1420m (Vallorcine)
This is a very short hike, perfect for small walkers or families with baby-carriers or baby backpacks. Equally, with older and more competent hikers, the hike can be extended along the Vallon de Bérard and up to the Refuge Pierre à Bérard, where you might be rewarded with some spottings of marmots or ibexes (bouquetins). The walk starts just opposite 🚞 the train station in Le Buet, next to l’Hôtel du Buet; you then hike past the 🏚 hamlet of La Poya (beginner ski area in winter). There are shady paths along the way, and once you arrive at the 💦 Cascade de Bérard, you can relax at the ☕️ Buvette Cascade de Bérard. You can do this hike in summer (when 🌺 the vibrantly pink rhododendrons are spectacular!) or there are ❄️ snow-shoe routes to follow in winter;
🅿️ departure point & parking: Le Buet SNCF / 🚞 train or bus stop: Le Buet SNCF / distance: 2km aller-retour / duration: 45mins aller-retour;
🏚 nearby: la Grotte à Farinet;
La Cascade de Barberine (Barberine)
From Vallorcine, a 4km boucle (1h30) will bring you to the hamlet of Barberine (you can also park at Barberine itself) and from there you take a footpath that takes you into 🌲 the woods and up to 💦 the waterfall. Nestled under the 💦 Emosson dam, this 💦 waterfall is best viewed when there is significant water flow / more information on the walk here;
🏚 nearby: Maison de Barberine, a local history museum (open July and August) / see here;
💦 canyoning: le Canyon de Barberine is a well-known spot for canyoning in the area; it is divided in two parts, the first section being more difficult, and the second section being more accessible / you’ll need to book with a local canyoning company to take part in this activity, which is not without risk (do not embark on this on your own!) / activity mid-May to mid-September;
❄️ ice-climbing – even if you are a good rock-climber, ice-climbing is a whole other game; the technique is not at all the same! You can book a lesson with a local guiding company;
[ good to know: it is impressive to stop on the road down to Barberine to see 💦 L’Eau Noire . . . ]
Les Gorges de la Diosaz (Servoz)
A visit to 💦 Les Gorges de la Diosaz natural site makes for a wonderful visit en famille, come 🌧 rain or ☀️ shine (we have visited during both weather scenarios here at MBFF!). You are in the shade for most of the walk, so this is a great option during a summer heatwave, as well as on a slightly drizzly day! It is quite the experience to walk along the footpath, and occasionally cross the footbridges over the torrent, admiring the white froth that accumulates at the foot of the 💦 multiple waterfalls along the way, and to admire the way that the force of the water has shaped the rock below. The walk allows you to observe the natural erosion of la Diosaz and the particular features of the gorges: the black and green schist, the grey and red oxidised rock and the yellow lichen. The 💦 roar of the water is all around and will leave you breathless at times! There are also information boards along the way explaining the history and geology of the gorges;
[ ⇒ see MBFF article for more details ]
🗓 anticipated opening dates 2022: from early June until late September (weather dependent);
Cascade de Chedde – 661m (Passy)
💦 La Cascade de Chedde is formed by the Ugine torrent, and flows from the Platé mountain. A heart of stones divides it into two parts and this natural feature gives it the local nickname 💚 Cascade de Cœur. In bygone days, this 💦 waterfall fed the nearby mills and scieries (saw mills);
SALLANCHES, COMBLOUX & CORDON
Cascade de l’Arpenaz (Luzier)
Located in Luzier, Sallanches, you have quite probably passed the 💦 Cascade de l’Arpenaz on several occasions, on a trip between the 🏔 Pays du Mont-Blanc and 🇨🇭 Geneva or 🇫🇷 Annecy on the autoroute. The 💦 Cascade de l’Arpenaz is one of the most visible and iconic of our waterfalls in the region . . . but have you ever come off the motorway and headed onto the local road past the village of Luzier to explore?
A site classé naturel, the 💦 Cascade de l’Arpenaz is 270m high and is characterised by sedimentary folds in the rock (schistes). Locals say that when the local wind called la bise (the kiss) blows the water into the rocky wall, the waterfall becomes the voile de la mariée (the bride’s veil). And that when the waterfall falls to the right, it is a sign of good weather and when it falls to the left, bad weather . . .
