What makes the Tour du Mont Blanc one of the world’s ultimate hikes? It’s 11 days circumnavigating the highest mountain in Western Europe, with awe-inspiring views of jagged peaks and sparkling glaciers that drape the Mont Blanc massif. You travel around 100 miles total, crossing borders by foot and experiencing challenging, but spectacular, hiking in the Alps.
This classic route takes you through quaint villages and towns in three different countries—France, Italy and Switzerland. Each has its own distinct culture and cuisine for you to enjoy as you relax at the end of each day. In the morning, you return to the trail for another day of wonderful alpine trekking.
Tour du Mont Blanc Weather
Summer daytime temperatures along the trail usually range from 60 to 75°F, although temperatures can occasionally drop to the 40s or climb into the 80s. Evening temperatures are generally in the 50s. Since the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is in the Alps, weather conditions can change suddenly and include hot, sunny days, prolonged rainfall and even an occasional dusting of snow. It’s important to be prepared by carrying rain gear and insulating layers.
Best time to go: The season for hiking the TMB begins the first week of June, when mountain huts and refuges are open and enough snow has melted at higher elevations to make the trails passable. Beautiful wildflowers along the way tend to peak in July. The trails can be a little quieter in September, and late September is when the hiking season ends.
Choosing a Tour du Mont Blanc Guide Company
There are definite advantages to doing a guided trek (REI Adventures has many Tour du Mont Blanc trips available) vs. planning one on your own. Certified mountain guides bring a wide degree of technical knowledge, but are also well versed in the history, cultures, languages, geology and botany of the area.
What's included when you book: In addition to a qualified guide, tour companies typically provide all lodging (e.g. hotels, auberges and co-ed dorm-style accommodations in a mountain refuge), all land transportation and luggage transfer, skilled English-speaking guides and group airport transfers. Your luggage is moved each day to the next place of lodging, so when you’re on the trail you’re only carrying a daypack.
Travel insurance: While prices vary among different tour companies, hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is a substantial investment so consider getting some travel insurance. See our article about travel insurance for more information.
When to Book Your Trip
The earlier you book your trip, the better chance you’ll have of getting the departure date that’s best for you. The main issue people can encounter when booking a TMB trip close to the departure date is lack of accommodation space. There are only so many lodging options in these little towns, so finding accommodations at the last minute can be challenging.
Preparing for Tour du Mont Blanc
Get in shape: To hike the TMB, you should be in very good physical shape. We recommend starting a conditioning regimen 3-4 months prior to departure. Daily elevation gains can range from 1,400–4,300 ft., and distances from 5–12 miles. Of course, the best way to get in shape is by getting in some good hiking before your trip. Start with shorter hikes, then increase your mileage and elevation gain gradually. It’s a good idea to hike with a 10–15-pound daypack since that’s what you’ll be carrying with a guided trip on the TMB. If you don’t have access to hiking trails, you should do workouts that incorporate stairs or walking on a treadmill at an incline.
Visas: No visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Europe to hike the TMB.
Packing for Tour du Mont Blanc
The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Cotton can be great in warm weather, but once it becomes wet it drains your body of heat, so bring clothing made of wool or synthetics. Lastly, try to bring only what’s necessary.
When packing, it’s helpful to keep your hiking clothing and gear apart from your travel clothing and gear by packing them in separate duffel bags or pieces of luggage. Before you set out on your hike each day, you’ll be able to leave your non-hiking clothing, gear and toiletries behind in a duffel bag. It’ll be carried to your lodging for the next evening.
When buying a duffel bag for this purpose, look for one with about a 95-liter capacity. The duffel should be made from rugged waterproof material and have a durable zipper that can be secured with a luggage lock. Pack your clothing and gear in large garbage bags before stashing them in the duffel to ensure everything stays dry.
• Make sure the hiking boots you pack are well broken-in.
• Bring some moleskin or other remedies to help with blisters. Thin liner socks made of silk or synthetic fibers worn under regular hiking socks can minimize the risk of blistering. Test your sock combination ahead of time.
• Trekking poles are highly recommended for hiking the TMB. They’ll help you maintain solid footing on the downhill, and when rain causes the trail to become muddy and slippery.
