FRENCH ITALIAN TOUR DU MONT BLANC 4 DAY ITINERARY

This Tour du Mont Blanc 4 day itinerary follows the TMB trail from France into Italy. Starting in Chamonix you’ll stay overnight in three mountain huts before arriving in the Italian town of Courmayeur where you’ll return to Chamonix via bus through the Mont Blanc tunnel.

Arguably the best sections of the tour, this Tour du Mont Blanc 4 day itinerary will take you over wild and desolate high mountain passes (Col du Bonhomme and Col du Croix du Bonhomme) and finally over Col de la Seigne crossing the frontiere from France into Italy.

Accommodation is either in basic dormitories with shared bathroom facilities or in private rooms.

French – Italian 4 day TMB

Start: Chamonix or Les Houches Finish: Courmayeur

  • Day 1 – Les Houches – Val Montjoie
  • Day 2 – Val Montjoie – Les Chapieux
  • Day 3 – Les Chapieux – Val Veny
  • Day 4 – Val Veny – Courmayeur
  • Return to Chamonix via the bus through the Mont Blanc Tunnel

stage 1 variant – Col du Tricot

The Col du Tricot variant is fast becoming the normal route on this section of the TMB. It is my preferred route purely because the scenery is outstanding with views of the Bionnassay Glacier and the route is actually not too demanding.

One of my favourite parts on the Col du Tricot variant stage Himalayan suspension bridge – it’s the only one on the TMB. Don’t worry the bridge is relatively short. I generally will ALWAYS trek this route unless it’s bad weather. You can normally trek this route even in June as the steep descent down to Refuge Miage is south facing so the snow has normally melted by the time trekking season arrives. This itinerary assumes you will take the Col du Tricot variant.

timings, distances, elevation

The timing 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. Expect this to always be more than you imagine. Consider adding 2 hours onto your timings per day. Remember its 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 Les Houches to Refuge Nant Borrant. If you were to take the Bellevue cable car and then stay in Les Contamines the distance would be much shorter. 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.


Day 1 – Les Houches – Val Montjoie

1754m up / 1306m down / 21.9km / 5-7hrs

Route overview:

Today is a spectacular day trekking stage 1 of the TMB via the variant trail Col du Tricot finishing in the verdant Val Montjoie.

the TMB arch starting point

Starting in the village of Les Houches at the end of Chamonix’s valley, our itinerary starts from the main square where you can take a photo at the official start point arch. If you have stayed over night in Chamonix the night before you’ll need to take the no 1 bus and get off at ‘Les Houches Marie’ stop. After the obligatory arch photo walk 750km along the main road to the Bellevue cable car. Those who want to quick load up to the Bellevue Plateau can do so here. See more info below on taking the Bellevue cable car. Those intent on hiking up from the valley floor) will continue on past Bellevue through the tunnel and turn left onto the main trail up to Col du Voza and follow the signs for TMB variant Col du Tricot.

Soak in incredible views of the Dôme du Gouter and the Aiguille Bionnassay before crossing a raging glacial torrent using the iconic TMB Himalayan suspension bridge. As you begin the relatively easy ascent to grassy saddle of Col du Tricot you’ll have splendid views of the Bionnassay glacier in good weather. Reward the steep descent from the Col du Tricot by booking a table for lunch at Refuge du Miage – a fantastic stop to drink in the impressive views of the Dômes du Miage.

The trail then winds up briefly passing Auberge du Truc (another good lunch spot) before descending to the French town of Les Contamines, traditionally the stop over point for the first stage. Our itinerary either stops here in Les Contamines or pushes on for a further hour on the trail to stop at the first refuge out of Les Contamines, charming Nant Borrant, one of the best refuges on the TMB. By catching the free navette to Gorge du Notre Dame and then climbing the steep hill up to the refuge, you’ll an hour’s head start on a challenging day tomorrow – tackling two cols in one day.

Col du Tricot variant in bad weather

The Col du Tricot variant route cannot be taken in bad weather. Remember you never want to be on the top of an exposed col in the middle of a thunder storm. If extremely bad weather is predicted you must take the traditional route from Col du Voza via Bionnassay and Le Champel to Les Contamines.

Bellevue cable car

The Bellevue cable car in Les Houches is a common short cut on stage 1 of the TMB. It cuts off 2 hours of uphill at the beginning of the day. I always take the Bellevue cable car unless I’m trekking later in September by which it’s closed. To be precise you will save 5.2km and 818m of up by taking the cable car. Note that the opening times for 2023 were from June 3rd – Sept 10th. This itinerary does not assume you will take the Bellevue cable car. If you aim to do so simply take 2 hours / 5.2km off the timings for the first day. The cable car cost €17.00 one way for an adult in 2023. Find out more about taking this short cut here.

