Embark on a breath-taking odyssey that winds its way through the heart of the European Alps, with the awe-inspiring Tour du Mont Blanc. In this comprehensive guide, we'll unravel everything you need to know to complete this multi-day hike successfully.
Embarking on the Tour du Mont Blanc is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and choosing the right trek to suit your desires and stamina is essential. Having personally completed both the 4-day Highlights and the 10-day Full Monty, I'm here to offer insights that will help you decide between these two unforgettable journeys. Read on to discover which option is best for you.
Fasten your hiking boots and brace yourself for a whirlwind adventure around Mont Blanc, traversing breathtaking glaciers and pristine mountain lakes. This 4-day circuit packs a powerful punch, taking you through Italy, Switzerland, and back to France in one exhilarating trek.
Highlights include the remote Rifugio Bonatti, nestled at 2,025m in Italy's Val Ferret, and the highest point of your trek, the Grand Ferret Pass at 2,536m. Don't miss the chance to sample local cheeses at a charming Swiss farm in La Fouly. Conclude your journey with awe-inspiring views of Mont Blanc at the Col De Balme, before finally descending to Le Tour.
You can book a guided version of this trip with Skyhook.
For those who seek a more in-depth exploration of the Mont Blanc region, the 10-day trek offers an extended journey with a variety of unique experiences. While you'll still traverse Italy, Switzerland, and France, just like the 4-day Highlights trek, the longer itinerary grants you the opportunity to delve deeper into the captivating landscapes and charming villages of the area.
In addition to the breathtaking Bionassay Glacier, which you'll encounter on both treks, the 10-day version allows you to explore the quaint village of Les Chapieux, ascend the Col du Bonhomme, and cross the French-Italian border at Col de la Seigne. While you'll visit Val Ferret on the 4-day trek as well, the 10-day journey offers a more leisurely pace to truly appreciate its beauty.
Transitioning from Italy to Switzerland at the Grand Col Ferret, you'll also get to experience the picturesque village of Champex-Lac, a tranquil respite not included in the shorter Highlights version. Although both routes offer stunning Mont Blanc views from Col de Balme, on the 10-day trek, you have the additional option to scale the Aiguillette des Possettes peak for even more jaw-dropping panoramas.
Ultimately, the 10-day Tour du Mont Blanc provides a more comprehensive and immersive experience, allowing you to connect more deeply with the region's natural splendor and cultural charm. However, if time is of the essence, the 4-day Highlights trek still offers a condensed, unforgettable taste of Mont Blanc's magic.
You can also book this trek through Skyhook.
For most people, I would highly recommend the 4-day Highlights trek. This condensed journey allows you to experience the best sights of the Tour du Mont Blanc, while still being manageable for a broader range of fitness levels. You'll be treated to incredible glaciers, picturesque mountain lakes, and unforgettable panoramas that are on par with the best of what the 10-day trek offers.
The 10-day route is more suitable for experienced hikers who are comfortable with trekking for extended periods and truly relish immersions in nature. This extended journey offers a deeper exploration of the region and a stronger connection with the surrounding landscapes and villages.
Additionally, by choosing the 4-day Highlights version, you may find yourself with extra time to indulge in other activities around Mont Blanc. For instance, you could take the Aiguille du Midi cable car for an up-close view of climbers ascending the Frendo Spur, or watch people traverse the Mer de Glace en route to Mont Blanc summit. This extra flexibility provides the opportunity to create an even more diverse and memorable experience during your visit to this incredible region. This guide primarily focusses on the highlights version, but the knowledge is applicable to both.
When it comes to the Tour du Mont Blanc, whether you're embarking on the 4-day Highlights or the full 10-day journey, a certain level of fitness and preparation is required. Don't worry, though - with proper training, these treks are achievable for most people (even complete beginners).
The longer days on the trail can involve up to 8 hours of trekking with a rucksack, so it's essential to have a good level of physical fitness. In the months leading up to your trek, we recommend engaging in a sport you enjoy (e.g., running, swimming, or tennis) at least twice a week. Additionally, try to embark on training hikes, ideally for a full day, while carrying a 5kg to 7kg rucksack. These hikes will help build your endurance and acclimate you to the demands of the trek.
