We hiked and camped the Tour du Mont Blanc in September 2019. It was a highly successful trip, but we could have planned it better. We had trouble finding reliable information online, so in the end, we mostly just winged it. We would love to give you the opportunity to prepare upfront better, and therefore we’ve written a series of blog posts about hiking and camping the Tour du Mont Blanc.
We couldn’t possibly fit everything into a single post, so we had to split up all our TMB content and write a few different articles. This one deals with the most important questions you could ask prior to getting on the trail, and nothing else. If that’s not entirely what you are after, check out our other posts below:
Camping the Tour du Mont Blanc: This post talks about where and how to camp on the TMB, going through all the campsites we used ourselves and recommend.
Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc in September: Our Personal Trip Report. Read this post to get a better overview of the route as well as what you can expect from the trek on a day-to-day basis.
What to see & do in Chamonix: This post includes all the best things to see & do in Chamonix after the trek. There are plenty of possibilities!
Paragliding in Chamonix: Read the full travel story about our favorite experience in Chamonix. It even includes awesome video footage!
Tour du Mont Blanc Q&A
We have answered the most important questions you might have below. However, if there’s something we’ve missed, throw us a comment, and we promise to get right back to you! Please don’t hesitate to reach out – we’ll add your questions to this post, and that will help other readers as well.
- How many miles is the TMB?
- How long dos it take to hike the TMB?
- Is the TMB hard?
- When should I hike the TMB?
- Where does the TMB start?
- How should I get to Chamonix?
- Is it better to sleep in huts or tents on the TMB?
- Is it cold on the TMB?
- Can you wild camp on the TMB?
- What does it cost to camp on the TMB?
- What does it costs to live in huts on the TMB?
- Can I pay with a credit card on the TMB?
- Will I have phone signal on the TMB trail?
- Is water available on the TMB?
- How do I find food on the TMB?
- Is the TMB dangerous?
- Do i need a guide for the TMB?
- Do I need a map on the TMB?
- Can you hike the TMB with kids?
- Do you need crampons or mountaineering experience for the TMB?
- Where to store my luggage during the TMB?
How many miles is the Tour du Mont Blanc?
The official route of the TMB is around 170 km (105 miles). However, various alternative stages can change this number. You can also “cheat” by using public transportation or even bypass some days altogether.
How long does it take to hike the TMB?
The standard route of the TMB will take you between 10 to 12 days to complete. We are slow hikers ourselves and did it in 12. However, even then, we had some long days out on the trail! Contrary to what you might expect, the guidebooks are not conservative in their time estimates. Unless you are an experienced hiker, you will spend longer than they suggest. For much more detailed information on the route and the specifics of the TMB, check out the full trip report from our own hike back in September 2019. There we have also included the day-by-day time we spent on the trail, as well as the elevation change.
Is the Tour du Mont Blanc hard?
In our opinion, the TMB is very hard. Most days will include over 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) of elevation change, and doing that consecutively for over a week is hard work. In total, you will need to climb Mount Everest from sea level, and then some. Remember, you also need to get back down! We have prepared the below elevation profile to give you a better idea. It isn’t just the physical aspect you need to worry about, as the mental challenge is significant, as well. We had several days of bad weather, which really affected our moods. We just wanted to give up and go home. Be prepared to be miserable occasionally, and you will have a better trip!
If you are looking for a slightly less demanding challenge, but still want epic mountain views, there are many other places to hike throughout Europe. To get you started, we can personally recommend the Laugavegur trail in Iceland, and our friends over at The Gap Decaders have done some epic hiking in the Pyrenees as well!
When should I hike the TMB?
You should only go in the summer. We recommend somewhere between mid-June and mid-September. July and August will be the safest in terms of the weather, but will also attract the largest crowds. We found the shoulder season of start-September to be great. There were still plenty of people out on the trail, but we didn’t find it too crowded. Most services were still up and running as well, but more and more places did start closing down the further into September we got. However, even if you go in the shoulder season, you should still book way ahead in time if you want to stay overnight in any of the huts.
