10 days of hiking in the Alps – the ULTIMATE wellness trip if you ask me. This Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary follows the traditional TMB route, includes tips, daily trail specs, accommodation suggestions, and addresses some of the most common questions you might be asking yourself as you begin planning your tour.
The Tour du Mont Blanc, or the TMB, is a 105-mile (170 km) trail that circumnavigates Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. The TMB is often considered one of the most beautiful through-hikes in the world, introducing hikers from around the globe to the exquisite and dramatic scenery of the Alps.
👉 Don’t forget travel insurance for this trip! I always use SafetyWing!
Tour du Mont Blanc Itinerary: 10 Days
This itinerary does not include, but I recommend, staying in Chamonix for a couple of days before and after your tour, first to acclimate and then to relax.
The TMB is broken up into “stages”. Traditionally, there are 11 stages but depending on how many days you want to trek you can find different versions of the stages.
During your planning, and your trekking, take all distance, time, and elevation markers or estimations with a grain of salt. Mileage on GPS and in guidebooks and blogs rarely match up, and there are a lot of variables that affect the accuracy of the time estimations. The trail markers seem to allot 30 minutes for every mile, but depending on your age, the weather, and what shape you’re in, that will be different for every person. For your own sake, just always assume you’ll have an additional mile or 30 minutes 🙂
Tour du Mont Blanc Trek Specs:
- Distance: 105 miles / 170 kilometers
- Route Type: Loop
- Starting Point: Les Houches (traditionally)
- Direction: Counter-clockwise (although it can also be hiked clockwise)
- Total Elevation Gain/Loss: 33,632ft / 10,251 m
- Maximum Altitude: 8,500 ft / 2600 m
- Days To Hike: 7-12 days
- Countries: France, Italy, Switzerland
- Difficulty: Difficult (never flat, always up or down)
Tour du Mont Blanc Itinerary Disclaimers:
- Most stages have alternative route options, or “variants”, as they are called. This itinerary follows the traditional TMB route, except for day 10. Refer to the recommended guidebooks for variant options.
- Some stages have options to use public transport and lifts/gondolas to accelerate and shorten the path. This itinerary discloses any shortcuts by calling out *SHORTCUT*.
- There are many mountain huts/refuges along the TMB to choose from. This allows for total personalization of your trek. The huts recommended in this tour du mont blanc itinerary are huts that I stayed in and will provide my honest opinion about.
Day 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines
Do not get off at the first stop in Les Houches – stay on until you see the Office de Tourismo (on your left). Here you will see the TMB starting point arch. Take a photo and walk onward for about 10 minutes until you see the “Telecabine Bellevue”. *SHORTCUT* This will cut off a 2600 ft / 800 m climb through the forest. Begin your trek at the top of this cable car.
You’ll pass through many towns and villages today, and you won’t feel very “out there”. The signage is decent, just make sure you pay attention and don’t pass any turnoffs. Use the guidebooks and GPS for support.
✔ Mileage: 9 miles / 14.5 km (if you take the cable car, 11 if you don’t)
✔ Elevation Gain: ~ 1000 ft / 300 m (if you take the cable car, 3550 ft if you don’t)
✔ Estimated hiking time: 5 hours (with cable car)
💤 Where to stay: Gai Soleil
Gai Soleil is a quaint and quiet hotel just off the main road in Les Contamines. There is a lovely yard to relax in after hiking all day. The rooms are basic but very comfortable with amazing views. Breakfast was great and there is wifi. I would recommend staying here.
Day 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux
💪 This is one of the most challenging days of this tour du mont blanc itinerary.
Today you will climb over two Cols (mountain passes). You will see fewer towns and be pleasantly surprised by the beauty that is everywhere. Be prepared for lots of elevation gain and possible weather. It can get very cold (and wet!) at the top of the cols.
When you begin to descend from the second col, you’ll pass Croix du Bonhomme – a refuge. Stop here for hot chocolate or coffee but DO NOT stay here (outhouses, flies, no showers, etc).
