Tour du Mont Blanc Difficulty? Transport options on the TMB

by Mags Nixon
transport options on the TMB

Tour du Mont Blanc Difficulty? Transport options on the TMB

Are you worried about the Tour du Mont Blanc difficulty? Are you planning to do the hike as a family but worried if the kids will manage the long days? Or perhaps you’re anxious about your own fitness? The Tour du Mont Blanc trek is challenging – 170 kilometres of demanding terrain.

But help is at hand.

There are a number of transport options on most of the Tour du Mont Blanc stages. These mainly consist of public buses that run along valley floors or cable cars/chair lifts up and down the mountains. 

Expect long days on the trail. Our average, hiking with kids, was around 7 hours each day. And that is with all the transport options!

We would highly recommend the following public transport to cut trail times. Many of the shuttle buses merely run along mundane sections of valley floors so you’re not actually missing much by taking them.

Without taking all the TMB transport options, I know we definitely could not having hiked the TMB with our kids. It would have been too much.

Check out the public transport below (for the 6 day itinerary we hiked from Tré-le-Champ to Courmayeur) and build them into your planning so you know where to save tired legs.

I’ll update this post once we complete the Tour du Mont Blanc circuit this Summer with any transport options from Courmayeur back round to Chamonix.

 

Note: Much of the Tour du Mont Blanc transport options are only available during peak periods, July & August. Check timetables online or directly with Tourist Offices ahead of starting your trek.

 

bellevue cable car les touches

The Bellevue cable car in Les Houches cuts off 2 hours of uphill from your trail time to Courmayeur (and further to Nant Borrant if you’re following our Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary)

 

1. Les Houches – Bellvue Cable Car 

Right at the beginning of the recommended Day 1 of the traditional counter clockwise route from Les Houches, you can cut 2 hrs off the trail time by catching the Bellevue Cable Car instead of hiking up from the valley floor. This is actually Day 3 of our 6 day TMB half circuit. (Read our itinerary here).

The cable car costs 14.50 euros for a single and takes 5 minutes to get to the top of the Bellevue Plateau (1800m).

Many hikers take this short cut so don’t worry there are still plenty of TMB signposts once you get out of the cable car. You will then only have to walk only 15-20 minutes to pick up the ‘proper’ track.

 

tour de mont blanc difficulty

On the way into Les Contamines catch the bus but note it only comes occasionally down to Tresse, so walk up to the next stop La Chapelle, which is on the more regular loop of the bus.

 

2. Public bus – La Tresse/La Chapelle – Les Contamines

When you’ve descended into the Montjoie valley the TMB track will eventually hit the main road into Les Contamines. It’s here (or nearly here) that you can catch the public bus into Les Contamines.

We made the mistake of coming out into the village of Tresse which has a bus stop literally opposite where you come out onto the main road. The proper TMB route actually crosses the main road and continues on the opposite side of the valley into the village of Les Contamines (another 1 hr by foot). 

We intended to cut this out and waited at the Tresse bus stop for over an hour. The bus never arrived and so we reluctantly carried on on the TMB trail and wearily hit Les Contamines an hour later.

It turns out that the tourist office had made a mistake and put up a timetable at the La Tresse bus stop with the incorrect highlighted times. In fact we should have walked up the road to the next bus stop, La Chapelle to catch the bus. The bus takes a circular route and only comes down to Tresse a couple of times a day.

This mistake meant we added a further hour of walking onto our day. Something we hadn’t anticipated.

Because I had planned to take the bus and cut out this hour, I had actually added another one hour of hiking onto our day by continuing past Les Contamines to the first refuge Nant Borant. This was a tactic to reduce the second days hike (which is notoriously hard over the Col du Bonhomme) by an hour the following day.

 

Remember: If you come out onto the road at Tresse, turn left and walk up to the next bus stop at La Chapelle to catch the bus.

 

3. Free shuttle bus – Les Contamines – Notre Dame de la Gorge

You can pick up a free shuttle bus (navette) from outside the tourist office in Les Contamines that will take you to Notre Dame de la Gorge. It’s the last stop on the route so it’s easy to see where to get off and the driver is very friendly. This cuts out 5km off the trail and will save you an easy hour.

This bus is the same one we would have picked up from La Tresse (or rather La Chapelle) so you can stay on the bus all the way though if you’re not booked into Les Contamine for the night.

This service operates from the end of June and runs every 45-60 mins from 9am.

