EPIC MONT BLANC - TOUR DU MONT BLANC 2.5 OR 3 DAY ITINERARY

This Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary in just two and half days will give you a taster to complete the full tour for sure. Perfect for a long weekend, you’ll stay overnight in two high mountain huts and gaze, weather permitting, at Mont Blanc in all its glory for the entire trek.

Trekking the north flank of the Chamonix Valley, this itinerary divides stages 9, 10 and 11 of the Tour du Mont Blanc into two and a half or three days with a detour up to the infamous Lac Blanc. Hiking through the Aiguille Rouge National Park, you’ll have a good chance of seeing marmots, chamois or bouquetin.

Warning: both of these mountain huts book up fast so this itinerary would not be something you could do last minute. Refuge Col de Balme is not taking bookings until March 2024. Refuge Lac Blanc is having some issues at the moment with their bookings. They are building an online reservations system which is not expected to go live until Jan 2024. A message on their website asks you to send a WhatsApp message however these are nt currently being responded to. Note: Lac Blanc will not confirm your place until you have paid 50% deposit. Refuge Lac Blanc is hard to get into so you may need to switch this refuge out for Refuge Flégère which is just 1.5 hours on from Lac Blanc. It maybe easier to book this trek self guided as Adventure Base has existing relationships with these refuges.

If you cannot get into either of these refuges but would like to do some day hikes from Chamonix or a couple of combinations in other refuges in the area but not on the highly sought after TMB refuges then contact me. I can give advice on other refuges to book. I also offer 60 and 90 minute zoom consultations.

Epic Mont Blanc

Start point: Chamonix             End point: Chamonix             Length: 2.5 days

  • Day 1 – Arrive in Chamonix – hike up to Refuge Col de Balme (2.5-3.5 hrs)
  • Day 2 – Refuge Col de Balme – Refuge Lac Blanc (7-8 hrs)
  • Day 3 – Refuge Lac Blanc – Les Houches (7-8hrs)

Good to know: This route takes in the famous TMB metal ladders an hour and a half into the first day. You need to climb 13 metal ladders, some of which are only a few rungs, others up to 20-30 rungs, to navigate over some of the vertical rock crag up to Tête au Vents. It’s easy enough for those without a vertigo disposition, and we’ve done it many times with the kids, but for those who don’t like heights you might want to consider taking the alternative variant route, which starts slightly further up the Col de Montets and adds further 1km more to the day. Check out our post on the TMB ladders here which talks about them in more detail with lots of photos, so you can decide for yourself whether you want to tackle or steer clear of them.

Start point: Le Tour car park, Chamonix

This itinerary is planned so you can actually arrive in Chamonix the same day as starting this trek. If you are driving you can drive up the valley to Le Tour and park in the large free parking area at the ski gondola. If you are on foot, take the No 2 bus to Le Tour. Note: the train does not run as far as Le Tour, only to Montroc which is around a 15-20 minute walk up the road to Le Tour car park.

Refuge Col de Balme
Perched on the French – Suisse border the iconic red shuttered Refuge Col de Balme will be your first nights stay

Day 1 Chamonix – Refuge Col de Balme

716m up / 0m down / 4.5km / 2- 3hrs

Route overview:

The first day has been planned so you can arrive in Chamonix the same day and be up snoozing in a high mountain hut on your very first night! This itinerary is perfect for a long weekend arriving Friday lunchtime (or even mid afternoon) as the hike time for today is only 2.5 – 3.5 hours. During peak summer months there is also a cable car from the village of Le Tour at the end of the Chamonix Valley and then a chair lift that can take you just ten or fifteen minutes walk from Refuge Col de Balme. This is perfect if you are arriving late afternoon. Note: In 2024 you will now need to pay to park at the car park at Le Tour

Refuge Col de Balme, famous for it’s bright red shutters, is perched on the French – Swiss border at an altitude of 2191m. It’s actually on the Swiss side. This refuge is one of the oldest on the TMB trail and Henri, the owner, is a wonderfully welcoming character. Hiking up from 1470m it’s all uphill with 721m of elevation to climb. Don’t leave setting off too late – dinner is at 18h plus take extra time to soak in the view – from the refuge you’ll have a birds eye view of the entire Chamonix Valley framed by the picture postcard Mont Blanc Massif.

mont blanc tmb
Meeting the locals on the descent from Refuge Col de Balme. Miniature Chamonix town nestles on the floor of the valley

