mont blanc circuit hiking tour alps

Mont Blanc circuit, French Alps

Europe’s high peaks are a paradise for hikers. On the Tour du Mont Blanc, we savor the magnficient mountains of three countries—France, Italy, and Switzerland—along with their diverse alpine cultures.

Photo by Brian McGilloway

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Tour du Mont Blanc

On Foot in the Alps from France to Italy to Switzerland

Tour du Mont Blanc route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $4495  
Length: 8 days
Arrive: Chamonix, France
Depart: Chamonix, France
Lodging: 5 nights hotels, 2 nights small inns with semi-private rooms
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: 7 hiking days on moderate to steep trails, 6-8 hours a day, altitudes between 4,000-8,800 feet, van support (for luggage or tired feet), team of up to 3 Trip Leaders
5

Highlights

  • One of the world’s classic hikes—and we do it in style!
  • Enjoy magnificent mountain and glacier views and hike across three international borders on foot
  • Delicious regional cuisine, from French tartiflette and Italian pasta to Swiss fondue
  • Overnights in mountain villages with great charm and character


From the surprise picnics to tasting grolla in the mountain hut, it was all wonderfully organized.B. Scott—Chapmore Ends England

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

Circling Mont Blanc on foot is one of the “Great Hikes of the World”—a delightful experience of the scenery, cultures, and culinary traditions of the three countries surrounding Western Europe’s highest peak. We’ve honed our version of this great journey to utter perfection. Hiking from France to Italy and Switzerland, you’ll revel in glorious mountain-and-glacier vistas each day and overnight in cozy hotels and hiker’s inns, all topped by savory meals reflecting each region’s specialties. Our experienced guides are the best in the Alps—this is their own backyard and they’ll share it with you in style!

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-2
Chamonix / Les Contamines

In the mountaineer’s paradise of Chamonix, our warm-up hike brings you to the jagged needles of the Aiguilles Rouges and mountain-ringed Lac Blanc, with its spectacular views over the Chamonix Valley. Setting off on our journey, you’ll hike beside the snout of the vast Bionnassay Glacier, cross the Col de Tricot, with fine views of the snow-covered ridge of the Dômes de Miage, and descend to the charming village of Les Contamines.

Days 3-4
Into Italy

From the chapel of Notre Dame de la Gorge, a church with Renaissance frescoes and an ancient pilgrimage site, our challenging hike over two passes brings you to the remote summer village of Les Chapieux, where we overnight at a family-run auberge. After paying a visit to a local cheesemaker (superb Beaufort!), we hike across the border along a route used by countless Roman legionnaires and enjoy fantastic vistas of Mont Blanc’s 11,000-foot-high southern face as we descend past the Elisabetta Refuge to the stylish mountain town of Courmayeur, Italy’s counterpoint to Chamonix. On one festive evening we may find ourselves passing the traditional grolla bowl (espresso and grappa—flambé!) to toast our day’s adventures.

Days 5-6
Val Ferret, Switzerland / Champex / Trient Glacier / Col de la Forclaz

With the massive granite peaks of Mont Dolent and the Grandes Jorasses in view, our hike into Switzerland via the Grand Col Ferret traverses the gentle Val Ferret, with its alpine meadows, fast-flowing streams, and traditional wooden chalets. From lakeside Champex, you’ll hike switchback trails up to the Fenêtre d’Arpette (8,750’), a narrow, dramatic pass overlooking the magnificent Trient Glacier, and descend steeply right along the edge of the glacier and through meadows and forests to our inn at Col de la Forclaz.

Days 7-8
Col de Balme / Chamonix

Our trail climbs through serene larch forests to the Col de Balme, crossing the border from Switzerland back into France. Savor jaw-dropping views of Mont Blanc while feasting on a farewell picnic lunch before descending into the Chamonix Valley—circuit complete! Depart from Chamonix on Day 8.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 5, Strenuous. All trip members should have good hiking experience, but no technical climbing experience is necessary. Most hiking is at altitudes between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, and the maximum elevation reached is 8,800 feet. Daily hikes range from four to eight hours. All participants must be in good physical condition. There are long daily ascents and descents of up to 3,000 to 4,000 feet in each direction. On most days, we end the hike with long, steep descents. Of course, you are always free to skip a day’s hike and travel to the next destination in the support vehicle. We recommend that you make a special effort to get in top physical condition for the trip.

