Ultimate European Backpacking on the Tour du Mont Blanc (Itinerary)
Experience epic hiking in France, Italy, and Switzerland over 10 days and 170 km around the Mont Blanc massif.
Resupplies: The TMB goes through towns most days!
Rest Days: 0
Nero Days: 2 (first and last day)
Day 1 CHAMONIX TO REFUGE DU FIOUX
Approximately 2.5 hours
Get maps and supplies from Chamonix before taking a bus to Les Houches, the starting point, which takes less than 20 minutes. A gondola is available on the first day. However, the hiking day is short so it isn’t necessary.
From Les Houches, hike 2 hours uphill towards Col de Voza then 10 minutes downhill towards Bionnassay.
In my itinerary, the first day is short and the second day is long because I did a lot of hiking the weeks before this hike and wanted a ‘nero’ (near zero) day that allowed me to spend time in Chamonix. If you want to even it out, I recommend hiking to Les Contamines on Day 1 instead.
Day 2 REFUGE DU FIOUX TO REFUGE DE LA CRIOIX DU BONHOMME
Approximately 10.5 hours
The hike up to Col du Bonhomme is long but doable. As mentioned above, staying in Les Contamines on Day 1 would even out the first and second days.
The Refuge de la Balme is a great place to stop for lunch and to take cover if the weather becomes challenging. With the weather forecast I had, I considered staying at Refuge de la Balme, however, I was really glad that I continued to my destination since Refuge de la Crioix du Bonhomme was one of my favorite places to stay on the TMB.
Day 3 REFUGE DE LA CRIOIX DU BONHOMME TO REFUGE DES MOTTETS
Approximately 4 hours
If you have good weather prospects, taking the TMB variant route is a must. The alternative route heads toward Col de Seigne via Col de Fours and provides views of Mont Blanc, the valley from the previous day, and many other beautiful peaks. After enjoying the view, a long descent will bring you to the most charming refuge for the night.
Day 4 REFUGE DES MOTTETS TO RIFUGIO MAISON VIEILLE
Approximately 5.5-6 hours
Lots of switchbacks up to the Col de Seigne marks the border crossing from France to Italy. The descent into Val Veni is picturesque and exciting knowing that you made your way to a different country! Refugio Elisabetta is a nice place to stop for lunch with amazing glacier views, although it will be hard to get up and going again!
Day 5 RIFUGIO MAISON VIEILLE TO RIFUGIO BONATTI
Approximately 6 hours
It is a rapid descent down steep ski runs to the village of Dolonne and then Courmayeur, an Italian resort town. Grab some refreshments in town before a big climb up from Courmayeur on the Strada del Villa. The variant on this walk is one of the hardest days of the TMB, as it climbs over 1200m from Courmayeur, but the views of the Mont Blanc massif was a personal highlight for me. I indulged in a meal at Rifugio Bonatti that night (another favorite refugio) due to the excellent reviews and was extremely happy I did!
Note: Courmayeur is a good place to take a rest day if that interests you.
Day 6 RIFUGIO BONATTI TO HOTEL EDELWEISS
Approximately 6 hours
The climb to Grand Col Ferret is tough, but rewarding with views of the entire Italian route from the beginning at Col de la Seigne. Now in Switzerland, farm buildings of la Peule sell their homemade cheese and other refreshments. The descent continues to the Swiss Val Ferret to arrive at La Fouly, a calm village amongst beautiful scenery.
Day 7 HOTEL EDELWEISS TO AUBERGE GITE BON ABRI
Approximately 4 hours
The easiest day of the TMB with no passes to cross and mostly flat hiking past meadows, the river (la Drance de Ferret), and through forests to Champex.
Day 8 AUBERGE GITE BON ABRI TO AUBERGE MONT BLANC
Approximately 4.5 hours
Two route options are available to Trient. The main route climbs through woods to the alp of Bovine while the alternative route climbs higher to the Fenetre d'Arpette. Neither route is easy, but the Fenetre route involves high, rocky walking that requires good conditions. Unfortunately, I got lost taking the alternate route, so I do not have photos or the ability to make a recommendation! However, the fondue at Auberge Mont Blanc made my day!
Day 9 AUBERGE MONT BLANC TO REFUGE DU LAC BLANC
Approximately 8 hours
The ascent up to the Col du Balme starts immediately with endless switchbacks to get out of the valley. Col du Balme is the border between Switzerland and France and the views of Mont Blanc from the French side are incredible for the remaining days! After reaching Le Tour, Montroc and Tre-Le-Champ, many people stop here for the night. However, I continued climbing up rocky pathways and ladders to the destination that I was most excited about staying at on the TMB, Refuge du Lac Blanc. Lac Blanc is actually a diversion from the trail, but with amazing sunset/sunrise views of the beautiful mountain range, I hardly consider it optional!
Day 10 REFUGE DU LAC BLANC TO CHAMONIX
Approximately 2 hours (5 hours without the cable car)
The final day is short, especially since I opted to take the cable car down from La Flégère to Plan Praz to catch the TMB trail and walk the remaining 20 minutes into Chamonix.