The ‘horaires’ (timetable) will be online for to you to check ahead. You can see the current navette timetables here (bear in mind they will switch from L’hiver (winter) to L’été (summer) at some point so if you check in February for example, they will still be showing the winter timetables  http://www.lescontamines.com/plans-ski-bus.html

shuttle bus TMB

4. Shuttle bus – Les Chapieux to Village des Glacier/Les Mottets refuge

There are mini bus shuttles from Les Chapieux to either La Ville des Glaciers or Les Mottets refuge leaving regularly from Les Chapieux and I would highly recommend saving your legs by taking this. It costs €3.50 per person, children 12 and under are free.

There’s a small wooden information centre near the shop in Les Chapieux (there’s not much there so don’t worry you can’t miss it!) which sells tickets and from where the shuttles depart. We arrived too late the afternoon before to buy the tickets. I think the information centre closes around 6pm? (but don’t hold me to that!). It was quite busy when we turned up first thing at 8am so we didn’t manage to get onto the first bus which leaves at 08.30am. We bought tickets for the 9am departure to Village des Glaciers, so we were happy enough and it didn’t hold us up really on our schedule, but I would recommend hot footing it to the information shack (only 50m from Refuge de la Nova) as soon as you arrive the afternoon before to bag tickets for the 08.30 shuttle the following morning.

 

Note:

The shuttles run every 30 minutes to an hour.

The shuttle buses run from Les Chapieux to La Ville des Glaciers and Les Mottets from around the 7th July through to the end of August only.

 

There’s also a shuttle bus that runs from Les Chapieux to Bourg St Maurice (€6.00) at 18.10h every day. This means if you’ve booked your Tour du Mont Blanc late and you haven’t managed to get any accommodation in Les Chapieux, as long as you make the 18.10h bus, you can find some accommodation in Bourg St Maurice and then head back to Chapieux on the 07.55 shuttle in the morning to pick up the trail. (I talk more about this in my Tour du Mont Blanc Refuges post).  

Another option, if you haven’t managed to secure accommodation in Les Chapieux is to book the next refuge, Les Mottets, as the shuttle bus from Les Chapieux drops you at their parking spot (so it’s just a 10 minute downhill stumble to the refuge). Make sure you’re on the last shuttle bus from Les Chapieux or face the 1 hour walk (or book a taxi!)

You can see the 2019 timetable here for both the shuttle bus to Refuge des Mottets and La Ville des Glaciers. I will post the 2020 timetable as soon I see it released towards the end of winter. 

 

In June and September it’s possible to get a taxi (Taxi Besson 00 33 (0) 4 50 93 62 07 http://www.taxi-montblanc.com. Call the night before. Places are limited. Pay the driver.

It’s debatable which is the easiest walk – either from La Ville des Glaciers or the Les Mottets parking stop. From Village des Glaciers (which we took) the route is steady and not too steep. From the Les Mottets parking stop, you need to walk down the steep valley to Les Mottets refuge and then back up the steep path to where you would join the path from the Village des Glaciers. It took us 20-30 minutes to walk from Village des Glaciers to where the path joined from Les Mottets.

 

4. Vizielle to Courmayeur

We didn’t take this transport option as we hiked from Elisabetta to Courmayeur, but after leaving Elisabetta, after a 50 minute walk along the easy straight road, you’ll hit a bridge at Lac Combal (you won’t see the Lac, it’s slightly higher on the opposite side, but you will see the lovely Lac Combal A frame refuge across the way). From the bridge it’s a 50 minute walk to the village of Vizielle.

From Vizielle a bus goes directly to Courmayeur. This is a good option if your legs can’t handle the TMB trail all the way to Courmayeur and believe me it’s actually shockingly demanding. There are no cols to climb but the trail is undulating and seemingly never-ending. That said, it’s a beautiful section of the trail. See for yourself what you would miss by taking this section by reading our Day 6 Elisabetta to Courmayeur post here.

ski lift courmayeur

5. Chair lift  & cable car – La Maison Veille – Courmayeur

I have never been so pleased to see a chair lift running in all my life! We had actually been told some time before by the tourist office that the Dolonne cable car would not yet be running. It was the 12 July so not yet the complete peak trekking season. Thank goodness it was. As stated above the Elisabetta to Courmayeur stage is rather under-exaggerated. We were absolutely exhausted and to spot the tiny black mechanics moving from the distance was like a mirage for us. Were our eyes deceiving us?

No. 