In Chamonix, we stay in the wonderful Grand Hotel des Alpes. Outside of Chamonix, we stay in comfortable (but not luxurious) small hotels and pensions, with shared bathrooms on a couple of nights of the trip. They are rustic, well located for hikers, and continuously busy in the summer hiking season. Please note that these are hikers’ hotels, not five-star resorts. The rooms are clean and comfortable, but are not always of uniform size or amenities.

Our Trip Leaders try their best to assign rooms in a fair way so that all participants experience an equal advantage throughout the trip as a whole. Single rooms are offered when possible, but those who pay the Single Supplement may have to share a room for up to two nights during the trip. At the Auberge de la Nova, couples may also have to share a room.

All meals are included. Evening meals are at our hotels, and they will be hearty mountain fare. A support vehicle will transport the group’s luggage daily. We use many forms of transportation as we travel during the trip, so we ask that you restrict your luggage to one piece, plus your daypack/rucksack.

We strongly urge you to “train up” for your trip. Your enjoyment of the trip will be very dependent on your level of fitness. The best training for hiking is hiking, especially over hills or rough terrain. Next best are running, swimming, bicycling or other sports exercise. Stair-climbing machines are excellent preparation for hiking uphill. Try to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule at least a couple of months before departure. Your feet should also be well prepared—make sure your hiking boots are sturdy and thoroughly broken-in.  Altitude is not a problem on these trips. The itineraries are worked out to take you gently to higher altitude, giving you plenty of time to acclimatize. However, some people still find they get a few problems when they first reach high altitude. Slight headache and sleeplessness are the most common problems.

On most days, breakfast will be around 7:30 am. You should bring your packed bag to the hotel lobby when you come down for breakfast on days when we will be changing hotels. We usually leave the hotel at around 8 or 8:30 am. Lunch will usually be either in a small village, mountain lodge or picnic spot amidst the beauty of the surrounding mountains. Most evening meals will be taken at our hotels and will be hearty, nourishing mountain fare, often with the cuisine the region is noted for. Vegetarians please note that we will accommodate dietary needs as best as possible, but it is a good idea to bring along protein bars and other supplements. Please note that in Europe, the dinner hour is considerably later than what it is in the US. We do our best to secure early reservations for our groups, but most often the evening meal will be at 7:30 pm.

Each day will include anywhere from three to eight hours of hiking, with options that give us time for visiting small villages and other interesting places en route. Of course, trip members are always free to skip a day's hike and travel to the next destination in the support vehicle. On most days, a support vehicle will transport the group's luggage, so you only need to carry a daypack for items you need for the day (sweater, camera, water bottle). We may use many forms of transportation as we travel during the trip, so we ask that you restrict your luggage to one piece, plus your daypack/rucksack.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures & Leaders

2014
Sep 7-14, 2014

2015
Jul 5-12, 2015
Jul 23-30, 2015  Tim Burford
Aug 9-16, 2015  Mike Browder
Aug 23-30, 2015
Sep 6-13, 2015  Tim Burford

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2015
$4495 (11-14 members)
$4895 (6-10 members)
Single supplement: $540
Forced single supplement: $270
more on pricing

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of at least two Wilderness Travel Trip Leaders (and sometimes three, depending on group size)
  • Accommodations in hotels and small inns
  • All meals included
  • Van support and luggage transfer
  • Cable cars and chairlifts to trailheads for scheduled hikes
  • Land transportation during the trip, transfers between overnight stops, airport transfers

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessary due to airline schedule changes or other factors; pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas; and other expenses of a personal nature (laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20%
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Grand Hotel des Alpes

Grand Hotel des Alpes

Day 1 (1 night),
Day 7 (1 night), Chamonix, France

A truly wonderful hotel that WT groups have enjoyed for years, the elegant Grand Hotel is right in the center of Chamonix, set back on a lovely ...
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Hotel La Chemenaz

Hotel La Chemenaz

Day 2 (1 night), Les Contamines, France

Right on the TMB trail just outside the village of Les Contamines, this is a comfortable, modern hotel with spacious rooms, a cozy bar with a log ...
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Auberge de la Nova

Auberge de la Nova

Day 3 (1 night), Chapieux, France

This family-run auberge sits at the end of a country road at the junction of three valleys. It is a basic but very charming place and an important ...
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Hotel des Glaciers

