Stage 7 of the Tour du Mont Blanc is both the shortest and the easiest leg. Meandering through the Swiss ‘Val Ferret’, this stage meanders low along the valley floor from the village of La Fouly through forest and meadows with the last 90 minutes an uphill spurt to the most beautiful section of the Swiss TMB, the charming lake town of Champex-Lac.
Stage 7 is the first stage to be recommended to drop if you’re looking to fast pack the TMB or just want to shave off a day. Whilst the Swiss hamlets are charming, this stage is far less remarkable than any other leg of the Tour du Mont Blanc with none of the aggressive, impressive raw beauty that you will have hiked through to get here. It’s easy to pick up the bus at Ferret or La Fouly and change at Orsiere for Champex-Lac.
Saying that TMB purists wouldn’t think of dropping a stage and if you’ve got time on your side, it’s nice to complete the entire circuit, and stage 7 will give you a relatively easy day on the trail to rest your legs and arrive early to enjoy the lake side at Champex-Lac, or if you’re aiming to tackle the alternative Fenêtre d’Arpette route, which should only be taken in good weather, (which will take you to the highest point of the TMB, 2665m), press on to refuge Relais d’Arpette (1627m) which is the perfect place to stay the night.
Tour du Mont Blanc stage 7
La Fouly – Champex-Lac
The Swiss village of La Fouly sits at the foot of two mighty mountains, Tour Noir (3, 836m) and Mont Dolent (3,823m) which incredibly is the tri-point where all three of the Tour du Mont Blanc countries, France, Switzerland and Italy’s borders meet!
The main villages and hamlets of the valley are Ferret, La Fouly, Prayon, Praz de Fort, Les Arlaches, Issert and Som la Proz. All of which you will pass through apart from the last when you will turn uphill for the last 90 minutes to Champex-Lac (pronounced Champay-Lac).
The route hugs the left side of the valley, following the west bank of the river La Drance de Ferret and parallel to the main valley road which can easily be heard as your hiking. In wilderness you are not!
The best part of stage 7 is that you’ll wander through a couple of charming Swiss hamlets. The tiny Les Arlaches with it’s interlaced wooden roofs are a real gem.
Stage 7 – the route
The Tour du Mont Blanc stage 7 starts at the tiny ski resort of La Fouly. The village clusters around the main road with a small supermarket and several places to stay, the most prevalent Auberge des Glaciers which is right next to the supermarket.
It’s easy to pick up the trail opposite the Grand Hotel du Val Ferret where the route cuts down, over a sluice, through campsite Camping Les Glaciers and follows the left side of the valley.
The route is clearly marked with either proper signposts emblazoned with the green TMB sticker or with yellow painted diamonds.
The impressive mountain wall rising to Tour Noir flanks you on your left. Look out for the free falling waterfall ribbon and in good weather brightly clad climbers dotting the stone wall up high. The route, undemanding, meanders gently downhill along the bank of the river, crossing stony sections with occasional avalanche debris. At several places bridges cross the river on the right, the second leading to the tiny hamlet of Prayon. Ignore these and stay on the main path, following the well marked signs.
The trail climbs away from the river and hits a semi exposed 20-30 metres section with fixed metal chains attached to the rock to help in bad weather or to placate nervous hikers (photo below). Whilst it’s not really a dangerous section, a fall here could prove fatal. Pay attention.
The views of wooden chalets amid mountain meadows and the sound of braying donkeys in the fields are quite lovely.
The route continues up here through pleasant forest and it’s not long now before you’ll hit Praz de Fort turn off. Pay attention – this was the first sign that I missed and consequently had to back track, annoyingly uphill! The sign pointing to the right wasn’t marked TMB, just a yellow hikers sign, however the description was accurate in the guidebook to take it but I continued on, just in case. Don’t – this is the turn off but if you carry on like me, you’ll descend a steep slope to some agricultural barns and can easily carry on down the slope where you’ll meet up with the trail again. I back tracked to take the TMB path which continues down a rather lovely elevated tree tunnelled path which is actually a now redundant moraine from the glacier.
At the end of this leaf shrouded elevated track, turn left onto the road and follow it into the village of Praz de Fort. Continue down through the village until you cross the main road, cross the bridge and take up a track up ahead on the left.
This leads you across green pastures with cattle grazing. Up ahead of you it’s possible to just make out Champex-Lac high above the forest. That’s the climb for the day but for now enjoy the gentle track and the charming hamlet of Les Arlaches. The ancient wooden buildings crammed into the hamlet have criss crossing roofs and narrow doorways. Very instagrammable darling. In fact this village is one of the reasons why you should trek stage 7 of the TMB.
After Les Arlaches, descend across the fields to Issert where you’ll join up to the main road. Turn right and walk only a few hundred metres before seeing the TMB signs on the opposite side. It’s here you’ll begin your ascent to Champex-Lac. Expect it to take a good hour and a half. T
he trail zig zags through the forest with various woodland creatures carved into tree stumps. Half way up there’s a chance to re-plenish water supplies at a drinking pump as well as a picnic table. It’s a good spot to rest a moment before pushing on to the top where a hearty meal is surely waiting at your Champex-Lac hotel.
Read about each country on the TMB
The Tour du Mont Blanc trail passes through 3 countries. France. Italy. Switzerland.
Find out more about each country, the trail and their stages below.
Read more information on everything TMB France related here
Find out more about everything Swiss TMB related here
Ciao! Read all about the Italian side of the TMB trail here