This family Tour du Mont Blanc 6 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 Houches this itinerary follows the entire first half of the Tour du Mont Blanc from Chamonix to Courmayeur.
You’ll stay overnight in 5 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 6 days will take you over wild and desolate Col du Bonhomme, Col du Croix du Bonhomme and over Col de la Seigne into Italy.
This itinerary is perfect for families with a week to spare with younger children who can’t manage long days on the trail. I’ve cut up the days into achievable sections with each day taking between 4-6 hours on average depending on the age and strength of your children.
We would recommend this itinerary for children aged 8 and over who have hiking experience and love being outdoors. There are some short cuts that you can take to ease tired legs.
WARNING: this family friendly Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary is still tough. The days have been split into shorter chunks but your children still 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 at least doing a weekend of two consecutive hiking days on hills to prepare for this trek. ALWAYS leave early at 8am to get a good head start and give yourself lots of time. With an average of 4 – 6 hours of hiking each day this means you can have a leisurely lunch en route and will arrive at your refuge mid afternoon with plenty of time to relax.
Start point: Les Houches, France (1.15hr from Geneva Airport)
Les Houches is the first village in the Chamonix Valley so you can either stay in central Chamonix or Les Houches (a 15 minute bus ride from Chamonix) the night before you start your trek.
If you’re arriving from Geneva Airport you can get a direct mini bus transfer to Les Houches which takes around an hour and 15 minutes.
NOTE: this itinerary follows the variant route over the Col du Tricot. It’s a gentle climb up to Col du Tricot so this route is not especially difficult but note it should never be done in bad weather. There is no shelter and the Col du Tricot is very exposed. You would not want to be there in a lightning storm! The descent to Refuge Miage is very steep which is fine in good weather but not when slippery and wet.
Day 1 – Les Houches – Col du Tricot – Refuge Miage (7.2km time: 4-6 hrs)
Important: Today’s hike times are based on taking the Bellevue cable car from Les Houches to Col du Voza which saves 2hrs of up. I would not recommend skipping the cable car to save money if you have kids – the 2 hours up is brutally steep and would exhaust them before they’ve even started. The Bellevue cable car cost €15.50 (adult) & €13,20 (children) one way in 2021. It takes 5 minutes to get to the top & runs frequently every 20-30 minutes.
Take the Bellevue cable car in Les Houches up to the Bellevue Plateau. 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. Crossing the Himalayan suspension bridge is fun for all but especially for kids. After the bridge the route begins to gently climb until the spectacular Bionnassay glacier comes into full view. This is a great spot to have lunch – if you look carefully you’ll see wild bilberry bushes everywhere. From here you can see the top of the Col du Tricot and 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). Don’t allow your children to explore it as the cliff down in sheer and a fall could well be fatal. 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 perfect for a family of four. The view of the Dômes de Miage (3600m) from the refuge is outstanding.
Day 2 – Refuge Miage – Refuge Nant Borrant (10.2km time: 4-6hrs)
Departing the refuge 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 lunch 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 just over an hour from the church to reach the refuge.
Day 3 Refuge Nant Borrant – Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (7km time: 4.5hrs)
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 (2433m), a high mountain refuge with epic views. The dorms and private rooms have been renovated to a good standard and we love that dinner is fantastically atmospheric being served in candlelight to save electricity. The food, admittedly, is not the best on the Tour, (especially the soup) but if you soak up the exceptional location, breathe in the grandeur of the mountains, and accept that this is the most adventurous refuge you’ll stay in during this 6 day family TMB trek, you’ll embrace it warts and all.
Day 4 Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme – Refuge Les Mottets (7.2km – 11.8km time: 5.5-7hrs)
From Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme it’s pretty much 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. Experience lunar landscape & rushing waterfalls on this variant route as well as the option of detouring to the Tête Nord des Fours summit – only a further 20 minutes (follow the cairns) which gives one of the best views of the Tour du Mont Blanc – highly recommended. Note: Never attempt this variant route if the weather is nothing short of perfect. The Col des Fours variant bypasses the hamlet of Les Chapieux completely and does take a little longer – you cannot catch the Les Chapieux shuttle bus to ease tired legs if needed.
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. This would be the full 11.8km. Or as we would suggest catch the navette (shuttle bus) from Les Chapieux 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).
Day 5 Refuge Mottets – Cabane Combal (Italy) (12km time: 5-7hrs)
Today you’ll say ‘au revoir’ to France and trek 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, highly instagrammable A frame refuge Cabane Combal. For those keen for an evening stroll, take the trail behind the refuge to scramble up to Lac Miage, nestled in the moraine of the Miage Glacier.
Day 6 Cabane Combal – Courmayeur (8km time: 5-6hrs)
Your final day trekking takes you up out of the valley floor climbing steadily up to the highest point of the day, 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 plus know that the descent is painfully jarring. We would not recommend finishing your day by attempting this with tired children!
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.
NEED TO LEAVE EARLY? There is a quick route to Courmayeur if your children are too tired or you simply want to cut this itinerary down to five days instead of six. From Cabane Combal keep left along the tarmac road and follow it 50-60 minutes to take the first bus stop at Visaille. It takes around half an hour on the bus to Courmayeur. The bus goes all the way to Place le Monte Bianco which is where you’d pick up the bus back to Chamonix.
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: email@example.com 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)