Taking the Planpraz gondola lift from close to the centre of Chamonix takes you up to the Brevent cable car, which brings you to one of Chamonix’s most stunning areas with absolutely jaw-dropping views over Mont Blanc across the other side of the valley – and a brilliant walk down to the lake ‘Lac du Brevent’.
We had a glorious hot, sunny day in Chamonix so headed out early to make the most of it, arriving in the morning at the Planpraz car park which, if you’re walking here, you might find is a pretty intense hike in its own right up a seriously steep road to the lift station.
The first leg of the journey to Le Brevent is on the gondola lift from Planpraz. This is the side of the Chamonix valley opposite to Mont Blanc, giving fantastic views of Europe’s highest mountain , particularly on days like this which started with barely a cloud in the sky.
We’d been up here a few days earlier in thick cloud and fog and had just wandered around a bit aimlessly before returning back to the valley, oblivious of the amazing views that exist on a clear day. It was well worth coming back again when the weather had improved for what turned in to one of our favourite days out in Chamonix.
From the top of the Planpraz gondola you then take the Le Brevent cable car up again, all the way up to 2,500m and an area on the south side of the Chamonix valley criss-crossed with hiking trails through woodland and open rocky mountainside all with Mont Blanc looming in the background. Some of our favourite and most dramatic mountain holiday photos came from this area.
From the cable car you can see below you a clear mountain lake glittering in the sun (assuming it’s sunny!) which looks like an incredibly inviting destination to hike down to. It’s Lac du Brevent – quiet, isolated and actually further away to walk to than it first looks, taking us a good couple of hours (that’s with four children doing their best to slow us down).
The path down to the lake is clearly marked and signposted – but isn’t a particularly easy hike. It’s seriously rocky terrain and there are several really steep sections that involve clambering down (or up on the way back) with hands and knees. But it’s well worth the effort once you’re down to the lake.
We had to keep stopping to take as many photos as we could – there are just so many photo opportunities with the lake in the background on one side and Mont Blanc to the other.
It was a really hot day – 30-degrees plus down in the Chamonix valley but cooler up at the altitude of Brevent. Still, it was hot with the sun burning down on us and all our walking gear packed up in rucksacks on our back. Arrival down at the lake was an extremely welcome relief.
We found a flat, grassy spot on the edge of the lake to spread out, take off our shoes and relax for lunch. After 2-hours hiking in the mid-summer Alpine sun the cold glacial lake water looked too good to resist getting in to and it wasn’t long before we were in it, splashing and swimming around in the most magical location.
This wasn’t the first time we’d walked down to Lac du Brevent; we’d been here several years ago but had made the mistake of coming too late in the day that time. By the time we reached the lake at about 3.30pm we’d sat down, looking back up at the cable car station high above us and suddenly realised that the Brevent cable car shuts at 5.30pm and the walk down here had taken us two hours…
Panic set in that we’d have no chance of making it back to the cable car before it closed so we’d hurriedly packed up again and absolutely legged it back up the mountain at the highest speed we could encourage the children to travel at.
We made it that day, just in time, albeit all of us absolutely exhausted and the children pretty shaken up by the thought we might’ve ended up stranded up at Brevent with no easy way back down!
No such drama this time around though. We had plenty of time to laze around in the sun enjoying the mind-blowing scenery before packing up and taking a much more leisurely (though still tough) hike back up to the cable car.
It’s a steep and rocky climb, but the children actually seemed to enjoy this more as the climbing up boulders and near-vertical rock faces made it more fun and interesting for them, if a bit nerve-wracking for us in some places!
Back on the Brevent cable car and Planpraz gondola, arriving back down in Chamonix centre mid-afternoon in time for some ice creams and waffles in the sun as a reward for all the climbing and walking.
The Brevent cable car and walk down to Lac du Brevent is a perfect way to spend a summer Chamonix day – with some of the best views in the region and a fantastic reward in the shape of the beautiful lake at the bottom.