This classic Tour du Mont Blanc 11 day itinerary follows the traditional route of the TMB taking in a stage a day. Trek every step of this glorious 170km trail through France, Italy and Switzerland.
This itinerary is perfect for trekkers who want to complete the entire circuit and have plenty of time to do it.
Choose from carrying everything on your back or having luggage transfers to particular points on the trail so that for the most part, you carry just a day sack.
‘Self guided treks’ are a great option if you want to be independent on the trail but want to take the stress out of organising the trek from scratch. The most frustrating element of the Tour du Mont Blanc is undoubtedly booking the refuges! You’ll pay a fraction more than planning the trail completely independently but without the stress of booking the refuges and with the reassurance of having someone on the ground in Chamonix to help with advice as well as a 24 hour help line during your trek.
I work exclusively with local company Adventure Base to power my itineraries. We work together closely to ensure that we are providing you with the best possible Tour du Mont Blanc possible. Adventure Base are based in Chamonix and have a wealth of experience trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc.
WHAT’S INCLUDED WITH ADVENTURE BASE?
- initial route discussion
- detailed itinerary (inc. alternative route options & GPX file )
- refuges & hotels bookings
- welcome meeting (if starting from Chamonix)
- welcome pack (map, snacks, basic first aid kit etc)
- 24hr in resort contact (in case you need a taxi, bad weather advice, help etc)
- hiking pole rental
- airport transfers
- luggage transfers
- first night accommodation
Day 1 Les Houches – Refuge Miage (7.2km time: 4-5hrs)
Today is an easy first day to ease into the trek. By taking the Bellevue cable car instead of hiking up from the valley floor you can expect to only be hiking for between 4-5 hours today. This gives you time to leave your hotel and get your pack ready without a huge rush. Those who wish to hike up from Les Houches should add on a further 2 hours (13.2 km 6-7hrs).
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 15 minute walk (very well signposted) to the Col du Voza. 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 also spot your bed for the night at 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).
The descent down is STEEP! 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.
Day 2 – Refuge Miage – Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (18km time: 7-8.5hrs)
Departing Refuge Miage you’ll have an initial short climb from the Miage Valley up and over to Auberge du Truc. 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 either choosing to walk along the river to Notre Dame de la Gorge or pick up the free shuttle bus (navette) outside the Tourist Office to Notre Dame de la Gorge where the trail heads out into the wild once more.
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 minute from the trail. Cross the roman bridge to take in the rushing gorge below. Expect to hike for around an hour to reach the 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) where early in the season (late June – end of July) you can expect to cross snow patches. 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. Downsides are showers & the soup!
Day 3 Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme – Refuge Elisabetta (14.9km 6-7.5 or 19.5km time: 7-9hrs)
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 exception 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.
From Les Chapieux you can pick up a shuttle bus to Ville des Glacier which cuts the trail to only 14.9km today. Highly recommended! The shuttle bus costs €3.50 and leaves frequently throughout the day. Taking this shuttle is reflected in the shorter hike time of 14.9km 6-7.5 hours.
Day 4 Refuge Elisabetta – Courmayeur (15.4km time: 5.5-7.5hrs)
Todays hike takes you up out of the Val Veni 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.
If you want to cut this day down due to sheer exhaustion, injury or to perhaps include a rest day in Courmayeur there is an option to take the bus from Visaille to Courmayeur. Visaille can reached in just under 2 hours from Rifugio Elisabetta or just under an hour from Cabane Combal. Turn right after the bridge just before Cabane Combal – it’s a 30-40 minute walk to the village of Visaille where the bus departs on the hour.
Day 5 Courmayeur – Chalet Val Ferret (17km time: 7-8hrs)
It’s a challenging day and so we highly recommend you to take the chair lift and connecting cable car from Refuge Maison Vielle down to Dolonne, Courmayeur. Our timing has reflected this welcome short cut.
Day 6 Chalet Val Ferret – La Fouly (14.3km time: 5.5-7hrs)
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 trail 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!
Day 7 La Fouly – Champex-Lac (15.7km time: 4.5-7hrs)
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.
Day 8 Champex-Lac – La Peuty/Trient (15.7km time: 6-7.5hrs)
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.
Day 9 La Peuty/Trient – Tré-le-Champ (13.1km 6-7.5km)
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.
Day 10 Tré-le-Champ – Refuge La Flégère (8.4km 4.5-6hrs) or option to sleep at hotel in the valley
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.
Day 11 Refuge La Flégère – Les Houches (17.1km 6-8.5hrs)
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.