CLASSIC TMB - 11 DAYS

This classic Tour du Mont Blanc 11 day itinerary follows the traditional route of the TMB. Trek every step of this glorious 170km trail through France, Italy and Switzerland basking in the magnificent scenery of this once in a life time long distance trek.

Our Tour du Mont Blanc 11 day itinerary eases you into the trail with a nice easy first day on the spectacular variant stage 1 and then takes the remaining stages day by day.

Choose from carrying everything on your back or booking a luggage transfer so that for the most part where possible, you carry just a day sack.

This itinerary is perfect for trekkers who want to complete the entire circuit however with an accumulated elevation higher than Everest do not underestimate the 11 day itinerary – it’s still tough trekking this 170km trail! For those who have time and want to enjoy the trail drinking in the views and to have a day off consider a 12-14 day itinerary.

Classic TMB – 11 days


Start point: Les Houches, France           
End point: Les Houches, France          
Length: 11 days

  • Day 1 – Les Houches – Refuge Miage / Auberge du Truc (7.2km – 4-5hr via cable car or 13.2km 6-7hrs)
  • Day 2 Refuge Miage – Refuge Croix du Bonhomme / Les Chapieux (18km – 7-8.5hrs)
  • Day 3 Refuge Croix du Bonhomme / Les Chapieux Val Veny (19.5km – 7-9hrs or 14.9km 6-7hrs)
  • Day 4 Val VenyCourmayeur (15.4km – 5.5 – 7.5hrs)
  • Day 5 Courmayeur – Val Ferret (17km 7-8hrs)
  • Day 6 – Val Ferret La Fouly (14.3km 5.5 – 7hrs)
  • Day 7 – La FoulyChampex-Lac (15.7km 4.5-6hrs)
  • Day 8 – Champex-Lac – La Peuty/Trient (15.7km 6-7.5hrs)
  • Day 9 – La Peuty/Trient – Tré-le-Champ (13.1km 6-7.5km)
  • Day 10 – Tré-le-Champ – Refuge de la Flégère (8.4km 4.5 – 6hrs)
  • Day 11 – Refuge de la Flégère – Les Houches (17.1km 6.5 – 8.5hrs)
Approaching the Col du Bonhomme – Day 2

Day 1 Les Houches – Refuge Miage or Auberge du Truc

1445m up / 740m down / 14.7km / 5-6hrs

Route overview:

Today is an easy first day to ease into the trek. Ascend on foot up to the Col du Voza and then follow path along parallel to the train tracks to the Bellevue train station where the variant Col du Tricot trail leads down to the right.

Bellevue cable car saves the day!

Did you know that you can bypass the first 7km of the TMB by taking the Bellevue cable car from Les Houches. It’s a godsend to those who want to omit the first 2 hours of up (680m/7km) on the Tour du Mont Blanc. This section doesn’t have fabulous views so for me it’s a no brainer to take the cable car – its perfect for the variant Col du Tricot trail as it drops you off just five minutes away from the trail. I always take this cable car when it’s operating (early June to approx 10 Sept). Of course many others would prefer to trek this section and I begrudgingly do so if I’m trekking later in September (which is a glorious time to trek!)

If you don’t want to take it easy on the first day and want to shorten your day 2 – we would advise staying in the town of Les Contamines. It’s a further 2 hours on the trail. If you are booking our self guided option for this itinerary speak to one of the team & they can easily tweak this itinerary for you.

Taking the Bellevue cable car you’ll reach the Bellevue Plateau in minutes. It’s then just a 5 minute walk (very well signposted) to pick up the variant trail. Cross the railway tracks and follow the path for Col du Tricot. After traversing the alpine meadows with views of the spectacular Bionnassay glacier you’ll cross the iconic Himalayan suspension bridge. After a short climb you’ll come to a clearing with several large boulders – the view of the glacier is a good one from here and it’s great spot to have lunch. If you look carefully here you’ll find wild bilberry bushes everywhere.

