As the famous saying goes – variety is the spice of life.
Maybe you’ve just be starting to feel a difference in yourself, in your physical capabilities and your mental outlook. Or you know every trail in a 50 kilometre radius like the back of your hand. Either way, you’re keen for more.
Hitting the same trails week in week out can be rewarding.
After all, these are the country paths, hillsides and woodlands where you first discovered your love for the sport, learned to embrace the outdoors (even when conditions get nasty) and smashed your first personal best.
But let’s face it, everyone likes to mix it up now and again. Continuously running the same trails can also bring monotony and disillusionment to your pursuit.
If you’re ready to get out there and discover some of the defining destinations in the world of trail running, this one’s for you…
In the shadow of the alps sits Chamonix Valley.
Host to the first ever Winter Olympics almost a century ago, the region is steeped in heritage and sits atop the bucket list of many a trail runner.
The journey to Chamonix is an almost sacred one.
Those who make the pilgrimage, deep into the famous French, Swiss and Italian stretch of alpine mountain range, go in search for (and find) some of the most incredible trails in the world.
Epic, sprawling landscapes are the reward for those who make the journey. Diverse trails that take you through the heart of the region – from foothills to peaks – really are awesome to experience.
Those bold enough to take on the higher altitudes – also known as sky running – will break out of their comfort zone and discover otherworldly trails that make the ones they left at home seem tame.
Chamonix will challenge everything you think you know about trail running.
When and how?
Peak time to visit the trails of Chamonix is spring/summertime.
But this is a playground you’re going to want to prepare for. It’s important to start planning early to ensure you get the most out of your trip.
A runner’s high
The expansive spread of trails that maze through Chamonix offer up everything from beginners routes to the tough and the technical, trails that will drag even the most advanced runners out of their comfort zones.
Whether you’re brave enough to go it alone, or want to experience trail running’s international epicentre with friends – the time is now to start laying the groundworks for what will be (quite possibly) the best excursion you ever make.
Running camps and courses are incredibly popular in the region. They give you the chance to book a full package deal – including everything from accommodation to an expert running guide.
So kickstart your search for your ideal trail running adventure with specialist companies such as Tracks and Trails…
- Krissy Moehl: Eighteen years of hard knocks (and counting)
- 6 motivational training tips all runners should start using today
- Is your running gait letting you down?
Pick of the trails
Here’s our pick of the region’s phenomenal trail running routes to give you a real taster of what’s to come…
Argentiere – Tre le Champ
Ideal for beginners or those just looking to take it easy, this route is characterised by its forgiving footpaths and hardy slopes. Runners start out from the centre of the quaint alpine village Argentiere, before facing steep, meandering inclines, sparse forest and meadows.
With an awesome view of Mont Blanc throughout and a variety of terrains to deal with, we’d recommend this trail to those looking to get their bearings on the first day of their trip.
Distance: 8.2 kilometres
Time: 50 minutes – 1 hour, 45 minutes
Floria Mountain Cafe – Les Praz
A little more technical this time. The Floria Mountain Cafe to Les Praz is another short trail that tests runners with a main climb and a short technical descent. Navigating these slopes is no mean feat however, and complete commitment is a must.
Diverse and physically draining, the route ends in the centre of Chamonix. Trekking poles are a necessity and expect aching legs at the finish.
Distance: 7.7 kilometres
Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour, 45 minutes
Vallorcine – Berard Valley – Loriaz Refuge
If you’re looking to hone your overall understanding of the Chamonix terrain, then this trail will do it for you. The ascent is less harsh than that of Floria Mountain Cafe – Les Praz meaning you’ll have more freedom to accelerate and really put your body into motion.
You’ll then face a complex descent on soft terrain, which puts both stamina and trail management to the test – before reaching forest and alpine meadows. This is an idyllic route that’s popular with both locals and tourists.
Distance: 12 kilometres
Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes – 3 hours, 30 minutes
Servoz – Le Prarion – Mont Lachat – Les Houches
The longest trail in our top picks (by a fair distance) blends steep climbs and extreme elevation. If you’re experienced enough to take on this route – do it. From Sevoz station you’ll start easy… but make the most of it because the going gets very tough, very quickly!
Narrow mountain-side footpaths and slippery slopes, side-by-side with unbelievable panoramic views of Chamonix make this trail a special one.
The final descent is technical to say the least. Be sure to take in the 360 degree views before a daunting steep decline back into the valley once more.
Distance: 19.5 kilometres
Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes – 6 hours, 45 minutes
The trail season in Chamonix gets into full swing as early as April.
This is one of, if not the most spectacular regions on the planet. With countless routes, camps and courses to spark your interest and tailor your experience, it might just be your perfect destination!