We are Tori and Devin, both traveling physical therapists from New Jersey. We currently live in Alaska, and have lived and worked in Arizona, Maine, South Carolina, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Colorado, California, Washington and Vermont. Since we have the opportunity to take unlimited time off between work assignments, we can use this free time to travel the world and often go on multi-day treks such as the Tour du Mont Blanc!
Our Experience on the Tour du Mont Blanc
We had completed the Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites for our honeymoon a year prior to doing the Tour du Mont Blanc. This was our first multi-day hut-to-hut trek and we were hooked – the culture of experiencing mountain huts, the food and making new friends is unbeatable! Some friends we met on the Alta Via 1 told us about the Tour du Mont Blanc and we got the idea that we could tackle it for our one year wedding anniversary.
We started the Tour du Mont Blanc hike in Les Houches and finished in downtown Chamonix. We took several variant routes, including an overnight at Lac Blanc (just off the traditional route), and logged 163 kilometers or 101.3 miles. We calculated a total elevation gain of 33,807 feet.
There are several variant routes on the Tour du Mont Blanc which are typically more strenuous, and may add additional distance and elevation gain. These variants were our favorite part and cannot be missed! The views ranged from glacier valleys, mountain passes, alpine lakes, forests and waterfalls, to alleys in mountain towns and cow pastures for farmers. The cheese cave in La ville des Glaciers is a place not to be missed as well!
Having the opportunity to finish this famous long-distance walk was incredible but we always get a little sad after completing a trek! There is something special about having no worries in the world other than getting to your next hut or campsite. All on the agenda for each day is hiking, meeting new friends and enjoying good food – what could be better?!
Favorite Places: Champex-Lac & Bonatti Refuge
Tori’s favorite place on the Tour du Mont Blanc was Champex-Lac. We had just spent the day hiking with new friends from Ireland, England and the US – experiencing the most perfect weather conditions you could imagine.
When we arrived in town we checked into the most adorable boutique hotel (Hotel Splendide – highly recommend), enjoyed a fabulous lakeside lunch at Hotel Mont Lac (also recommend) and cooled off in the lake in the town. It was a memorable day! Devin, on the other hand, just enjoyed the views from the Bonatti Refuge on the Italian section of the hike.
How Much Hiking Experience is Required
All hiking abilities can complete the traditional Tour du Mont Blanc. We would recommend some experience on varied terrain if opting for the variants – it’s also advisable to do the variant routes with good weather, as muddy conditions can cause tricky conditions in the steeper sections.
We met some ladies who were having their luggage shuttled from hotel to hotel – so if this is your first multi-day trek and you are concerned about carrying a heavy pack, you should look into this option. There are also buses running for most of the hiking season between segments of the Tour du Mont Blanc, which is a great bailout option if you find yourself in over your head. We proudly admit that we didn’t need to bus any section of the trail!
Best Hotels & Huts on the Tour du Mont Blanc
We stayed in mountain huts for seven nights (dorm-style for five, a private room in a hut for two) and hotels for two nights. The mountain hut rates include dinner and breakfast. For the hotels we were responsible for our own dinner. It was nice to have a hotel periodically after dorm-style lodging for a bit more luxury. We even brought bathing suits so we could enjoy the spa at our hotel in Courmayeur, Italy (a common stopping point).
We had the chance to get our laundry done twice on our trip, once in downtown Courmayeur and again at the Auberge du Mont Blanc in Trient, Switzerland. The main hotel we recommend for the Tour du Mont Blanc is Hotel Spendide in Champex-Lac, while the best mountain hut we stayed at was Maison Vieille Refuge in Italy with its unmatched food and hospitality!
Tips for Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc
We highly recommend the Cicerone Blue Book! It goes over the day-by-day hiking details and suggests daily stopping points. It helped us plan a route that made sense and hut options. It explains the traditional versus variant route options and has a map booklet to help guide you each day.
We chose to do the Tour du Mont Blanc in September because it’s past the peak hiking season. August is a big time of year to travel in France, so booking huts must be done almost a year in advance. By going in September we were able to book our huts in June – we don’t plan that far ahead! We had great weather in September: two rainy days out of 10, some cloudy days, lots of sun and a dusting of snow on our last day.
Finally, try to pack as lightly as you can! We have done a lot of multi-day treks and a heavy pack can ruin it. Go ultralight, re-wear clothes and make sure to bring the essentials: lots of layers and warm weather gear for the higher elevations. A game or two in the backpack is a must, of course!