Tour du Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is one of the most popular long distance hikes in Europe. After finishing Camino de Santiago in 2012, I began a search to find a similar journey to match the scope and scale of my summer on the Camino Frances. In 2013, I found an incredible journey in Peru on the Salkantay and Ausangate treks. For 2014, my travels took me to Chamonix to begin Tour du Mont Blanc. The incredible thing about TMB is that you hike through France, Italy, and Switzerland as you make your way around the Mont Blanc Massif. The entire journey covers about 170km (106m), and I decided to walk the more popular anti-clockwise route.


Tour du Mont BlancDay 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines

Les Houches is a quaint little village to the east of Chamonix and the perfect starting point to begin our anti-clockwise tour of Mont Blanc. We stayed at Gite Michel Fagot for the night, which offers a a nice set of dorm rooms…

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Tour du Mont BlancDay 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux

The first point of interest is the pilgrimage chapel of Notre Dame de la Gorge. I’ve taken a great interest in chapels, churches, and cathedrals ever since I walked Camino de Santiago two years ago. My later reading of…

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Tour du Mont BlancDay 3: Les Chapieux to Courmayeur

There is a war memorial just outside of Les Chapieux, and the thought of soldiers holed up in this narrow valley gave the morning an entirely different feel. Once we put a few miles behind us, the face of Aiguille des Glaciers…

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Tour du Mont BlancDay 4: Courmayeur to Chalet Val Ferret

Just above Bertone, the path swept back into a valley and meandered downhill a bit before straightening out. From this point on the climbing was at a minimum, but it wasn’t long before the skies opened up. The mud…

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Tour du Mont BlancDay 5: Chalet Val Ferret to La Fouly

Today’s hike would take us over Grand Col Ferret, from Italy into Switzerland. Walking in rain is bad, walking in mud is even worse, but for some reason I’ve never minded the snow and ice. This turned out to be a good thing…

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Tour du Mont BlancDay 6: La Fouly to Champex Lac

The trail continued to grow muddier, the skies stayed dark, and the air remained cold. For as much as people talk about the incredible views on this walk, there have been none to be taken in since crossing Col de Seigne. Our original…

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Tour du Mont BlancDay 7: Champex to Trient

Getting to the Bovine trail is fairly straight-forward. For a few miles we walked on or along the asphalt roads on our way out of town, until we reached the steep dirt paths marked by the TMB signs. Up to this point, we had walked…

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Tour du Mont BlancDay 8: Day 8: Trient to Argentiere

The uphill was a swirling mist of misery, but paled in comparison to the downhill portion. From Col de Balme, we decided to take the safer alternative route to Le Tour instead of the higher altitude route to Aig des Posettes. The trail was a…

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The part of TMB that reminds me most of my experience on the Camino is the little towns and evening accommodations. At the end of each day, you get to settle in to a beautiful alpine town, with incredible markets, food, and people. We also met a lot of really great fellow hikers this way.

To start, we flew in to Geneva and took an Alpybus shuttle to Chamonix and Les Houches. The shuttle cost 20 euro a person, and was in a relatively new and comfortable van. As a word of caution, make sure you don’t fly in too late without a reservation! Julia and I arrived at the Geneva airport at 21:00 with a reservation in Chamonix. We had a reservation with Alpybus for that night, but our flight was delayed from London by about an hour. Because of this, we missed our shuttle and were not able to get to Chamonix for our hotel. It was expensive, but we found a hotel in Geneva and returned to the airport the following morning for our transfer.

Starting in Les Houches worked out very well for us, and Gite Michel Fagot got us right in the mood for hiking. There were many great spirited fellow hikers in rooms nearby, and the Belgian woman who runs the gite was very accommodating. In the table below you will find a day by day account of my time on Tour du Mont Blanc, with accommodations, distance, photographs, and an overview of the trail.