BONUS: Look out and listen for lots of Marmots as you descend from Croix du Bonhomme!
✔ Mileage: 14 miles / 22.5 km
✔ Elevation Gain: 4500 ft /3000 ft down
✔ Estimated hiking time: 7 hours
💤 Where to stay: Auberge de la Nova
You will see the Auberge immediately as you descend into Les Chapieux (there isn’t much else here!). Try to get a private room if you can – unless you are fully comfortable sleeping in dorms. The dinner was one of the best dinners of the trek! Hot showers but no wifi or service.
Day 3: Les Chapieux to Rifugio Cabane du Combal
🌀 One of the most beautiful days of the trek!
Today you will get your first view of Mont Blanc from the trail and cross over into Italy via Col de la Seigne. To begin, take a bus from Les Chapieux to Les Mottets (NOT Ville des Glaciers). *SHORTCUT* This will cut about an hour and a half of walking on a skinny paved road which made sense to us (and most others).
There is a small wooden information center in Les Chapieux, just outside Auberge de la Nova. You can buy bus tickets here – try and buy them the night before in order to get the first bus, otherwise, you may have to wait until the 9 am bus (or just walk).
BONUS: When you get to Cabane du Combal, continue on another 10 minutes to see Lac Miage and the adjacent moraine – you’ll see the signs outside the rifugio. If you sit and listen at the top, you’ll hear small rockslides happen every few minutes as a result of the melting glacier.
The All Trails map linked below maps you to Rifugio Elisabetta. A lot of people like to stay here but I saw the sleeping area and would highly recommend continuing on to Cabane du Combal. It’s another 30 minutes and 1.5 miles on FLAT gravel road. Definitely stop at Elisabetta for a cappuccino though. You’ll have to climb up their long and steep driveway but it is worth it!
✔ Mileage: 10 miles / 16 km
✔ Elevation Gain: 3400 ft / 1036 m
✔ Estimated hiking time: 5.5 hours
💤 Where to stay: Cabane du Combal
Cabane du Combal is a very sweet rifugio with large, clean rooms and the dinner was really very good. They tend to get herds of ibex hanging around (hence their logo), so be on the lookout! We saw several here 🙂 Lastly, there is no wifi or service here.
Day 4: Cabane du Combal to Rifugio Maison Vieille
🌀 One of the most beautiful days of this tour du mont blanc itinerary!
This was one of my absolute favorite days. It was a short day but SO beautiful. On several days you trek through villages and towns, but this day you are just in the mountains the entire time. You’ll be walking at eye level with glaciers and alongside grazing sheep and cows. Take your time and admire the beauty in every direction.
ALTERNATIVE ITINERARY: As much as we loved Maison Vielle, I recommend continuing past Rifugio Maison Vielle and booking a hotel in Courmayeur. Courmayeur is the largest town you will go through and a great opportunity to stay somewhere nicer, and it will balance out the distances on days 4 and 5. The Alltrails map below goes to Courmayeur.
✔ Mileage: 6 miles / 9.6 km (to Maison Vieille)
✔ Elevation Gain: 1900 ft / 600 m
✔ Estimated hiking time: 3 – 4 hours
💤 Where to stay: Rifugio Maison Vieille
As I mentioned, I would continue on to Courmayeur. However, if you choose to stay at Maison Vieille you can spend the afternoon lounging in lawn chairs and sipping on cold beers. This is a popular lunch stop for day hikers so it’s very busy and fun. They only have dorms – no private rooms, FYI. But, they do have wifi.
Day 5: Rifugio Maison Vieille to Rifugio Walter Bonatti
Maison Vieille is situated at the top of a ski lift. When you depart on day 5 you can either sleep in and wait for the ski lift to open at 9 am to take you down to Dolonne or you can walk down the very steep descent which will take you about 2 hours. * This is another reason to stay in Courmayeur because you can take the ski lift down in the afternoon the day before.
