Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

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Have you ever wondered what’s it like hiking the famous Tour du Mont Blanc? I did my first multi-day hike this summer in the Alps and absolutely loved the whole experience. You might be asking what is the Tour du Mont Blanc exactly? And why is it so incredibly popular? Who can do it? How fit do you have to be to do it? Read on, I will tell you!

What is the Tour du Mont Blanc?

Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the best known long distance hiking trails in the world and certainly the most popular in Europe. The full circumnavigation of the Mont Blanc massif is 180km and will take around 10-11 days to complete. The main route is primarily in France and Switzerland although it does extend over to the Italian side for a little bit as well.

As the route is circular, you can start it practically at any point along the route but most popular starting points are Chamonix in France and Courmayeur in Italy. You can also do less than 10 days if that sounds a bit scary Β -I did about 80 km of the route over 5 days + 1 day of hiking off the main route near Chamonix.

The well marked route will take you from village or town to another; they are quite conveniently located about 5-8 hours walking distance from each other. There are different accommodation options available, mostly nice auberges or hostel-like accommodations where you share your room with other people. Some towns have hotels while sometimes the only option is a rustic mountain hut literally in the mountains, far away from everything. In most places it is possible to have a private room for two people as well but the mountain huts won’t have those – So be prepared to share your accommodations with strangers at least once or twice, depending on the route you take.

Who can hike it?

You might wonder why this route is SO famous and popular. Europe is actually covered in GR (Grande Randonnee, French for great walks) walking routes and France along has 60,000km of these footpaths. Tour du Mont Blanc is just one of these routes but the location around Europe’s highest peak makes it very popular and of course the scenery is simply stunning. It is also easily accessible with the closest airport in Geneva only 1.5 hours away.

How to hike Tour du Mont Blanc

 

This route is obviously for those who like the outdoors and hiking, but just how fit do you have to be for it? First, think how do you feel about being outside (no matter what the weather) for 5-9 hours daily and being active most of that time. The weather in the mountains can change quickly so it’s not all rainbows and sunshine! It’s not easy walking because there is a lot of ascending and descending daily but it’s not incredibly hard either. For example I exercise (mainly running) 3 times a week and I was comfortable hiking the route.

The paths are well marked and well maintained but very different. Sometimes it’s nice wide paths, sometimes narrow rocky trails and sometimes you can’t see the route from the snow. I was very happy to have fully water proof boots as I did come across quite a few streams that I could not cross without getting my boots wet. So if you are up for an active trip and have or are willing to get the necessary gear (waterproof boots, trekking poles and comfortable backpack are essential) I say go for it!

How to hike Tour du Mont Blanc independently?

So now you are convinced you should go hiking on this beautiful route. Fantastic! How to go about it? If you feel like a true champion and want to take your large backpack on the trip carrying everything you need for your 5-10 day trek, go right ahead! I have immense respect for those hikers I saw along the way with their big (and heavy) backpacks but there is just no way I would do that. Not on my first attempt at long distance hiking anyway! And probably not on my second attempt either, if we’re being honest. So I had arranged most of my stuff to be transferred between my accommodations every day (YES, there is taxi service specifically for this!) and just carried my daypack – 3 litres of water, cameras, lunch, snacks and rain gear. It was an amazingly light way to hike.

There are guided small group tours available, but in my opinion this route is easy and safe enough to do self guided. If you are savvy about hiking, making travel arrangements and can plan your route well in advance, you can do this by yourself – with the helps of maps of course, so be sure to purchase the IGN maps for this route. Accommodation reservations are highly recommended though, as it would be very disappointing to arrive to a mountain hut to find out it’s full and it’s another two hour hike (or more!) to the next one. So think self guided, but well planned.

Farm

 

No matter what way you choose to explore this area I cannot recommend the Tour du Mont Blanc enough! It is a stunning hike and relatively easy as it’s not remote or hard to reach. The scenery alone is worth every step on this tour. And one last tip; many people do this route anti-clockwise but I would recommend definitely doing it clockwise. This way the views get better day after day and you start to wonder just Β how much more beautiful this hike can get!
SUNDAY

This post is part of the Sunday Traveler campaign hosted by many lovely blogs such as Chasing the DonkeyΒ and The Fairytale Traveler. Check out these blogs for more travel stories every Sunday!

52 Comments

  • Before even commenting, I sent a quick email to a friend of mine who loves hiking and mountains as much as I do, linking your post. I begged him to do it with me πŸ™‚ SOLD!

    • Hahah, thanks Claudia for spreading the word! It’s such a gorgeous hike, if you can make it happen you definitely should. It’s one of the most popular hikes in Europe, but for a good reason! I went in June which is early season and there really weren’t that many people around yet.

  • Really stunning terrain! I like your way of hiking much better than carrying the big pack. I feel like it liberates one a bit in terms of side-hikes. Hope to do at least part of this trail sometime soon.

    • Oh yes, it’s definitely nice and light way to hike and you don’t have to be exhausted but can explore leisurely. It’s a really beautiful trail all around, I highly recommend it!

  • This looks gorgeous! I have never considered doing a multi-day hike because they all sound so intimidating, but I feel like this is something I could probably do. What were the temperatures like? I might actually do this next summer!

    • Don’t be too intimated, it’s really fun actually! The temperatures in mid-June were in the 20s (celcius) on the lower altitudes, but got down to about 10 degrees at the high passes around 2500m. Mostly it was very pleasant for hiking!

    • It’s a really amazing hike Jon, if you have a chance, do it! There were places for around 35- 40 euros a night in the dorms, including breakfast and sometimes dinner for that price. The more hotel like accommodations were of course more expensive. I had everything booked in advance so I don’t remember the exact pricing details anymore..sorry!

  • Great post, Annika! My girlfriend and I have been exploring some of France’s GR and she recently told me about this long one. So good to find your post just a couple of days after she mentioned it (:
    Just one doubt: what about camping? Are there any possibilities to do that?

    Cheers,
    H.

    • Thank you Hector! You know I did see some people carrying tents and sleeping mats etc too, but I did not see any camping sites..Just I guess it’s just wilderness camping or some of the more remote accommodations in lower altitude had tens on the backyard. It would be awesome to camp somewhere in the mountains but then you have to carry everything with you..it can get heavy!

    • Oh you are lucky to live so close!! The season for the treks is from mid-June to mid-September, depending which route you take. I went in mid-June and there was still some snow on the higher routes which is normal. July and August are high season because the weather is good but there will be lot of other people there too. So early Autumn might be better although that said, I had amazing weather for mid-June, only one day of rain πŸ™‚ Since you live so close, at least you’ll know what kind of winter (heavy snow or not) they are having and can predict how the summer season will turn out!

  • Absolutely fantastic! It makes me want to go on these trails! I love Alpine landscapes. I have lived one year in Slovenia and enjoyed to walk around mountains and green lands. If you have opportunity visit Slovenia and Triglav National Park. It’s really beautiful there! Great post!

    • Thank you Pedro! I visited Slovenia too but didn’t do any hiking, unfortunately. I would love to go back and see Triglav National Park and the Julian Alps. One day, I hope!

  • Oh God, I have to go there! I love hiking and the scenery looks absolutely amazing! Doing a long distance trail gives you really time to get away from it all!

  • Really Beautiful Photos, we are making a list of some of the outdoor hiking and walking trails around Germany – so we can try to catch them before we leave next year – this for sure I will have to add this to our list – Really fun and I think I would opt to have my stuff moved as well and only carry my day pack – good idea and not one I had thought of!

    • Thank you Stacey! Germany has a lot of beautiful hiking trails as well! In the Mt Blanc region there are some trails that are family friendly too, so I’m sure you can find a good hike for everyone there πŸ™‚

  • STUNNING photos, Annika! I am big into hiking and trekking and this seems like such a lovely, peaceful hike! Definitely adding to my travel list for when I make it to France. Cheers!

    • Thank you Jessica! Means a lot coming from a professional photographer πŸ™‚ Peaceful is a good word for this hike! At times it felt like we were the only people in the mountains and it was a great feeling!

  • Hello, on behalf of Christa, host of The Sunday Traveler, I was stopping by to check out your article. I agree, stunning! What a great article. Beautiful pictures and inspiring. I would definitely be up for giving this a go one day.

  • Haaa Mont Blanc… One of our great trail in France indeed!
    I’ve never been to Chamonix, I think I never explored this area so much but always heard how great it was.
    I love a good hike, I’ll have to try this one when I come back to Europe to see the family!

    • I can’t believe you haven’t been there yet! You should put that on you list right away πŸ™‚ Do you have any other good hikes to recommend in France?

    • Hi Hannah, thanks for your comment! If you are planning on going in July or August, I would make the reservations now. The amount of beds is really quite limited so it’s good to be early.

  • Hi Annika!
    I’m setting off to hike the TMB in about a week and came across your post re: having your bags transported from hut to hut! How did you organize this? Would love to do the same… is there a specific company? Thank you in advance for your help!!

    • Hi Christine,
      Thank you for your comment! Very exciting to hear you are heading out to hike the TMB too, I’m sure you’ll love it! The company I used was called Cairn Trekking but they also booked my accommodations too. I don’t think they arrange luggage transfers only but you could always ask! Enjoy your hike πŸ™‚

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Have you ever wondered what’s it like hiking the famous Tour du Mont Blanc? I did my first multi-day hike this summer in the...
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