Mountain Biking Guide - Les Houches - Front Side

Accessed by either the Bellevue cable car or the Prarion gondola, this is an enjoyable area to ride with plenty for beginner, intermediate or advanced-level riders. Take your bike up the steps into the Bellevue cablecar, and leave your bike next to the Prarion gondola for loading and unloading by the lifties. The front side of Les Houches has several pleasant singletrack and 4x4 options, the easiest descent being by sticking to the winding, gravelly 4x4 tracks. The mountain offers spectacular views over the Chamonix valley and is all below treeline, with the tracks winding through pine forests and over small streams. The bottom section is on the road, and leads back to the Prarion, and a little further down, the Bellevue.

Take the SNCF train to Viaduct St Marie, then ride up the singletrack and 4x4 to the main road. Turn right to the Prarion (two minutes uphill) or left to the Bellevue (two minutes downhill). Alternately, ride down the road from Chamonix, following signs for Les Bossons and then Les Houches.

1. GR Four
Bellvue top station
Bellevue bottom station
One of the fastest and most technical downhill routes in the valley is noted for its' very tight and concentrated switchbacks that are unrideable for all but the most accomplished biker. A full-suspension bike with plenty of travel is critical in this route due to the inconsistent surfaces encountered on most sections of the trail.
TIME 1hr
From the Bellevue top station, go up the slight rise on your right, under some draglift cables. Ride down right underneath the cables and veer left onto the singletrack to the right of the pine tree. Mind the ruts and walkers and enjoy the flowing and fluid pasture with views over the Prarion to the left and Mont Blanc behind you and to the right.

Follow the singletrack to the draglift bottom station and follow the sign for 'Les Houches par Les Aillouds' into the woods. Prepare yourself for the steepest switchbacks in the valley...and don't be afraid to walk your bike when you need to. Once you arrive at the blue sign, the worst part is over; congratulations! Follow the sign left in the direction of 'Les Houches par Les Aillouds' again.

Now, enjoy your reward – fast, flowing, rocky downhill singletrack. After a few minutes of riding, arrive at a fork, turning right to Bellevarde. Go under the Bellevue cable car, over the stream and arrive at a gravelly 4x4 track. Turn left and follow this down to the main road in Les Houches; finally, turn left at the T-junction back to the Bellevue lift.

Hot & Cold
Prarion gondola top station
St Gervais
Hot and Cold is an absolute gem of a route for beginner bikers looking for a good adventure to get stuck into. Great views and beautiful trackside scenery means that this is very popular amongst walkers as well as bikers, so take your time and be courteous. Beware of the inconsistent 4x4 surface at the start of the route, but enjoy the silence of gliding over the millpond-smooth hardpack in places. Enjoy!

40 minutes

Take the Prarion gondola from Les Houches. Enjoy the nine-minute ride with views over Plein Joux to the right and the Mont Blanc Massif to the left. Upon reaching the top, imagine you are stood in the centre of a clockface with the Prarion cableway stretching directly out behind you at 6-o'clock. Look to your 10-o'clock and you wil see a building with HOTEL RESTAURANT PRARION written on the side in large letters. Take the track up to the restaurant, going to the left of the map, and pass the restaurant on your left. There's a great terrace here, which although busy in July and August offers great views over the surrounding scenery.

Once next to the restaurant, keep going down the small incline to a set of signs. Take the 4x4 gravel track to the right, direction Le Plancert and St Gervais. Ride down the 4x4 track for five minutes but beware of the inconsistent surface and wooden drainage culverts.

Pass between two drag lifts, and then a sign for '21 Les Melèzes' on the right. Traverse across the piste, past a few buildings on your right and keep following the main drag of the 4x4 track. Come to a crossroads marked 'Le Plancert 1430m' (*see following paragraph for an alternative, similar-ability route down). Turn right here, following the sign for Les Toilles and St Gervais. Stay on the 4x4 past the picnic area on your left and arrive at the hamlet of Les Toilles. Turn left onto the road following the yellow and white bike sign, then down the tarmac road Tour de France style to St Gervais.

* A pleasant alternative would be to turn left at the Le Plancert 1430m crossroads, following signs for Le Mellery / St Gervais. This is the Chemin du Plancert. Pass a clay tennis court on the right and follow the flattish, gravelly 4x4 track through the woods.

There are a couple of turnoffs to the right as you descend the gravel track. Ignore the first and follow the cycle signs to the left. Pass a burnt-out house, number 310, and stay on the main drag. Cross the Tramway du Mont Blanc line, and hairpin right. After a few minutes there is a wooden 'Haut Mellery 1030m' sign on the left. Any daredevils in your group may wish to tak e the singletrack to the right here, which is rather technical due to a deep and committed ravine in the track , and meet you in St Gervais - otherwise, follow the 4x4 track down to where it meets the road, then down to the D902. Turn right at the T-junction, first exit at the roundabout, follow the one-way system to the right and the town square is down on your left.

Return from St Gervais is via the SNCF train to Chamonix or, in season, the Tramway du Mont Blanc cograil train (lift pass required) back to the Bellevue.