Hotel des Glaciers

Day 4 (1 night), Courmayeur, Italy

In the adjacent community of Dolonne, a few minutes’ walk from Courmayeuer’s pedestrian center, this is a family-run hotel in which ...
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Hotel du Glacier

Hotel du Glacier

Day 5 (1 night), Champex, Switzerland

The comfortable Hotel du Glacier sits on the main and only street of the pretty little village of Champex. The same lovely couple has owned it for ...
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Hotel du Col de la Forclaz

Hotel du Col de la Forclaz

Day 6 (1 night), Trient, Switzerland

Sitting right on the mountain pass where the road leads west to France or east to Switzerland, this is a mountain accommodation with simple rooms ...
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Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Our Trip Leaders

Here are the Trip Leaders scheduled for this journey (please note that leader assignments are subject to change).

Mike Browder

Departure Dates: August 9-16, 2015

Mike Browder has worked in outdoor settings all his life, from directing parks and recreation programs in Bend, Oregon, to mountain climbing in North America and Asia (including an ascent of Everest!) to coaching school ski programs. He spent much of the 1990s in Central Asia, guiding, teaching ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Tim Burford

Departure Dates: July 23-30, 2015, September 6-13, 2015

Tim Burford has written hiking guidebooks to many regions, from Romania to Chile to Alaska, and is the author of the authoritative Travel Guide to Georgia (the former Soviet Union), published by Bradt, UK. Tim’s great passion is for the mountains, trails, and cultures of Central ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Ingrid Crossland

Departure Dates: September 7-14, 2014

Ingrid Crossland is a global wanderer whose life has been shaped by travel, mountains, and rock climbing. During the 1990s, following a number of mountaineering and climbing expeditions in Asia and Africa, she changed paths from a business career to leading treks, making the outdoors and mountains ...
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Annie Hawkins

Departure Dates: August 23-30, 2015

Annie Hawkins, born and raised in a small village in Burgundy, is a passionate world traveler and one of our most enchanting Trip Leaders. After studying art history in Provence, Annie moved to California, where she led adventure tours in the American Southwest and realized that leading adventure ...
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Clive Roberts

Departure Dates: September 7-14, 2014, August 23-30, 2015

Clive Roberts, from Ireland, is a seasoned guide with a contagious passion for the mountains. When not guiding for us, he teaches mountaineering and climbing skills. Clive has guided all over Europe and Nepal and speaks French, German, and Nepali. In his free time, he enjoys canoeing, woodworking, ...
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Hashmat Singh

Departure Dates: July 5-12, 2015

Hashmat Singh has led over 100 journeys on three continents for us since 1990. He holds a BA in History from Delhi University and is a noted photographer. His book, Trekking in the Himalaya (Roli Books), features photographic essays from Ladakh to Bhutan. Born an army brat, Hashmat traveled ...
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Leila Thompson

Departure Dates: July 5-12, 2015

Leila Thompson has made the mountains her focus since she was 18, when she moved to Yosemite to climb, hike, and learn to guide backcountry adventures. Later in Oregon, she added the crafts of backcountry skiing and whitewater guiding to her skills. She began exclusively leading trips for us in ...
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Daniel Windham

Departure Dates: September 7-14, 2014

Daniel Windham, born in Georgia's foothills, discovered his passion for the mountains at an early age while backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. After moving to northern Italy, becoming a mountain guide, and running a mountain hut with his Italian wife, he returned (via a couple of years in Costa ...
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Client Comments

From the surprise picnics to tasting grolla in the mountain hut, it was all wonderfully organized. B. Scott, Chapmore Ends England I had an amazing experience! I would definitely travel with WT again. Jognya T., Thousand Oaks, CA A great trip. I was ready to go back as soon as I got home. David W., Centennial, CO The trip was great. It was hard work, but that was balanced out by great food and a comfortable bed at the end of the day! All the hotels were good. Jeanne A., Chevy Chase, MD We have traveled with other tour companies in the past but Wilderness Travel is so far superior we will always use them! Bernie M., Pullman, WA
This trip exceeded our hopes and expectations. We had a fabulous time! Wendy G., Exeter, NH This was the ninth trip I have done with WT. You continue to do a professional job that commands respect. Greg C., Tampa, FL I had so much fun. This trip truly was better than I expected...and I had high expectations coming in. Meg W., New York, NY