The 4-day Highlights trek, while shorter, still demands physical fitness and mental fortitude. Here's a breakdown of the daily distances, ascents, descents, and maximum altitudes:
Day 1: Distance: 5.8 km. Ascent: 550m. Descent: 50m. Max altitude: 2056m
Day 2: Distance: 20 km. Ascent: 1000m. Descent: 1290m. Max altitude: 2536m
Day 3: Distance: 18.5 km. Ascent: 810m. Descent: 1000m. Max altitude: 2050m
Day 4: Distance: 11.1 km. Ascent: 975m. Descent: 1192m. Max altitude: 2202m
While these numbers might seem daunting, remember that they're spread out over four days, making the trek achievable for most enthusiastic hikers.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Each day presents a new challenge that inspires you to push forward, overcome obstacles, and reach the finish line. Before you know it, you'll be back in Chamonix, celebrating your accomplishment like the locals over some delightful Genepi and Pastis.
In summary, both the 4-day Highlights and 10-day trek demand physical fitness, determination, and a love for adventure. With proper training and preparation, you'll be well-equipped to complete this unforgettable journey and make lasting memories in the heart of the European Alps.
During the trek, you'll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the mountain lifestyle, staying in authentic mountain huts and experiencing the heart of the European Alps. These accommodations offer a unique and unforgettable experience for trekkers, combining simplicity with breathtaking surroundings.
The mountain huts/hotels you'll stay in are generally dormitory-style, with shared bathrooms and bunk beds complete with pillows and blankets (a thin and light sleeping bag liner is advisable for hygienic reasons). Despite their rustic nature, most accommodations provide essential amenities such as electricity, warm showers, and snacks. However, Wi-Fi is usually unavailable, allowing you to disconnect and fully embrace the remote feel of your adventure. Remember they're all very remote (for some of them supplies are helicoptered in once a week), so it's not quite the same as staying in a typical hotel
On the 4-day Tour du Mont Blanc trek, you will stay in various accommodations, each offering unique experiences and opportunities to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the Alps. Here's a brief overview of your itinerary and where you'll be staying:
Night 1: Rifugio Bonatti - Remote location with awesome views, showers, and dormitory-style rooms.
Night 2: Refuge d'Arpette - Mountain views, showers, and 6-8 person dormitory rooms.
Night 3: La Grande Ourse Hotel - Mountain views, an awesome bar and garden, showers, and 8-person dormitory rooms.
Staying in mountain huts and hotels will likely be among your most unforgettable experiences during your trek. These accommodations offer simple yet delicious home-cooked meals, cozy sleeping areas, and a welcoming atmosphere for sharing stories with fellow trekkers after dinner. Bring earplugs in case your neighbors snore, and be prepared for limited access to Wi-Fi and phone signal, allowing you to fully appreciate the remoteness of your adventure.
The ideal season for the Tour du Mont Blanc depends on your personal preferences and what you hope to experience during your trek. Here's a brief overview of the conditions you can expect during different months:
During this period, you'll encounter more snow on the trails, which may require slight route adaptations or the occasional use of snowshoes (provided free of charge on the Skyhook highlights trip). The snow-covered mountains create a picturesque backdrop, but be prepared for colder temperatures.
In terms of wildlife, in this season, you may well see marmots, chamois, and ibexes coming out from their winter hibernation. The flora starts to bloom, with crocuses, primroses, and gentians making their appearance. The guides on Skyhook trips are incredible at spotting wildlife, and pointing it out to you.
This is the prime season for wildflowers, and the temperatures are warmer. However, there's a slightly higher chance of rain during these months. One week during this time is reserved for the UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc), an annual mountain ultramarathon. The trails will be busy with racers, and your guides might be participating as well. If you prefer a quieter experience, plan your trip around this event.
In summer, you may spot golden eagles soaring above, as well as marmots, chamois, and ibexes roaming the mountains. The flora is abundant with colourful wildflowers, such as edelweiss, alpine roses, and various species of orchids.
As the temperatures cool down again, the trails become quieter and more peaceful. This can be an ideal time for those who prefer a serene, introspective experience. The autumn colours also start to emerge, creating a beautiful and tranquil atmosphere.
During this season, you may still encounter marmots and ibexes (although sightings are more rare), while the autumn colours start to appear in the foliage, creating a stunning backdrop for your trek. The flora includes various species of mushrooms and berries.
