2019 Dates: June 21 – July 2; July 15 – 26;
and September 6 – 17
Land Cost: $4,375 per person sharing a room
Single Supplement: $600
Hiking Trip Summary
The Mont Blanc Massif, composed of Mont Blanc (15,536′), the highest peak in Western Europe, and a flank of impressively spectacular peaks and glaciers, uniquely straddles the borders of France, Italy, and Switzerland. Rich in alpine history and cultural diversity, this region has been attracting mountaineers and hikers from the world over for more than two hundred years.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is undeniably one of the truly classic hut-to-hut hiking routes in Europe. Comprised of century-old trading and hunting routes, the Tour du Mont Blanc circles through the magnificent Mont Blanc range, winding through alpine meadows, over barren passes, into small hamlets, and beneath gigantic glaciers. During our 12-day tour you will view this iconic mountain, and its surrounding peaks, glaciers and alpine valleys from three different countries as we hike in the French Alps, Swiss Alps and Italian Alps.
We’ve been hiking and guiding in the Chamonix-Mont Blanc area for over 25 years. Let us introduce you to an area we’ve loved and hiked for many years. Let us introduce you to the families who run these wonderful huts and hotels. Join us for a memorable journey around Mont Blanc.
Day 1: Arrive Geneva, Cointrin International Airport. Group transfer to Chamonix, France, at 1:00 pm. Welcome dinner and orientation. Chamonix is home to a dazzling array of many of the highest peaks in the Alps including Mont Blanc (15,860′). Overnight in a first class four star hotel. Dinner included.
Day 2: Short transfer to Les Houches and cable car to Bellevue. Here we begin today’s hike passing by the foot of the huge Glacier de Bionnassay, then up through lush meadows to the Col du Tricot (6,995′) with spectacular views of the Aiguille du Bionnassay, Dome du Gouter and the entire Chamonix Valley. After our steep descent from the col, we arrive at our refuge set in an amazing valley. This overnight stop could be one of the prettiest settings on the entire route. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 3: From our refuge we continue to the village of Les Contamines where we have time to linger and buy lunch items for the next day. Departing Les Contamines, we hike up the Mont Joie Valley, past a 15th-century mountain church, Notre Dame de la Gorge, cross a small ancient Roman bridge and continue up this broad alpine valley to our simple overnight stop. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 4: Departing our refuge, we begin a steady climb to the Croix de la Bonhomme and to the Col des Fours (8,960′). After a long descent passing though the Ville des Glacier and perhaps stopping to buy some beaufort cheese at a farm, we will end our day at the remote and rustic refuge. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 5: Today’s hike will lead us to the Italian border at the Col de la Seigne (8,300′). Hiking down the Val Veny, the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif and Mont Blanc itself will dominate the scene, with myriad glaciers and towering rocky peaks. Transfer by private bus to our comfortable hotel, located in the village of Courmayeur, Italy.
Day 6: Rest day in Courmayeur. The day can be spent exploring the town’s narrow streets, sampling the local pastries and cuisine, day hiking, or taking a series of cable cars up to Point Helbronner and into the heart of the Mont Blanc Massif.
Day 7: Today we hike from Courmayeur to Rifugio Walter Bonatti. There are a few hiking options for today and the weather and other factors will determine which hike we take, though all are amazing. Depart the hotel on foot and hike steeply to Rifugio Bertone where we can pause to get a cappuccino at the rifugio. From here the trail contours around the mountainside, leading through the beautiful alpages of Leuchy, Armina, and Secheron and finally to Bonatti our refuge for the night.
Should the weather be perfect we may continue to climb from Bertone to the ridgeline of Mont de la Saxe and to the Col Sapin and the Pas Entre Deux Sauts before hiking down the remote and untouched Vallon Malatra to the rifugio.
The third option includes a short transfer up the Italian Val Ferret where we being our hike. This very pleasant trail is a great hiking option and has amazing views of the Mont Blanc Massif and the valley.
Rifugio Bonatti has a commanding view of the entire Italian Val Ferret and beyond. The mountain views are probably some of the best from any refuge anywhere. This is comfortable refuge. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 8: From Bonatti we hike along a high alpine trail with an amazing view across to the Mont Blanc Massif. After some elevation loss, we begin the hike to Col Grand Ferret at the Swiss border. (8,372′). Stopping for lunch en route, we are offered views of the Val Veny, Val Ferret, while the skyline is dominated by the Grandes Jorasses, Aiguille Talefre, and Mont Dolent. Overnight in La Fouly, Switzerland at a nice hiker’s hotel. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 9: A moderate day of hiking takes us from our hotel down the Ferret Valley through small Swiss hamlets and beautiful gardens. The hike ends with a climb up to the picturesque lake village of Champex and our comfortable hotel. This afternoon we will have some time to explore this small village, relax, or stroll around the lake. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 10: Departing the hotel in Champex at about 8:00 we start the day with a short private van transfer (45 minutes) to the outskirts of the tiny hamlet of Trient, from where be being our hike to Argentiere. We will climb steadily to the French Swiss border at the Col de Balme (7,230). Crossing into France at the pass, once again the spectacular sight of the Chamonix valley and the Mont Blanc Range, with its dramatic peaks and glaciers, will be breathtaking. We end our day at the small village of Argentiere. Overnight in small, simple hotel with private baths. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 11: On the June/July Trips we hike to Chamonix via the “Grand Balcon Sud” with ever-changing views of the Aiguille Verte, the Aiguilles des Chamonix, the glaciers of le Tour, Argentiere and the Mer de Glace.On the September Trip we hike to Chamonix via the “Petite Balcon Sud”, a lovely walk down the valley. Though mostly on a wooded path, there are great views of the Mont Blanc Massif. Today’s hike is a wonderful way to end our journey. We will arrive in Chamonix in time for lunch. Overnight at the same hotel in Chamonix. Farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 12: Depart Chamonix about 7:15 – 7:30 for group transfer to the Geneva Airport, arriving about 9:30 am. If you need an earlier departure we are happy to assist you. Additional transfers are not included in the cost.
