Grand Balcon and Signal Forbes
ElevationAscent: 600' 183 m
Descent: -1,837' -560 m
High: 7,511' 2,289 m
Low: 6,261' 1,908 m
GradeAvg Grade: 11% (6°)
Max Grade: 66% (33°)
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“Many of Chamonix's highlights packed into one short run.”— Nick Wilder
Though you can make this much harder and longer if you want, this short run packs in an amazing number of highlights in just a couple miles.
You start just above treeline, but near the end you'll get into more vegetation and a prettier section of trail, if that's possible. When you get to the trail junction with the Signal Forbes Trail, go left for an easier and faster route to Montenvers, but this Featured Run takes the steep switchbacks up Signal Forbes for several hundred feet before leveling off and curving around to huge views of the Montets and then the Mer de Glace. There is a huge field of cairns that seems to amuse people... Follow them right to the western edge for the best views of the pointy spires in all directions. After soaking it in, continue on the north and follow switchbacks down to the train station.
Once at Montenvers, take the tiny tram down to the glacier and explore around. The well-documented glacier retreat is terribly sad. Find the sign that indicates where it was when you were born and you'll realize just how fast the glacier (and world) is changing. You can either run back to Chamonix or take the train like most folks. This trail is immensely popular, so it's a bit rough and crowded, but well worth that small price.
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