In mountainous areas, weather can be more predictable due to certain patterns, such as katabatic winds. These winds result from colder, denser air flowing downhill due to gravity, and they can contribute to the development of afternoon thunderstorms. Experienced guides can often predict these weather patterns based on atmospheric conditions like clear skies the night before or frost in the morning. They use this to time your day, to try and avoid the rain (so on average you'll get wet far less than the rainfall statistics suggest). However, it's essential to understand that mountain weather can still be highly variable and change rapidly, so there are no guarantees. You can also check the latest forecast for Chamonix at YR Weather if you're travelling soon (we highly rate this site for mountain weather).
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0° / -6°
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7° / 1°
11° / 5°
14° / 8°
14° / 8°
11° / 5°
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-1° / -6°
Ultimately, the best season for the Tour du Mont Blanc depends on your personal preferences and what you're looking to get out of your trekking adventure. Consider your ideal weather conditions, the level of trail busyness, and the type of scenery you'd like to experience when planning your trip.
You can see the guided Skyhook version of this route here.
The adventure begins in Courmayeur, where you'll set out towards Rifugio Bonatti in Val Ferret. This initial stretch covers 5.8 km, with an ascent of 550m and a descent of 50m, reaching a maximum altitude of 2056m.
On day two, you'll traverse the mountain, hiking up to the Switzerland border. As you ascend, you'll be treated to beautiful views of the south face of the Mont Blanc range. After stopping for a well-deserved rest, you'll continue up to the highest point on your trek, the Grand Ferret Pass at 2,536m. In the afternoon, you'll trek into Switzerland and head back down the mountain. Along the way, you'll pass through a local farm where you can sample some local cheeses before reaching La Fouly. This day covers a distance of 20 km, with 1000m of ascent and 1290m of descent.
Day three starts with a gentle warm-up as you head down through the woods before tackling a challenging ascent hike to Bovine, known for its incredible rosti (pan-fried vegetable dish)! In the afternoon, you'll head back down through the world-famous Col de la Forclaz, which has been an important part of the Tour De France cycle race. The day ends with a pleasant descent to the picturesque Swiss village of Trient. This day covers a distance of 18.5 km, with an ascent of 810m and a descent of 1000m, reaching a maximum altitude of 2050m.
On your final day of hiking, you'll trek back into France, starting with an early ascent to Col De Balme, which boasts some of the most incredible views of Mont Blanc. The afternoon consists of a pleasant hike down the mountain and through meadows to Le Tour. From here, you'll be transferred to Geneva airport for a 5:30 pm arrival. We recommend booking flights after 8:30 pm, in case of delays on the mountain or in transit. This day covers a distance of 11.1 km, with an ascent of 975m and a descent of 1192m, reaching a maximum altitude of 2202m.
Day 1: Chamonix to Les Contamines (11.6km, 6-7 hours) - Begin the trek from Bellevue top station, passing Bionassay glacier to Col du Tricot.
Day 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux (15km, 8-9 hours) - Hike up to Col du Bonhomme, then to Croix de la Bonhomme, and arrive at Les Chapieux.
Day 3: Les Chapieux to Rifugio Monte Bianco (14.7km, 6-7 hours) - Walk along the river, climb to Col de la Seigne, and descend to Refugio Elisabetta Soldini.
Day 4: Rifugio Monte Bianco to Courmayeur (11.3km, 6-7 hours) - Enjoy views of Mont Blanc's south face, hike to Courmayeur, and optionally take the cable car down.
Day 5: Courmayeur to Val Ferret (16km, 7-8 hours) - Hike along the scenic Val Ferrat, separating Italian and Swiss valleys.
Day 6: Val Ferret to La Fouly (13.1km, 6-7 hours) - Ascend to the Grand Col Ferret and descend to La Fouly, with a chance to try local cheese.
Day 7: La Fouly to Champex-Lac (16.6km, 5-6 hours) - Trek through alpine meadows and Swiss villages, ending in picturesque Champex-Lac.
Day 8: Champex-Lac to Trient (13.8km, 6-7 hours) - Hike up to Bovine and descend to Trient via Col de la Forclaz.
Day 9: Trient to Argentiere (13.1km, 7-8 hours) - Leave Switzerland, hike up to Col de Balme, and optionally climb to Col des Possettes peak.