Group transfers to and from the Geneva Airport, all accommodations, all breakfasts (some are continental, others are buffet), all dinners except two, all group transfers on ski lifts, buses and trains as described in the itinerary, guides, great hiking and memories!
Airfare, lunches, two dinners in Courmayeur, optional/individual transfers or excursions, items not on set dinner menu, beverages, insurance, tips to guides/leaders, items of a personal nature.
If you wish to have your own room there is a single supplement charge of $550. However, single rooms are not available at the refuges – Miage, La Balme, Mottets or Bonatti. Please let us know if you would like a single at the time of registration. If you are traveling alone and would like to share a room, we will match you with a roommate.
If there is no one with whom you can share, we will not charge you extra for this “forced” single during the hike.
This hike is not vehicle supported. You will need to carry a pack with all the clothing and accessories you will need for the duration of hike (see our Sample Packing List.) With advances in synthetic clothing and other travel gear, it’s possible to keep your pack weight to 15 to 20 lbs., including lunch and water. Any extra luggage or belongings you may have can be left at the hotel in Chamonix.
Accommodations and Facilities
The accommodations on the TMB vary from comfortable 4-star hotels to rustic mountain refuges.
Hotels: For our 12-day Tour du Mont Blanc, we spend 7 nights in comfortable hotels with private baths: Chamonix (2 nights), Courmayeur (2 nights), Champex, La Fouly and Argentiere. All are friendly, family-run hotels that reflect the local character. We are certain you will find these hotels comfortable and welcoming.
Mountain Huts or Refuges: We spend four nights in mountain refuges: Miage, La Balme and Mottets in France and at Bonatti in Italy. The refuges in France are wonderful rustic farms that have been converted to accommodate hikers. They have co-ed bunkrooms, called dortoirs. The bunk rooms vary in size each night. Some refuges have bunkrooms that sleep 6 other refuges have only larger bunkrooms that sleep 10 – 15. You should expect to share a bunk room for these three nights. Bonatti was built purposely for hikers. It has bunk rooms for 4 persons per room. Private rooms are not available at the refuges.
Breakfasts and dinners are served at the hotels or refuges and lunches are picnic style along the trail.
We feel that if you truly want to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc that staying in the refuges, which are set in amazing places, is the only way to hike this amazing route. Sure it is a little harder sharing your space for a few nights, or carrying a few extra pounds on your back, but this effort is rewarded 100 fold when you arrive on foot, depart on foot all the while carrying just what you need for the trip.
It is easiest to fly to Geneva. However, there are frequent trains from Zurich or Paris, just be sure to allow for extra travel time. Included in the trip cost is a group transfer from the Geneva Airport on Day 1 and to the Geneva Airport on Day 12.
Who would like this trip?
Our Tour du Mont Blanc trips are perfect for hikers who look forward to wonderful, challenging hikes and like the thought of staying in comfortable hotels as well as some rustic accommodations. It offers an excellent introduction to the European style of hut-to-hut and inn-to-inn hiking in the Alps. The scenery is awe-inspiring, the hiking demanding but not overly strenuous, the accommodations varied, and the meals hearty. This is a fantastic route!
What makes this trip different
The Tour du Mont Blanc is our cornerstone. It was the first hiking route we offered as a guided trip in 1988, and it continues to be our fondest. A genuine alpine hiking experience, we believe, includes staying in mountain accommodations such as huts and refuges and carrying ones own pack. We do both of these on our Tour du Mont Blanc. Staying in a few refuges gets us out of town and into the mountains and carrying our own packs cuts down on the use of vehicles and creates a stronger connection to the landscapes we travel.
Geneva airport at 1:00 pm on the first day for a group transfer to our hotel in Chamonix.
Included is a group transfer from Chamonix to the Geneva Airport on last day. We depart the hotel in Chamonix between 7:15 and 7:30 am and arrive the Geneva airport between 9:00 and 9:30 am. Should you need to depart Chamonix earlier in the morning, we are happy to help you arrange a transfer at an additional cost.
If you would like register, would like to receive more information including a detailed itinerary (including elevation gains, loss and distance) and/or request a list of past participants please contact us and specify which trip.
They are very well connected on the TMB – all the hut and hotel owners greet them with open arms, so you know you’re going to be treated well.
Any hiking trip in the mountains requires a certain amount of effort and proper fitness training will enhance your enjoyment. In the mountains, time and elevation gain or loss as opposed to distance, tend to be the determining factors when defining hiking grades or level of difficulty. We have done our best to grade our trips consistently, please contact us for further clarification. We are happy to offer names of past participants.
Easy: Hike 3 to 4 hours daily carrying a day pack on generally gentle terrain. Distances from 4 to 8 miles. Elevation gain and loss 500' to 1,500'.
Moderate: Hike an average of 4 to 5 hours daily on varied terrain. Distances from 5 to 9 miles. Elevation gains and losses generally 1,500' to 2,500' or about 2 hours.
Strenuous: Hike 5 to 7 hours daily on varied terrain, with consistent ascents and descents of 2 to 3 or more hours generally 2,500' - 3,500'. Distances from 6 to 11 miles. There are some sections that include steep uphill and downhills.
Strenuous Plus: 5 to 8 hours partly on rocky, challenging terrain with consistent steep ascents and descents of 2 to 3 or more hours generally 3,000'-5,000'. Distances from 6 to 15 miles. Though each day is not strenuous plus there are some sections that may include rough terrain and open and exposed trails.