Mont Blanc routes & highlights

Conquering the summit of ‘La Dame Blanche’, as the French call Mont Blanc, is a highlight for many, but only for those who are experienced in alpine techniques. Mont Blanc highlights are best seen by taking on the Tour du Mont Blanc trail which circumnavigates the massif at lower altitude for 170km, through Switzerland, France and Italy. There are various ways to approach the Tour but, whichever way you choose, you will conquer cols, see glaciers, alpine villages, mountain refuges, rock hopping wildlife and forest covered valleys for days on end. It's no wonder hikers all over the world are lured into the seductive arms of the White Lady.
Bovine Route

1. Bovine Route

This historic path between this starting point at Col de La Forclaz and Champex is the one used to take cows to graze in the mountains during the summer months. You walk through rich woodland and fecund flower meadows, with dramatic rock faces all around, reminding you why farmers opted for this route which goes round rather than, more treacherously, over the top.

2. Chamonix

Ski central for many, it is actually the omni-outdoorsy capital now, staying open to hikers and adventurers all year round, unlike some ski resorts. Chamonix is the place to stay if you want to do center based hiking treks, heading to the Lac Blanc, Aiguillette des Houches and the Ferret Valley during the day, and collapsing at the sublime Chalet Chamonix by night.

3. Champex

The end point of a wonderful trek along the traditional Bovine Route across the mountains, this is a beyond pretty mountain town and great resting point to help heal those less than pretty blisters. In Switzerland, its location on the Lac de Champex doesn’t come cheap though when you want to eat or drink. Remember, this is Switzerland, so you need to change your mindset to mega bucks.

4. Courmayeur

With so many villages kissing the foot of Mont Blanc, this ancient ex-spa town is one of Italy’s finest. Because as well as Mont Blanc, this village looks out at 14 other peaks, making it look like it just fell straight out of a snow dome. The Aiguille du Midi cable car links Courmayeur with Chamonix on the other side of Mont Blanc.
Grand Col Ferret

5. Grand Col Ferret

One of the highest points on the Tour du Mont Blanc at 2,536m, with views that’ll be etched on your brain forever. Not just of Mont Blanc but also of the Grandes Jorasses, peaks that are like the right hand men to the Queen, lying only 600 metres below her. Complex climbing territory, only for experienced alpinists. Even the view will bring tears to your eyes.
Lac Blanc

6. Lac Blanc

Located at 2,452m, this is the highlight of many a hike. You get two stunning views for the price of one here, the snow covered peak pushing up from the massif in front of you, while it’s reflected image shimmers on the surface of this glacial blue lake. The lake is also snow covered for parts of the year, which explains its name.
Le Brevent

7. Le Brevent

Yet another high point, this one at 2,525m, with panoramic views of the massif and the Chamonix Valley. This is a more populated high point than some, with a cable car that brings visitors up to the peak. The views of the Mer de Glace, the largest glacier in France at 7km long and 200m deep, are also spectacular.
Les Houches

8. Les Houches

The starting/end point for many taking on the Tour du Mont Blanc, our recommendation is to start in Switzerland, as it is much quieter. You will stop here on the way, however, to sleep and be stunned by views of the Chamonix Valley. When you look up at the slopes, you will see why it is the training ground for the French National Ski Team. Piste perfection.
Mont Blanc summit

9. Mont Blanc summit

Only for the experienced, you can get to the summit at 4,810m using one of two routes: the Gouter Route, aka Voie Royale, takes you up to the famous Refuge de Tete Rousse, then onto the Gouter Refuge, the last sleep before the summit. The more challenging Cosmiques Route aka ‘La Traversee’ covers Mont Maudit, the Col de la Brenva and then finally to the mama mont.

10. Trient

A small mountain hamlet, it is also home to the Trient Glacier, and popular spot for those training in alpinism before taking on the summit. You can get fabulous views of the glacier though without having to undertake its greatness on foot. The Trient valley as a whole is a hiker’s delight, with gorges, caves and exhilarating footpaths.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Mont Blanc or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: ptwo] [Map introduction: Masa Sakano] [Bovine Route : Jerome Bon] [Chamonix: Ruth Hartnup] [Champex: Alain Rouiller] [Courmayeur: raffaele sergi] [Grand Col Ferret: SNappa2006] [Lac Blanc : Robbie Shade] [Le Brevent: Patrick Nouhailler] [Les Houches: eGuide Travel] [Mont Blanc summit: Tangopaso] [Trient: SNappa2006]