Did you know that there were 🏰 castle ruins in 🏔 the Chamonix Valley?
You’ll find the ruins of the 🏰 Château de Saint-Michel, a 14th century fortress built under the orders of Béatrix de Savoie, dame de Faucigny, in Servoz.
The 🏰 castle ruins sit on a hilltop (860m), surrounded by trees, and the only remaining vestiges are the tower and parts of the wall, now covered in vegetation (especially verdant in summertime!). The 🏰 castle was built to overlook the approach to the 🏔 Chamonix Valley from the Arve Valley, and if you really pause to look, then you get a real feel for how the castle must have dominated the valley.
Château de Saint-Michel
a little history – you get a good idea of the aspect of the old castle within the Arve Valley, by looking at 19th century paintings . . .
dimensions – 30m x 13m x height of tower 17,50m;
[ ⇒ for more information about the history of 🏰 the Château de Saint-Michel, see website Culture, Histoire et Patrimoine de Passy here ]
A 🥾 family hike or 🚵♀️ VTT outing
📏 distance: 2km;
⏱ timing: 2h (longer if doing the parcours d’orientation);
↗️ dénivelé: 60m;
[ ⇒ for more information about the boucle around the 🏰 Château de Saint-Michel, see Chamonix Valley tourist office website here ]
The nicest way to start this hike is along 💦 the Arve river path (see ⭐️ the star). . . if you head down to the riverside, then you’ll see the point at which 💦Le Souay (coming down through 💦 the Gorges de la Diosaz) joins 💦 the Arve.
You then head back onto the road and you’ll pass ⛪️ the Chapelle et Oratoire Notre Dame du Lac (on your left). Take time to read about the history of this small chapel (more information about the chapel here);
After passing ⛪️ the chapel, and continuing a little further along the road, a forest path (indicated) will take you up towards the rocky promontory upon which 🏰 the castle ruins sit.
At a certain point, you’ll find yourself on 🚵♂️ a bike path, and then you’ll get to a junction that leads you upwards towards 🏰 the castle ruins.
The path up to the castle ruins is lovely, albeit rather steep – through 🌲 the woods, and with lots of wooden steps. In the summertime, you’ll find some shade.
Take time to enjoy 🌲 the mélèzes and the other delights of the forest . . .
Take time, also, to explore the 🏰 castle ruins, and the views from up on the hilltop. DO NOT let children wander behind the wooden barriers, as there is a sheer drop!
After 🏰 the castle ruins, follow another path back down off the rocky outcrop and back onto 🚵♂️ the bike trail.
You can look back up at 🏰 the castle ruins from this path.
This 🚵♂️ wider bike path will take you around the rocky promontory . . .
You’ll pass 🧗♀️ a large boulder (on your left) onto which climbers have attached colourful handholds.
You’ll then pass this interesting erratic block, which has split down the centre:
[ erractic blocks: you’ll pass some interesting erratic boulders and rock types on this hike, and to read more about the geology of the area, see this website (Géologie Mont-Blanc) ]
After 300m or so, you’ll cross 🚉 the rail tracks via a small tunnel, and you’ll see this sign towards the Saint-Bernard breeding kennels:
At this point you’ll find plenty of 🌳 forest on your left for cabane-building . . .
Parcours d’Orientation (orienteering trail)
A section of the Servoz 🗺🧭 parcours d’orientation follows this exact hiking route, and MBFF has done it a couple of times now! The first time, our hiking group was quite large, and we perhaps didn’t give ourselves the time to read the map properly! And so, I dragged my kids back last week, and we had another go!
[ ⇒ for more information about the 🗺🧭 Servoz parcours d’orientation, see website here ]
Of all the 🗺🧭 Chamonix Valley parcours d’orientation that we have tried, this section around the castle ruins we found the hardest, but it was FUN nonetheless! You’ll really need to 🗺 read the map: the contours, the water, the rocky outcrops . . . the parcours will take you off the main path – enjoy this!
Picnic spots & restaurants
You’ll find lots of 🌲 great forest spots for a picnic on this hike, or you can picnic within the castle ruins (if not too hot, as there is not much shade!). You can pick up picnic provisions from the 8 à 8 in the centre of Servoz. Bread you can find also at the Chalet des Marmottes.
For when confinement days are over, here are your 🥗 restaurant and foodhut options in Servoz:
🍕 Babpizza – located near the entrance to the Gorges de la Diosaz, this is a well-known spot for pizzas in Servoz! (under new ownership) / FB page;
🍕 Chalet des Marmottes – friendly service, with boulangerie items and pizza / FB page / address: 405 avenue de la Gare, 74310, Servoz;
🥗 La Sauvageonne – friendly service and well-loved by locals / FB page / address: 3 rue du Bouchet, 74310, Servoz;
🥗 Auberge Gorges de la Diosaz – a lovely terrace and fine dining / FB page / address: 81 route du Mont, 74310, Servoz;
🅿️ parking: you’ll need to park at 🚉 the Gare SNCF to start this hike (you cross the rails at the station).