You can now see the top of the Col du Tricot before you. It’s a steady climb up to the grassy saddle. Spend some time here to admire the views over the Miage Valley and over to the Col du Bonhomme. You can spot Refuge Miage far down in the valley. If you look carefully to your left, you’ll see a stone archway on the ‘smugglers route’ to Refuge Plan Glacier (see our adventure itinerary).

Staying at Refuge Miage on day 1 with views of the magnificent Dôme du Miage

The descent down is STEEP and takes around an hour. Take it easy and use your poles. Reaching the valley floor follow the signs to reach Refuge Miage in just 5 minutes. This cluster of farm buildings in set in an idyllic rural setting and is charmingly French. Refuge Miage is a good place to stay as a family as children receive a discounted price (not the case in high mountain refuges). You can even book tiny chalets around the refuge which are well worth the money for extra privacy. The view of the Dômes de Miage (3600m) from the refuge is outstanding.

How can I make today easier?

At Les Houches most trekkers opt to take the Bellevue cable car (open normally first week of June to approximately 10 Sept) instead of hiking up from the valley floor. This saves around 2 hours and slashes around 7km off your day. The Bellevue cable car costs €17.50 one way for an adult (2023 prices) and takes just five minutes.

lunch stops

As today is a nice short day, it’s probably best to pick up something in Chamonix or Les Houches to take with you for lunch. If you take the Bellevue cable car the trek is only approximately 4 hours today

accommodation on your first night

Accommodation on your first night on this itinerary is at either Refuge Miage or Auberge du Truc. They are approximately 45 minutes apart. Refuge Miage does have private rooms however these book out incredibly fast so if you want a private room contact us before September so we have a good chance o getting this for you. If you are booking this itinerary self guided just add this into the special notes during the booking process.

Alternatively if you want a private room and are happy with a longer day, we can arrange for you to stay in the town of Les Contamines in private room 2-3 hours further.

French painter in front of the beautiful Notre Dame de la Gorge chapel – day 2

Day 2 – Refuge Miage – Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (18km time: 7-8.5hrs)

Route overview:

If departing from Refuge Miage you’ll have an initial short climb from the Miage Valley up and over to Auberge du Truc. You may well have stayed in this humble, authentic refuge if Refuge Miage was full. Just before here on the left is a ‘pointe du navigation’ which shows the names of each of the peaks you can see.

From Auberge du Truc it’s a long steady descent through the forest into Les Contamines. Have a leisurely coffee in this small French town before walking along the river to Notre Dame de la Gorge where the trail heads out into the wild once more. If you’re trekking in July or August you can pick up the free shuttle bus (navette) outside the Les Contamines Tourist Office to Notre Dame de la Gorge.

Take a moment to visit the beautiful Notre Dame de la Gorge chapel next to the gushing water before setting out on the well marked path. Warning – the trail is VERY steep here along an ancient slabbed Roman road to Refuge Nant Borrant but pleasantly flanks the bubbling racing gorge for much of the ascent. Be sure to look out for the pont naturel sign leading to a natural arch on the river, just a few minutes from the trail (navigate down a steep, mud track – I normally leave my backpack at the top!). Cross the roman bridge, take in the rushing gorge below. Expect to hike for around an hour from Notre Dame de la Gorge to Refuge Nant Borrant which makes an excellent lunch stop.

This afternoon you’ll make the climb over two mountain passes Col du Bonhomme (2329m) and Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2483m). You’ll stay in the cavernous Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme, a high mountain refuge with epic views. This is one of the most remote high mountain huts on the trail so bring your adventure spirit with you. Bunks and storage are excellent & dinner is unforgettable served by candle light to save solar power.

snow on the Col du Bonhomme

You can expect to have a stubborn patch of snow on the Col du Bonhomme well into the end of July. This is normal and as there is no exposure this is really just a novelty. You will not need hiking crampons if you are trekking from the end of the first week July

