Are you aware that there are 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 – history & facts
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 . . .
[ ⇒ for more information about the history of the Château de Saint-Michel, see website Culture, Histoire et Patrimoine de Passy here ]
dimensions – 30m x 13m x height of tower 17,50m;
A family hike or VTT outing
timing: 2h (longer if doing the parcours d’orientation);
[ ⇒ 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 on the map). . . 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 the Chapelle et Oratoire Notre Dame du Lac 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 boulder, 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, head to 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 a few weeks later, 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.
And here are some 🥗 restaurant options in Servoz:
🥗 O’ Garde Manger – address: 405 avenue de la Gare, 74310, Servoz;
🥗 La Sauvageonne – friendly service and well-loved by locals (there is now a boulangerie run by the same team just around the corner !) / 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).