Chamonix Grand Balcon Nord

Chamonix Grand Balcon Nord

Accessed right from town, this is the Chamonix classic that lets you get up and close to the Aiguilles.

→ 18km

↑ 1400m

Δ 2200M 

♦ Medium


Chamonix's two Grand Balcons are the classic playgrounds for runners and hikers. The names are confusing as the Nord is actually on the south side of the valley, but as it faces north, it gets to be Nord. So be it.

There are numerous trails up and down but only one trail that traverses the terrace high on the south side of town. This route goes up what would-be a terribly rocky descent, takes in the views of the rapidly disappearing Mer de Glace at the Montenvers, tops out at the Signal Forbes with 360 degree views of the whole region, traverses the Grand Balcon Nord Trail to the Aiguille du Midi mid-station, and then drops to town on what we feel is the best of all the descents.

Running beneath the dramatic towering needles, seeing Mont Blanc's glaciers and having a selection of coffee & tort stops makes this a tour every visiting runner will never forget.

Before dropping back to town, check out the ridgeline bordering the Bossons Glacier just south of where you are and directly in front of Mont Blanc. This is La Jonction Trail and probably best answers your inquiry, "What do we do tomorrow?".

Detailed GPX Track

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GPX Track
Start: 45.923943, 6.877989
Town:  Chamonix
Department:  Haute-Savoie
Country:  France

  • Go early, this trail gets busy beyond belief and you'll want it to yourself for as long as possible. 

  • The descent is long and requires focus, if you're cooked at the Midi mid-station, consider a ride down to save the legs for another day.

  • While it is a great trail, this route really is all about what you'll see, save it for the right conditions.

Run the Alps
Guided and self-guided trips. Come run with us.


The views from Montenvers of the Mer de Glace


Hillary Gerardi at Signal with the Grand Dru behind


Nearing the end of the Grand Balcon Nord near the Aiguille du Midi mid-station


Beginning the very long drop back to Chamonix

Comments 4

  1. I did this on day 3 of my 4-day running trip for an “easy” day (easy is an elastic concept in the Chamonix Valley). I started early and hardly met anyone. Great views of Mer de Glace when you get out the forest (way better than from the train station). Nice rolling traverse under the Aguilles. Really enjoyed the long final descent, for the most part buttery smooth and knowing an ice cream was awaiting on arrival made it even sweeter.

  2. A great run! I started today at around 07:30 in a foggy Chamonix, but the fog gradually lifted the further up I got. I had a great view of the Mer de Glace and all the surrounding peaks. There was a bit of snow at the top, but that didn’t matter. I met almost no one on the way, except chamois and deer, and could enjoy nature alone. Definitely a loop you have to do in Chamonix!

  3. Personally, I prefer doing the loop in the other direction (i.e. counter clockwise). The ascent under the Aiguille du Midi is so beautiful that you want to spend more time there (i.e. going up is slower), and the last part of the descent towards les planards is kinda rubbish so I want to get rid of that asap. It is a beautiful loop though, one of my favorites in Chamonix!

  4. First of all — huge thank you to Dan and Kim, this blog is hands down the best trail running resource on the internet. I spent a week in Chamonix from October 8th – 14th and used the Chamonix guide to inform all my runs.

    Date Ran: October 8, 2023
    Conditions: 20 degrees celsius, colder in the morning before sun comes out
    Notes: Trail was in excellent shape, the refuge du Plan de l’Aiguille was still open for hydration & snacks. The ascent & descent are nice and smooth, the middle balcony section is nice and runnable. Great introductory route to Chamonix as noted.

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