Where does the Tour du Mont Blanc start?
The trail officially starts in the tiny French town of Les Houches. However, all hikers will go through Chamonix first, and this is also where you’ll finish the trek. You should plan to spend a night here first, and then grab a 10-minute bus to Les Houches on the morning of your hike.
How should I get to Chamonix?
Getting to Chamonix is easy, especially if you come from Geneva Airport. You can simply grab a bus. Read more about the logistics, as well as what there is to see and do in town, in our dedicated Chamonix post. We really loved spending time in this little cozy French town, and we highly recommend you spend some time there after your trek!
Is it better to sleep in huts or tents on the TMB?
Obviously, this depends on your personal preferences. We camped the entire thing, and in retrospect, we wouldn’t have done it any other way. However, it definitely wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, and we did have our fair share of struggles due to this choice. Maybe the infographic below can help you decide? The main trade-off will likely be between flexibility and comfort (a real bed and the weight of your pack).
Is it cold on the Tour du Mont Blanc?
The short answer is: Not really. If you are sleeping in huts, most likely, you won’t have any temperature-related problems at all. Even us campers didn’t freeze much, except for when we got to Courmayeur in mid-September. When we woke up in the morning, there was a thin layer of ice on the tent. Still, most days, it wasn’t bad. Unless you are wild camping high up, you will spend all your nights in valleys at a lower altitude. That helps keep the temperatures up.
Can you wild camp on the Tour du Mont Blanc?
Wild camping on the TMB is a topic in its own right. It’s a proper grey area. However, we heard from others that, although illegal, you are almost guaranteed to get away with it. Just make sure not to pitch your tent until after dark, leave early, and needless to say, leave no trace. Personally, if there is no other choice, we wouldn’t hesitate to do it. We ended up getting around this issue by changing our schedule a little, though, so we didn’t need to wild camp. Read our dedicated post about campsites on the TMB if you want to prepare for this eventuality.
What does it cost to camp on the TMB?
Prices range from nothing(!) upwards to 20 EUR. There isn’t that much choice out on the route, and we wouldn’t recommend you try to choose based on price. The most important thing is just to make your plan work. You are already saving a lot from camping in the first place, so you’ll be okay budget-wise. Specific prices change from season to season, so we haven’t included them here. However, you can expect prices to average around 15 EUR for a single person and a tent. Buying food on the trail, as well as the occasional beer, will cost you anywhere between 20 and 40 EUR per day, depending on your choices.
What does it cost to live in huts on the Tour du Mont Blanc?
Sleeping in huts is, of course, much more expensive than roughing it in a tent. Expect prices averaging around 50 EUR per night, which usually includes breakfast. You should probably roughly double that amount to calculate your total daily expenditure.
Can I pay with a credit card on the TMB?
Sometimes, but sometimes not. We recommend you bring a good amount of cash, especially since ATMs are hard to come by. Remember that Switzerland doesn’t use EUR like Italy and France. They use Swiss Francs. If you want to get some of those before the trek, you can withdraw cash at Geneva airport. If you forget, or come from the Italian side, you can find a Swiss ATM in Champex. If you see one, don’t walk by it as they aren’t that easy to come by.
Will I have a phone signal on the Tour du Mont Blanc trail?
Aside from the problem of being in 3 different countries, the signal is also often very weak. Don’t expect to have much once you get into the mountains. Be VERY careful about data roaming on the TMB. You may have heard that new(ish) regulations are in effect in Europe, which means you can often roam for free in most countries? However, it is important to note that Switzerland is NOT one of these. We had a Danish sim card which was valid in France and Italy, so we made sure to disable data roaming when we were close to the border of Switzerland. On some occasions, we even went to our phone’s settings and locked the network to a French or Italian provider. Better safe than sorry. We could live without data the few days we spent in Switzerland without issue. If you like to listen to music, download a few offline playlists on Spotify, and if you are using a map on the phone, make sure that will work without signal as well.