Day 10: Argentiere to Chamonix (15.1km, 7-8 hours) - Trek over Lac Blanc, enjoy panoramic views, and descend or take the cable car to Chamonix.
After completing the Tour du Mont Blanc, consider exploring additional activities in Chamonix. Some exciting options include the Aiguille du Midi cable car and paragliding experiences.
The Aiguille du Midi cable car is a must-visit attraction in Chamonix. This famous cable car takes you from the town center to an altitude of 3,842 meters in just 20 minutes, offering stunning panoramic views of the French, Swiss, and Italian Alps. At the summit, you can:
Step into the Void: Experience the thrill of standing on a glass platform with a thousand meters of empty space beneath your feet.
Walk around the summit terraces: Admire the breathtaking view of Mont Blanc and watch climbers tackle the Frendo Spur or hikers exploring the Mer de Glace glacier.
Explore the Alpine Museum: Discover the highest museum in the world, dedicated to famous mountaineers and their daring adventures.
Remember to bring warm clothes, sunglasses, and sun cream, and plan for a 2-3 hour visit. You can book tickets on the official Mont Blanc Resort website (it'll save you 30 minutes of queues in the busy season).
Chamonix is an iconic destination for paragliding, boasting stunning landscapes and easily accessible take-off areas via ski lifts. Experienced and beginner paragliders can enjoy the thrill of flying near Mont Blanc.
To find an instructor or paragliding school, visit the guides office in Chamonix. They can connect you with experienced paragliding guides who will share their knowledge and expertise during both summer and winter seasons.
Travel insurance details
Boarding passes for flights
Cash – Euro and Swiss Franc - 150 Euros and 150 CHFs each person.
Sleeping bag liner (you can buy from your guide at Vert Lodge)
Trekking boots: 3 or 4-season lightweight
Lightweight shoes for the evenings (such as house shoes, flip-flops, sandals etc.)
Make sure that you have non-cotton, fast-drying clothing for trekking.
2 x t-shirts for the hike
1 x comfortable shirt for the evening
4 x socks for hiking
3 - 4 x pairs of underwear
Light down or Primaloft jacket
Rain and windproof jacket with hood
Rain and windproof trousers
1 x pair of hiking trousers: We recommend a pair that zip off into shorts.
Comfortable trousers for the evening
Lightweight hat and gloves
A daysack: 35 - 45 litres – All your kit should fit in this bag
Dry Liner or Dry Bag
Water bottle/s: At least 2L
Suncream and additional sun protection such as a baseball cap or similar
Personal medication – inhaler, blister pads etc
General Toiletries, Contact lenses, Glasses (if needed)
Electronics - phone, charging cable, USB plug
Hand sanitiser, wet wipes
Chamonix, a picturesque alpine town, is easily accessible from various European cities. Nestled just 103 kilometres from Geneva International Airport, Chamonix offers multiple transport options for your convenience.
The quickest and most convenient way to reach Chamonix is by air. While Geneva International Airport is the closest option, Chambery, Turin, and Lyon airports are also viable alternatives. Geneva boasts the largest number of flights from various destinations. Upon arrival, you can take a direct shuttle from the airport to Chamonix.
For those participating in the Skyhook highlights trip, airport transfers are included for your convenience.
For those already in France or a neighboring country, driving to Chamonix is a feasible option. The extensive European motorway network ensures a seamless journey to this charming town.
For an eco-friendly alternative, consider taking the train to Chamonix. While not the fastest method, the train station is conveniently located in the town center. Be prepared for a few transfers along the way, but enjoy the perk of being able to carry more luggage without extra fees. It's best to check the official SNCF website (French National Railway Company) for this.
Long-distance buses or coaches offer an affordable and environmentally conscious option for reaching Chamonix. Keep in mind that the journey may be longer and the seats less comfortable than other transport modes. Lots of people use AlpyBus for this.
Here at Skyhook, we offer small-group trips with hand-picked local guides. It's also a great sociable experience - after booking you can see who else is on your trip, and use the website chat to introduce yourself.
You can see the Tour du Mont Blanc highlights route here.
If you book through us, you can also rest assured that the head guide books the huts a year in advance, which means all trip dates are guaranteed to run. Great guides and peace of mind - no wonder more people book this route with us than anyone else!
Thanks very much for reading this guide - and we wish you the best of luck on you're adventure. It's truly one of the world's greatest multi-day treks!