Day and Towns

Kilometers (Elevation Gained)

Accommodation

 Day 0: LAX to Geneva to Les Houches Gîte Michel Fagot
 Day 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines  16km (646m) The Gai Soleil Chalet Hotel
 Day 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux 18km (1316m)  Les Chambres du Soleil
 Day 3: Les Chapieux to Courmayeur  35km (1460m)  Hotel Edelweiss
 Day 4: Courmayeur to Chalet Val Ferret  17km (960m)  Chalet Val Ferret
 Day 5: Chalet Val Ferret to La Fouly  15km  (790m)  Hotel Edelweiss
 Day 6: La Fouly to Champex Lac  15km (420m)  Le Cabanon Hotel Splendide
 Day 7: Champex to Trient  17km (742m)  Auberge Mont-Blanc Trient
 Day 8: Trient to Argentiere  13km (1069m)  Hotel de La Couronne

Early Morning Views on TMB
Early Morning Views on TMB

Looking back, my time on the TMB was incredible. Having said that, there were times during this walk were I wasn’t so sure I’d feel this way. Unlike my trips before, and unlike my home of California, we got slammed with rain! From Day 3 to the end of the trip, it rained everyday. I can count a total of 5 moments of sunshine in those days, and it really got to me. I now understand what it’s like to live in the Pacific North West. In the end, it was a beautiful and new experience. I am now much more comfortable trudging through miles of ankle deep mud and cow dung, stowing all my electronics deep in my bag to waterproof them, and just enjoying being outside. It wasn’t ideal, but sometimes you have to find beauty in the situation anyway.


The day we got snowed on
The summer day we got snowed on

If you’re on the fence about taking this trip, give it a go. Even with bad weather, the beautiful towns, warm people, scenic cows, breathtaking views, and much more will make it well worth it.


Extras:

  1. Top four places to stay” blog post

27 comments on “Tour du Mont Blanc

  1. Definitely looking to hike this gem of Europe!

  2. Pingback: TMB Day 7: Champex to Trient | Trail to Peak

  3. Anonymous

    I was in Mont Blanc / Chamonix a few years ago, and always wanted to go back for the full tour. This is super helpful!

  4. First things first, your blog is amazing!!! I’ve searched a lot of blog and websites to get some information on doing Tour de mont blanc but so far your blog posts have been the most beneficial (actual pictures of every section / every day helps me to visualize how it is going to be when I am there, as well as the other details you’ve mention including your accomodation, food etc.).

    Just have a few questions for you and I would really appreciate it if you can answer it.

    1. Did you book all your accommodations prior to your trip? I noticed the stage where you decided to settle in Chalet Val Ferret instead of your original plan which is on La Fouly so I assumed you just book it the day you arrived?. My concern is that I am considering in getting a Self guided tour which will mostly likely will handle all the bookings for me, but personally didn’t want that since it’s way way more expensive than doing it yourself and I am on a tight budget and If I’m not mistaken the cheapest I found is around 250-300 euros!!! others reached up to 700, so based in your experienced would getting a Self Guided package of Tour du mont blanc really that helpful?, I am really trying to get rid of that if I can.

    2. Do you still remember how much the average cost of your accommodations? Some of the sites tell that it would be around 40-50 euros per night, but that includes dinner and breakfast as well, I’m thinking of doing the same thing you did, buying in the market and cook it my self, it would probably cut down a couple of bucks on my expense as well.

    3. Directions / Fear of getting lost – I noticed there are lot of routes in TMB, I mean for example point A to point B will give you 3 different options, but just to clarify all of the forks / alternate routes really had complete markings right? I mean you didn’t encounter any section that is confusing? and the only way it gets confusing is when the weather turns up really bad (rain, fog would probably cause you to missed some markings) but in general, let’s say the weather is perfect, getting in the correct direction is fairly easy?

    4. I would be travelling solo as none of my hiking buddies would be able to join me here, I hike regularly here in the Philippines so I think I can fairly handle the fatigue / stamina for the trek, what bothers me is probably your experience with bad weather (though I have experienced similar doze of bad weather in our country ( heavy rains and thunderstorm) I haven’t experienced to climb in snow! since this would be my first hike outside of our country, I think that’s where I need to prepare more, but I am assuming this is just a rare case right or is does it happen regularly in TMB even in summer? Any generic advice / tips you can give me for hiking the TMB?

    5. Lastly, by any chance did you use any GPS watch /device or anything similar to that? I’m curious if you have a gpx log of your entire trip with you so I could use it as reference as well.

    Thank you so much in advance. 🙂

    • Thank you, Rainbowchaser! I know when I’m looking for info on a trek it helps to see as much photography and video as possible. Like you, I like to visualize it before going.

