Chamonix Balcons Tour
The scenic route
This is the standard issue ride in Chamonix. It's a technical, mostly singletrack loop you can start from the centre of Chamonix. Parts of the route are out of bounds in July and August due to the local bylaws but it's actually better in late September or October when Autumn is in full flow. As with all Chamonix rides, it takes in some spectacular scenery as well as providing challenging climbs and descents.
There are many variations on this route but this is my favourite for a about a 3 hour ride. An ideal lunch spot is on the pastures above Lavancher.
From the centre of Chamonix you are looking for signs to Chalet Flora. On road it's up Rue Joesph Vallot until you reach the observatory and then up the short off road climb to Les Nants before heading steeply up Chemin de la Floriaz doubletrack.
The first part is a lung and leg buster. The trail takes you up to the Petit Balcon Sud. It get's a bit easier as you go and as you hit the Petit Balcon Sud it levels out briefly. Watch for the Sud turn off on your right. It's not the first steep descent to La Praz but the second less steep one. It's a rocky, singletrack crossing over moraines before opening out above the golf course and then a fast descent to the valley floor at Les Tines.
At Les Tines cross over the valley to the other side at Les Bois where you start the climb up to Petit Balcon Nord. There are a couple of routes up through Les Bois but I recommend clmbing the road from Les Tines and through a green gate, often open and then watch for a rocky singletrack left after a 5 mins. This short tough trail drops you onto Petit Balcon Nord. You can now follow the red VTT signs up to and through Lavancher onto the pastures. It heads up the valley on some pretty wild singletrack with steep drop offs to your left before a short descent. Immediately after the descent watch for a left and rocky singletrack through a electric fence to Les Chosalets.
Through Les Chosalets pausing for water at the trough if required, cross back over the valley, across the road bridge, ignoring the signs telling you to go left, into a group of houses looking for the steep steeps and trail by a green garage door. You and have to shoulder your bike up the steps and then under the railway tracks. A tough climb takes you back to Petit Balcon Sud but this time head back towards Chamonix. This goes up and down before descending flat out all the way to Les Tines where you can follow the blue and red VTT signs. At Les Praz follow the river back to Chamonix centre and a well deserved cake from Richards patisserie.
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