Stage 1 of the Tour du Mont Blanc usually starts in Les Houches, a village in Chamonix Valley, 6 km west of Chamonix. However, by the recommendation of Alpenventures UNGUIDED, we started stage 1 directly in Chamonix with a cableway ascent to Le Brévent summit.
This stretch of the Tour du Mont Blanc angles down the slopes of the Aiguilles Rouges mountains, the crystalline mountain chain opposite the Mont Blanc massif. From this high trail, hikers look across Chamonix Valley (Vallée de l’Arve) to the Mont Blanc peaks and glaciers.
As you can imagine, the initial descent to Refuge de Bellachat is sensational, delivering unobstructed views of the glaciated Mont Blanc mountains. However, the second half of the stage is less interesting and honestly tedious.
Although this stage only takes 3:30 – 4:00 hours, it’s quite demanding because it entails a steep and continuous 1500 meter (4921 feet) descent from Le Brévent summit (2526 meters / 8287 feet) all the way down to the valley floor.
For those starting the Tour du Mont Blanc in Les Houches, read Stage 2: Les Houches – Les Contamines-Montjoie.
This stage passes through the Aiguilles Rouges nature reserve and the Carlaveyron réserve. In these protected areas, the following activities are strictly prohibited: wild camping, flying drones, fires, picking flowers and/or rocks, dogs, and paragliding.
Good to Know: Typically, TMB trekkers will hike from Le Brévent to Les Houches on the last day of their trek. However, many forgo this final leg, because they want to end their trip in Chamonix rather than Les Houches.
Tour du Mont Blanc Stage 1 Hiking Guide
- Starting Point: Planpraz/Brévent valley station, Chamonix, France
- Ending Point: Les Houches, France
- Distance: 9.6 km point-to-point
- Time Needed: 3:30 – 4 hours
- Elevation Gain: 53 meters
- Elevation Loss: 1542 meters
- Difficulty: Moderately Difficult
- Minimum Elevation: 971 meters
- Maximum Elevation: 2506 meters
- Where to Stay in Les Houches: Hôtel du Bois (midrange), Chalet Hotel Les Campanules (budget), RockyPop Chamonix – Les Houches (budget)
- Self-Guided Hiking Tour: 10 Day Standard Tour du Mont Blanc (what we booked) / 10 Day Comfort Tour du Mont Blanc (private rooms only)
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Le Brévent to Les Houches Trail Map
How to Get to Le Brévent
Planpraz Gondola + Brévent Cable Car
Walk to the Planpraz/Brévent valley station in Chamonix.
Purchase a one-way ticket to Le Brévent.
From Chamonix, take the Planpraz gondola lift followed by the Le Brévent cable car to reach Le Brévent.
Valley Station Location | 29 r Henriette d’Angeville 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc | Google Maps
Adult Ticket Prices | 27.50 EUR one-way
Operating Times | Brevent Cable Car
Le Brévent to Les Houches Trail Description
Le Brévent to Refuge de Bellachat (45 min – 1 hour)
The summit of Le Brévent (2525 meters) affords unobstructed views of the Mont Blanc massif and a bird’s-eye view of Chamonix valley. It’s tempting to linger here and savor a meal at Restaurant Le Panoramic, before starting the trek.
Head to the trail junction just below the summit. Turn left in the direction of Bel-Lachat, signed 45 minutes.
Facing the glaciated Mont Blanc mountains, the trail descends amidst a field of boulders. Slabs of rocks have been carefully positioned to allow for easy passage across the rugged landscape.
The path steadily continues south towards a crest and then veers southwest beneath it. Views of Mont Blanc disappear, but the shimmering Lac du Brévent offers compensation.
A sharp left accompanied by metal handrail brings you to another panoramic stretch of Le Grand Balcon Sud.
The TMB follows a rise and then zigzags down to the rustic Refuge de Bellachat (also spelled Bel-Lachat), situated at 2152 meters.
Refuge de Bellachat to Chemin de Merlet Road (1:30 hours)
From the refuge, follow signs to Merlet (1:15 hours) and Les Houches (2:30 hours).
The TMB descends to the right of the hut and twists down the steep flank of the Aiguillette de Brévent.
In some places, the trail is bolstered with timber reinforcements. The passage across the Ravin des Vouillourds ravine is secured with a chain.