The Maison Vielle chairlift descends down to Plan Chécrouit (1702m) where you will then need to catch the telecabine down to the village of Dolonne (1221m). It costs €15 for an adult (and €9 for a child under 12 or over 65s) for both the chairlift and the telecabine down to Dolonne. From Dolonne a regular bus service takes you into the Italian town of Courmayeur. It’s a great place to have a day’s rest if you are continuing on the trail into Switzerland. If not, it’s here you can catch a bus through the Mont Blanc tunnel back to Chamonix.

 

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

6 Day Tour du Mont Blanc Itinerary (half circuit)

Tour du Mont Blanc Difficulty – Can You Manage the Ladders?

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8 comments

Jess 6th June 2019 - 2:13 am

Hi,
I have really appreciated your site on the half-circuit of TMB. I am doing it with my mum in a few weeks and we will be following your itinerary as it looks fantastic.
Mum will stop at Courmayeur and I will continue on. Just a question regarding any planning you have already done for the second half of your circuit? Would you have any recommendations to share for that half?

Reply
Mags Nixon 6th June 2019 - 8:54 pm

Hi Jess. Great to hear from you. Fabulous that you are doing it with your Mum, like I did. It’s definitely challenging but we had a lot of laughs along the way too! I have a feeling that your Mum might be sad to stop at Courmayeur once she gets going – I know we all felt that we could carry on once we hit our half way point where we were finishing our adventure – your body seems to acclimatise to the long days on the trail after a few days 🙂 I’ve done the planning for the second half although I don’t always like to give recommendations until I’ve experienced it myself 🙂 We are staying at Bonatti the first night, not taking the variant (as I’m trekking with kids). We will skip stage 7 La Fouley to Champex on recommendations from other TMB guides – it’s quite a boring section apparently, so we will take a bus to our next overnight stay at Le Belvedere in Champex which comes highly recommended. I’ve actually met Irene who runs the place and she seems wonderful. Then we are booked into the Hotel La Grand Ourse in Trient from where we will walk back into Chamonix. If you can get a place in La Boerne refuge in Tre-le-Champ – take it! It’s a great stop over. I have no other tips as we haven’t yet trekked these sections but I would say don’t carry more than 10kg in your day pack. Really really pare down the essentials – ie no excess clothing, and make sure you’re doing some long training treks beforehand with your daypack on – back to back days if you can. Any training you’ve done will pay off dividends on the actual trek. Oh and if you’re staying in dorms …. don’t forget your earplugs! 😉

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Seonmi KIM 23rd July 2019 - 5:24 am

Hi
I was looking for transportation option from Boroug Saint Maurice to Les Chapieux, and only found an option from your site.
Could I have a detailed information about this shuttle in the morining at 07:55? I see that you have written this in early this year, but is this service still be running and should I book it in advance?
I am planning to get to Boroug Saint Maurice on 6 AUG 2019 and take shuttle at 07:55 to Les Chapieux if possible.
Your advice would be much appreciated!

Reply
Mags Nixon 5th August 2019 - 12:06 pm

Hi – the 2019 summer timetable is here http://www.hautetarentaise.fr/chapieux_du_06_juillet_au_25_aou_01.pdf – also here is the full site details of all the navettes from Bourg St Maurice http://www.hautetarentaise.fr/les_navettes_locales.html
I would think the navette (shuttle bus) leaves from the main bus station but I would call the local tourist office to check on 00 33 (0) 4 79 07 12 57

Reply
Charity Gurtler 11th October 2019 - 4:29 pm

Love your site! Thank you for all the details! It’s given me confidence to plan an abbreviated TMB hike first week of September 2020. After doing online research, there are still some questions about transportation that I have.

My current itinerary is as follows:

August 30, 2020
Arrive in Chamonix (last day of UTMB)

August 31, 2020
Take a train from Chamonix to Montoc-loc-Planet and hike from Tre-le-Champ to La Flegere, with a late lunch stop at Refuge Lac Blanc. Travel back to Chamonix via La Flegere cable car.

September 1, 2020
Take cable car to La Flegere and do the Via Des Evettes via Ferrata route. Take lift from la flegere to brevant? Or return to chamonix via cable car and then go to Brevant for late lunch? My husband and I would really like to try the via Ferrata route as well as see the view from the top of Brevent.

Return to Chamonix and take a taxi to Les Contamines. Hike to Refuge Nant Borant.

September 2, 2020
Hike from Refuge Nant Borant to La Chapieux

September 3, 2020
Take taxi to Les Mottets. Hike to Refuge Cabane du Combal.

