We hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc in July 2017. We camped most nights and stayed in a few huts. We created this guide in hopes that it will inspire more people to camp along the route, which we found to be one of our favorite parts of the entire trip. We also hope that the information and maps provided here can be of use to the many hikers who undertake this fantastic trek!
The guide is organized for hikers walking the circuit in the traditional counter-clockwise direction, but would be just as useful for those hiking in the clockwise direction.
Be sure to check out our other TMB posts as well:
- TMB Packing List
- Check out our TMB Art Store
- 10 Essentials for the Tour du Mont Blanc
- How to navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc
- How to find all of your campgrounds on the TMB
- How to train for the Tour of Mont Blanc
- How to hike the TMB for (nearly) free
- TMB Trip Report
- TMB Photo Gallery
Please leave your questions or comments below and we hope you enjoy!
-Emily & Ian
Camping Availability: Bellevue Campsite
Camping is available at the Bellevue Campsite which is located at the base of the cable car of the same name. The site has basic bathroom facilities and places to charge electronics.
Les Houches has several bars, restaurants, ATM’s, and a grocery store. There is a bus that runs frequently to and from Chamonix, which has several outdoor retailers and shops that will provide you with anything you may have forgotten to pack. We stayed at a hotel in Chamonix and then took a bus to Les Houches on the morning that we started our hike.
Camping Availability: Camping Le Pontet.
This campground has toilets, sinks (with potable water), warm (not hot) showers, a café/bar, places to charge electronics, and a covered area for cooking. Heads up: the campground is located about 40 minutes past the town of Les Contamines. You can continue on the TMB trail to reach Camping Le Pontet, or when the trail forks you can veer left to climb briefly uphill to reach the town. When you reach the edge of town, descend back down to the trail and walk onward to the campground. While you have to walk a bit further to reach the campground, it is right on the TMB and you’ll have a head start the next morning!
Les Contamines has bars, restaurants, shops, and an ATM. We highly recommend stopping in town for a cheese plate and a Picon Biere (beer mixed with the famous French orange liqueur, Picon) en route to the campground!
Camping Availability: FREE in the field next to the Tourist Office.
When you descend into tiny and charming Les Chapieux, you can’t miss the large grassy field on the edge of town in which you can pitch your tent. The tourist office, located in the center of the camping area, has bathrooms with sinks (cold water, potable) and toilets. The folks in the office can also provide you with tickets and information for the bus that travels to Refuge Des Mottets. This bus allows you to avoid the one of the TMB’s longest sections of road walking (about 2 hours’ worth) on your next day. We took the bus from Les Chapieux to Refuge Des Mottets in order to shorten our long trek to Courmayeur. Make sure to wait at the bus stop (right in front of the tourist office) at least 30 minutes early or buy your ticket in advance since the bus does sell out quickly.
There is a small shop across the road from the campsite that sells delicious local cheeses, snacks, and hiker basics like ramen noodles, trail mix, and some toiletries. We recommend stocking up on foodstuffs in Chamonix or Les Houches to get you to this point, but the shop will meet your needs in a pinch. Additionally, the Auberge de la Nova, just down the road from your campsite, is a nice option for drinks, snacks, or dinner.
Camping Availability: Wild camping above the refuge
As we mentioned, we opted to combine the traditional third and fourth stages into one big day of hiking to reach Courmayeur a day earlier and allow ourselves time for a rest day. If you do decide to stop at Elisabetta there is no official campground, but you can wild camp above the refuge. This is a stunningly beautiful place to spend the night, and the Rifugio provides access to free drinking water, and meals/refreshments (a bit pricey, but highly recommended) in a cozy, memorable setting. We recommend calling or emailing the Rifugio to get more details on camping in area. They can be reached at http://www.rifugioelisabetta.com/
The Rifugio will sell meals and refreshments to campers, and there is drinking water along the trail. However, if you decide to stop here be aware that there is nothing else in the area in the way of food or supplies. The next place with food, water, and toilets is Rifugio Maison Vielle, which is about three hours away.