Is water available on the TMB?
There are free water posts at all the huts and refuges. Tap water is fine! We also brought our trusted Steripen in case we had to get some from natural sources, but we never actually (really) needed it. We used it once, on the way down from Fenetre d’Arpette, because there wasn’t much water available on this day. We would have survived without it, though, but it’s advisable to fill up every single time you have the chance.
How do I find food on the TMB?
Food is available at the huts and refuges, as well as in the occasional supermarket. The latter you will primarily find in larger towns such as Courmayeur, Chamonix, Les Contamines, and Argentiere. Usually, if you sleep in a hut, you will take your breakfast there, and buy a packed lunch for later. Then you will eat dinner in the next hut upon arrival. If you are in a tent, things get a little more complicated. You can usually buy a packed lunch like everyone else, and in most places, you will be able to buy dinner as well. However, we were, on one occasion, turned away from dining in a refuge because we didn’t sleep there. It was raining, so they simply had no space for us. It was good that we had brought a gas stove and some instant noodles, or we would have gone to bed hungry.
Is the Tour du Mont Blanc dangerous?
Sure, hiking the TMB can be dangerous. All adventures involve a degree of risk. The key is to manage the risk and avoid taking any stupid chances. You will easily be able to find stories about hikers that have died or disappeared on the trail but don’t let that deter you from this experience. Remember, your everyday life is risky, as well! Check out our adventure travel page here on the blog, to get a little broader perspective on this topic.
Do I need a guide for the TMB?
Absolutely not. The only reason you would need a guide is if you want a company to transport your luggage between the huts. For that, you would need to look at tour operators, but otherwise, there is really no need. The trail is easy to follow. For safety, be sensible, and don’t take any chances. Make sure not to hike after dark, but bring a headlamp in case you mess up. Don’t go push your luck if the weather is too rough (especially if there is thunder in the forecast) and always stay on the trail! A good trick is to ask hikers coming from the opposite direction what the conditions are ahead. There’s plenty of people out there.
Do I need a map on the Tour du Mont Blanc?
It’s always good to come prepared, but our honest opinion is no, you do not need a map. You can buy a guidebook, such as the famous Cicerone, but you’ll also survive without it. The easiest thing would be to download an offline map via an app on your phone and remember to bring a power bank.
Can you hike the TMB with kids?
To handle the long days and the strenuous nature of the TMB, they would have to be of a certain age. We wouldn’t recommend bringing kids unless they are in their early teens.
Do you need crampons or mountaineering experience for the Tour du Mont Blanc?
Nope, in the summer, you won’t be needing any special gear or mountaineering experience. The most tricky part of the trek we encountered was crossing the Fenetre d’Arpette mountain pass. This is an alternative stage of the TMB, where we did feel the trail was quite steep in places. Also, although we were hiking in the middle of September, we barely encountered any snow on the trek. One time, when we crossed Col du Bonhomme at 2,500 meters (8,200 feet), we did see a bit of snow that didn’t linger, and a small patch on a distant mountain.
Where to store my luggage during the TMB?
If you need to store luggage, it is often cheaper to book a hotel for a single night at both ends of your trek. Remember to confirm with the guesthouse whether they are willing to store your stuff before booking. They often are, because they have designated rooms for storing skis and snowboards during the winter season just standing empty. We did just this, and it was perfect. Not only did we save money on luggage storage, but we got to sleep in a proper bed after our hike. That sure felt like a little piece of heaven after more than a week in a tent.
That concludes our answers to the most asked questions regarding the TMB. As mentioned, please feel free to throw us a comment below if you got any more to add. We would also love to hear from you if you have any tips or tricks to share!
We filmed this little travel video about the TMB during our trek. Check it out to see what kind of experience you can expect!