If you’ve only got one day in Chamonix and you ask a local where to go, it’s more likely than not that she’ll tell you to get yourself up to Lac Blanc.
It’s stunning in every direction: the icy, clear waters of the alpine lake, the seats on the patio of the nearby refuge, the dirt paths winding down the valley slopes left, right, up, and down, and of course, Mont Blanc just across the way, towering and glittering at nearly 16,000 feet.
Lac Blanc, which rests at an elevation of 2,352 meters, or 7,717 feet, is tucked among towering rock faces. You can walk most of its perimeter, and stop by the refuge for a drink or bite to eat. Everything must be delivered there by helicopter, so things, reasonably, cost more than they might a few thousand feet lower. If you book far enough in advance, you can reserve a bunk and half-board and spend the night in the hut, and gaze out onto the moonlit lake deep into the night, or in the morning as the sun rises.
There’s often snow year-round up at the lake, but in the warmer months, the trails are completely accessible. This is a popular destination, so on certain days things might get crowded. But for many, the lake itself isn’t the real highlight. There are infinite highlights on the route up to the lake, from enormous boulders to smaller ponds, intimidating stone walls, and jaw-dropping panoramas. Chances are you’ll find your own favorite spot along the way—maybe it’ll draw you in so long that you never actually make it to Lac Blanc itself. If so, you know it’s been a near-perfect day.