6 Day Tour du Mont Blanc Itinerary (half circuit)

by Mags Nixon
planning tour du mont blanc

Our 6 day Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary covers half the route going in the traditional counter clockwise route starting from Tré-le-Champ in France to Courmayeur in Italy.

If you’ve haven’t got time to do the whole 11 day TMB route, then this 6 day Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary is perfect.

 

6 day Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary

Our 6 days on the route takes in the most spectacular scenery on the TMB, starting with the famous ‘Le Grand Balcon Sud’ high above the Chamonix valley, giving arguably the most impressive views of Mont Blanc, to the wild, remote high mountain passes of Col du Bonhomme and Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. Then climb over the Col de la Seigne, leaving France behind. Hello Italy.

Our 6 day Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary finishes in the charming Italian town of Courmayeur. You can then catch a bus back through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Chamonix.

The traditional starting point for the TMB is from Les Houches at the end of the Chamonix valley but instead of starting here, we walk the last two stages of the trek first, from Tré-le-Champ to Les Houches. By combining the last two stages and then the first 4 stages, we’ve created the perfect 6 day Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary for hiking half the trail, but seeing the most spectacular sections.

We’ve also used all available public transport to cut trail times because we were hiking with kids. If you want to know great ways to shorten each day on the TMB, particularly if you’re a family considering the trek, check out our post on all the TMB public transport we used along valley floors or cable cars up & down the mountain to save legs for the best bits.

Below is a brief outline of our Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary, which includes the time it took us to complete each day (compared to the times stated in the Trek the Tour du Mont Blanc Cicerone guidebook by Kev Reynolds. You can click on daily posts to see the full trail experience for each day. We will be completing the trail this summer from Courmayeur around back to Tré-le-Champ.

 

Note: you can easily cut out day 3 of this Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary (Les Houches to Les Contamines) to shorten this itinerary to 5 days (and spend a day either side in Chamonix and a day in Courmayeur) turning this into the perfect 1 week holiday.

 

 

          Day 1                  

Tré-le-Champ to La Flegere (stage 10 in the Cicerone guide)

8kms

Height gain 733m / height loss 257m

Time: for us with kids 5 hours / in the Cicerone guide 3.5 – 4 hrs

trekking the tour du Mont Blanc with kids

Très-le-Champ to Flégère is an easy short day on the TMB that gives stunning views of the Mont Blanc massif from the Grand Balcon Sud. You also have to climb the infamous TMB ladders at the Aiguillette d’Argentière which adds a spice of drama to the trail

The first day of our Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary you’ll hike in France from the hamlet of Tré-le-Champ to La Flégère at 1875m is an easy but no less exciting day. Traditionally the penultimate day on the tour, the trail ascends to the famous Grand Balcon Sud which gives unrivalled views over the valley to Mont Blanc and the Massif range. This is the shortest day on the TMB (5hrs with kids) so a good section to start on.

This route climbs the famous ladders at the Aiguillette d’Argentière, which adds an extra touch of excitement to today’s hike. We found the ladders easy enough & my 10 year old said it was one of her favourite parts of the TMB. For those who don’t like heights there’s an alternative route (which takes an extra hour) only ten minutes from the starting point of the traditional route from the National Reserve information hut further up  the Col du Montets. 

You can often see chamois or ibex on this stretch of the trail owing some of the terrain crossing into the Aiguilles Rouges Nature Reserve

Read our full account of this section, day 1 in our itinerary here.

 

 

Day 2

La Flégère to Les Houches (stage 11 in the Cicerone guide)

17kms

Height gain 772m / height loss 1546m

Time: for us with kids 6 hours taking the cable car

(in the Cicerone guide 6.5hrs without taking the cable car)

Brevent to Les Houches Chamonix trail

The ridge at the Aiguillette des Brevent (Stage 11 from Brevent to Les Houches) gives stunning views to the Le Bossons glacier

On the second day of our Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary, you’ll walk from La Flégère, walk the stunning Grand Balcon Sud trail to the cable car at Brévent. Take the cable car up 2525m to cut out an hour of steep hiking and to save tired legs.

From the top of Brévent marvel at possibly one of the best views of Mont Blanc on the whole TMB trail before continuing downhill for the remainder of the day down to Les Houches through the riot of red azaleas.

Keep your eyes peeled – this is a great section of the TMB trail to spot ibex and chamois. 

Read our full account of day 2 here.

 

 

 

Day 3

Les Houches – Les Contamine – Nant Borrant refuge (stage 1 in the Cicerone guide)

21.6kms

Height gain 939m / height loss 633m

Time: 7 hours (with kids) including taking the Bellevue cable car. Reduce to 6 hrs by taking bus along Les Contamines valley floor.

Omit this day & take a taxi around from Chamonix to Les Contamines if you want to reduce this itinerary to 5 days

walking route from les touches to les contamines French alps

Hiking through alpine meadows with a glimpse of Mont Blanc on the way to Les Contamines from Les Houches

On the third day of our Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary, take the Bellevue cable car up from Les Houches, pass through charming French villages and gentle meadows to enter the Monjoie Valley and catch the bus along the valley floor to the town of Les Contamines.