*SHORTCUT* We chose to save our knees and took the ski lift as soon as it opened. You have to take a Gondola following the lift which drops you in Dolonne. You’ll walk about 10 minutes to Courmayeur. Build in some time to walk around and get some coffee if you can because it’s very cute here.
Next, begin your ascent through a paved neighborhood and then into a popular wooded hiking area. Stop at the top at Rifugio Bertone for a snack and beverage and then continue on. Today is another day of hiking eye to eye with massive glaciers… in fact, you’ll be sleeping directly across from one at Rifugio Bonatti!
✔ Mileage: 9 miles / 14.5 km (from Maison Vieille)
✔ Elevation Gain: 3600 ft / 1100 m
✔ Estimated hiking time: 6 hours
💤 Where to stay: Rifugio Walter Bonatti
Rifugio Bonatti is situated directly across from a massive glacier – it is an unbelievable location. The rifugio is a little newer and offers dorms and private rooms that are quite comfortable and clean. The dinner was pretty good. You have to get a coin for the shower and only get 4 minutes. There is no wifi, but some service. Although, if you ask nicely the staff might share the wifi password.
Day 6: Rifugio Walter Bonatti to La Fouly
On day 6 of this tour du mont blanc itinerary, you’ll cross over into Switzerland. This is an absolutely stunning day of hiking, especially the climb to Grand Col Ferret (tough!). Prepare to see lots of rolling green hills, glaciers, cows, and sheep.
✔ Mileage: 14 miles / 22.5 km
✔ Elevation Gain: 3200 ft. / 975 m
✔ Estimated hiking time: 7 hours
💤 Where to stay: Auberge des Glaciers
This Auberge is right in the center of town – as soon as you enter La Fouly you will see it. The rooms were cute (private) and the showers were hot! Dinner was delicious but it was an expensive auberge/refuge. Conveniently, there is a market right next door if you need to stock up on snacks.
Day 7: La Fouly to Champex
Day 7 is one of the easier days of this tour du mont blanc itinerary. You will be in the forest most of the time. Look for wooden animal carvings along the whole trail. This day was very rainy for us – several people ended up taking the bus from La Fouly to Champex to avoid hiking in the rain. We were soaked by the time we got to La Fouly but ultimately we were glad we didn’t take the bus. You’ll pass through some really interesting and tiny Swiss towns today – not the most exciting day though.
✔ Mileage: 9 miles / 14.5 km
✔ Elevation Gain: 2000 ft. / 609 m
✔ Estimated hiking time: 4.5 hours
💤 Where to stay: Hotel Splendide
I had originally booked Hotel Belvedere, but when we arrived I was informed I accidentally booked it for the night before. They didn’t have room for us the night we needed it but it ended up being a BLESSING IN DISGUISE. Belvedere was very dark and dingy and the husband of the husband-wife combo was RUDE. We went next door to Hotel Splendide which happened to have a cancellation. It was such a treat to stay there. The rooms are sweet and gorgeous – amazing views and breakfast!!
Day 8: Champex to Trient
This day was challenging for us, mentally. Not incredibly tough but it felt very long. This was the easiest stage to get lost, in my opinion. When you leave Champex Lac, stay on the main road through town, following the TMB signs. If you turn off the road too soon you’ll find yourself in a maze of trails and the GPS is unreliable here. You’ll see a large boulder with “bovine TMB” painted on it. This is where you turn off.
When you reach Trient, continue on another km (15 minutes) to reach Le Peuty – it’s on the map.
BONUS: If you do the main route and not a variant, you’ll pass by Alp Bovine, a small unassuming rustic restaurant in the hills. The homemade tarts are AMAZING. The views and atmosphere are warm and authentic. A must-stop.