Locals come to this bucolic spot to sit and admire the waterfall, to have a dip or paddle, to picnic, or to enjoy the hikes and 🚵♂️ VTT pistes in the area.
[ ⇒ see MBFF article here for more details ]
🅿️ parking: FREE parking on-site (rocky ascent) or park at the Lacs des Ilettes and hike (45mins);
Cascade de Reninge – 555m (Saint-Martin)
The 💦 Cascade de Reninge is a small waterfall on the hillside of Saint-Martin. The path there is known for being very slippery, so be especially careful if you head there after recent rain.
🅿️ parking: route de Reninge (🅿️ small car park and then path to the waterfall);
Torrent de la Cœur (Sallanches)
A pretty torrent , which you can view from the pont de la Flée (part of hike to 💦 Cascade des Fours from Cordon 🅿️ Cochenet or from Sallanches 🅿️ Lintre);
Cascade des Fours (Sallanches)
It takes a bit of an effort to get to the 💦 Cascade des Fours, located in the Aravis mountain chain, but it sure is worth it, as it is so pretty! There are various hikes in the area, but the simplest is the boucle taking you from Lintre up to the 💦 Cascade des Fours and the Pierre Fendue (perfect spot to picnic), and then returning with a stop at Mayères of Tornieux refuges / a further, and much more difficult path will take you above the waterfall to the gouille des Fours (2030m);
🅿️ parking & departure point: 🅿️ Parking de Lintre; / 4 to 5 hour boucle from Lintre, past the 💦 Cascade des Fours, to Tornieux;
Cascade de Doran (Sallanches)
💦 La Cascade de Doran is another Sallanches waterfall, well known to locals, located on the le côteau de Saint-Roch and coming from the 💦 Torrent de Dière. You can get up close and personal on an annotated hike called the 🦅 Sentier des Gypaètes . . . you could also have a look at the 🧗♀️ Pierre à Voix on this hike. Make sure you stop for lunch or a snack at the Refuge de Doran and have a look at the beautiful ⛪️ Chapelle de Doran, the chapel of shepherds.
🦅 Sentier des Gypaètes – a hike through the forest brings you to a broad mountain alpage – Doran – with a view of Les Aravis, whose highest point is La Pointe Percée (2750m). It was here, on these calcaire (chalk) cliffs, that the gypaète was reintroduced with success in Haute-Savoie / 4 to 5 hour boucle;
🧗♀️ Pierre à Voix – a chalk monolith, that you can see emerging from the forest; known to local climbers;
🅿️ parking and departure point: 🅿️ Plan Chevalier 820m (or a longer hike from 🅿️ Burzier);
Les Gorges de Lévaud (Sallanches)
[ update spring 2022: currently ONLY OPEN from Cordon entrance / SHUT for now at Château des Rubins entrance, due to landslide! ]
The shortest hike to these 💦 Sallanches gorges is currently SHUT to the public for safety reasons – a whole part of the walk was washed away in a landslide! It used to be a popular annotated nature walk, one which took you to admire the Grotte Mariale (a small replication of the grotte at Lourdes, built as a promise to thank God for sparing of Sallanches from destruction during WWII) and then up to the ⛪️ Chapelle de l’Immaculée (you can see this pretty little chapel from the bridges in Sallanches). You can still get to the grotte and the start of the gorges by: 1) either by taking the path down from ⛪️ Chapelle de l’Immaculée or 2) taking a longer path down from Cordon.
Gorges de Létraz (Domancy)
[ update spring 2022: currently SHUT, due to trees on the path! ]
Well known to Domancy residents, but little known outside the commune, is the Sentier des Gorges, which is a path that leads up through the woods beside the 💦 Torrent d’Arbon. The path is shut at the moment, due to damage during the summer 2019 storms (there are tree trunks lying across the path), but when it reopens, I highly recommend this hike for hot summer days! At the start of the hike, you will find shallow water to wade in, which is great for little ones, even without embarking on the hike!
