The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is, arguably, the most famous hut hiking tour in the Alps. It is so famous, that over 10,000 hikers take on the circuit each year.
Your Tour du Mont Blanc booking experience is going to greatly depend upon how early you start the process. November the year prior is not too early. And booking can already get extremely difficult in April and May. I have managed to book a tour in July for an early-August hike, but that required a lot of trial-and-error, many iterations of the itinerary, and the hiker needed to be able and willing to do some longer days as well as venture off the main track for a couple accommodations.
Now before you get too deep into the planning process, read my other blog post on 10 Things to Know About the Tour du Mont Blanc. The TMB is a beautiful tour, but if you are somebody who enjoys getting away from the crowds and really feeling like you are in nature, I may be able to recommend some other tours that are better suited to you. But if you are somebody who wants to be able to sit down at a mountain hut or restaurant to a warm meal for lunch every day and you want to pass through many adorable villages along the way, then read on. Also, make sure you check out our Tour du Mont Blanc Planning webpage, a free planning resource.
Here are your steps to make it all happen:
1. Decide when you want to go
Most people will say you can do the Tour du Mont Blanc between mid-June and mid-September, because that is when most of the huts are open. This timeframe doesn’t take conditions on the passes into consideration. If you are planning your vacation time around doing the TMB and spending a lot of money on plane tickets, you probably want to come at a time when chances are high you will be able to complete the hike as planned. In this case I would caution anything outside of mid-July to the end of August. About every four years snow stays around on the passes in the Alps into mid-July, sometimes making them impassable, and almost every year there is a big snowstorm the first week of September. Mid-July to the end of August is also the busiest time of the year, so if you are looking for something less busy, I recommend doing one of the many other less crowded hut routes available in the Alps, like the HHT2 Culinary Delight Hut Hiking Tour, for example.
2. Purchase material to help plan
I am an old-fashioned paper map girl, so my first recommendation is to purchase your map. There are many out there, but the only one I have been satisfied with is the Mont Blanc-Annecy map from Libris Wanderkarte. You can link to purchase it through our Maps Page. This map may have a smaller scale (1:60,000), but this means you have the entire tour on one map. The Tour du Mont Blanc is well marked and well signed out, and you won’t need a map with a very small scale as you may for other adventures. The go-to hiking guidebook for the tour is Trekking the Tour of Mont Blanc by Kev Reynolds. This book is really your only guide book option, although it is notoriously difficult to use, and the hiking times are often extremely optimistic. Your best option for putting together your itinerary is to plug the route and huts into a navigation program on your computer, and to calculate it out from there. Or, you can always let the experts at Alpenventures do all this for you! Check out our HHT7 Tour du Mont Blanc.
3. Decide how strenuous you want it to be
The Tour du Mont Blanc covers approximately 170 km. (110 miles) with 10,000 m. (33,000 ft.) of elevation gain. Divide that by the total amount of elevation gain you want to do per day, and this is how many days you need to complete the trek (this does not take into account rest days, so add that in if you would like one). If that is more days than you have vacation time, it is time to do some thinking. There are ways to speed up the hike, such as using gondolas and lifts when available, as well as skipping over a couple sections with public transportation. You can find out more about that on our Tour du Mont Blanc Planning webpage. But there is also a phenomenal tour two valleys to the east of the TMB that is less crowded, and just as spectacular, and it only takes 6 days. Check out the HHT3 Tour du Mont Blanc Alternative.
4. Choose your starting point
Popular starting points are Chamonix (or Les Houches), Trient, Champex, and Courmayeur. In general, Chamonix is the easiest to get to. Keep in mind that depending on how things go with your bookings, you may need to be flexible enough to start from a different starting point. Consider booking your huts before you book your flight (unless, of course, you see an amazing deal that you need to snatch up).
5. Plan your ideal itinerary
I say ideal, because you never know if this is going to work out with availability. If you have a good 10-month lead time on booking, there is a good chance you will get your ideal itinerary. If you are only 3-months ahead, you probably won’t, and may need to be prepared for some very long days, and some less-than-ideal accommodations.
Take a look at the route on your map, calculate your distances and elevation gain, and research the huts. Lay out your trip in the time frame that you have available, aiming for your target daily elevation gain, and using your preferred huts whenever possible.
Note: The official Tour du Mont Blanc planning page (www.autourdumontblanc.com) does not list all the possible accommodations on the page, and the hiking times it gives are inconsistent. Use this resource but use your map more.
6. Start booking the accommodations for the south side, as well as any accommodations that fall on a weekend
The accommodations between Les Contamines-Montjoie and Courmayeur on the south side fill up the fastest and are always the challenge when booking a tour. Start with these, particularly any that fall on a weekend. Each time you run across a hut that is full, you will likely need to revise your entire itinerary, so it is very important to start here, and work your tour around the availability at these huts.
7. Make any necessary adjustments to the itinerary, and book the rest of the accommodations
Unless you are booking far in advance, you probably will need to make one, or even more, revisions to your itinerary. Don’t get hyper-focused on one person’s blog or one resource, and be open to changing your starting point as well. There is likely an accommodation option out there that works. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity, or a phone call to me, to find it.
8. Get your planning information organized and mobile
This is really important. Consolidate all the information you have about the huts into a format that is easy to bring with you. Know what types of rooms and meals you have booked at each of the huts, as well as what you already paid for the deposit, and what you will need to pay at the hut. There are also a few huts along the way that require a confirmation call 1 or 3 days before arrival. Make sure you keep track of that. Add all transportation information to the consolidated hut information, and anything else you may need for navigation. I like to save this all on my phone as a PDF document.
9. Put together your packing list
If your background is wilderness backpacking, and you are accustomed to carrying a tent everywhere with you, reprogram your brain to think light. Foreigners on the Tour du Mont Blanc tend to carry a lot more weight than the locals do. Check out my video on Packing for a Hut Hiking Tour in the Alps, the free webcast on Hiking Hut to Hut in the Alps, and the Staying in Mountain Huts webpage on our website for more information on what to expect. There is a lot of elevation gain on this hike, so taking packing light seriously.
Now the fun starts! Get out there and try to get in as much elevation gain as you can. If you bought new gear, test it and break it in. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the anticipation!