✔ Mileage: 12.5 miles / 20 km
✔ Elevation Gain: 2800 ft. / 853 m
✔ Estimated hiking time: 6 hours
💤 Where to stay: Le Peuty
I booked Le Peuty on a whim because it looked unique and fun and wow am I so glad I did. This was one of, if not the top place of all the places we stayed in this tour du mont blanc itinerary. The atmosphere and vibes here are unbeatable. There is a dorm above the kitchen, a huge field for camping, and one private yurt. I booked early enough that I was able to get the yurt and it was awesome. The BEST part of our stay though was hands down the food. Dinner was cooked fresh from scratch and could have come from a multi-star restaurant. Breakfast was equally as delicious. Best food and best vibes of the trip.
Day 9: Trient to Tre le Champ
This was one of our favorite days of the TMB. Our bodies felt conditioned to the daily grind and the weather and views were gorgeous. You’ll return to France today, via Col du Balme. It’s a steep ascent to the top so stop at the top for a coffee or beer (and photos!). As you reach the top you regain an unobstructed view of Mont Blanc and it remains in site the rest of the trek.
✔ Mileage: 10.5 miles / 17 km
✔ Elevation Gain: 3400 ft. / 1036 m
✔ Estimated hiking time: 6 hours
💤 Where to stay: Auberge la Boerne
The location of this Auberge is great, it’s very cute and rustic, unique, and has a very cool history. However, the dorm we stayed in was literally the size of a closet (not joking see pictures). It was fine – just funny. The dinner was also not very good – maybe the worst of the whole trip. All part of the experience though! I’d probably choose to stay here again versus hiking down into Argentiere if that’s any consolation.
Day 10: Tre le Champ to Chamonix
The final stretch! Today you will go through the “ladder section” which you will hear about during your TMB planning. It is a little nerve-wracking, but totally doable so don’t be deterred. If you have an intense fear of heights, you can avoid the ladders by doing the Col Des Montets variant.
We decided to take our first variant today and go to Lac Blanc. It adds on another hour or so and a bit of elevation gain but the views are worth it in my opinion. And the hike out of Lac Blanc is very cool and different from much of the rest of the path.
When you reach the ski lift, take it down to La Flegere, then continue on the TMB path to the Plan Praz gondola. This will drop you in Chamonix! Below is the trail map to La Flegere. If you want to do the Lac Blanc variant, just follow the signs once you get to the top of the ladder section.
There are a number of options to descend into the Chamonix valley (i.e. at La Flegere, Plan Praz, or further along) so decide what is best for you. We felt strong when we reached La Felgere so we decided to continue to Plan Praz. You do NOT need to buy lift cable car tickets ahead of time. However, make sure you get there before they close (5 pm).
✔ Mileage: 11.5 miles / 18.5 km
✔ Elevation Gain: 3200 ft. / 990 m
✔ Estimated hiking time: 7 hours
💤 Where to stay: Grand Hotel des Alpes
Treat yourself! Stay at the Grand Hotel des Alpes, in the center of Chamonix. They have an amazing spa with a gorgeous sauna and hot tub area (this was the major selling point for me). The rooms are stunning and the beds are amazing just stay here!!
Tour du Mont Blanc Itinerary Planning Resources
Blog posts, facebook groups, the official TMB website, GPS and weather apps, and guidebooks are all of the resources you will need to plan and hike your tour du mont blanc itinerary.
This Facebook group is very active and super helpful. People share their experiences, share all sorts of tips, and provide a decently accurate picture of what the current conditions and situation is on the trail.
I carried Jim Manthorpe’s Tour du Mont Blanc guidebook (2nd edition) with me and while it is not always 100% accurate, the detailed maps and elevation and distance charts were really helpful. He also covers all of the different variants available to you.
The official TMB website is a somewhat helpful planning resource. It is also the only way to book some of the refuges so if you plan on staying in mountain huts you will need to utilize this site.
Meteoblue is a helpful weather app to have – again, not always accurate of course but it’s more detailed than weather.com.