If you are trekking early season (14 June – 7 July) then there could be a considerable amount of snow on the TMB trail still. In this case yes you do need to bring hiking crampons. During this period it’s very important that the only variant trails you undertake is only variant stage 1 via the Col du Tricot. This is the only safe variant early season. You can read my article on trekking the TMB early season here.

shuttle bus in July & August

In July and August you can catch the free shuttle bus (navette) from outside the Les Contamines Tourist Office to Notre Dame de la Gorge instead of walking along the river on the flat path. This saves around 45 minutes as it approximately 1 hour to walk whist the bus takes 15 minutes (leaves approximately very 45 – 60 minutes or so throughout the day. Find out more about taking this short cut here.

lunch stops

You can either order a packed lunch (pique-nique) from Refuge Miage or Auberge du Truc for today or eat in one of the many restaurants or cafes in Les Contamines. There are also three small supermarkets and a bakery in Les Contamines in case you want to pick up your own provisions.

accommodation on your second night

Accommodation on your second night is at Refuge Croix du Bonhomme. Perched at 2443m this high mountain refuge commands a spectacular position on the trail. With provisions delivered by helicopter or carried up on backpacks, this is one of the most remote refuges on the Tour du Mont Blanc route. It’s not luxury, there are no private rooms and sometimes there are no showers. However if you bring your sense of adventure & come with more realistic expectations, this refuge will not disappoint. Top tip is to bring extra snacks for breakfast!

Why do I recommend Refuge Croix du Bonhomme over Les Chapieux?

Les Chapieux is the biggest bottle neck on the whole of the TMB. It books out very quickly and is then a cause of untold stress to try to get into. We would rather clients be kept on the trail than having to go down to the nearest down of Bourg St Maurice and re-join the trail in the morning. Refuge Croix du Bonhomme is the refuge before and is in our opinion the best option for staying on the trail. If you book the 10 day option or if you book the private room option by the end of the September before you trek then we can do our very best to get you into Les Chapieux.

trail du mont blanc
Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (2443m) is a basic hut mountain hut with exceptional views

Day 3 Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme – Val Veny (14.9km 6-7.5 or 19.5km time: 7-9hrs)

Route overview:

Today you’ll descend from Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme to the hamlet of Les Chapieux and then embark on the steady climb up to the top of the Col de la Seigne – the border between France and Italy! From here, in good weather, you can once again see the gleaming white dome of Mont Blanc with an exceptional view down into this Italian valley.

Dropping down into the Vallée Lee Blanche you’ll marvel at this wide U shaped valley with the fortress of the Mont Blanc Massif dominating to your left. It’s all downhill from here to Refugio Elisbetta – a cavernous refuge perched on a spur just below two glaciers. You’ll either stay at Refugio Elisabetta or 1 hour further in Cabane Combal.

Les Chapieux shuttle bus

From Les Chapieux you can pick up a shuttle bus to Ville des Glacier (or Refuge Mottets parking) which cuts the trail to only 14.9km today. Highly recommended! The shuttle bus costs €4 and leaves frequently throughout the day. Taking this shuttle is reflected in the shorter hike time of 14.9km 6-7.5 hours.

side trip today

A brilliant side trip just minutes from the trail today is a visit to a tiny cheese farm that produces the delicious local cheese – Beaufort. Read my post Don’t Miss: La Ville des Glaciers cheese farm.

lunch stops

A great place to stop for lunch today is Refuge Mottets.

If you want to buy a packed lunch, it’s worth mentioning that the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme has a very basic packed lunch (just a sandwich and an extra optional cereal chocolate bar). I would pick up lunch at the deli in Les Chapieux (a great shop with fresh sandwiches, coffee, wine, snacks, fruit) which is a 2.5 hour descent from Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme or stop and eat at Refuge Mottets.

accommodation on your 3rd night

Accommodation is limited in the Val Veny so you will be either stay in Refugio Elisabetta or Cabane Combal, whichever has availability. Refugio Elisabetta is one hour before Cabane Combal. Refugio Elisabetta is a large cavernous refuge perched on a spur with not one but two glaciers dripping down behind her. It’s large & busy but does offer private rooms. Cabane Combal is a smaller affair with small dorms with en-suite bathrooms (no private rooms).