Day 2 Refuge Col de Balme – Lac Blanc refuge

1174m up / 1022m down / 12.3km / 4-5hrs

Route overview:

From Refuge Col de Balme you’ll descend down to the saddle of Col des Posettes before ascending the rock spine ridge to L’Aiguillette des Posettes (2201m). L’Aiguillette des Posettes forms the beginning of the impressive northern flank of the Chamonix Valley. In good weather the 360 degree panorama here will take your breath away – the icy dome of Mont Blanc, the iconic spire of the Drus, the Aiguilles Verte as well as Glacier du Tour Lac Blanc and the Lac d’Emosson dam over your shoulder in Switzerland. Bear in mind this high route along the Posette ridge should never be taken in bad weather – the ridge is known for lightning strikes.

The well marked trail has a knee jarring descent from the L’Aiguillette des Posettes eventually meandering through the forest to pop out on the main road winding up to the busy Col des Montets road. From here you’ll begin the 3 hours climb up to Lac Blanc. The route climbs steadily for between 1.5-2 hrs until you reach the infamous TMB ladders – a series of 13 ladders and metal ware built into the rock. It’s the most exciting physical aspect of the entire Tour du Mont Blanc – teenagers will love it! See notes at the top of this page for how to avoid these ladders if you suffer from vertigo. A further hour up brings you to Tête aux Vents, a large cairn (2132m) which borders the national park. From there the trail ascends for a further 1hr 30 mins to reach stunning Lac Blanc (2,352m). The Lac Blanc refuge has legendary status on the Tour du Mont Blanc – this spot is simply unbeatable. When the mountains reflect in the still water you will genuinely feel humbled by your surroundings.

Lac Blanc Chamonix
Seeing the mountains reflected in glorious Lac Blanc (2,352m) will be a highlight of your trek. When the hordes of day trippers disappear late afternoon, have it all to yourself by staying overnight at Lac Blanc refuge

Day 3 – Refuge Lac Blanc – Les Houches

839m up / 2183m down / 19.8km / 5-6hrs

Route overview:

Today is a long day but there are exit options at 1h 15 (La Flégère) or 3hr (Plan Praz) via gondola. Our itinerary includes taking the Le Brévent cable car from Plan Praz which makes this days hike time around 7-8hrs. Without the Le Brévent cable car the entire trail would take almost 10 hours. If you want to add an extra day to make this day shorter, it’s possible to stay in the small Bellachat refuge half way down from Le Brévent to Les Houches. Note: Bellachat refuge does not have a shower.

After an incredible sunrise and breakfast at Lac Blanc you’ll descend to pick up the trail along the Grand Balcon Sud on an easy undulating traverse to La Flégère and over to the Plan Praz plateau at Le Brévent. Drink in the extraordinarily spectacular views ahead of you of the Mont Blanc massif with it’s gloriously jagged peaks, famous snowcapped dome and glacial tongues of ice.

From Plan Praz you have an option to exit the trek here by descending direct to Chamonix town via the gondola. At this point you will have been hiking for approximately 3-4 hours from leaving Lac Blanc.

Our itinerary fast tracks to the top of Le Brévent via cable car which effectively lops two hours off the trail time as it cuts out the Col du Brévent. From the top of Brévent, historically argued to be the best view of Mont Blanc, the terrain changes to a dry rocky landscape as you start the descent down to Refuge Bellachat, a tiny refuge nestled into the rock with a large terrace boasting front row seats over to Mont Blanc. It’s a good place to get a refreshing drink and gaze in awe at the highest mountain in Western Europe.

tour de mont blanc route
Day 3 – the decent from Brévent to Refuge Bellachat gives impressive views of Mont Blanc & her dripping glaciers

The 3-3.5 hour descent from the refuge to Les Houches is beautiful with red and pink wild azaleas flanking the trail to the valley floor however warning – this descent is hard on the knees! Keep your eyes peeled for chamois on the descent. It’s common to see these alpine goat antelopes feeding close to the trail.

Reaching Les Houches, the official finish point of the Tour du Mont Blanc, it’s a 10 minutes bus ride to Chamonix or stay in Les Houches.

Read my Chamonix and Les Houches accommodation guide here.

tour de Mont Blanc Hike
Day 3 – walking along the Grand Balcon Sud towards Brévent

This short Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary will, I’ve no doubt, give you the hunger to complete more of this extraordinary multi day hut to hut trek through the Alps.