Tour du Mont Blanc Alltrails
While not always accurate, alltrails was the best GPS app for us. There are a number of route options that are downloadable. This way, if you don’t have service (which you won’t) you can still use the map. Alltrails has all of the traditional stages mapped out, as well as variants, alternative stages, and the entire loop even.
You will need to create an AllTrails account. Search for your desired stage, crosscheck it with guidebooks to make sure it’s accurate, and then download it. While you are hiking you will be able to go into the app and click on the respective stage and the app’s GPS will follow along the route.
FAQs About the Tour du Mont Blanc Hike
If you are just getting started with your TMB planning, I’m sure you have a LOT of questions. Don’t worry, everything will start to make sense and come together. It seems more daunting than it actually is. Hopefully, this FAQ gets you off to a good start!
What is the best time to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?
August. I hiked this tour du mont blanc itinerary August 13th-22th and it rained two of those days. Earlier August you may see less rain, but I think generally anytime in August is a great time to hike the TMB. It was in the 80s in Chamonix, but higher up on the trail it was perfect hiking weather (60s and 70s).
If you go in June, you may encounter remnants of winter, in July it may be scorching hot, and in September it could snow. That being said, the trail will be busy June through September.
How much water should I carry on the TMB?
At least two liters. Although, you may need three liters during the hottest months or if you are planning on hiking longer distances than most people each day.
I carried two 1 liter Nalgene’s (I am not a fan of camelbacks) and never ran out of water. There are several water troughs along the route to refill if you are running low, although I recommend that you never begin the day with less than two liters just in case.
There are some occasions, particularly towards the end of summer, when the water is not flowing in all of the troughs along the trail. That being said, we found at least one water refill trough at every stage – and usually several.
How far in advance should I plan my Tour du Mont Blanc Itinerary?
Approximately, 6 to 10 months. If you plan on staying in refuges/mountain huts along the trail, you’ll need to book them well in advance. I booked all of our accommodations about 7 months ahead of our trip. If you plan on camping you have some more freedom to start your planning later.
Do I have to start the TMB in Les Houches, Chamonix?
No, absolutely not! Les Houches is the “official” starting point, and made the most sense for us because we wanted to spend time in Chamonix before and after our trek. However, there are several other starting points – pretty much any main town along the path can be a starting point. The only other starting point I would consider, personally, is Courmayeur.
How do I book the refuges?
The refuges, also called mountain huts, rifugios, and auberges, depending what country you’re in, can be somewhat challenging to reserve. They need to be booked early if you want a guaranteed spot, and they all have different booking processes. For more information on how to book the refuges, refer to my post Tour du Mont Blanc Refuges: How to Choose and Book [COMING SOON].
What gear do I need for the TMB?
See Tour du Mont Blanc Packing List [COMING SOON].
What To Expect on The Trail
- A variety of weather! Make sure you pack for every condition.
- Wildlife! Specifically, marmots, ibex, chamois, vultures, deer, sheep, cows, and goats.
- Crowds. The TMB is one of the most famous treks in the world, you are going to be hiking with a lot of people. There are days where you may not see many people, but most days you will see a lot. One positive is that it makes the trek feel very safe and a great option for solo female hikers.
- Wild berries! You will find wild blueberries along much of the route, and occasionally some wild raspberries.
- Water refill stations. As I mentioned earlier, there are several water refill troughs along each leg of the hike. Make sure to always pack enough water for the day in case they are dry. Check facebook groups to know the status of the water before you go.
Wrap-Up: Tour du Mont Blanc Itinerary
So, if you are on the fence about hiking the TMB, let me just give you a little push. Allow yourself to breathe in the freshest of air, to gravel at the massive glaciers all around you, to sleep in places so remote that the stars seem brighter and more abundant than any place you’ve ever been. Give yourself a screen break, clear your head, and meet amazing people from around the world. Eat fresh homemade food every day, drink untouched mountain spring water.
Use this Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary as a starting point – take what works for you and customize the rest to your needs.