      1.) We considered a self guided tour but opted against it for the same reason that you’re considering. It’s just not a good use of money. The other issue is flexibility. Weather in the Mount Blanc region is not always dependable. It’s nice to be able to change plans according to the weather. The only hut we booked ahead of time was Michel Fagot on our first night. After that, we just walked to each town and asked around. Some have tourist information centers with lists of hotels and will even check which ones have vacancy. We did a quick check a week before we left and saw that this wouldn’t be a problem. We left in early July before most hikers hit the trail. If you’re hiking in August you may need to book more accommodations ahead of time.

      2.) The cost of accommodation varies from place to place. Some charge per room, and other charge per person with a minimum of two. It worked out to be the same for us, but something you should consider if you’re hiking solo. The food is always an option and not required. We only purchased the included in dinner in Les Chapieux and Val Ferret as there was no market there. Everywhere else we purchased food at the market, which saved at least 10 euro a person each day. The cost for each accommodation was anywhere from 20 to 50 euro a person each night.

      3.) It would be very difficult to get lost on the TMB. The trail marking system is better than any trail I’ve been on. Each junction has a large signpost with a bright green TMB sticker on it. The trail is not technical in most places, and the path is almost always clearly visible. The only difficult moment for us was during a snow storm, but we were still able to make it pretty easily.

      4.) Weather is the alps is not predictable. We have the Sierra Nevada mountains here in California. The are similar in that you can get any weather at any time of year. Even in the dead of summer, you can get snow and ice without much warming. When in mountains like Mont Blanc, you always have to be prepared for everything and leave nothing to chance. The is a high likelihood that the weather will be great in summer, but you should always prepare for the worst just in case, and be cautious. If you have your all weather gear you’ll be fine. We brought our microspikes just in case and were very glad to have them when we got hit with snow and ice. Again, just make sure to come prepared for everything.

      5.) I did use a GPS watch and logged all of the trail days. It was on my old watch (a Garmin, I use a Suunto now). Let me see if I can log into my old Garmin account and download those for you.

    • You can click “View Larger Map” on the map up above, then click the three dots in the title menu to “Download KML”.

  5. Hello Drew!

    It’s me again, still researching / planning my possible trip to Mont Blanc (if my boss approve my vacation 🙂 The tentative date of my Hike is around July 8 – 15, so possibility of snow still bothers me but here’s my plan let me know if these doesn’t make any sense to you :))

    1. On my arrival at Chamonix, first thing I’m gonna check is the tourism office there and make sure the weather is fine and if not (if there are some routes which are blocked by snow) then asked for alternate routes,

    2.buy Gaiters and Crampons in Chamonix, I know these things are cheaper than Ice axe which is way more pricey (I’m referencing from Amazon here) By any chance, do you know if there’s any shop in Chamonix that rent his Ice axe and other gear perhaps?

    3. Prior to my trip, I’m gonna book where I would stay in Chamonix for the later stages will just look for it once I arrive in my target place per night (I’m assuming these dates would have the most number of tourist as they usually pile up starting last 3rd week of July right to August, right?

    4. Below are my target camp site / overnight stay, ideally would be 6 day trek if everything goes well, I based it on this site http://www.tracks-and-trails.com/index.php/eng/Trail-Running/Scheduled-Departures/Mont-Blanc-Ultra-Trail
    Maybe you can give your feedback or suggestion as well.

    Day 0 – Arrival in Chamonix, last minute preparation
    Day 1- Chamonix to Les Contamines
    Day 2 – Les Contamines to Les Chapieux (this day 2 is fairly short at 18km, do you have other suggestion where here for better camp / refuge to stay instead of Les Chapieux?)
    Day 3 – Les Chapieux to Courmayeur
    Day 4- Courmayeur to Le Fouly
    Day 5 – La Fouly to Trient
    Day 6 – Trient to Chamonix
    Day 7 – buffer, just in case something goes wrong, if all goes well, then Travel back to Amsterdam.

    At 34km distance, 2200m ascent, 1800 descent, I think my Day 4 (Courmayeur to Le Fouly) would be the hardest part of my target itinerary, any suggestion for back up plan for my Day 4 – 6 to break it down in 4 days instead? Just in case of bad weather or in case I realize that I can’t keep with the targeted pace for it. haha.