🚗 starting point & parking: 🅿️ Cimetière de Domancy (near Mairie and playground);
[ good to know: you can pick up picnic supplies across the roundabout at Grand Frais, or even closer at La Fruitière ]
Saint-Gervais & Le Fayet & Bionnassay
Les Gorges du Bonnant (Le Parc Thermal, Le Fayet)
You can walk from the 🌳 Parc Thermal up to Saint-Gervais centre by using the passerelle and metal steps attached to the rock (and I’m not talking about the new via ferrata; that is something different!) . . . you’ll get dizzying views over the 💦 Cascade de Crépin waterfall and the 💦 Gorges du Bonnant! I once did this hike in evening shoes as we decided to walk from Domancy up to Saint-Gervais for dinner (not advised! – dinner, yes, not the evening shoes!). You can equally do a shorter loop, keeping lower down and crossing the Passerelle des Thermes (668m) for views of the 💦 Cascade des Thermes waterfall; this is breathtaking!
[ ⇒ see MBFF article about the 🌳 Parc Thermal for more ideas of what to do nearby ]
Gorges de la Gruvaz – 1120m (Gruvaz, Saint-Gervais)
[ 2022 spring update : currently shut as the site is a chantier developing a new hydroelectric project ]
A short and fairly easy hike up to 1280m, a 45mins hike up 💦 the river (Torrent de Miage), for a lovely view down on the gorges (shorter descent) / this is a great family hike, with opportunities for playing in the river at the start of the hike (either take spare clothes, or leave this for your return journey) / take due care with children next to the water!
🅿️ parking & departure point: 🅿️ parking de la Gruvaz (just off the road between Saint-Gervais and Les Contamines-Montjoie);
Torrent de Bionnassay & « sur les pas des premiers guides » (Bionnassay)
This is a short – but impressive – hike, which will take you around and across the 💦 Torrent de Bionnassay, and along the thematic path « sur les pas des premiers guides » (which recounts the history of alpinism) / a longer boucle, up to l’Are, will take you across the impressive Passerelle de Bionnassay (summer season only!);
🅿️ parking & departure point: 🅿️ parking de Bionnassay / dénivelé: +/-100 (from 1320m to 1431m);
Megève & Praz-sur-Arly
Cascade de la Belle aux Bois (Megève)
Another canyoning site 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, 💦 La Cascade de la Belle aux Bois (30m high) is easily accessible from the centre of Megève – a 20mins hike. Do note, however, that you shouldn’t attempt the descent to the waterfall when it is raining, as the path is slippery, and has metal steps (not for the faint-hearted!).
good to know: there is a game that you can download onto your phone on this trail, to keep youngsters engaged: Explor Games©: « À la recherche de la déesse perdue » is an adventure game taking place in the Secteur du Calvaire and the Creux St-Jean (forest trail) / you’ll need to 📱 download the app for free on your phone, and you’ll learn about biodiversity and the history of Megève / open May until October, FREE! / more information here;
Cascade de la Combe Noire (Réserve Naturelle des Contamines-Montjoie)
The Cascade de la Combe Noire is quite breathtaking, withs its pools of water, and – whatsmore – you can get to it via a Roman road, the voie Romaine!
🅿️ parking & start of the hike: Notre Dame de la Gorge / duration of hike: 2h15 aller-retour / distance of hike: 5km;
On your way up to the pont romain, you’ll pass the pont naturel, a natural bridge carved from rock. You can walk down to the water’s edge (be very careful!):
Once you reach the pont romain (1392m), you’ll have already have some super views of the torrent from up above . . .
After crossing the bridge, you head left, towards 🏚 the chalets de la Laya. Along the way you’ll see 💦 the deep abyss of a torrent crossed by a bridge, and from here you’ll have a great view of 💦 the waterfall. For keen hikers, you can continue the walk to the 🏚 chalets de Combe Noire (1570m), across the tourbières (peat bog). This is a great hike to do when it is hot, as you’ll mostly be in the shade of the conifer trees;
FURTHER FRANCE WATERFALLS
Gorges d’Arly (Praz-sur-Arly ⇒ Flumet ⇒ Ugine)
If you have ever cut through to Albertville from Megève, then you’ll have travelled down the impressive route des Gorges d’Arly (or headed off on a detour above them!). 💦 Les Gorges d’Arly start in Praz-sur-Arly, and then the route des Gorges d’Arly (D1212), which is an impressive road (that cost a fortune to built, and has to undergo extensiver repairs every year!), heads from Flumet and winds down the gorges to Ugine. The 💦 Arly river, a tributary of the 💦 Isère river, runs down through the gorges; its source is above Megève;