Refuge Elisabetta
Refuge Elisabetta

Day 4 Val Veny – Courmayeur (15.4km time: 5.5-7.5hrs)

Route overview:

Todays hike takes you up out of the Val Veny floor climbing steadily up to the highest point, a spur from Mont Favre. Looking back you can see the monstrous moraine of Glacier Miage dwarfing Cabane Combal and on a clear day all the way back to Col de la Seigne. From here you’ll trace the contours of the south flank of the Val Veni, following the rise and fall of the mountain side with jaw dropping views of sawtooth peaks and Monte Bianco opposite before descending down into the Italian town of Courmayeur.

From Refugio Maison Vielle during peak season (Aug & Sept) you can opt to take the chair lift and connecting cable car down to Dolonne which is a 10 minute saunter into Courmayeur. The descent from Maison Vielle is brutal so if you’re weary or just want to spend longer in the lovely Italian town of Courmayeur this is definitely a good option.

exit point at Cabane Combal

Should you be mildly injured, not feeling well, in the case of severe weather or perhaps you have not been able to secure accommodation in Val Veny – there is an exit point from the trail at the bridge just before Cabane Combal. Turn right after crossing the bridge & walk down the Cabane Combal access road to the village of La Visaille. It takes between 45-60 minutes to descend. There is a free bus that runs from La Visaille to Courmayeur in July & August. The bus stop is immediately on the right after crossing the last bridge. If you are not hiking in July or August you can call a taxi to meet you at the bus stop. (there is a barrier across the access road so no traffic can drive up to Cabane Combal).

How can I make today easier?

During July and August you can cut off the 2-2.5 hour descent from Refugio Maison Vielle to Courmayeur by taking the Maison Vielle chair lift and the Dolonne cable car. Read more about this short cut in my post here.

If you’re trekking in June or September and would prefer to not do this brutal descent, perhaps you have bad knees or perhaps your itinerary is very long that day then its possible to walk a further 30 minutes from Maison Vielle and organise a taxi pick up.

lunch stop

Either organise a packed lunch from your refuge or if you set off early you could have lunch at Refugio Maison Vielle.

accommodation on your 4th night

Accommodation will be in the Italian town of Courmayeur. You can choose to upgrade your hotel to a 4 or 5 star. Add requests to your online booking in the notes or speak to a member of our team.

It’s worth noting that Courmayeur is the natural place to have a day off if you want a rest day during your Tour du Mont Blanc trek. This itinerary does not have a day off built in but this is easy to organise with our team.

trekking the TMB
Day 5 – hiking the southern flank of Val Ferret with incredible views of the southern wall of the Massif du Mont Blanc

Day 5 Courmayeur – Val Ferret (17km time: 7-8hrs)

Route overview:

Today starts with a push up to the Bertone hut for a late morning Italian coffee. Here, if the weather is good and it’s not early season (14 June – approximately July 7th) you can take the Mont Saxe variant to incorporate an extra peak: it takes a bit longer but it really is a stunning day – not many people, breathtaking scenery and avoids the crowds on the traditional balcony route.

You’ll reach the delightful Rifugio Bonatti hut, where you will either stay (based on availability) or make the easy 30 minute descent down to the valley floor to make your way to the hotel there, or back to Courmayeur for your accommodation. 

How can I make today easier?

Unfortunately there are no short cuts today!

lunch stop

I would suggest picking up lunch provisions in Courmayeur as there are no refuges to stop at for lunch today.

accommodation on your 5th night

Accommodation will be at Refugio Bonatti (preferably book with us by the September before the summer you want to trek!), Hotel Lavachey, Hotel Chalet Val Ferret or Courmayeur. If booking late, expect to stay in your Courmayeur hotel again for a second night (which some clients love as it stage 5 becomes a day hike with a small pack!)

