This rugged trail is less traveled than ones visiting the more popular Lac Blanc area. The two lakes are arguably just as beautiful and don't appear to have the same posted restrictions on swimming as Lac Blanc.
From the top of the Planpraz gondola, head uphill and to the left along a wide dirt service road. (Alternately, you can save a few feet of vertical and take the mini-funicular uphill to the same spot.) At the busy saddle area, you'll see a restarant, paraglider launch area, and the base area for several ski lifts that only operate in the winter. Continue uphill and pass under the "Parsa" and "Stade" chairlifts, just to the right of this lift's base station. You'll follow signposts indicating the direction for Col Cornu. Soon, the trail for the Grand Balcon Sud
veers off to the right. Our route heads on a higher traverse of the ski bowl.
The trail is easy to follow, but pretty rocky so watch your footing. The grade contours gently around the hillside at first, before becoming much steeper later. Climb the mountain slope below impressive peaks and towards the dramatically notched skyline. There may be a few small snowfields to cross depending on the season. A series of lung-busting switchbacks finally bring you to the Col Cornu saddle. Here is a sun-drenched place to rest next to a large stone monument and plaque.
Head to Lac Cornu first: follow the signposts for Lac Cornu through scree and jumbled rocks. After a descent over outcrops and snowfields, you'll see the lake below. Sometimes there are snowfields on the shadier north side that reach all the way into the water. This attractive lake has spots all along the shore to picnic on a glacier-carved rock dome or nap in a little grassy hollow. Enjoy!
Retrace your steps uphill, almost as far as Col Cornu, but instead of going this far, take a sharp left turn to follow signposts to Lac Noir
. Ascend more rocky outcrops and snowfields to reach another smaller saddle (Col de la Gliere). This dramatic bowl has great views and imposing peaks all around. Head up and over one last knoll and the two Black lakes (Lac Noir
and Lac Noir
d'en Haut) are just below you. Even in June, these lakes are usually ice covered with snow and brilliant blue patches.
This is the high elevation point of the route. From here, you'll retrace your steps back to Col Cornu, then down to the Planpraz gondola. Keep an eye out for mountain goats going about their business. You'll also enjoy the in-your-face veiws of the Mt Blanc range on your return trip. Fantastic!!