    5. Last resort – if by any chance I encounter any bad weather (bad enough that I have to trek for long trails of snow). I’m planning
    to take on Bus to wherever the stage I am in, and go back to Chamonix. I’d like to ask if my assumption is correct, every stages has a bus available to go back in Chamonix right?

    Again, thank you so much for answering my queries, I just really don’t want to missed any details before the trip. Thank you for helping!

  6. Hi,

    A friend’s friend just finished this trekking one week ago from this tour company, see details here:

    https://www.gadventures.com/trips/trekking-mont-blanc/674/itinerary/

    It is a 10 days trip, with 8 days on the road and 7 days trekking.

    She highly recommended this trekking trip with this tour company to me. I didn’t get elevation gain and loss data from the above tour company web site. I searched the web site and found your blog. They are so great! Thank you “Trail to Peak”.

    I have these questions, I hope you can help me.

    1. I live in Pacific Northwest area which has lots great places for hiking. Two friends and I plan to go together for this trip. We are in our 50’s (early to mid), though active medium level hiker. I did elevation gain of about 3500 feet and loss of the same on one day on tough terrain, most hiking we did are in 2000+ feet elevation over 10 to 15 miles within a day. We also hiked in Switzerland before (day trips only). I am not sure if we will be able to do this trekking physically. Can you share me the elevation gain and loss each day or on the tough days? Did you know people like our hiking level being able to finish this trekking?

    2. Even if I can afford to go with tour, I worry about the pressure of going with tour, likely the tour will consist of young people. What if the group walk fast and I can’t walk that fast. What are the advantages and disadvantages of going with tour group?

    3. We plan to go in early Sept, will the weather be bad during that time? Will there be snowfield to cross? My friend’s friend went in mid to late June and there were snowfields to cross and those were hard! I hope the snow fields will be melt by early Sept. Do you have any info about that?

    3. If we go in early Sept and do not go with the tour, will we be able to book the lodging? Do we need to book ahead? I am okay to go with tour, but worry about the pressure of going with a young people’s group.

    4. For the lodging, do you have that kind of big room with male and female sharing the same big room and the bathroom is outside?

    I really like the sceneries and want to try this trekking, but still have these many worries and doubts, not sure if I am able to do it.

    Sorry I ask some many questions. Thank you in advance for your help!

    Elaine

    • Hello Elaine. I think your training sounds adequate for the TMB. It’s hard to list the elevation gain/loss for sections as it can differ based on the individual. 1.) Some of the climbs were pretty tough. The uphills out of Courmayeur and Les Chapieux come to mind. 2.) I never go with tours as I don’t like being on someone else’s schedule and I don’t like hiking or traveling with people I don’t know. I like to choose my own path, but realize that’s not for everyone. Some like the predictability of a guided tour. Tour s also cost a lot of money. On the other side, accomodations can be tough to book ahead of time in some of the smaller villages and you’ll have to fend for yourself in regards to food. I didn’t mind that. 3.) You should be able to book lodging in September. Early August is the most crowded time. You will need to book ahead at some places, but others you can show up on the day of and get a room. Make sure to have a phone that works. You can’t predict the weather or conditions on the TMB. They can change very quickly. We had a lot of rain, snow, and ice when we walked and it was mid July. You must be prepared for everything. 4) It depends on where you stay. We stayed in a few private rooms with private baths, and other rooms with a shared bath on the floor. It all depends on where you stay.

  7. great post, was super helpful in my TMB planning!

  8. 👌🏾…. You should try hiking to Lacs de Fenêtre! You’d love the 3 mountain lakes at 2500m. Keep adventuring & posting!

  9. Great blog! I went two years ago with 10 friends and we loved it so much I’m going back the first week of July with my boyfriend! Our trip two years ago was almost all sun so we are preparing for the possibility of rain/snow this time around since we are going earlier in the season. We’re in the Sierra’s a lot (we live in Orange County, California)….can’t wait to go back!! I miss those cow bells!!

    • And I loved that French B&B in Les Chapieux so much, we’ve rearranged our entire trip to stay there again for one night!! #bestTMBmeal

    • Thanks, Deanna! I’m sure it was a lot of fun in a group of 10! I’m hoping to go back again in the future with hopes for more sun!

  10. Anonymous

    Drew,
    Is there anyway you could break down the actual km or miles traveled on each day? Thanks!

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