The Tour du Mont Blanc is a trek that is the dream of many hikers and nature lovers in France and around the world. On this trekking itinerary, varied landscapes and grandiose panoramas are offered to the walkers who cover it and in particular breathtaking views of the Mont Blanc, the highest summit in Western Europe!
If the TMB is on your mind and you’re considering doing it, find out here ten things you need to know about this trek and prepare for your next adventure with all the keys in hand 🙂
1 – The Tour du Mont Blanc crosses three countries
The Tour du Mont Blanc route passes through three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. This characteristic already makes it a particular trekking route, as it is rare that a route of this length takes place in more than two different countries.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is therefore an opportunity to discover the different cultures, histories and customs of the different valleys crossed, which nevertheless share a strong mountain identity.
The landscapes, fauna and flora also change as you walk between the Chamonix valley and its balconies on the Mont Blanc massif, the Aosta Valley and Courmayeur in Italy or the Swiss Val Ferret and its vineyards.
2 – The Tour du Mont Blanc is not very difficult…
Contrary to what many people imagine when they hear “Mont Blanc” and imagine a steep and technical trek in the Alps, the difficulty of the Tour du Mont Blanc is moderate. In fact, the TMB itinerary does not present any technical passages for which it would be necessary to put on crampons, to practice climbing or to tie up, for example.
Moreover, you won’t suffer from acute mountain sickness (AMS). Indeed, the highest point of the Tour du Mont Blanc is at 2665 m, reached at the Fenêtre d’Arpette and the Col des Fours. The fact that most of the route is in the mid-range mountains explains why it is not too technical.
In addition, the trails of the Tour du Mont Blanc are well marked with different markings and intersection signs. If you want to know more about this topic and the differences between countries, we invite you to read our article about the Tour du Mont Blanc trail markings.
3 – … but it’s a long trekking route !
No, the Tour du Mont Blanc is not a difficult trek. But that doesn’t mean that you should go into it with your hands in your pockets and a gun in your hand!
Indeed, the TMB remains a great physical challenge. On the program, 160 kilometers of hiking and 10,000 meters of positive elevation gain are waiting to be covered. A beautiful hike!
The distance and elevation gain will vary depending on the route taken. For example, if you plan to take variations of the main route, your trek will be longer.
For your information, on the full Tour du Mont Blanc route, you will cross eleven passes. We therefore advise you to prepare yourself well physically before the start.
To do this, hike harder and longer in the months leading up to your trek in the Alps. You can practice other sports such as cycling, running or swimming which will effectively develop your endurance and heart capacity.
4 – The “TMB” can be done in both directions
Generally, the Tour du Mont Blanc is done in an anti-clockwise direction. From Chamonix, Les Houches or Les Contamines, you go from France to Italy and then to Switzerland before coming back to France.
You can do the Tour du Mont Blanc in the clockwise direction. The profile of the route makes it possible to do the stages in either direction. Even if it is more affordable in the classic direction, the TMB is not insurmountable in the opposite direction.
Some trekkers actually prefer this option as it allows them to pass other walkers instead of following them 😉
5 – The ideal season for this trek is 3 months
The best time to do the Tour du Mont Blanc is from mid-June to mid-September. During this season :
- the mountain hiking trails are largely clear
- mountain huts as well as gites and inns are open
- the days are long and the weather is ideal for trekking
If you plan to leave in June, ask the tourist offices and/or the PGHM about the state of the paths: some passes that are not very exposed may still be blocked by snow.
Finally, you should know that the busiest period on the TMB is from mid-July to mid-August.
6 – The refuges are very quickly full on the Tour du Mont Blanc!
We are talking about a trek that is very popular with trekkers from all over the world and the mountain huts on the TMB can be full very quickly. For some of them, it is common that some of the high season nights are full as early as February!
If you want to do the trek by sleeping in mountain huts, we recommend you to book as early as possible. Depending on your choice of accommodation, you can do this on the hut websites or by phone.
If you go with an agency, be aware that professionals have places reserved before individuals. So you can go to the mountains without worrying about accommodation 🙂
7 – It takes 10 days to complete the Tour du Mont Blanc
In its classic version, the Tour du Mont Blanc is divided into ten stages. On average, each stage is about 15 km long and has a 1000 m difference in altitude. You have the opportunity to modulate your stages by shortening or lengthening them thanks to the large choice of accommodation along the route.
You can also choose to take alternative routes or transfers by bus or shuttle bus to make your trek longer or shorter.
8 – Bivouac rules vary from one country to another
If you want to do the Tour du Mont Blanc in bivouac, you must know that the rules are not the same in the three cross-border countries.
In France, you are allowed to bivouac between 7pm and 7am, more than an hour away from any motorised access. Outside these hours, your tent must be dismantled.
In Italy, it is forbidden to camp below 2500 meters. In fact, you will certainly have to spend a few nights in a campsite.
It will be the same in Switzerland since bivouacking is simply forbidden there.
9 – You can do the TMB with children
Yes, it is possible to do the Tour du Mont Blanc with children. We are often asked this question and the answer is “yes” under certain conditions:
- if your child is over 10 years old. Before that, children’s endurance capacities are not sufficiently developed for a multi-day hike such as the TMB.
- if your child has already hiked and is used to walking in the mountains. Walking for several hours, putting your feet in the right places, enjoying the mountain, carrying a hiking bag… these are all things that your child needs to know so that your whole family can enjoy the trek.
- if the route is suitable. You don’t set off on the TMB as you would with a mountaineer or a marathon runner! To do this trek with your family, adapt the length and difficulty of the days of walking to the little ones. Shorten the stages, choose comfortable accommodation, take time for breaks and allow time for play and discovery.
10 – There is not one but many Tour du Mont Blanc
One of the things that makes the Tour du Mont Blanc such an ambitious trip for so many nature lovers is that there is something for everyone. Whether you want to do it as a family and at a gentle pace, or you’re an altitude freak and a lover of rocks and off-trail, there is a route for you.
If the classic itinerary is done in ten days, it is possible to shorten it by taking transport along the way. The network of shuttles and buses is very well developed, not to mention the taxis. You can also choose to do only a part of the TMB!
For those who want to make a trek with a wilder and more alpine character, taking the variants is a good solution. Some of them are very little used and allow to discover a wild mountain. The Haute Route will delight those who want to include glacier crossings in their route!
Besides, who said that you had to walk to do the Tour du Mont Blanc?
In fact, you can perfectly well envisage doing the Tour du Mont Blanc as a trail! This is what thousands of runners do every year on the Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc. And if the best take less than 24 hours to complete it, nothing prevents you from taking a little more time to enjoy the landscape 😉
You can even do the Tour du Mont Blanc by bike!
In short, whatever your desires, your level and your objective, there is a Tour du Mont Blanc for you! If you wish to be accompanied by an expert guide of this trek to prepare your stay, don’t hesitate to ask for a free quote here : custom-made Tour du Mont Blanc 🙂