Each summer, hikers around the world flock to Chamonix to begin a 170-kilometre trek circling the Mont Blanc massif. The Tour du Mont Blanc is an undertaking that requires at least 10 days, coveted reservations at alpine accommodations, and months of physical preparation. They are rewarded with spectacular views, but like any long walk, there are also underwhelming moments on the trail. When visiting the Chamonix Valley, it’s possible to target only the most scenic vistas the French portion of the Tour du Mont Blanc has to offer via simple day hikes. These trails are accessible for self-guided tourists via public transportation.
1. Lac Blanc
Lac Blanc is a sparkling alpine lake with panoramic views of the Aiguilles Rouges and the Mont Blanc massif. Most route options converge at Tête aux Vents, at which point you’ll take a side trail up to Lac Blanc. Day hikers tend to pick a popular out-and-back course from La Flégère, but you’ll be well rewarded for following the classic Tour du Mont Blanc route point-to-point starting in Tré-le-Champ. Starting here will give you the opportunity to climb more of the famous TMB ladder section, one of the most exciting parts of the trek.
From Chamonix, take the TER train to Montroc. The trail picks up just a three minute walk from the station. After reaching Lac Blanc, head west towards La Flégère, where you can ride the cable car down to Les Praz and take the train back to Chamonix. Alternatively, you could continue hiking three hours past La Flégère and take a cable car from Le Brévent directly into Chamonix.
2. Col de la Seigne
Some of the most gratifying moments of the Tour du Mont Blanc are the border crossings. Col de la Seigne is a high mountain pass that serves as the dividing line between France and Italy. Layers of undulating mountains fold around you in ever-changing combinations as you snake your way up switchbacks to the Col. To reach Col de la Siegne on a day hike, try an out-and-back from Refuge Mottets instead of descending into Italy on the other side of the pass.
Take the bus from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Les Chapieux at 7am. From here you can walk to Mottets, or board another brief bus from Les Chapeiux to the refuge.
Or from Les Chapieux you can also reach the highest point on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Col des Fours is an alternative “high route” that some trekkers choose between Les Contamines and Refuge des Mottets. Follow the TMB backwards towards Col de la Croix du Bonhomme instead of towards Col de la Seigne. At the Croix, veer off towards Col des Fours, then descend down into Ville des Glaciers or Refuge des Mottets.
3. Col du Bonhomme
A hut at Col du Bonhomme keeps watch over both sides of the gorgeous saddle between Val Montjoie and Vallon de la Gittaz. This is one of the best viewpoints along the Tour du Mont Blanc, and the trail from Notre Dame de la Gorge features multiple sites of interest to keep you motivated during the tough ascent. Lac Jovet is a popular side detour from the main route, if you have time.
It takes some commitment to see Col du Bonhomme on an out-and-back day hike. A free shuttle bus will bring you to Notre Dame de la Gorge from the tourist office in Les Contamines, but if you are not based there, getting to this town via public transportation requires taking the Y84 bus from St-Gervais-le-Fayet. You could also reach Col du Bonhomme starting from the other side of the pass at Les Chapieux, but it would be a shame to miss the approach from Plan des Dames.
4. Col de Tricot
The main Tour du Mont Blanc section between Les Houches and Les Contamines is not particularly scenic. In good weather, those who are up for a challenge pick the more beautiful, mountainous variant that visits Col de Tricot and Refuge de Miage instead of going to Bionnassay. Day hikers can mimic this variant out-and-back by taking the Bellevue cable car from Les Houches to Col de Voza, then following signs for Col de Tricot. If you still have legs after reaching Col de Tricot, you could even tack on a side hike to Mont Vorassay.
5. Aiguillette des Posettes
Aiguilette des Posettes is considered one of the most dramatic panoramas along the entire Tour du Mont Blanc, pairing views into Switzerland with sharp spires dominating the French horizon. It’s one of the last jaw-droppers to impress thru-hikers as they circle their way back into France.
There are two ways to approach Aiguilette des Posettes, either from Trient or Tré-le-Champ. Getting to Trient via public transportation requires multiple transfers. It’s easier to create a loop or out-and-back from Tré-le-Champ. From Chamonix, take the TER train to the Montroc stop. The trail is just a three-minute walk from this station. You’ll ascend to Aiguilette des Posettes first, then come down to Refuge du Col de Balme. Ordering a slice of pie at the refuge is a very important step. For a loop, head south of the refuge on a variant towards Le Tour, which will ultimately bring you back to the Montroc train station.
Lead photo credit : Downhill from Aiguillette des Posettes towards Trele Champ © Quentin Golsteyn
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