The Bellevue cable car is actually very convenient for those aiming to take the variant stage 1 via the Col du Tricot as the trail connects less than 5 minutes walk from the top of the cable car. You can still take the Bellevue cable car if you are trekking the traditional trail through Le Champel. When you get to the top you simply follow the signposts for TMB Col du Voza. The path follows the train tracks and takes around 15 minutes to join the main trail. The Bellevue cable car opens at 7.30am in peak season or 8am in the shoulder season.

The Bellevue cable car is on the far side of Les Houches, 750m from the centre. The No 1 bus stops right outside (Bellevue cable car stop) so if you have stayed in Chamonix town centre the night before you set off you can catch the bus direct to the Bellevue cable car however bear in mind you’ll miss the opportunity to take the classic photo at the starting point arch outside the tourist office in Les Houches. If you want to take this photo get off the No 1 bus at ‘Les Houches Mairie’, two stops before Bellevue.

how can you make today easier?

Take the Bellevue cable car (see above)

If you are trekking on past Les Contamines to stay at Refuge Nant Borrant, Des Pres or Le Balme its possible to take a free bus from Les Contamines to Notre Dame de la Gorge in peak season (July & August). This cuts approximately 1 hour off your trail time. Find out about this short cut here.

Iunch stops

Refuge Miage, Auberge du Truc

accommodation on your first night

Accommodation could be in the bustling town of Les Contamines or further up the valley in the refuges of Nant Borrant, Des Pres or Le Balme. Accommodation on this day could be at the end of traditional stage 1 in the town of Les Contamines which is perfect for those wanting a private room with en-suite bathroom. For those happy to sleep in small dorms with shared bathroom facilities it’s a great option to push further on past Les Contamines to either Refuge Nant Borrant, Des Pres or Le Balme. This has the great advantage of shortening the long stage 2 day where you have two cols to climb. I booked into Refuge Nant Borrant when I trekked with my Mum precisely to do this – to ease the elevation on day 2.

Bear in mind that Refuge Nant Borrant is small and increasingly popular after being featured by Rick Steves. If you particularly want to stay here it’s wise to book early and if you’re aiming to book a self guided trek book before September to avoid disappointment.

If you’re booking online please add a note in the special requirements box if you would prefer to stay in the town of Les Contamines either in shared accommodation or a private room with ensuite (at extra cost) or if you would prefer to push on to one of the refuges beyond Les Contamines. Note that if you want to push further to these refuges I would recommend taking the Bellevue cable car as its a long day if you’ve also made the climbed up from the Les Houches valley floor.

Italian tour du mont blanc

Day 2 Val Montjoie – Les Chapieux

1042m up / 947m down / 13.1km / 4-5hrs

Route overview:

Today is a long, strenuous day which is duly rewarded with incredible views over wild desolate cols. This is truly les Alpes sauvages and your heart will sing to be far from civilisation. Stage 2 of the TMB climbs over two mountain passes Col du Bonhomme (2329m) and Col de la Croix de Bonhomme (2483m), possibly still laden with snow, before descending into the French hamlet of Les Chapieux (1554m) in the Vallée des Glaciers.

Those planning to trek in June or early July should expect to have to trek over snow today. Read my trekking the TMB early season post.

how can you make today easier?

There are no short cuts that go around the two cols on stage 2. The only way to shorten the day is to either have a longer day 1and stay beyond Les Contamines in Refuges Nant Borrant, Des Pres or Le Balme or to take the bus from Les Contamines to Notre Dame de la Gorge where the roads stops and the trail begins!

Iunch stops

There are limited lunch options on this stage. I wouldn’t recommend having lunch at Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme. I always order a pique-nique for this stage and have my lunch on the go.

accommodation on your second night

Accommodation will be in the hamlet of Les Chapieux in either private rooms with en-suite or dorm accommodation. Note that Les Chapieux is a notorious bottleneck. Demand far outstrips supply. Try to book by September to secure accommodation in Les Chapieux or expect to have to stay in the town of Bourg St Maurice, a 20 minute taxi ride down from Les Chapieux.