September 4, 2020
Hike from Refuge Cabane du Combal to Maison Vieille chairlift, take that to Dolonne and then bus to Courmayeur. I would like a shorter hike this day so that we can have time to explore Courmayeur.

September 5, 2020
Return home.

My questions are:

1. Will the La Flegere lift be running? If not, is there another way to get there? Does it connect to Brevant (the restaurant there) or would I need to go back to Chamonix to transfer to another lift station?

2. I’m assuming the shuttle bus between La Chapieux and Les Mottets will not be running at this time and my best option is to take a taxi?

3. Will the Maison Vieille chairlift be running? If not, is the only way down to hike? We would be happy to take a taxi or bus.

Am I missing anything about this itinerary? We are avid hikers, but as we will have jet lag, and this is my husband’s first trip to these countries, I would like to take it a little slower and have time to explore the towns.

Thank you in advance so much for your time!!

Reply
Mags Nixon 12th October 2019 - 10:08 am

Hi Charity, wow you guys are packing it in! That’s a tight itinerary, especially if you want to slow down and have time to explore the towns. Saying that you are picking some of the highlights of the trip – the ladders to Lac Blanc, the via ferrata, Brevent and Les Contamines to Courmayeur. Good plan.

The Flegere lift should be running. The new lift is going in now and during early September the majority of the lifts in the valley are still running, so I think you will be fine. You will need to check nearer the time on Chamonix tourist office’s website at https://www.chamonix.com/lifts,88,en.html

No, the shuttle bus from les chapieux to les mottets stops on the 31st August, so it would either be ordering taxi the night before from Les Chapieux or to walk it (takes 1 hour).

If I were you, I’d think about staying the night at Lac Blanc refuge (refugedulacblanc@gmail.com) – they will still be open and it’s a magical place to spend the night. You would save on the Flegere cable car up & down. The only issue would be you’d have to rent the via ferrata harnesses for two days and carry them with you on the first day from Tres-le-champ to Lac Blanc. If you set off early from Lac Blanc, you could do the via ferrata and then walk over to Brevent which is a beautiful walk with Mont Blanc constantly on your left, and then catch the cable car from the mid station at Brevent up to the top of Brevent. Note: I don’t think the liaison between Flegere and Brevent would be open in September but again you can check nearer the time on the Chamonix tourist board or the Compagnie du Mont Blanc website (this is the company that runs the lifts).

Have a fantastic time and if you have any more questions, get in touch.

I think the Maison Vieille chairlift will be closed also. Taxi or Buses can’t get up that high so you would have to hike down. Don’t underestimate the time taken from Cabane Combal to Courmayeur, especially if you’re hiking down from Maison Veille as well. There won’t be too much time left to explore Courmayeur although to be honest Courmayeur is not as charming as many other villages along the route & is packed with expensive shops! I would be happy with an evening meal there and then a potter in the morning if you have a late flight out of Geneva the following day?

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Charity Gurtler 14th October 2019 - 10:30 pm

Thank you so much for the details. This helps immensely! I’ll get back to the drawing board with what you suggested and maybe lighten the schedule up a bit. If we were to cut out a leg, would you suggest the route between la Chapieux and Cabane du Combal? So we would just do tre-le-champ/Lac Blanc/Brevant/Nant Borant/la Chapieux. Could we take a taxi out of la Chapieux back to chamonix? Thanks again.

Reply
Mags Nixon 17th October 2019 - 11:18 am

You could take a taxi from Les Chapieux back to Chamonix although it is truly stunning scenery between Les Chapieux and Courmayeur, so you would be missing some amazing sections. If you have an option to add a day to your schedule, I would do so, purely for breathing space and extra time in either Chamonix or Courmayeur. Like I said, for me personally, Courmayeur isn’t a favourite – whilst the old streets are charming, the glitzy expensive shops don’t appeal. For me an evening and morning in Courmayeur is enough. Alternatively you could hike to Lac Combal and stay there and then just walk the 50 minutes to La Visaille, from where the bus picks up to Courmayeur. That way you could spend most of a day in Courmayeur (but again you’d miss the stunning section along the flank of the Val Veni (as described in my blog post here https://www.thefamilyfreestylers.com/day-6-tour-du-mont-blanc-trek-elisabetta-courmayeur/). It’s a hard call. If you really want a more relaxing holiday, you should cut a section. If you’re wanted to squeeze the most out of your trip and accept you’ll be tired at the end but worth it, keep to your plan 🙂

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