Val Ferret looking all the way back from the Grand Col Ferret to Col de la Seigne

Day 6 Chalet Val Ferret – La Fouly (14.3km time: 5.5-7hrs)

Route overview:

Today you’ll climb over the Grand Col Ferret and cross into Switzerland! The gentle Swiss alpine meadows are in stark comparison to the jagged wild landscapes you’ve trekked through in Italy and France. Take it easy as the gentle trail gradually descends to Ferret and the La Fouly.

La Fouly sits at the foot of two mighty mountains, Tour Noir (3, 836m) and Mont Dolent (3,823m) which incredibly is the tri-point where all three of the Tour du Mont Blanc countries, France, Switzerland and Italy’s borders meet!

Skipping La Fouly to stay in Champex Lac

A quick note here on skipping stage 7 between La Fouly and Champex Lac. Now this

How can I make today easier?

There is no real short cut worth taking today. There is a bus that picks up in Ferret that stops in La Fouly. This would save you 45 minutes at the end of the day.

lunch stops

I would recommend taking a packed lunch today or face the crowds to eat the Refugio Elena. Another option for a late lunch is Alpage de la Peule on the swiss side

accommodation on your 6th night

Accommodation will be in a hotel in either Ferret or La Fouly

Tour du Mont Blanc étapes
Passing through rural Swiss villages on gentle day 7

Day 7 La Fouly – Champex-Lac (15.7km time: 4.5-7hrs)

Route overview:

Today is the most gentle day of all the TMB stages. There is no col to climb and the route meanders easily through the valley past Swiss mountain pastures. Drink in the delightful scenes of rural life in Switzerland as you potter leisurely along this stage.

Many trekkers actually choose to omit this stage opting to take the bus but for trekkers who are intent to complete the entire route this is a lovely day that your tired legs will be grateful for.

Champex-Lac, your home for the night is a beautiful little town next to a pretty lake. Nicknamed ‘Little Canada’ it’s not hard to imagine why – this beautiful lakeside town is surrounded by hills of pine and is genuinely a beautiful spot.

How can I make today easier?

lunch stops

Day 7 Champex-Lac – a gorgeous lakeside town in Switzerland

Day 8 Champex-Lac – La Peuty/Trient (15.7km time: 6-7.5hrs)

Route overview:

Today you’ll leave the serenity of beautiful Champex-Lac and take the Bovine route to the Col de la Forclaz and then drop down into the Swiss village of Trient, famous for it’s pink church, to spend the night.

The variant route via the Col du Fenêtre can be considered instead of the Bovine route but only in good weather. Note this route is technically the most difficult on the entire TMB trail – the trail can be hard to follow and crosses a boulder field. It’s a much more difficult route however much more spectacular.

How can I make today easier?

lunch stops

Day 8 – climbing up via the Bovine route to Col de la Forclaz

Day 9 La Peuty/Trient – Tré-le-Champ (13.1km 6-7.5km)

Route overview:

Today you’ll ascend from Trient up the Col du Balme. It’s a gradual climb and not too taxing.

From Refuge Col de Balme perched on the Swiss side, you’ll have a splendid view of the entire Chamonix Valley – well done you’ve almost completed the circuit! You can now see where you set off from down the other end of the valley and Mont Blanc will be ever present with her snowy dome to the left of the valley.

Descend down into France 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 descent down to Tré-le-Champ is brutal. Take your time. Home for the night is at the historical Auberge de la Bœrne.

How can I make today easier?