Either stay here for the night, or catch the shuttle bus to Gorge du Notre Dame pressing on for another hour to the next refuge on the trail, Nant Borrant (carving an hour off difficult day 4).

If you only have 5 days available to hike, or want a day discovering Courmayeur, then this day is the one to miss. The scenery is charming but not spectacular. Take a taxi from Les Houches to Les Contamines (40 minutes). 

Read our full account of day 3 here.

 

 

 

Day 4

Nant Borrant refuge – Les Chapieux (stage 2 in the book)

12.9kms

Height gain 1,023m / height loss 929m

Time: 10.5 hours (with kids)

hiking the tour du mont blanc

Looking behind us as we make the strenuous climb up to the Col du Bonhomme

This is the fourth day of our Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary and it’s a big day. The biggest!

This day was the day I worried most about whilst planning the trip because there are no shortcuts – nada.

It took us over 10 hours and that was even with us walking an hour extra, the day before, to cut an hour off this day!

This stage is demanding as there are two cols to climb from the Montjoie valley into the Vallée des Glaciers. Col du Bonhomme (2329m) and Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2483m). 

That said, the scenery is spectacular and it’s exciting to encounter some snow on the trail over the cols. This is true high mountain trekking at its best and by now though, your legs should be in full swing and your body used to long days on the trail. 

Read our full account of day 4 here.

 

 

Day 5

Les Chapieux – Rifugio Elisabetta (Italy) (stage 3 in the book)

12.9kms  

Height gain 1,023m / height loss 929m

Time: 8 hours (with kids) including taking the shuttle bus from Chapieux to Village des Glaciers

Vallon de la Lée Blanche

Descending down from the border of France into Italy from the Cold de la Seigne and into the Vallon de la Lee Blanche

On day 5 of our Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary, catch the frequent shuttle bus from Les Chapieux to either Village des Glaciers or Les Mottets parking to cut an hour off this stage. 

Today the trail leaves France and climbs up to cross the Col de la Seigne (2516m) and over the border into Italy.

From here Mont Blanc comes back into view and the route descends into the Vallon de la Lée Blanche.

Another long, demanding day but filled with anticipation and wonder crossing into Italy with jaw dropping scenery.

Read our full account of day 5 here.

 

 

Day 6

Rifugio Elisabetta – Courmayeur (stage 4 in the book)

11.5km (if you pick up the cable car at Maison Vieille (if not 18km)

Height gain 460m / height loss 1560m

Time: 7 hours (with kids) taking the Dolonne cable car down from Refugio Maison Vieille

trekking the alps

Hiking the south flank of the Val Veni en route to Courmayeur from Refugio Elisabetta

There are no cols to climb on this last day of our Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary. You’ll finally hike into Courmayeur, and it’s easy to presume that with no cols to climb it’s an easy day. Wrong. We found it a demanding day and it’s not to be underestimated. The hike up from the Vallon de la Lée Blanche to the highest point, the Mont Favre Spur (2430m) is challenging.

The views hiking along the south flank of Val Veni are truly inspiring as peak upon peak unravel. Take the Dolonne cable car down from Refuge Maison Vieille into the village of Dolonne to carve off almost two hours of descent off the original trail. Catch the bus into Courmayeur.

Read our full account of day 6 here.

 

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve done any of the world’s classic multi-day treks with your children. Please do let us know your experiences in the comments section below. There are so many epic trails in exciting countries around the world. We’d love to trek the Inca Trail but are a little scared to do it yet with kids! Globe Totting have written a great post about visiting Machu Picchu with kids without doing the Inca Trail! If you’ve ever considered the Balkans for your next walking adventures, I’d recommend going Joanna from Overhere describes 9 beautiful hikes in the Balkans.

 

Related TMB content

Read day 1 (stage 10) Tré-le-Champ to La Flégère

Read day 2 (stage 11)  La Flégère to Les Houches

Read day 3 (stage 1) Les Houches to Les Contamines (& onto Nant Borrant refuge)

Read day 4 (stage 2) Nant Borrant Refuge to Les Chapieux

Read day 5 (stage 3) Les Chapieux to Refugio Elisabetta

Read day 6 – Tour du Mont Blanc – Stage 4 – Rifugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur

Tour du Mont Blanc Packing List

Ultimate guide to your self guided Tour du Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc Refuges – the good, the bad & the ugly

Tour du Mont Blanc Difficulty? Transport options on the TMB

 

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2 comments

Suzanne Oates 1st January 2020 - 2:33 pm

Hi Mags,

I’ve been reading you TMB blog, and it’s wonderful – so much information and beautiful pictures!

My husband and I will attempt half of the TMB in July. We’re in our mid sixties, so I’m a little daunted by the whole adventure, but we’re going to give it a try. We live in the USA and are not international travelers, so even the logistics of getting there and using public transportation once we’ve arrived is enough to have me wondering “what the heck am I thinking?!”

Anyway, if you have enough time and patience, I have a few questions.

1) We’re flying into Geneva and will only take our backpacks as our carry-on luggage. Trekking poles are not allowed to be carried on, so I guess we’ll have to purchase poles in Chamonix and just leave them there? We don’t want to check a suitcase with the poles as we can’t drag a suitcase around Mont Blanc. If you flew to Geneva, what did you do?

