Mont Blanc (15,781 feet) rises more than 12,000 vertical feet above the famous resort village of Chamonix, France. The epitome of everything that is “alpine” in the Alps, Mont Blanc beckons hikers and climbers from around the globe with its snow-white glaciers, sheer cliff walls and chalet-studded valleys.
To relax at a chic café in downtown Chamonix, gazing skyward at the glistening ramparts of the Mont Blanc Massif, is an amazing experience. To walk around the entire circumference of Western Europe’s tallest peak, and to witness Mont Blanc’s beauty from the vantages of three different countries, is something all together incomparable and infinitely special.
Hike across the borders of France, Italy and Switzerland during our ten-day hiking tour. Taking advantage of some little-known variations to the standard route, we’ll lead you from the mountain-chic cafés of Chamonix, to remote mountain hamlets en route to Courmayeur, Italy. Our gracious host will welcome you to her cozy chalet in Champex, Switzerland, tempting you with locally grown food and delicious wine. Hike back into France on the Grand Balcon Sud, one of the most beautiful hiking trails in all of France.
Based out of a mix of charming county inns, first class, old world hotels and simple hiker’s hostelries, the unique combination of good accommodations and spectacular hiking makes this itinerary a wonderful reward for the physically fit
- A world famous hike that everybody should do at least once before they die.
- Hiking beneath Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak.
- The pleasures of France, Italy and Switzerland, all during the same tour.
Day 1 Independent transfer to Chamonix, France. Check into your hotel. Gaze skyward, 12,000 vertical feet to the summit of Mont Blanc. Meet guides and group for dinner.
Arrive and transfer to Chamonix, France (3,402 feet), located at the base of Western Europe’s tallest peak, Mont Blanc (15,781 feet). The transfer from Geneva takes about 3 and-a-half hours by rail, or just over an hour by taxi. Check into your hotel. Meet your guides and group for a welcome drink and dinner at 7:00 pm.
Day 2 Point-to-point hike. Walk beneath the Bionnassay glacier and the myriad peaks surrounding Mont Blanc. Have dinner in a cozy, French country inn. Chamonix-Les Contamines Montjoie
A quick boost by cable car delivers the group to an alpine meadow approximately 2,500 feet above the Chamonix valley. Views extend across the valley and onto Les Aiguilles Rouges, a collection of jagged rock needles, to the north. Start with an easy walk beneath the Bionassay glacier while the ice covered Dôme du Goûter (14,121 feet) and the Aiguille de Bionnassay (13,294 feet) tower above. Hike past ancient chalets, ruins and settlements, then feel your legs burn as you climb over the short, steep slopes of the Col de Tricot. Descend through a pine forest to the quiet hamlet of Les Contamines-Montjoie. Uncork a few wine bottles in our cozy, French country inn.
Day 3 Point-to-point hike. Follow Roman roads past pilgrimmages sites and stunning waterfalls. Admire Mont Blanc from above treeline. Les Contamines-Les Chapieux
A quick transfer by van (walking is also optional), drops us at a very old chapel and pilgrimmage site called Notre Dame de la Gorge. Built in the baroque style and covered with Renaissance frescoes and gilding, the small oratory offers an authentic look at the traditions that have shaped the region for centuries. Hike past waterfalls on the well-worn cobbles of a Roman road. Continue to a high, treeless landscape where steinbock meet hikers on the trail and Mont Blanc rises in the foreground. Stop for a break at the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (8,015 feet), then descend through rich pastures to the Vallée des Glaciers and the quiet hamlet of Les Chapieux.
Day 4 Point-to-point hike. See traditional French cheesemaking. Hike into Italy. See the Italian side of Mont Blanc. Les Chapieux-Courmayeur
HIke up the remote Vallée des Glaciers. Watch traditional cheesmaking at a working farm in the Ville des Glaciers. Trade Bonjour for Buongiorno as you climb across the French/Italian border at the Col de la Seigne (8,255 feet). From the Col de la Seigne, you can see the Grand Col Ferret, the frontier with Switzerland, straight ahead 15 miles away. You can also see the dramatic, glaciated peaks on the Italian side of Mont Blanc; Aiguille des Glaciers (12,520 feet), Aiguilles de Tré la Tête (12,861 feet), Mont du Breuillat (13,166 feet) and Aiguilles de Peuterey (13,474 feet) among many others. Descend past the Glacier du Miage into the Val Veni and transfer by van to the chic, Italian resort village of Courmayeur, Italy.