There is no short cut or transport options today unless you want to miss out the whole stage in which case you can take public transport around to Chamonix.

lunch stops

I like an early lunch at Refuge Col du Balme, just because the location is outstanding with magnificent views back along the Chamonix Valley and crazy views of Mont Blanc. I suggest setting off 45-60 minutes later on this morning, have a leisurely breakfast and set off a little later. By the time you’ve ascended up to Refuge Col du Balme it will almost be 12 noon when they will start serving lunch. Don’t forget to order a refreshingly cold beer, make your way to the back of the refuge and plonk yourself in the grass to soak up that just so incredible view. For me its a pinch me moment – you can see Les Houches in the distance where you set off all those days ago and for me, it’s one of the most euphoric moments of the trek, even more so than crossing the finishing line!

accommodation on day 9

Accommodation on day 9 is in the lovely Auberge la Boërne in Tré-le-Champ. For those who would prefer private rooms, its a short distance on the bus or train to the village of Argentière.

Day 9 – passing Refuge Col du Balme you’ll descend into France and again into the Chamonix Valley

Day 10 Tré-le-Champ – Refuge La Flégère (8.4km 4.5-6hrs) or option to sleep at hotel in the valley

Route overview:

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 Col des Montets. 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! This is the Aiguille Rouge National Park so look out for chamois or bouquetin – there’s a good chance of seeing them, often just on the trail.

A further hour up brings you to Tête aux Vents, a large cairn (2132m) which borders the national park. From there you can choose to deviate from the trail and ascend a further 1hr 30 mins to reach stunning Lac Blanc (2,352m) or turn down to follow the trail to Refuge La Flégère, a further 60-90 minutes.

How can I make today easier?

Today is a short day and is the day of the infamous TMB ladders! Yay! If you suffer from vertigo and are sure you absolutely do not want to tackle the ladders on the traditional route, there is an alternative route which takes around an hour longer.

lunch stops

Lunch at Refuge Lac Blanc is a good option today. It takes around 3 hours on the traditional route up to Refuge Lac Blanc and around 4 hours on the alternative non-ladder route up to Lac Blanc. Aim for a late-ish lunch so take your time with breakfast today. Refuge Flégère is only a 1.5 hour descent from Lac Blanc so there’s no need to rush. You can allow plenty of time to walk around the lake and hopefully spot the plentiful chamois and ibex that live in this protected area of natural beauty.

Note that stage 10 is a very dry section and Refuge Lac Blanc cannot re-fill water bottles as there is no potable water available. You can buy bottled water if needs be (cash in euros only) but we would recommend carrying extra water for today.

accommodation on day 10

Accommodation on day 10 will be at Refuge Flégère. We can arrange for those who would prefer private rooms to descend via the cable car at Refuge Flégère to stay in the village of Les Praz or Chamonix and return to the trail the following morning.

Day 10 – bask in the glorious views of Mont Blanc all along the Balcon Sud

Day 11 Refuge La Flégère – Les Houches (17.1km 6-8.5hrs)

Route overview:

Today you’ll continue along the Balcon Sud with it’s staggering views of Mont Blanc to reach Le Brévent. Choose to take the cable car up to the peak or hike the route that ascends behind that entails a couple of ladder sections. Soak in the magnificent views of Mont Blanc from the top of Le Brévent – undoubtedly the best viewing point of the highest point in Western Europe!

From here you’ll descend on the stony trail along the ridge line to Refuge Bellachat – a great spot for a refreshment with again insane views of Mont Blanc from their lovely sunny terrace. The descent into Les Houches is brutally long – watch those knees! However the pink wild azaleas that line the path are beautiful and there’s a high chance of spotting chamois and bouquetins as you descend.

How can I make today easier?

For those looking to cut some kilometres today (yes it is a long day) you can cut the Col du Brévent off the trail by taking the cable car from the mid station Plan Praz to the summit Le Brévent. Those trekking early season are advised to do this as snow can linger on the Col du Brévent in June and can be difficult to pass.

lunch stops

Lunch at Refuge Bellachat is a good option. Bellachat has a lovely terrace facing Mont Blanc. Note that stage 11 is a very dry section and Refuge Bellachat cannot re-fill water bottles as there is no potable water available. You can buy bottled water if needs be but we would recommend carrying extra water for today.

Read my Chamonix and Les Houches accommodation guide here