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.
Good to know: You can shave off a day easily on our Tour du Mont Blanc 4 day itinerary by starting in Les Contamines instead of Chamonix. You may hear that stage 1 of the TMB is rather unspectacular however my 4 day itinerary (as with all my itineraries) takes the stage 1 variant over the Col du Tricot which crosses the iconic Himalayan suspension bridge and affords spectacular views of the Bionnassay Glacier. This means that EVERY DAY on this 4 day trek is spectacular. If you want an easier and more mellow first day you can of course take the traditional route via Bionnasasy as it’s a good warm up day with the trail passing through pleasant alpine pastures.
Note: If you’re flying into Geneva Airport and want to do this itinerary in 3 days starting from Les Contamines you can get an airport transfer to Les Contamines instead of Chamonix. This will avoid having a lengthy bus journey with inconvenient change times from Chamonix to Les Contamines (around 3 hours) Don’t worry you’ll still see Chamonix in all it’s glory at the end of this itinerary. You can also arrange a bag transfer from Les Contamines to Courmayeur.
Start point: Les Houches (a village at the bottom of the Chamonix Valley) or Les Contamines if you’re doing the 3 day itinerary.
Day 1 – Les Houches – Nant Borrant refuge via Col du Tricot ( 7-8hrs – 17.4km)
Starting in the village of Les Houches at the end of Chamonix’s valley, our itinerary takes the cable car up to the Bellevue Plateau (or add another two hours onto today’s trek by hiking from the valley floor). Admire the Dome du Gouter and the Aiguille Bionnassay before descending to cross the raging glacial torrent by the iconic Himalyan suspension bridge. The route then passes the spectacular Bionnassay glacier before climbing up to the grassy saddle of Col du Tricot. This stage 1 variant should never be done in bad weather but is not particularly taxing. The descent into the Miage valley is however very steep. Book ahead for a table at Refuge du Miage to enjoy lunch overlooking the impressive Dômes du Miage. The trail then winds up briefly before descending to the French town of Les Contamines, traditionally the stop over point for the first stage. Our itinerary 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.
Day 2 – Refuge Nant Borrant – Les Chapieux (6-7hrs 13.4km)
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. You’ll climb 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.
Day 3 Les Chapieux – Cabane Combal (6-7hrs 16.9km or 4.5-6hrs 12.3km)
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.
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 all downhill onto the wide, flat valley floor of Vallon de la Lée Blanche. Pass Refuge 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. The refuge has a good terrace if you need a refreshment before heading on the further 45-60 minutes along the ancient arrow straight Roman road to your accommodation for the night – the picture postcard A frame Refugio Cabane Combal.
Day 4 Cabane Combale – Courmayeur (5-6.5 hrs 16.9km or 4-5hrs 12.3km)
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.
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.
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.