The Best Plan for Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

By Michael Lanza

You want to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc, but you’re not sure how hard it is, whether you can do it all, or even whether to hire a guide? One of the world’s great treks, the TMB is easy to do self-supported—but it’s not easy to figure out how to do that. When I hiked it with 12 family and friends of varying abilities—including my 80-year-old mother—I spent many pre-trip hours mapping out a flexible daily itinerary that allowed some in our group to use local transportation to avoid hard sections or bad weather, and everyone had a wonderful experience. This guide will show you how to duplicate that trip or customize your own.

As I wrote in my story at The Big Outside, “Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc at an 80-Year-Old Snail’s Pace” (which includes dozens of photos from the trip), everyone in our group was awed and delighted with the entire experience, from the scenery to the blend of cultures, the people, the mountain huts and inns, the towns and villages, and of course, the food: Even the most widely traveled among us agreed we enjoyed some of the best meals of our lives on the TMB.

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Trekkers hiking to Col de la Seigne on the Tour du Mont Blanc, France.
Trekkers hiking to Col de la Seigne on the Tour du Mont Blanc, France. Click photo for my e-guide “The Perfect Plan for Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc.”

That’s no surprise. Look at any list of the world’s greatest hiking trails, and the roughly 106-mile (170k) Tour du Mont Blanc invariably occupies a spot atop it or near the top. There are many reasons for that, but first and foremost is the sheer majesty of this walking path around the “Monarch of the Alps,” 15,771-foot (4807m) Mont Blanc. Passing through three nations—France, Italy, and Switzerland—and over several mountain passes reaching nearly 9,000 feet, it delivers views of glaciers, pointy peaks and “aiguilles,” and when it’s not engulfed in clouds, the snowy dome of Mont Blanc.

Another reason for the TMB’s enormous popularity, though, is the abundance of towns and villages and transportation options along the trail, allowing hikers to customize their trek, choosing which sections to hike depending on difficulty, weather, how they feel each day, or how many days they have for it.

Ready to hike one of the world’s great treks?
Get my e-guide “The Perfect, Flexible Plan for Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc.”

A hiker trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc.
A hiker trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc. Click photo to read about this trip.

That gave some members of our group the flexibility to skip or shorten a few days while most of our group hiked all nine of the TMB’s stages that we planned to do. For example, on one day in Switzerland, we split into three groups: Some took a harder, higher, more scenic alternate route, some stayed on the primary TMB route, and a few took public transportation around it. We all rendezvoused at our lodgings every evening but one, when two in our group got a hotel room in a valley while the rest spent the night at a mountain hut (as we had planned).

Still, even those who only hiked relatively easier sections enjoyed some of the TMB’s best scenery.

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A hiker on a trail overlooking the Mont Blanc massif in Switzerland.
Anna Garofalo on our final day trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc, when we followed a gorgeous alternate trail that’s described in my e-guide. Click photo for the e-guide.

We spent three of our eight nights on the TMB in mountain huts with views of towering peaks and heavily crevassed glaciers. But we slept most of our nights in comfortable hotel rooms in towns and villages, including in Chamonix the night before starting the trek and the day we finished it, enjoying excellent dinners every evening.

My downloadable e-guide “The Perfect, Flexible Plan for Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc” describes the daily itinerary I created for hiking the TMB unguided. It provides detailed advice on day-to-day options for customizing a flexible TMB hiking itinerary on the first nine of the TMB’s 11 stages, including how and where to take transportation to shorten or avoid difficult sections or bad weather; how to plan and prepare for a TMB trek; and gear and safety tips. It also recommends shorter sections of the TMB to trek if your time is more limited.

See many more photos in my story about our TMB trek, “Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc at an 80-Year-Old Snail’s Pace” at The Big Outside. See also “My 30 Most Scenic Days of Hiking Ever” and all stories about International Adventures at The Big Outside.

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2 thoughts on “The Best Plan for Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc”

  1. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for your wonderful blog and fabulous E-guides (I bought and used Wonderland to plan my trip last summer!). I have a few questions about the TMB for my family this summer (parents and 15, 20 yo kids). Not sure if they are best handled with a phone call, here on the blog, or as part of a custom trip plan.

    If I hire you to do custom trip planning would you help or take care of the accommodations reservations? That seems like one of the trickiest parts. Is it $250 for the trip? (not $250 per person?)

    We are thinking of doing a 6-7 day itinerary not the 9 or 11 days. Seems like many companies suggest a halfway round-trip in 6 days, but you suggest Chamonix to Bonatti and back to Courmayeur. Other reviews I have read seem to think the other half of the trip is more scenic (Chamonix to Courmayeur is not as scenic) I am wondering why you suggest this half?

    Wondering your thoughts on a 6-day half circle vs a 7-day full circle (With some buses/ taxis).

    Is the last two weeks of June too early: June 19-7/3? I see itineraries starting as early as June 1 online . .


    • Hi Alexa,

      Thanks for getting in touch, your nice words about my blog, and subscribing and buying my Wonderland Trail and Tour du Mont Blanc e-guides. I’m glad you had a nice Wonderland hike and congrats on your plans to hike the TMB—a great one.

      As for the scenery from Chamonix to Courmayeur, I’d say the first day out of Chamonix is good but it gets better from day two through Bonatti hut. The e-guide’s title page photo is on the Chamonix to Courmayeur section, specifically the day from Elizabetta hut to Courmayeur. So is the photo of my family on the Dear Hiker page; the next photo below that on the TMB heading to the Col de la Seigne in France (where you cross into Italy) and two more photos not much farther down of my friends Guido hiking above the Refuge des Mottets (toward Col de la Seigne) and Inken at the col; and the photo at the beginning of Section 2 of Guido hiking to Courmayeur—one of the single best days on the entire TMB.

      As my e-guide details in the Season section: Depending on the snowpack from the previous winter and spring, the TMB’s highest elevations (passes near 9,000 feet/over 2600m) may be largely snow-free by late June or not until mid-July or later; planning to trek the TMB before mid-July does run some risk of having to adjust your itinerary to avoid higher elevations. Personally, I would be disappointed to incur all that expense and time planning and traveling to have to skip some of the TMB’s nicest sections.

      As for my Custom Trip Planning, the cost is for one trip plan; it doesn’t matter to me how many people go on your trip. I do not book accommodations or anything else, like travel, as part of my custom trip planning; I provide you with a very detailed plan, including an itinerary developed to suit your preferences, based on our communications. Given the other questions you’ve asked, helping you decide on an itinerary and such logistical details is one of the significant benefits of my custom trip planning. You’ve seen that my e-guide provides you with all you need to know and do to plan that trip itinerary yourself—or part of it—but that obviously involves more work for you.

      I hope this answers your questions. Get in touch anytime. Thanks.