FAMILY FRIENDLY HALF TMB TOUR - 6 DAYS AGE 8+

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.

Family friendly TMB – 6 days – Complete half TMB trek
France – Italy


Start point: Les Houches , France           
End point: Courmayeur, Italy          
Length: 6 days

  • Day 1 Les Houches via Col du Tricot – Refuge Miage /Auberge du Truc
  • Day 2 Refuge Miage – Val Montjoie
  • Day 3 Val MontjoieRefuge Croix du Bonhomme
  • Day 4 Ref Croix du BonhommeRefuge Les Mottets
  • Day 5 Refuge Les MottetsVal Veny
  • Day 6 Val Veny – Courmayeur
  • Return to Chamonix via bus through the Mont Blanc tunnel

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.

timings, distances, elevation

The timings for this itinerary have been given for adults and a separate timing for children. This is because many adults enquire with me about this itinerary who just want to take shorter stages but who are not hiking with children. Obviously the timings for children is approximate and will depend on the age, strength and experience of your child. I have given the maximum amount I estimate it will take for a child of 8 years old to hike.

Note: timings for this itinerary is approximate and is non-stop, meaning you should add extra time for stopping to take photos, rest stops and your lunch break. This is even more important when hiking with children. Expect this to always be more than you imagine. Consider adding 2 hours onto your timings per day (for a full day). Remember it’s best to set off early and arrive early – thunderstorms commonly occur around 4pm each afternoon in the peak summer months on the TMB trail.

Distance & elevation is approximate. As I have given several accommodation options at the end of each day this might be slightly shorter or longer depending on which accommodation option you choose but it gives you a general idea. For example the first day distance is measured from the official start arch way in Les Houches to Auberge du Truc which is the second refuge option that night. If you are booking a self guided trek then the exact timings/distances/elevation will be given to you on finalisation of your exact itinerary once your accommodation has been booked.

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 and always check timetables before setting off. You can read my short cut/transport options post here which will be updated every year before the trail opens on 14 June.

you can cut the last day off this itinerary

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.

The Col du Tricot (2120m) variant route bypasses the spectacular Bionnassay Glacier – day 1

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.

Crossing the Himalayan suspension bridge is a highlight on day 1

Day 1 Les Houches – Refuge Miage/Auberge du Truc

1445m up / 740m down / 14.7km / 5-6hrs (stats from valley floor)

Route overview:

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 at the top to admire the views over the Miage Valley and over to the Col du Bonhomme. You can see Refuge Miage far down below 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 to Refuge Miage 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.

Alternatively you may stay at Auberge du Truc which is between 45-60 minutes further along the trail. Departing the 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.

accommodation on your first night

Accommodation on your first night will either be in Refuge Miage or the next refuge, Auberge du Truc. Refuge Miage does have private rooms so if this is something you’d definitely want then please book early with us (recommended the September before your trek)

Chalets de Miage nestles charmingly into the the Miage valley with spectacular vistas of Dômes du Miage (3600m) day 1

Day 2 Refuge Miage/Auberge du Truc – Val Montjoie

316m up / 578m down / 8.7km / 2-3hrs

Route overview:

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.

accommodation on your second night

Accommodation on your second night will be in Val Montjoie, the valley of Les Contamines. Ideally this will be Refuge Nant Borrant however this is a small refuge that gets booked up fast (particularly since Rick Steves stayed here). Alternative accommodation could be Gite Le Pontets, Refuge Le Balme, Refuge Des Pres.

Approaching the Col du Bonhomme – Day 2

Day 3 Val Montjoie – Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme

1048m up / 60m down / 8.2km / 3-4hrs

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.

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.

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 however expect the food to be, well, not the best. You may even be treated to an electricity outage. Treat it as an adventure and take extra snacks for hunger pangs if you find the food inedible.

Day 4 Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme – Refuge Les Mottets

350m up / 928m down / 11.1km / 2-3hrs

Route overview:

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 is actually shorter than taking the traditional route via Les Chapieux however is you want to catch the shuttle bus to ease tired legs if needed, this can only be done from Les Chapieux.

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 which is more like a hotel (with a great beer garden outside). Then you would need to carry on a further 1.5 hours 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 descend down to Refuge Mottets which is a further 5-10 minute descent down on the valley floor. You can choose to get the shuttle bus only as far as Ville des Glaciers – do this is you want to visit the cheese farm – you would then either cross the bridge and walk up the gentle gradient following the TMB trail before descending down the hillside to the Refuge Mottets in the valley bottom or you can walk up the road to the Refuge Mottets parking and then descend down to the refuge. The timetable below (2023) will give you an idea of how often the shuttle bus runs. In 2023 the price was €4 per person with under 12’s going for free.

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

Day 5 Refuge Mottets – Val Veny (Italy)

687m up / 367m down / 7.9km / 2-3hrs

Route overview:

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.

It’s an easy descent down from the Col de la Seigne to Refugio Elisabetta, tucked in on a spur between Glacier d’Estellette and Glacier de la Lée Blanche. Your bed for the night will either be here or at Cabane Combal, a further hour along the arrow straight roman road to the highly instagrammable A frame refuge Cabane Combal.

For those staying at Cabane Combal keen for an evening stroll, take the trail behind the refuge to scramble up to the glacier lake, Lac Miage, nestled in the moraine of the Miage Glacier.

exit point

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).

accommodation on day 5

Accommodation will either be in Refugio Elisabetta or one hour further at Cabane Combal.

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.

Day 6 Val Veny – Courmayeur

540m up / 1532m down / 15.7km / 4-5hrs

Route overview:

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!

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: savda@savda.it 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)