If you have never been on a mountain hike, you may not understand the thrill of the experience. It is not only about reaching the peak. But, every step tests your strength and determination. Indeed, the joy of a hike is each step that brings you closer to the top.
The tour du Mont Blanc is a popular challenge attracting thousands every year. The hike circles the Mont Blanc massif and covers a distance of approximately 170 kilometers. You get to traverse three scenic countries, namely Switzerland, France, and Italy.
What makes it interesting is that the trail goes in a counterclockwise direction. Many annual marathons take place, requiring the runners to complete a circuit in 26 hours for women or 20 hours for men.
This article looks at some iconic destinations along the tour du Mont Blanc.
Understanding the Basics of the Tour Du Mont Blanc Hike
Before we dive into the iconic destinations, let’s understand the basics of the tour du Mont Blanc hike.
Guided vs. Self-Guided Mont Blanc Hikes
It is possible to go on a Tour du Mont Blanc self-guided hike. But it helps to have a good experience with alpine conditions. Also, brush up on your map and compass reading skills. It would be a pity to lose your direction during the challenging hike.
If you still feel a self-guided hike is the best option,plan for it well. The Mont Blanc trekking companies can arrange the logistics, like accommodation and food. They will also provide detailed route maps, local information, and route cards to make it easier for you to complete the hike.
Our best recommendation would be to consider a guided tour du Mont Blanc hike. You get the benefit of expert knowledge of the area from the guides. They can also prove to be invaluable resources in very physically challenging areas.
The highest point of tour du Mont Blanc hike lies on the border of France and Italy. There is also the option of different places to begin the hike. Some of the most popular include Champoux, Chamonix, Courmayeur, and Les Houches.
In this trek you’re expected to cover at least 170km. Please ensure that you are in good physical condition because it can be challenging.
If you’re taking the classical route, the starting point will be Les Houches, from which you will travel counterclockwise.
At a peak of about 8800 feet in elevation, the weather fluctuates a lot. You can expect different weather systems and temperatures. Even in summer, there may be snow. Temperatures can also reach as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) in the valleys.
Expect plenty of elevation ranging from 3200 ft. to 8800. Don’t worry about altitude sickness because that is not high enough to cause it. But, you may experience some vertigo in some of the sections.
Snowy conditions can make the paths very slippery, requiring crampons. We reiterate our point of utilizing the services of a tour du Mont Blanc guide. They know alternative routes, so you don’t have to deal with treacherous snowy conditions.
Iconic Destinations on the Mont Blanc Trek
Chamonix is in France and lies at 3,402 feet. The place already has a reputation for tour du Mont Blanc hike.
But Chamonix is also a popular destination for mountaineering.There are tons of activities which could explain its popularity with tourists.
Besides mountaineering, you can partake in rock climbing, biking.. But there is much more in paragliding, base jumping, hang gliding, and other extreme sports.
With a moment to relax, do so on a clear sunny day. You will love the splash of color from the parachutes. In fact, go ahead and book yourself for one of those rides.
Col de la Croix Du Bonhomme
If you start the Mont Blanc trek at Les Houches, you will chance upon Col de la Croix Du Bonhomme pretty early. You will approach it from the small ski village Les Contamines in the French Alps.
The mountain pass or col sits at an altitude of 2443 meters and is quite breathtaking. The scenery is a sight to behold, which could explain why so many Mont Blanc hikers end up at the refuge.
Getting to Col de la Croix Du Bonhomme is quite challenging. It can get especially tough in bad weather. So make sure you plan the ascent well. It would help if you were on higher ground before the storms hit.
Don’t forget to take in the scenery as you ascend. You get fantastic views of the valley and Dome de Miage. You will enjoy your packed lunch as you connect with the beauty of nature.
Now, get ready for some rough-housing at the refuge. The accommodation has very rudimentary facilities. You may not have the normal trapping like electricity or hot showers. But huddling around the fire as you unwind is a great way to relax. Think about it like an experience that adds character to the whole Mont Blanc hike.
The Vanoise tour is another tranquil place that has managed to avoid major human changes. You get a chance to explore a remote place nestled against a backdrop of unspoiled nature.
Vanoise is in France and enjoys the protection of a national park. That means minimal human intervention or destruction to the fauna and flora. Thus the reference to the park is unspoiled. It borders Italy and continues into the Gran Paradiso National Park.
You will cover about 80 kilometers and gain 6,000 meters on the Vanoise tour. The national park has some of the most spectacular views on the Mont Blanc hiking tour. These include jagged peaks, lush meadows, and glaciers.
Also, expect to see the Chamois, Ibex, Marmots, and more. Indeed, the very origin of the park was to provide a safe place for the Ibex. Beyond that are over 100 bird species like nutcrackers, woodpeckers, and black grouse.
The terrain can, in some places, be pretty unforgiving. Exposed transverses and steep arêtes further add to the challenge.
Les Contamines lies at an elevation of 3819 feet. You access it from Geneva via train, shuttle, bus, or car.
The bustling ski town has plenty of activity for adventure seekers. Get ready to get your fill of ice climbing, dog sled rides, or tobogganing. Charge your camera for plenty of photos because the scenery is amazing.
Make time to visit Patrice Dominguez Park. It is the ultimate relaxation spot. Try some activities like tennis, swimming, or archery if you have the time.
The next spot should be Les Contamines Nature reserve. It sits on the highest elevation and is a protected area within the Mont Blanc range. You get a wide range of terrain including snow-covered landscapes, forests, and a rich selection of fauna and flora.
You may want to avoid visiting the national reserve in winter. At this time, the animals are especially vulnerable and may suffer stress from visitors. You must follow the rules laid out by the national reserve during the visit.
The feeling you get in Les Contamines is nostalgia. The village has stuck to its traditional roots of chalets and farms.
There are plenty of Swiss-style farmhouses and architectural marvels like the baroque churches. Indeed, many travelers or hikers stop for a moment of prayer at the Notre Dame de la Gorge church, which has been around since 1699.
Finally, if you love art, visit the Samivel Garden. The outdoor Museum contains a stunning collection of watercolor paintings by Samivel.
The Gran Paradiso Transverse
The Gran Paradiso Transverse also goes by the name Alta via 2. This stunning route is quite remote, but the beauty deserves a whole other article. Expect to cover about 130 km in 8 days from Chardonney to the Italian Alps’ Courmayeur.
The Gran Paradiso transverse is a protected area. When you enter the Gran Paradiso National Park, it will take your breath away. You get miles and miles of rugged, untouched, pristine terrain. There are plenty of ice landscapes, lakes, and mountain views.
In terms of climbing difficulty, it does require some effort. Some low-angled paths are not too bad. But, towards the head of the glacier, it becomes a bit steep. Expect to gain between 3000 to 4300 feet, meaning your physical condition should be quite good.
Don’t worry about accommodation. Your Mont Blanc hiking tour guide should be able to arrange this at the different facilities, including mountain huts.
Hiking the tour du Mont Blanc is a dream for many people. The 170 km trip is a testament to your strength and determination to achieve what many people would fear trying.
Take advantage of guided Mont Blanc tours to get the best of the experience, which is in no way to say that a self-guided hike will not give you the same. But you may face some challenges that could impact the overall enjoyment of the tour of Mont Blanc.
Finally, do take time to prepare well for the Mont Blanc hike. As we have shared above, some sections can be pretty challenging. It would work against you not to be in the best physical condition.