2) I have been stressing over the length and difficulty of the section of the trail between Nant Borrant (where we will start out from) and Les Chapieux, so I made a reservation at the Refuge du Bonhomme for the same night as our reservation in Chapieux, just in case we feel like we absolutely can’t make it to Chapieux. You mentioned that you may have stayed there if your Mom had not been with you. I’m wondering why – is there something I should know other than it may be the worst refuge on the tour? Would it be OK as an emergency place to spend the night?

I have shortened or bypassed some other sections (based on many of your recommendations), so I’m not as worried about them.

Honestly, I don’t think we’d be attempting this if I hadn’t found your blog, or we’d be going into it with far too little information. Based on your advice, the first reservation I made was at Refuge de la Nova, then I worked backward and forward from there. I also got a night at Cabane du Combal rather than at Elisabetta. I truly can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the hard work you put into your blog and how useful it has been – THANK YOU!

Sue Oates

Reply
Mags Nixon 11th January 2020 - 7:29 am

Hi Sue! Great to hear from you and WOW you will have an amazing time let me assure you! The planning of the TMB is the worst of it – it’s very tricky and can have a huge impact practically if you get it wrong.

I live in Chamonix so I didn’t fly in and have this problem but the solution to your trekking pole situation is to simply rent them when you are here. In Chamonix you can rent a pair from:

Technique Extreme – 3 euros a day. 200 Ave de l’Aiguille – the street facing the Aiguille du Midi cable car in Chamonix Sud)
Tel +33 (0) 4 50 53 63 14

or more expensively at:

Snell Sports for €8 – 1 day / €16 2 days / 21 3 days / €26 4 days / €31 5 days / €36 6 days / € 41 7 days then €3 each additional day 104 Rue du Dr Paccard – the main pedestrian street in Chamonix +33 (0) 4 50 53 02 17)

Alternatively you could buy a pair in Chamonix relatively inexpensively at either Technique Extreme or Decathlon (both on the same street). You can even order online at Decathlon and have them delivered to your Chamonix accommodation head of time (https://www.decathlon.fr/browse/c0-tous-les-sports/c1-randonnee-trek/c4-batons-de-randonnee-adulte/_/N-oi8nt8). Obviously if you buy poles this poses the question of what do you do with them before you leave? Options are to leave them at your hotel for other hikers or even to ask them to pass them onto a local school such as Ecole Jacque Balamt who always are in need of extra equipment.

The section you are stressing out about – Nant Borrant to Les Chapieux I was stressing about too! It is a hard stretch with two long cols to climb. If you have the time in your schedule why don’t you plan to stay both at Refuge du Bonhomme and Les Chapieux (or walk the extra hour, or take the shuttle to Les Mottets refuge?). Like I said the stretch has 2 cols on it. We were exhausted. The itinerary I followed is the standard TMB route and then I shortened it by taking public transport, but it was still a long slog everyday and in hindsight I think we should have shortened each day.

The Refuge du Bonhomme is definitely OK to stay at, it’s just you need to prepared for bad food and not necessarily being able to have a shower. The accommodation has been refurbished and so is not an issue. The thing is it’s the perfect location to stop for the night, especially if one is looking to shorten the stages.

I prepared a shorter itinerary for my friend who trekked with 3 children 5, 9 and 12. She stayed there and said it was fine apart from the flies and food. It was her first night’s accommodation and it made it better that all the accommodation after was so good! Just make sure you take extra food with you to keep your energy up for the next day following Refuge du Bonhomme as she said after a night’s terrible meal then picnic lunch they then ordered was ALSO awful so it was a dinner and lunch of bad food. Take extra snacks!!

Are you starting from Chamonix?

If you have time in your schedule I would advise:-

CHAMONIX LES HOUCHES – NANT BORRANT (CATCH BELLEVUE CABLE CAR & THEN BUS UP TO VILLAGE OF Les Contamines & THEN FREE SHUTTLE (IT’S SOMETIMES THE SAME BUS) TO GORGE NOTRE DAME) This is still a long day! This is also a much more meandering gentle scenery. If you pushed for time, get a taxi from Chamonix to Les Contamines and miss this stage.

NANT BORRANT – REFUGE DU BONHOMME

REFUGE DU BONHOMME – LES CHAPIEUX OR LES MOTTETS (1 HR FURTHER OR 10 MINS IN SHUTTLE BUS IF YOU TIME IT RIGHT)

LES CHAPIEUX/LES MOTTETS – CABANE COMBAL

CABANE COMBAL – COURMAYEUR

The above would make the hard section much easier by splitting it over 2 days.

For transfers from Geneva airport you have two options. To get a private shared transfer (around 35 euros each way per person) or to take the Easy Bus or Oui Bus (cheaper at around 16 or 19 euros each way). However the Easybus or Oui Bus drop you off in the bus station in Chamonix and not at your accommodation which a private transfer would do. Good private transfers are CVT or Mountain Drop-offs.

Any more questions – feel free to give me a shout. Good luck!

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