Camping Availability: Camping Grand Jorasses
There are no campgrounds within the town of Courmayeur. We decided to splurge on a hotel in the lovely nearby town of La Saxe (just north of Courmayeur) for our rest day. If you’re into cozy, luxurious, and affordable lodging experiences, check out Maison La Saxe. This tiny hotel offers top-notch service and a peaceful location with convenient access to the Courmayeur city center. They also serve up a delicious complimentary breakfast made with all local, high-quality ingredients. Book Suite #2 for a private roof terrace and breathtaking views of the entire valley.
If you are more hardcore than we were and you decide to camp, Camping Grand Jorasses is your best option. It is about 5.5 Km down the road past Courmayeur in the town of Plampincieux (local bus #924 will take you right there from Courmayeur). The campground is in Val Ferret (directly below the Tour route). The staff can give you information about nearby trails that will connect you back with the TMB either at Rifugio Bertone or Rifugio Bonatti. Camping Grandes Jorasses has bathrooms, sinks, showers, electronics charging, and a pizzeria/bar.
Courmayeur has restaurants, bars, ATMs, laundry services, outdoor retailers, and grocery stores.
Camping Availability: Not Really
Unfortunately, there are no sanctioned camping areas between Plampincieux and La Fouly. In theory, you could hike from Plampincieux to La Fouly in one day, but it would be a very long day of walking. The good news is that if you have to stay in one hut on your trek, Bonatti is the one to choose! This beautiful hut boasts a remote and spectacular setting. It offers jaw-dropping views of Mont Blanc and the Grandes Jorasses, as well as friendly, efficient service. You can charge your electronics, rent a sleep sheet, purchase snacks and sack lunches for the next day, and take a (short) hot shower. A lavish multi-course dinner and breakfast spread are included with your half-board accommodation. Staying in a hut is a quintessential TMB experience. It’s a great way to meet fellow hikers and soak in the communal spirit of thru-hiking. While we preferred to camp most nights, we were happy that we stayed in a few huts along the way.
Nothing. Rifugio Bonatti is a few hours’ walk from the nearest town in either direction. Make sure to stock up on provisions in the Courmayeur area before heading out. There is restaurant in the hotel in La Vachey (about an hour downhill from Bonatti), but you won’t find another shop until reaching La Fouly.
Camping Availability: Camping Des Glaciers
This large campground might feel like a bit of a zoo at first, but it has plenty of redeeming qualities. Yes, you’ll be camping with what feels like half of Switzerland’s children, dogs, and RV’s, but you’ll have your pick from several flat and shady sites and the views are dynamite. The campground offers hot showers, toilets, sinks (with potable water), electronics charging, and good, free wifi. The office sells a few snacks, stove fuel, and beverages. You can order fresh bread for the morning if you’d like.
TIPS: Choose a spot that borders the river to drown out any ambient noise from your “neighbors.” The camp office (like most places in the Alps) is closed for a lunch break in the middle of the day, but you can choose a site, set up camp, and use the facilities before registering in the office. The staff is relaxed and they don’t mind checking you in upon their return.
About a ten-minute walk from the campground, the town center has a few restaurants, an ATM, and a grocery store. It’s true what they say about Switzerland- it’s expensive! We found the local cheese and bread to be the best value items for our money.
Camping Availability: Camping Les Rocailles
Camping Les Rocailles is located on the far end of Champex, past the city center. When you reach Champex, just remind yourself that you have another 20 minutes of walking to do before you are really done for the day. This might help you to avoid the “Are we there yet?” syndrome that can come after a long day of hiking. The good news is that you’ll have a head start on the hike tomorrow. This lovely little campground offers three terraces with mostly flat spots to pitch your tent, but not much shade to be found. The campground provides toilets, sinks (with potable water), hot showers, a dishwashing/laundry room, electronics charging, wifi, and an area for drying wet clothes. The office sells beer, wine, and soda.
Champex has a grocery store, cafes, bars, restaurants, outdoor retailers, and an ATM. The lake offers several tranquil and beautiful spots along the shore for relaxing after a long day on your feet.
Col de la Forclaz (and Le Peuty)
Camping Availability: Hotel de la Forclaz or Le Peuty
You have two great options for camping on this stage of the TMB. You can camp on the terraced field next to Hotel de la Forclaz or pitch your tent on the edge of the tiny hamlet of Le Peuty.
