- Make a classic circuit of Western Europe’s highest mountain, crossing the borders of France, Italy, and Switzerland on foot.
- Hike through stunning terrain of mountain passes, verdant meadows, lush forests, and glacial valleys.
- Discover the charming cultures of secluded Alpine villages.
- Explore the famous mountaineering resort of Chamonix, which hosted the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924.
Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe, reaches over 15,770 feet with magnificent valleys of its massif stretching into France, Italy, and Switzerland. Set out on an incredible, 10-day circuit linking these three Alpine countries and explore the famed mountain range that has beckoned climbers for centuries. Discover the snowfields and hanging glaciers that inspired its name “White Mountain.” Cross dramatic mountain passes and trek through pristine meadows and forests, enjoying majestic mountain views at every turn. Along the way, explore charming hamlets steeped in Alpine culture. Each exhilarating day begins and ends in the shadow of one of the most legendary mountains in the world.
Arrive in Geneva and transfer to our hotel in Chamonix, situated at the foot of Mont Blanc. Explore this famous mountaineering resort, which hosted the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. Gather this evening for an orientation and welcome dinner.
In 1741, the first tourists to Chamonix were transported to Montenvers on the backs of mules in order to admire the glaciers. Today, most travelers take a bright red cog train up the steep slopes to reach the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), the second-largest glacier in the Alps. We begin our hike from the hotel (3,300'), crossing the town of Chamonix and entering the forest. We'll ascend a steep trail passing the Blaitiere farm to reach the “Grand Balcon,” from where we have a fabulous view of the Aiguilles de Chamonix towering above us. We'll traverse below these towering peaks toward the Montenvers railway sitting high above the Mer de Glace glacier. After returning to Chamonix by the cog railway, you'll have a free evening to enjoy dinner on your own. (6-8 miles hiking, 5-6 hours, 3,900' ascent/600' descent)
After breakfast, transfer to the French village of Les Houches and ride a cable car up to Bellevue, where our hike begins with incredible views of Mont Blanc, the Chamonix valley, and the granite peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges. Begin a steepening ascent through pastures skirting the Bionnassay Glacier and rhododendron fields to Col du Tricot. Here, the pass winds down a wooded hillside to the charming hamlet of Miage, situated on a glacial plain. After a picnic lunch, trek uphill once more before descending to Les Contamines-Montjoie, a picturesque village with traditional chalets. (8 miles hiking, 6 hours, 1,900' ascent/4,200' descent)
This morning, explore the baroque chapel of Notre Dame de la Gorge, a centuries-old pilgrimage site, and then connect to the ancient Roman route used for centuries by mountain travelers. Hike through evergreens, wildflowers, and the marmot-populated fields of Les Contamines Nature Reserve. After climbing up to the Col du Bonhomme and Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, we will follow a trail carved by former army troops along a wide ridge that enters the Beaufortin region. Our minivan will meet us at the end of the descent and transfer us to the small town of Bourg St Maurice, an hour away. (10 miles hiking, 8 hours, 4,200' ascent/3,000' descent)
This morning we will transfer to the remote La Ville des Glaciers, scattered with farms that produce the world-famous Beaufort cheese. Our trail twists uphill to the Col de la Seigne, where we cross into Italy. Take in breathtaking views of the icy southern walls of Mont Blanc. Then hike down to Miage Glacier, which snakes down from the Mont Blanc massif into Val Veni. Transfer by van to Courmayeur, a bustling Alpine town nestled in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta. (10 miles hiking, 6 hours, 2,300' ascent/2,700' descent)
Follow a varied trail through larch forest and Alpine vegetation to Mont de la Saxe and Rifugio Bertone, where we pause to take in sweeping views of the Valle d’Aosta and the Gran Paradiso range beyond. From here, a short, steep ascent leads to a crest overlooking the snow-capped pinnacles of the Mont Blanc massif. Against this stunning backdrop, continue hiking past Rifugio Bonatti, an Alpine hut perched below Grandes Jorasse and its tumbling glaciers, and rejoin in 30 minutes the hamlet of Lavachey. (10 miles hiking, 8 hours, 2,500' ascent/1,500' descent)
Hike through Alpine meadows and begin our ascent to the Grand Col Ferret, marking the border between Italy and Switzerland. Above us, Mont Dolent is the only Alpine peak shared by three countries: France, Italy, and Switzerland. At the pass, enter the Swiss canton of Valais, laced with pastures and woodland. After a picnic lunch, descend through wildflower meadows along sinuous streams to the village of La Fouly. (10 miles hiking, 7 hours, 2,500' ascent/3,100' descent)
Set out on the Bovine trail named for the cattle that graze in these Alpine meadows. A steep climb leads to a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the Rhône Valley and the town of Martigny. After a scenic picnic lunch, hike down to the Col de la Forclaz and a 20-minute transfer to France to the village of Argentière where our hotel is located. (12 miles hiking, 6 hours, 2,400' ascent/2,300' descent)
From Le Tour, on the final day of our trek, our trail reaches up to Col de Balme and Tete de Balme. Hike along a stunning Alpine balcony to the Swiss-French border, where the Chamonix valley unfolds beneath us once more. Descend to the French hamlet of Tré-le-Champ for a celebratory drink. Then transfer to Chamonix for a festive farewell dinner. (7 miles hiking, 7 hours, 2,900' ascent/2,900' descent)
This morning, soak up our final views of Mont Blanc before transferring to Geneva for our homeward-bound flights.