Day 5 Point-to-point hike. Admire the Brenva Face of Mont Blanc. Hike a rarely traveled variant of the TMB. Courmayeur-Lavachey
In our opinion, the Italian side of Mont Blanc, also referred to as the Brenva Face, is the mountain's most stunning aspect. Sheer walls of rock and ice rise straight up from the Val Veni and Val Ferret, two valleys that radiate outwards from Courmayeur. We'll enjoy an entire day of huge mountain views (weather permitting), as we hike along a special Ryder-Walker variant of the traditional Tour du Mont Blanc. Burn through memory cards as you snap photos of Mont Blanc and its neighboring giants, Aiguille du Géant (13,166 feet), Grandes Jorasses (13,806 feet) and Mont Blanc du Tacul (13,937). Enjoy views of the Glacier de la Brenva, and overnight in a pleasant inn in the Val Ferret. Bathrooms are down the hall on this night.
Day 6 Point-to-point hike. Cross the border into Switzerland. Stop for snacks at a rustic Italian hut and a Swiss working farm. Lavachey-Champex
The language changes to German as we hike across the Grand Col Ferret (8,330 feet) into Switzerland. Stunning views of the Grand Combin (14,154 feet), one of the Alp's highest peaks, makes this a spectacular hike. Stop for espresso, (or something stronger) at the Rifugio Elena (6,762 feet), a rustic Italian hut with a fireplace, wooden beams, stone architecture and a dramatic position opposite the Prè de Bard glacier. Walk past working Swiss farms, stop for traditional Swiss cheese making, and continue through rolling green meadows to the Swiss Val Ferret. Transfer by local bus to the idyllic lake side town, Champex, and our Swiss chalet.
Day 7 Point-to-point hike. Two hiking options on this day— a remote mountain pass or lunch at a working Swiss farm. Champex-Trient
We'll offer two hiking options today. Wander along the shores of Lac Champex, a forested mountain lake that looks more northwoods than it does alpine, and climb into the remote Val d'Arpette. Cross the Fenêtre d'Arpette (8,743 feet), an airy and rugged mountain pass with views of the Glacier de Trient and the Swiss Val Ferret. Drop down next to the Trient glacier, and follow its icy fingers until they melt away in the sunny, Swiss hamlet of Trient. Alternate: Hike into a wild side valley called Le Barmay. Stop at a working Swiss farm for one of the best tasting omelettes in the Alps. Continue along an old mule track that overlooks the entire Rhone Valley from a height of more than 5,000 feet. Descend to our lively hotel on the Col de la Forclaz.
Day 8 Point-to-point hike. Cross into France. Take in the views of Mont Blanc, its glaciers and the whole Chamonix Valley. Trient-Argentiere
This is our last day in Switzerland as we hike past the Trient glacier, climb past ancient herding settlements and top out at the treeless French/Swiss border at the Col de Balme (7,231 feet). Have lunch at the Rufuge de la Croix du Bonhomme, a historic mountain hotel constructed in 1877. Surprisingly, the original owner of the hotel still serves lunch! Enjoy huge views of the Chamonix Valley, the surrounding mountains and the myriad glaciers, including the Mer de Glace, (Chamonix's largest glacier), the Glacier d'Argentiere and the Glacier du Tour. The rock spires and mountain peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif are really too many to mention, so just trust us, you'll get a visual feast of mountain splendor. Overnight in a French chalet-style hotel in Argentiere.
Day 9 Point-to-point hike. Hike the Grand Balcon Sud, one of the most beautiful trails in France. Argentiere-Chamonix
Today's hike follows the Grand Balcon Sud, one of the most beautiful mountain hikes in the entire French Alps. Stop for a picnic at Lac Blanc, a high alpine lake with the most spectacular views of the Alps that you've ever seen. Snap photos of Mont Blanc, the Aiguilles Rouges, l'Aiguille du Midi (12,605 feet) the Glacier des Bossons and more. The views of the Mer de Glace are particularly striking on this day. Descend to Chamonix via the Chalet Floria, a stone chalet adorned with quintessentially French flower boxes and hanging planters. Enjoy a celebratory farewell dinner in our upscale hotel in the center of Chamonix, France.
Day 10 Awake to a delicious French breakfast then depart. An early afternoon flight from Geneva may be easily met.