FAMILY FRIENDLY TMB - 4.5 DAYS

This family Tour du Mont Blanc 4.5 day itinerary follows the TMB trail from France into Italy and splits the trail into bite size chunks more manageable for little legs. Starting in the French town of Les Contamines you’ll stay overnight in four mountain huts before arriving in the Italian town of Courmayeur where you can stay another night, or return straight back to Chamonix via bus through the Mont Blanc tunnel. Arguably the best sections of the tour, these 4.5 days will take you over wild and desolate Col du Bonhomme, Col du Croix du Bonhomme and over Col de la Seigne into Italy.

tour du mont blanc family friendly

Reality Check:

This family friendly Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary is still tough. The days have been split into alternating short and long days. The times recorded here are accurate times I hiked with my 10 year old and 65 year old Mother and include rest times which were adequate but never particularly long. Your children need to be good hikers and need to train to be ready for the the long, consecutive days with serious high elevation gain and loss. I would recommend this itinerary for children aged 10 or above or from 8 if your children are seasoned trekkers. For the long days ALWAYS leave early at 8am to get a good head start and give yourself lots of time.

Family friendly TMB – 4.5 days


Start point: Les Contamines , France           
End point: Courmayeur, Italy          
Length: 4.5 days
Note: most short cuts along the trail are only available in July or August
* these timings have been adapted for little legs

Start point: Les Contamines, France (1 hr from Geneva Airport)
End point: Courmayeur, Italy (45 min return to Chamonix by bus via the Mont Blanc Tunnel)

  • Arrival day Les Contamines – Refuge Nant Borrant (2km – 2-3hr)
  • Day 2 Refuge Nant Borrant – Refuge Croix du Bonhomme (7.8km – 7hrs)
  • Day 3 Refuge Croix du BonhommeRefuge Les Mottets (7.2km – 7hrs)
  • Day 4 Refuge Les MottetsCabane Combal (Italy) (13km – 5-7hrs)
  • Day 5 Cabane Combal – Courmayeur (8km – 5-6hrs)
  • Return to Chamonix via bus through the Mont Blanc tunnel

Good to know:

If you want to shorten day 2, walk an extra hour on the arrival day to stay at Refuge de la Balme instead of Refuge Nant Borrant. This will make day 1 a two to three hour hike, and day 2 a 6 hour hike. Refuge de la Balme is perfectly placed at the bottom of Col du Bonhomme which means you’ll be tackling it with fresh legs after breakfast. If you plan to stay at Refuge Le Balme & you have older kids who are strong trekkers you could add a detour up to Lac Jovets (2.5hr return)

Getting there

If you’re arriving from Geneva Airport you can get a direct mini bus transfer to Les Contamines which takes around an hour.

Getting to Les Contamines from Chamonix is easy if you have a car or take a taxi but a bit trickier if you’re taking public transport as you need to change bus in St Gervais -Le Fayet and the timetables mean you can end up waiting quite a long time before the connecting bus which can be a waste of almost half a day. It’s often quicker to take the train to St Gervais -Le Fayet and then catch the bus from the train station to Les Contamines but the journey can still take around 3 hours.

If you’re arriving in Geneva Airport definitely go to the start point of the trail in Les Contamines first and save Chamonix for the end of your trip. If you have lots of baggage with that you don’t want to take on trail you can either leave it at Geneva Airport at left baggage or if you’re aiming to spend an extended stay in Chamonix head there first and ask if you can leave your baggage at your hotel. Most hotels will accommodate this if you have booked to stay there on your return from the trek. Or you can book a baggage transfer from Les Contamines to Chamonix to arrive on the day you arrive or you can book to have your bag transferred from Les Contamines to Courmayeur (more expensive).

Approaching the Col du Bonhomme on day 2. The stubborn patch of snow here remains well into late July but has no exposure so is absolutely safe to cross.

Day 1 – Les Contamines – Nant Borrant refuge (2km time: 2-3hrs)

Today is an arrival day with around two to three hours of hiking depending on the age of your children. If you’re flying into Geneva Airport get an airport transfer to Les Contamines (1-1.5hrs). Explore the French town of Les Contamines and soak up la vie francais. Visit the boulangerie, stock up on local dried saucisson and heavenly Beaufort cheese before heading to the first mountain hut on the trail, approximately 2 hours away, Refuge Nant Borrant.

Route overview:

From the tourist office in Les Contamines head south along the Main Street to pick up the trail alongside the river. It’s around a one hour hike to the chapel, Notre Dame de la Gorge, the trail start point and the end of the road. 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 another hour to reach the refuge.

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 and shave the 1-1.5 hours off this section. The bus takes 15 minutes and goes every 45 minutes or so throughout the day.

The 2-3 hours calculated in this stage is for little legs. It would normally take an adult trekker between 1.5 – 2 hours from Les Contamines to Nant Borrant without catching the free bus.

French painter in front of the Notre Dame de la Gorge chapel – day 1

Day 2 – Nant Borrant refuge – Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (7km time: 7hrs)

Route overview:

Today 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. We do not advise trekking during this early season period with children. You can read my article on trekking the TMB early season here.

You’ll stay in the cavernous Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme, a high mountain refuge with epic views. Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme is perfectly situated to carve this itinerary into manageable chunks. The dorms and private rooms have been renovated to a good standard and I love the ambience in the evening with dinner by candlelight. The soup isn’t the best, the veggie lasagne is excellent and the chocolate cake for dessert is as light as a feather! This is a great high mountain hut experience – soak up the exceptional location, breathe in the grandeur of the mountains, and realise that yes there are queues for the showers (and they might be cold) but its a marvellous experience. Own it … or descend a further 2.5 hours to accommodation in the hamlet of Les Chapieux for a more comfortable stay.

