This could easily be the craziest idea we had, to take 9 month old Piko hiking around Mont Blanc. Yet, we did it and loved it! We recommend it to every adventurous parent and yes, we will do it again when Piko can actually walk it himself instead of being carried.
Tour du Mont Blanc is a long-distance hiking trail around Europe’s highest peak. It’s around 170 km long, doable in 10 days, crossing France, Switzerland, and Italy. A travel agency helped to prepare a baby-friendly itinerary and make reservations, but we did the hiking and carrying of 12-17kg backpacks, including the baby, ourselves. You can rent an agency that drives your load around and delivers it every evening, so that you hike only with a light pack with provisions for one day. Truth be told, we chose the hard way to save money and enjoy the freedom of staying in remote chalets. And let’s be honest, a little bit of pride was also involved. Although we were jealous of light hikers, when they turned up in jeans and clean T-shirt for dinner.
Our 7 days on Tour du Mont Blanc
We adjusted the official route to make the hike more comfortable for the youngest hiker on TMB. We did a clockwise route, starting in Chamonix, France, and finishing in Courmayeur, Italy. We hiked about three quarters of the loop, skipping most of Italy. We did not dare to cross the most difficult and remote part with Piko on our backs. In Courmayeur, we caught a return bus to Chamonix through the Mont Blanc Tunnel. You can also take a panoramic cable car from Italy to France, but only with kids over 2 years old.
Here is our itinerary, including our actual hiking times:
- Day 1: La Flegere (lift to Grand Balcon) – Tre le Champ (7km, 5:30h), La Boerne
- Day 2: Tre le Champ – Col de la Forclaz (19km, 7:30h), Hotel de la Forclaz
- Day 3: Col de la Forclaz – Champex (15km, 8:15h), Relais d’Arpette
- Day 4: Champex – Issert (7km, 2:30h), then bus to La Fouly. Hotel Edelweiss
- Day 5: La Fouly – Rifugio d’Elena (12km, 5:45h), Rifugio d’Elena
- Day 6: Rifugio d’Elena – Rifugio Bertone (15km, 6:45h), Rifugio Bertone (we shortened the route by taking a bus in Arnuova village and made it in 4:30h)
- Day 7: Rifugio Bertone – Courmayeur bus station (4.5km, 1:40h), bus to Chamonix
Click on this map to get details of the whole route.
- Book early. End June to mid September is high season, weather and visibility are the best. TMB is a popular hike, and sleeping capacity is limited. Most mountain chalets are obliged to provide shelter even without a reservation, but that could mean letting you sleep on a hallway floor in case all beds are full. This is certainly adventurous, though not for us with a small baby. For end July hike, we booked in February/March, early enough to even secure rooms of 4-6.
- Get advice. Finding someone who hiked your route will help you to craft the best itinerary for your level of fitness. We paid a specialised travel agency and it was worth it. We also chat with locals and other hikers to get the most up to date information.
- Start saving: Excluding way to/from Chamonix, count with approx. 500 EUR / person.
- 7 nights half-board in mountain chalets: 400 EUR/person
- Bus ticket from Courmayeur to Chamonix: 15 EUR/person (cable car from Courmayeur to Chamonix is at least 60 EUR)
- Great resource for Tour du Mont Blanc booking
- Pack light. Don’t forget, the one carrying the baby can barely carry anything else. Count with couple kg more shared in the group. Make sure to pack the following, not only for the baby:
- For sunny days: long sleeves, hats, suncream, sun glasses.
- For cold evenings: warm hat, thermal underwear.
- For bad weather: rain jacket, rain cover for bags and for the baby carrier.
- For a good night sleep: sleeping bag liners for you to share with a baby. Chalets usually provide the rest.
- Plan food. We sort food by day and pre-pack into plastic bags. This way, we don’t need to think about it on a hike and we avoid running out, or carrying unnecessary load. If you are breastfeeding, it’s easier. If your baby needs a formula, some hacks:
- For convenience: bring a plastic dispenser for baby formula, and prepare daily portions as well as hot water in a thermos. Mixing the formula will be fast and wind or rain will not bother you.
- For hygiene: use sterilization tablets (Milton is our favorite) for baby bottles, works even with cold water and saves a lot of hassle.
- Be flexible. Adjust on the go based on weather, advice from fellow hikers, your and your baby’s mood. There is no performance criteria to fill, no need to race with yourself. Take your time, adjust to your baby’s rhythm, and enjoy. On our last day, it started to rain heavily. Our route led through couple villages in the valley, we grabbed the opportunity to take a bus for couple of stops to avoid completely soaking through. Best decision ever!
- Know the way. Take a map (duh) and make sure to study it in detail beforehand. We recommend Chamonix, Mont-Blanc (English and French Edition). Where are the escape routes? Where are good places to make a break? How does the terrain look like? We made a mistake of not checking the exact position of one chalet. After a whole day of a difficult descent to the village, we found out our chalet is another hour hike to a steep hill. We were lucky to be able to hitchhike our way up.
- Take a long lunch break. Let the baby enjoy the mountains not only from the safety of your shoulders. The more carrier-free time you will give them, the less fussier they will be in the second part of the day. Hopefully.
Tour du Mont Blanc is a beautiful hike. With a bit of adjustment, it is easily done with a baby on your back. You might be the only one with a kid around, but fellow hikers will encourage you, chalet staff will do their best to help out, and you can applaud yourself for planting a seed of love for mountains this early.