Hotel de la Forclaz is the more luxurious option of the two. Here you’ll have access to toilets and showers, as well as the option to purchase breakfast and/or dinner (although everyone we talked to said it was overpriced). This campsite is also closer to Champex, making for a shorter day of hiking.
For about half the price of Hotel de la Forclaz, you can camp in the field next to Le Peuty. This is what we chose to do, and we found it to be a nice, quiet departure from some of the busier sites we’d stayed at previously. To reach the campground, simply continue downhill on the trail for another 30-40 minutes past Col de la Forclaz. Make sure to reference our map when you get close, as the campground is really just an empty field with no real signage or information. The site does provide outlets, basic sinks and toilets, drinking water, and a covered area for cooking/packing/hanging wet clothes. Someone will stop by in the evening to collect your payment. You can pay in CHF or Euros.
Make sure you stock up on grocery provisions in Champex because there are no options to purchase these things near either campground. Hotel de la Forclaz does have a small gift shop that sells snacks and ice cream, but not much else. Le Puety has a one very small cafe down the road from the campground. You can also walk about 15 minutes from Le Peuty to the town of Trient which has more restaurant offerings and a very pretty pink church.
Camping Availability: Chalet Pierre Semard or Camping Du Glacier
Neither of these sites is actually located within the town of Tre-le-Champ (not much is). Chalet Pierre Semard is in Les Frasserands, which is just below Tre-le-Champ and very close to the TMB route, while Camping du Glacier requires a 25-minute detour down to the town of Argentiere.
We camped at Chalet Pierre Semard, which might be the best kept secret of the TMB. For a very reasonable price, we got a lovely, shaded campsite overlooking the stream and quality amenities like free wifi, laundry drying, covered cooking areas, electronics charging, toilets, sinks (potable water), and clean, hot showers. Additionally, the campground provides access to an indoor lounge/bar area with self-serve coffee, computer access, and comfy chairs- a welcome luxury on a cold, stormy afternoon! Make sure to treat yourself to the “hiker special” at the bar, which includes pizza or hot dog, fries, ice cream, and a beer for 9 Euros. In the morning, pick up the trail about 100 yards from the campsite (pay close attention- there’s a sign on your left, but it’s easy to miss!)
Most of the other hikers we talked to camped in Argentiere at Camping du Glaciers and they all gave it excellent reviews. This is a large campsite with toilets, hot showers, drinking water, laundry, wifi, a restaurant (which serves breakfast), and a place to purchase snacks and stove fuel. You will have to walk an extra 25 minutes out of your way to reach the campground (and then back the next morning), but this also gives you easy access to a much wider array of amenities in the larger town of Argentiere.
There is not much in the way of shops or restaurants in Tre-le-Champ or Les Frasserands. If camping at Pierre Semard, you can eat at one of the Auberges nearby, or at the campground’s bar or restaurant. There is no grocery store or ATM in the area. This wasn’t a problem for us since we had stocked up on food in Champex and ate dinner at the campground bar.
In Argentiere, on the other hand, you can find a grocery store, ATM, restaurants, a Tourist Office, and bus services.
Refuge La Flegere
Camping Availability: In the field next to the Refuge
While we opted to stay in the Refuge at this location, you may be able camp next to the small pond near La Flegere. We would recommend emailing the Refuge to inquire about camping, or simply ask the friendly staff for details when you arrive. This is semi-wild camping, as there are no facilities available to you with this option. If you encounter a massive hail and lightning storm like we did, we highly recommend the Refuge La Flegere for its excellent food (dinner is followed by a local cheese course…really!), cozy ambiance, and hot showers.
TIPS: Be aware- the water in the Refuge is not drinkable. There is one slightly odd exception to this rule, however. The water in the gondola station bathroom is safe to drink (we tried it), but the gondola station is only open during normal business hours, so be sure to stock up before it closes if you are camping. Also, the staff at the Refuge are very laid back so if you’re camping and want to use the bathroom or charge your electronics, just buy a coffee or beer and hang out awhile.
To reserve a place at the hut, email: email@example.com
There is a café in the gondola station that provides meals, water for purchase, and snacks. If needed, you can ride the cable car down from here to Les Praz to access grocery stores, sporting goods stores, and other modern amenities, but the ticket is quite pricey. Information about the cable car can be found at: http://www.chamonix.com/flegere-index,83,en.html