• Locals tend have an umbrella on hand for quick afternoon downpours because sometimes it’s quicker than taking out and putting on all your raingear. Consider adding one to your daypack.
• If you’re bringing a hydration reservoir system, you might want to bring a water bottle as well. You can fill it with your favorite electrolyte or energy mix and alternate between that and water.
• Be sure to pack essential items such as your tour documents, passport, money, eyewear, medications, camera, hiking boots and a change of clothing in your carry-on baggage in case your luggage is delayed.
• Bring a small ditty bag that includes a Ziploc bag with toilet tissue, spare Ziploc bags to dispose of soiled tissue, a small bottle of hand sanitizer and/or wet wipes. Women should include any necessary feminine hygiene products. Your ditty bag will be carried in your daypack while hiking.
Tour du Mont Blanc Packing List
The following list is designed for a guided trip on Tour du Mont Blanc. Check with your guide company ahead of time to be sure you understand what gear might be provided.
The equipment on this list, combined with the gear provided by your guides, will cover the Ten Essential Systems you should have on every backcountry trip: navigation; sun protection; insulation; illumination; first-aid supplies; fire; repair kit and tools; nutrition; hydration; emergency shelter.
Note: There may be overlap with equipment for travel and equipment for hiking. Keep this in mind when choosing quantities.
- Airline tickets (confirmation and itinerary)
- Passport photos (2)
- Valid passport (no visas are required for U.S. citizens)
The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary.
- Wicking, quick-dry boxers or briefs (3)
- Wicking, quick-dry sports bra
- Long underwear tops and bottoms (lightweight, synthetic)
- Synthetic T-shirts
- Midweight fleece or soft-shell jacket (2)
- Midweight down or synthetic parka with hood
- Hiking pants (convertible, quick-dry, lightweight)
- Hiking shorts (quick-dry, lightweight)
- Hiking socks (synthetic or wool)
- Liner socks (synthetic)
- Long-sleeve shirts (synthetic, lightweight)
- Insulated jacket and/or vest
- Fleece pants
- Fleece/wool gloves
- Fleece/wool hat
- Fleece/wool jacket or sweater
- Fleece/wool liner gloves
- Lightweight waterproof/breathable rain jacket (with hood)
- Lightweight waterproof/breathable rain pants
- Sun-shielding hat or cap
Many of the following items are optional; tailor the list to suit your personal needs.
- 1-liter water bottles (2)
- 2-liter hydration reservoir (optional)
- Water bottle insulating sleeves
- Reusable container for lunch items
- Watch with alarm (altimeter feature is optional)
- Compass (optional on a guided trip)
- Signaling whistle (optional)
- Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Action camera (or regular camera; optional)
- Spare camera battery and spare camera memory card
- Compact travel umbrella (for quick-passing showers; optional)
- Sit pad (highly recommended)
- Sleep sheet/sleeping bag liner
- Camping pillow
- Camp towel
- Insect repellent
- Knee supports (optional)
- Shower sandals (optional)
- Pocket knife or multi-tool
- Personal first-aid kit (lightweight)
- Eye shade
- Ear plugs
- Hand and toe warmers
- Clothesline, sink stopper and washing detergent packets (optional)
- Small binoculars
- Cash/credit card
- Cell phone in waterproof case
- Large garbage bags to keep items dry (5; optional; white recommended)
Many of the following items are optional and specific to travel; tailor the list to suit your personal needs.
- Toothbrush (travel size)
- Toothpaste (travel size)
- Toilet paper
- Personal wipes
- Women’s hygiene items
- Hand sanitizer
- Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)
- Lip balm (SPF 30 or higher)
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Biodegradable soap
- Dental floss
- Razor and shaving cream
- Skin lotion
- Spare eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Prescription medications; medications for traveler’s diarrhea, altitude sickness, malaria
Guide companies generally provide breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinking water during your trek. You’ll want to add to this by bringing snacks, drink mixes and energy foods. Check with your guide company to see what food is provided.
Written by Steve Burke. The REI Adventures team was consulted for this article.