Perched on the Col de Balme, Refuge du Col de Balme marks a significant milestone on the Tour du Mont Blanc, greeting hikers as they make their triumphant return to France. The refuge, a beacon of hospitality with its distinctive red shutters, stands at the border between Switzerland and France, offering a picturesque welcome after the ascent from Trient or Le Peuty.
The journey to the refuge is a rewarding challenge, with the last leg of the uphill trek opening up to reveal the refuge’s welcoming facade. Despite its modest size, accommodating just 26 guests in its cozy dormitory, the refuge is known for its warm interiors and the conviviality of shared spaces.
The refuge’s culinary offerings are a delight, especially the tartiflette — a hearty, traditional dish of potatoes, bacon, and reblochon cheese. It’s a place where tired hikers can find rest, good food, and the camaraderie of fellow adventurers.
The weather in the mountains is very changeable. Even if it is +25°C in the valley, it much colder on the mountain passes, especially if cloudy and windy. That’s why you should take clothing in layers, along with with a windproof and waterproof jacket (could be two), and waterproof trousers (in case of rain). You should also have a separate set of clothes for chilling in the refuges.
Check out our full packing list here.
Even though the views on the Tour du Mont Blanc are scenic and wild, the trail itself never goes more than a day of hiking away from the nearest road or civilization. In case you decide to stop hiking, you can always get to the nearest village or town, and use public transportation to get to your desired destination. If that happens during the hike, we are also here to help you plan this.
Should there be an emergency situation on the trail, you will always have access to the local rescue services on the number 112. We provide more information on that in our self-guided handouts.
Although it’s not the only one hikers decide to take, it is the best. The main advantage of that is that you’ll always have the view of the Mont Blanc massif in front, and not behind your back. There will also be fewer steep downhills (saving your knees) than otherwise.
Yes, but it is not recommended if they are too young (younger than 10). Either way, they need to have some previous experience with mountain hiking and know what it takes to complete a full day on the trail.
You should do it as early as possible because the spots at the accommodations along the trail usually run out fast. That means the longer you wait, the fewer options there are.
Yes, public transportation is available in most of the valleys, which can shorten some flat sections of the hike. Additionally, there are some cable cars that can take you up the mountains, reducing the amount of ascending you do on some stages.
Yes, but only through the valley. That means that it will be waiting for you at your next accommodation on the valley floor, be it a hotel or a chalet. If you are staying a night in between in a mountain hut, you have to take enough with you in the backpack to make it an extra day.
Some parts of the trail are exposed to thunder, so hiking them in that kind of weather is heavily unadvised. Still, you can make up for that lost time by taking public transportation when possible.
Most of them do not, which is why you should always have enough cash to pay for anything extra than what is included in our tours. Only one hut needs to be paid on the spot, of which we inform you in advance. Do not worry about the hotels and other private accommodations though — they mostly accept them. Still, it is recommended you always have some extra cash with you in case something goes wrong.
You’re going to be traveling through three countries — Italy and France use Euros (EUR) while Switzerland has Swiss Francs (CHF).
Some of them offer showers, but there might not be any hot water. In most, you need to buy a token to get a minute of hot water (if it didn’t run out already).
No. All of the huts have blankets, bedding, and pillows, but it’s nice to bring your own silk or cotton sleeping liner.
We can arrange it in the hotels and other accommodations in villages and towns along the way. As for the mountain huts, a rare few have that option, but it is usually the first one that is sold out, so you need to be really early if you want us to get it.
There isn’t in most of them. Enjoy the opportunity of disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. But if you really need it, you can try to get some signal outside or wait until coming back to the valley. There, you should have no problem getting to the internet.
Vegetarian meals are readily available in most accommodations. On the other hand, vegan options are harder to be found, especially in the huts. But if you tell us enough in advance, we’ll contact the huts for you and try to accommodate you to the best of our abilities.
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