The sun’s shone endlessly since we arrived in the Chamonix Mont-Blanc valley affording us breathtaking views of magnificent mountain vistas on a daily basis. Whilst December thunders towards Christmas at a rate of knots, Chamonix talk is météo dominated. Long discussions on when the high pressure sat astride Europe might change and when, imperatively, the next snow fall is likely to be, are prevalent. As the resort agitates, I’m seizing the opportunity to squeeze in some family hikes whilst the snow line remains high. Stunning spots, such as Cascade de Bèrard, won’t be accessible again once the snow falls until well into the Summer months. Minutes from the Swiss-French border Cascade de Bèrard is a magical spot and an old favourite of mine. It’s a family friendly, gentle 20 minute hike into the Aiguille Rouge nature reserve, that takes in the charming hamlet of La Poya with spectactular mountain scenery.
Drive from Chamonix, through Argentière on the D1506 towards Vallorcine and the Frontière Suisse. There are some serious switch backs and stunning scenery up to the Col des Montets. Continue to Le Buet, a petite village before Vallorcine and park up in the large train station car park on the right hand side. Directly opposite the car park the well signed posted trail starts.
The trail takes you over some nursery ski slopes with it's micro drag lift. With only a smattering of snow the lifts looks awkward and out of place in the still green pastures. Not for long. In summer it's common to see ibex and marmots here but now all the marmots snug in their burrows, are beginning their long winter hibernation and the ibex (or bouquetin), the wild European goats will have moved to steeper rockier slopes.
Aiguille de Loriaz dominates the skyline as we hike up to the cascade.
Within 10 minutes the path leads you to La Poya, a tiny hamlet of cute mountain houses huddled together before the tree line. Carefully negotiating the icy path we crack on into the woods.
The larch forest with huge mossy boulders, fallen trees and a soft carpet of pine needles become a natural playground for hide & seek. A magical wonderland, it's easy to imagine fairies and elves hiding away with watchful eyes. An easy 10 minute trek through the woods and before long you'll hear the gushing of water.
A 'buvette' (snack bar) stands on a large viewing platform at the top of the falls. It's only open in peak Summer months & I've heard only fabulous things about it. It's also a great stopping off point for the longer trail up to the Refuge Pierre à Bérard (5 hours round trip in Summer only). La Cascade buvette is all shut up now with no other tourists apart from us stepping over the boards of the bridge. It's magical to see giant icicles and the boulders at the baltic water's edge icy and blue. There's a sign telling us all about the Grotte du Farinet where Joseph Farinet, a counterfeiter, who gave the fake notes to locals, sought refuge from the Suisse police. Sounds like a dude, but unfortunately the cave is now off limits due to rockfall danger.
In Summer you can access a viewing platform behind the buvette but with that locked up and the other viewing platform all taped up out of bounds, we don't get a clear view of the waterfall, only water gushing over the rocks at the top. We don't mind, we're having too much fun with icicle daggers, throwing snow clumps off the bridge and watching water bubbling through the ice to care.
Can you recommend any brilliant gentle family hikes? We're often limited with hikes with our little one's CP so we're always on the look out for easily accessible, not too taxing hikes. This one's perfect.
Note: The Cascade de Bérard trail is not suitable for strollers but no problem for a baby slingers! No dogs are permitted in the nature reserve.
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far