Day 3 Les Chapieux – Val Veny

1040m up / 400m down / 13.9km / 4-5hrs

Route overview:

Today you’ll switch from Bonjour to Ciao as you climb the Col de la Seigne and walk over the frontiere into Italy. For those who want to shorten todays hike take one of the frequent shuttle buses from Les Chapieux along the tarmac road to La Ville des Glaciers or Les Mottets Parking cutting an hour off the traditional time. Tip: buy your ticket the night before if you want to bag a seat on the first bus at 8.30am otherwise you might have to wait until 9 or 9.30 to get a seat.

At Ville des Glaciers make a quick side trip to the cheese farm only a few metres from the trail. This is one of the most authentic experiences on the TMB and highly recommended. Being a micro producer of the local Beaufort cheese its tiny operation only takes around 15 minutes to look around. Read my post here on visiting the TMB cheese farm.

From here the trail ascends to 2516m to the top of the Col de la Seigne and, leaving the Vallée des Glaciers and France behind, cross the unmanned border and descend into Italy!

From the col it’s an easy downhill onto the wide, flat valley floor of Vallon de la Lée Blanche. From here Refuge Elisabetta or Cabane Combal will be your home for the night.

how can you make today easier?

Take the ‘navette’ shuttle bus from Les Chapieux to Ville des Glaciers (or Mottets parking) to cut 1.5 hours off your trail time. Find out more about taking this bus here.

Iunch stops

The preferred option for food on this stage is a pique-nique. Those of you staying at Les Chapieux can either order a pique-nique from your accommodation or you can buy lunch at the lovely deli in Les Chapieux. A great tip is to buy a half bottle of wine at the deli then buy some local Beaufort cheese at the cheese farm in Ville des Glacier. Find a good spot to soak up the scenery and enjoy!

side trip – La Ville des Glaciers cheese farm

A brilliant side trip just minutes from the trail today is a visit to a tiny cheese farm that produces the delicious local cheese – Beaufort. Read my post Don’t Miss: La Ville des Glaciers cheese farm.

accommodation on your third night

Accommodation will be in Rifugio Elisabetta, a basic cavernous refuge, commanding an exceptional view perched on a spur of the Pyramides Calcaires, with not one, but two glaciers (Glacier d’Estellette and Glacier de la Lée Blanche) spilling down behind it. Dorm accommodation here is basic or choose from small private bunk rooms with shared bathroom facilities. Or if availability allows it might be possible to push on a further hour along the ancient arrow straight Roman road to Cabane Combal, a picture postcard A frame refuge nestled into the Miage Glacier moraine.

For late bookers both of these accommodation options may be fully booked. In this case expect to stay in a hotel in Courmayeur. You’ll exit the trail at Cabane Combal, descend the access road to La Visaille where in July and August a regular free bus service runs to Courmayeur. Read about this option in my short cut guide here.

tour du mont blanc refuges
Perched next to the moraine of Glacier du Miage this A frame refuge boasts en-suite bathrooms to all of it’s small bed dorms. If you’ve got an ounce of energy left, its worth the 10 minute hike behind the Refugio to Lac Miage nestled in the moraine

Day 4 Val Veny – Courmayeur

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

Route overview:

There are no cols to climb on stage 4 of the Tour du Mont Blanc, so it’s easy to presume that this stretch is not demanding. Think again. However this stage is one of my favourites hands down. The formidable wall of rock holding up the Mont Blanc Massif on the opposite side of the valley highlights our minuscule selves. Prepare to feel humbled.

The trail climbs up the side of the V shaped, moat like Val Veni to the highest point of the day, the Mont Favre spur (2430m). With every step along the high balcony path, the sheer southern flanks of the imposing Mont Blanc Massif range rising on the opposite side, take your breath away.  Whilst not particularly challenging, the deceiving nature of this balcony trail leads to you believe you’re almost there. Many times.

It’s a long day that should not be under estimated.

Enjoy a well deserved gelato in the pretty Italian town of Courmayeur. Those wanting a bit of pampering and luxury can choose from several high end hotels. The spa nearby at Pre St Didier is fabulous.

how can you make today easier?

During the peak summer weeks of July and August it is possible to take a gondola and chair lift from Maison Vielle down to Dolonne. From there it’s just a ten minute walk into the centre of Courmayeur. This is a good option for those with delicate knees – the descent into Courmayeur is brutal. This would shorten today’s hike to 7.5km. Find out more about taking the Maison Vielle chairlift & Dolonne cable car here.

Iunch stops

Again today lunch stops are limited. Either organise a pique-nique from your accommodation or choose to have a late lunch at Rifugio Maison Vielle.

Day 4 from Val Veny to Courmayeur is one of my favourite stages of the entire TMB trek. The scenery is dramatic! At the Mont Favre spur (2430m) you’ll feel on top of the world!