A balcony path leads in and out of pockets of forest. As you continue, more of the trail is protected with fixed metal handrails.
At the Merlet trail junction (1650 meters), take the right upper path in the direction of Parking de Merlet (30 minutes) and Statue du Christ-Roi (45 minutes).
The path cuts across the forest and then follows the perimeter fence of Parc de Merlet. Drop down to the paved Merlet access road.
Chemin de Merlet Road to Statue du Christ-Roi (20 minutes)
Optional Viewpoint: When you get down to the paved road, detour to the viewpoint overlooking the valley. Head left in the direction of Parc de Merlet for a few meters and then climb up several stairs to reach the bench and viewpoint.
Continue right along the Chemin de Merlet road and then turn left, following the wide track through the forest to Statue du Christ-Roi, a massive concrete statue.
Statue du Christ-Roi to Les Houches (30-40 minutes)
Continue hiking down the forest to the valley bed. You’ll emerge at a road, which leads to the Les Houches train station.
Cross the bridge over the Arve river and then follow the road leading uphill (over the main highway) into Les Houches.
Use an offline navigation app, or Google Maps to navigate to your accommodation in Les Houches.
Where to Stay in Les Houches
Where we stayed – Midrange | Hôtel du Bois is a centrally located chalet hotel in Les Houches. Stay here for the location, private rooms, wonderful breakfast buffet, and helpful staff. Contact the hotel in advance to make a dinner reservation.
Budget | Chalet Hotel Les Campanules is a charming chalet with an on-site restaurant, located just off the trail, before getting down to the center of Les Houches. You can book double, triple or quadruple rooms with either a forest view or a Mont Blanc view. Guests have access to a cozy lounge and sauna area (extra charge).
Budget | RockyPop Chamonix – Les Houches is an atmospheric and modern hotel with a food court and bar. Stay here for the fun, air-conditioned rooms and exceptional breakfast.
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Tour du Mont Blanc Essential Info
Read our Tour du Mont Blanc Hiking Guide to start planning your trek.
- Official TMB Length: 170 km (105 miles)
- Days Needed: 10-11 days
- Which Direction to Hike: Counterclockwise
- Where to Start the TMB: Chamonix, Vallée de l’Arve, France
- Closest Airport to Chamonix: Geneva Airport, Switzerland
- When to Hike the TMB: July – early September
- When to Book the TMB: January – February
- TMB Difficulty: Moderate
- Recommended Self-Guided Tours: 10 Day Standard Tour du Mont Blanc (private and shared rooms), 10 Day Comfort Tour du Mont Blanc (private rooms only), 7 Day Tour du Mont Blanc (shortened route with transit shortcuts), 15 Day Tour du Mont Blanc (leisurely-paced route).
TMB Planning Resources
- TMB Hiking Guidebook: Cicerone: Trekking the Tour of Mont Blanc guidebook
- TMB Trail Maps: L’Escursionista Tour du Mont Blanc TMB or IGN Tour du Mont Blanc Map
Tour du Mont Blanc Route Itinerary
The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is a captivating multi-day hike that circuits the Mont Blanc massif in usually 10-11 days, passing through France, Italy and Switzerland. Here’s our personal TMB itinerary.
- Stage 1: Chamonix – Le Brévent – Les Houches
- Stage 2: Les Houches – Col de Tricot – Les Contamines-Montjoie (Col de Tricot Variant)
- Stage 3: Les Contamines – Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme
- Stage 4: Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme – Cabane du Combal (Col des Fours Variant)
- Stage 5: Cabane du Combal – Courmayeur – Rifugio Bertone
- Stage 6: Rifugio Bertone – Grand Col Ferret – Alpage de La Peule
- Stage 7: Alpage de La Peule – Ferret – La Fouly – Champex-Lac
- Stage 8: Champex-Lac – Trient (Fenêtre d’Arpette Variant)
- Stage 9: Trient – Col de Balme – Aiguillette des Posettes – Tré le Champ
- Stage 10: Tré le Champ – Lac Blanc – La Flégère – Chamonix
More Guides about Hiking in Europe
- The Alps in Summer: 10 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting
- Hiking in the European Alps
- Italian Alps Hiking Destinations
- Austrian Alps Hiking Destinations
- Slovenia Alps Hiking Guide
Multi-Day Hikes in Europe:
Hut to Hut Hiking: