Have you heard of the Tour du Mont Blanc?
I’ve had a crush on this long distance hike for a couple of years.
And since I completed the West Highland Way in Scotland back in May — another of my trail crushes — the Tour du Mont Blanc is now the trail I’m obsessing over.
This is one of the classic long distance hiking trails in Europe.
Unlike the West Highland Way, this trail is up in the mountains. So it’s right up this mountain-loving gal’s alley.
I’m seriously considering hiking this in 2019.
It’s considered to be one of the best experiences to have in France.
So let’s find out a bit more about this classic trail.
What and where is the Tour du Mont Blanc?
This trail circles the Mont Blanc massif which is located in France, Italy and Switzerland.
Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco in Italian) rises to 4808m/15,774ft. However you’re not hiking up it — but rather around it and it’s mountain neighbors.
The standard pathway is roughly 170km/110miles with 10km/6.2miles of ascent and descent.
And yes it’s on rocky, mountain terrain. This is the Alps after all.
So this hike isn’t for everyone.
It is a hiking trail and not a “walk in the park” trail.
However the main, or standard, route is well-marked so orienteering and map reading skills aren’t necessary. Although it’s always helpful to have this expertise.
There are variations to the standard route, but most folks will hike this main trail as the variants can be more challenging and demanding.
Where does this trail begin?
The Tour du Mont Blanc — often known as the TMB — has a couple of different starting points.
One is Les Houches in the Chamonix valley of France. Another is Les Contamines in the Montjoie valley also in France.
If you’d like to begin the hike in Italy, you can do so at the town of Couremayer.
And if you want to access the TMB in Switzerland, then you can start at Champex or near Martigny.
So there are choices depending on where you live or where you are coming from.
When is the best time to hike the TMB?
Because this trail is at altitude the season is limited to mid-June to mid-September for most people.
Many Europeans have summer holidays between July 1 and the end of August so July and August will be the busiest months — with August being particularly so.
The other event to note is the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail race at the end of August each year. Yes, people actually run the entire trail in about 24 hours. Crazy!
But it might be good to avoid that time.
Late June and into early July brings out the alpine wildflowers while mid-September sees the leaves beginning to turn brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow.
So ultimately it’s your choice.
May is simply too early as there can still be snow on much of the trail and the weather begins to become more unpredictable in late September and early October. It could actually snow then. These times need to be avoided for safety reasons.
What’s it like to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?
I wish I knew but can’t wait to find out!
Seriously though, since I have yet to tackle this trail, I can’t speak from experience. So I’ll offer up some of what I’ve learned.
The Tour du Mont Blanc actually passes through 7 beautiful valleys — Chamonix (also called Arve), Montjoie, Vallee des Glaciers, Italian Val Veni, Val Ferret, Swiss Val Ferret, and either the Arpette or Trient valley in Switzerland.
And with little forested land, there are views, views and more views. This is one of the reasons why I want to hike this trail so badly — I love those mountain views. And these look stunning!
There are some stream crossings some of which have bridges and some of which you’ll have to actually cross the stream over rocks.
Typically each day will involve a good walk uphill and a demanding descent. So some level of fitness and comfort hiking on uneven mountain terrain is recommended.
The highest elevation you’ll reach is 2665m/8743ft at Col des Fours in France and Fenêtre d’Arpette in Switzerland. So you don’t have to worry about altitude sickness. Most folks can handle this without any issues.
Because it’s a popular trek, you most likely won’t be alone. But it shouldn’t be too crowded.
How do I hike the TMB? Can I do this alone or with a group? How many days will it take?
Kind of like walking the West Highland Way you have your choice of going it alone or with a group or a guide.
You also have your choice of carrying all your shit and camping or having your stuff delivered to your accommodation and just carrying a daypack.
There are options for where to stay as well.
For instance, you can stay in a mountain hut — a refugio — a nicer hotel or a simple family-run guesthouse. Because you are usually close to towns and villages, there are choices for every type of traveler.
Typically most excursions are a mix of accommodation. But it will depend on the outfitter you choose.
And if you want, you can hike the Tour du Mont Blanc in 7 or 8 days or you can slow down and do it in 11 or 12. 11 days is the norm.
Need a day off in between?
You can do that too. Simply stay an extra day in one of the towns and give your body a rest.
There are fabulous guiding companies that you can use if you want to hike with a small group of people and an experienced guide.
Or you can choose to hike it on your own. But if you choose this option, it’s good to have some experience in this type of terrain.
I really like all these options as I believe there is a choice that fits each hiker/traveler’s comfort level.
I’m still not sure which choice is best for me. But I love that I have so many alternatives.
A dream travel experience.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I recently wrote a blog post on my top 7 travel dreams.
These weren’t dream destinations per se, but rather experiences.
And the Tour du Mont Blanc was on the list.
So for me, I would love to hike this long distance trail because it is something I dream of. It’s that “bucket list” experience I long to have before I leave this earth.
The mountains are my happy place after all. And, after seeing the Swiss Alps, I know I need to explore more of these stunning peaks.
So would you like to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?
Is it an experience you would put on your bucket list?
I’d love to hear from you.
Feel free to drop your comments below.