The 7 hours calculated in this stage is for little legs. It would normally take an adult trekker between 3.5 – 4.5 hours from Nant Borrant to Croix du Bonhomme..

trail du mont blanc
Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (2443m) is a hut mountain hut with exceptional views. It’s a good stop off point to make the TMB stages smaller – the food is average however its an atmospheric stay eating dinner by candle light (to save the solar power). You may even be treated to an electricity outage. Treat it as an adventure and take extra snacks for hunger pangs & for the next day as their packed lunch isn’t the largest or heartiest.

Day 3 Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme – Refuge Les Mottets (7km time: 7hrs)

Route overview:

From Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme the well marked trail will descend all the way to Les Chapieux. Stop here for lunch at the friendly Auberge de la Nova. This can take walkers 3.5 hours to descend or trekkers around 2.5 hours. With kids, depending on their age, it might take between 3.5 – 4.5 hours.

Col des Four variant (mid July – Sept only)

In good weather between mid July and September you could opt to take the Col du Fours variant from Refuge Croix du Bonhomme to Refuge Mottets. This variant pops out at the hamlet of Ville des Glaciers, a tiny hamlet with a cheese farm (read my post on visiting the cheese farm). This route by-passes Les Chapieux so would require you to order the pique nique (packed lunch) from Refuge Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. IMPORTANT: the Col des Fours variant should NEVER be taken early in the season in June or the first week of July as it is dangerous due to collapsing snow bridges.

After lunch continue a further two and a half hours up the trail to Refuge Les Mottets via Ville des Glaciers (don’t forget to visit the cheese farm). This can be cut down to just over an hour between late June to early September by catching the navette (shuttle bus) from Les Chapieux to either Ville des Glaciers (15 minutes) or all the way to the parking area of Refuge Les Mottets (25 minutes) if its late or if you don’t want to visit the cheese farm. If you get dropped off at the Refuge Les Mottets parking, you’ll then have to walk down the hillside to the refuge in the bottom of the valley.

Our 7hr timing is an estimate of a slower trek pace for children. It takes adult walkers around 5.5 hours non stop walking for this section or an adult trekker 4 hours non stop. If you take the navette from Les Chapieux to Refuge Les Mottets parking trekking the traditional you can expect to reduce the trail time by 1.5 to 2 hours.

Refuge Les Mottets, a renovated dairy farm, has belonged to the same family for over 100 years. Here you’ll be guaranteed a warm welcome & excellent food before climbing the formidable Col de la Seigne (2516m) – the frontière between France and Italy, the following day

Day 4 Refuge Les Mottets – Cabane Combal (13km time: 8hrs)

Route overview:

Today you’ll trek from France over the Col de la Seigne into Italy. Ciao!

From Refuge Les Mottets roll out of bed fresh to tackle the immediate 646m steady climb up the Col de la Seigne up to the French – Italian frontiére. From here Mont Blanc comes fabulously back into view with her surrounding peaks dropping off dramatically into an astonishing deep trough like valley. So spectacular are these jagged peaks that over the next two days you will find it hard to tear your eyes away from the incredible vistas to your left. Passing Refugio Elisabetta, tucked in on a spur between Glacier d’Estellette and Glacier de la Lée Blanche, you’ll continue a further hour along the arrow straight roman road to the incredibly comfortable refuge Cabane Combal.

If you want to cut this day down, opt to stay at Refuge Elisabetta which will shave an hour off today. However you’ll be adding an hour to your trek to Courmayeur the following day. There is an option if you are trekking in July or August to take the bus from La Visaille to Courmayeur if everybody’s just too exhausted. La Visaille can be reached in just under 2 hours from Rifugio Elisabetta or just under an hour from Cabane Combal by taking the Cabane Combal access road (this is calculated on an adult’s walking pace) so add on another hour for 8-12 year olds.

lago Combal
Cabane du Combal, a gorgeous A frame refuge sits above the emerald green Lago Combal. With 1-4 bed rooms, all ensuite, make a beeline for this refuge over Elisabetta if comfort is high on your list. It’s the only refuge on the tour to offer a free appéritif!

Day 5 Cabane Combal – Courmayeur (9.5km time: 6.5hrs)

Route overview:

Your final day trekking takes you up out of the valley 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.

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.

Watch Out

Chairlifts, cable cars and shuttle buses (navettes) that operate along the Tour du Mont Blanc often only open in high season. If you hope to take these welcome lifts to help tired legs or cut tour times then aim to trek in July and August Always check timetables before setting off. Check my short cut transports post here which details all the up-to-date timetables.

Catching the bus back through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Chamonix:

It’s easy to catch the bus from Courmayeur in Italy back to Chamonix in France. There is a direct tunnel that connects both towns via an underground tunnel – the Mont Blanc tunnel. Note: often they close the tunnel in September for renovations – if you are planning this trek independently check online here for any scheduled tunnel closures.

Flixbus and SAVDA are the main operators. You must have an ID card or passport with you to travel.

SAVDA operates the line 300 bus runs every 4 hours from Place le Monte Bianco in Courmayeur to the bus station in Chamonix. A one way ticket starts from €15.00. You need to book before 5pm the day before travel. You can see more information on their Couramayeur – Chamonix route here.

SAVDA – email: savda@savda.it tel: +39 0165 36 70 11

Flixbus fares start from €5.99 so are much cheaper than SAVDA. Book Flixbus online or easily through their app (Flixbus app for android) (Flixbus app for iOS)