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 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.
WARNING: 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. For the long days ALWAYS leave early at 8am to get a good head start and give yourself lots of time.
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 hour hike, and day 2 a 6 hour hike. Be warned though whilst Refuge de la Balme is perfectly placed at the bottom of Col du Bonhomme (which means tackling it with fresh legs after breakfast) the Refuge de la Balme is not a patch on Refuge Nant Borrant in terms of food & friendliness.
Start point: Les Contamines, France (1 hr from Geneva Airport)
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 several 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 to 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. I’d still recommend you get a taxi or private transfer to Les Contamines or trek it – it takes 6 hours.
Day 1 – Les Contamines – Nant Borrant refuge (2km time: 1-2 hrs)
Today is an arrival day with only one, maybe two 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, an hour away, Refuge Nant Borrant.
From the tourist office in Les Contamines catch the free shuttle bus (navette) towards Notre Dame de la Gorge, the trail start point. 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.
Day 2 – Nant Borrant refuge – Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (7km time: 7hrs)
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.
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 but unfortunately the food is not the best on the Tour. If you soak up the exceptional location, breathe in the grandeur of the mountains, and realise that the break here is to rest little legs, it’s a great experience. Own it … or walk a further 2.5 hours onto Les Chapieux.
Day 3 Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme – Refuge Les Mottets (7km time: 4.5hrs)
From Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme it’s all down hill today. If the weather is fine, and your kids are in good shape after the previous day, consider taking the alternative route from the refuge via the Col des Fours which takes you directly to Refuge Les Mottets rather than via the hamlet of Les Chapieux. Never attempt this variant route if the weather is nothing short of perfect.
If you’re continuing along the normal TMB route the well marked trail will descend all the way to the valley of to Les Chapieux, where you can stop for a welcome refreshment at the friendly Auberge de la Nova and carry on a further hour up the trail to Refuge Les Mottets. Or as we would suggest catch the navette (shuttle bus) which ferries you in 30 minutes to the parking area of Refuge Les Mottets (you’ll then have to walk down the hillside to the refuge in the valley bottom). Our 4hr timing includes taking the navette to Refuge Les Mottets.
Day 4 Refuge Les Mottets – Cabane Combal (13km time: 8hrs)
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 to take the bus from Visaille to Courmayeur if everybody’s just too exhausted. Visaille can reach in just under 2 hours from Rifugio Elisabetta or just under an hour from Cabane Combal.
Day 5 Cabane Combal – Courmayeur (9.5km time: 6.5hrs)
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.
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.
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. The cost is €15.00 one way. You need to book before 5pm the day before travel. You can see their timetable here.
SAVDA – email: firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +39 0165 36 70 11
Flixbus fares start from €4.99 so are much cheaper than SAVDA but takes double the time (1.30hr versus SAVDA’s 45 mins). Book Flixbus online or easily through their app (Flixbus app for android) (Flixbus app for iOS)