Stage 3 of the Tour du Mont Blanc continues south along the Le Bonnant River to the head of Val Montjoie, passing Notre-Dame de la Gorge, Refuge Nant Borrant, and Refuge de la Balme.
Most hikers (especially using a luggage transfer service) will end this stage in the village of Les Chapieux in Vallée des Glaciers.
We stayed in Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme, which stands just below the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme saddle. The advantage of staying here is that you’re well-positioned to tackle the Col des Fours variant the next day.
There are no official variants between Les Contamines and Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme.
However, hikers can ascend to Le Signal via two cableways and follow a blissfully-quiet high trail to Refuge des Prés, before rejoining the main TMB route. This alternative route is only feasible when the Gorge and Signal cableways are operating.
We haven’t hiked the original TMB route, so we can’t say if the alternative is better. However, we can attest to its peacefulness and beauty.
Tour du Mont Blanc Stage 3 Hiking Guide
- Starting Point: Les Contamines-Montjoie, France
- Ending Point: Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme, France
- Distance: 10.8 km point-to-point
- Time Needed: 4:15 hours
- Elevation Gain: 829 meters
- Elevation Loss: 254 meters
- Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
- Minimum Elevation: 1775 meters
- Maximum Elevation: 2490 meters
- Where to Stay: Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme
- 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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Les Contamines to Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme Trail Map
Les Contamines – Signal – Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme Trail Description (Alternative Route)
Les Contamines to Gorge Gondola Valley Station (15 minutes)
Follow the TMB signs and trail markers in the direction of Notre-Dame de la Gorge. The path mostly runs parallel to the river.
To reach the La Gorge gondola valley station, leave the TMB route and follow the right side of the river (west side of the river), passing the Pontet campground. Turn right on Le Pontet and then left on Route de Notre Dame de la Gorge.
Gorge Gondola + Le Signal Gondola
Purchase a one-way ticket to the Le Signal mountain station.
To get to Le Signal, you’ll ascend with the Gorge gondola (Télécabine de la Gorge) first and then the Le Signal gondola second.
Valley Station Address | 2730 Rte de Notre Dame de la Gorge, 74170 Les Contamines-Montjoie, France | Google Maps
Ticket Prices | 9 EUR one-way
Operating Times | Early July – Early September
- La Gorge: 8:45 am to 17:30 pm
- Le Signal: 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and 13:45 pm to 17:00 pm
More Info | Les Contamines Summer Mountain Lifts
Le Signal to Chalets des Prés (1:10 hours)
From the Le Signal mountain station, follow the wide track to the trail junction. Bear left and pass the darling Le Réché mountain hut restaurant.
At the trail junction numbered 19, turn right to Refuge des Prés (1:30 hours). Always follow signs to Refuge des Prés and Les Prés.
The wide track traverses rolling meadows and then turns into a proper mountain trail.
This high trail cuts across a boulder slope and leads to the Les Rosières des Prés (1790 meters) trail junction.
Continue straight, again following signs to Refuge des Prés and Les Prés. The path ascends to a hilltop meadow with sweeping mountain views.
Hike down the hill and follow the grassy path and the boardwalk to Chalets des Prés (1800 meters), a cluster of private chalets.
Chalets des Prés to Refuge des Prés (30 minutes)
At the Chalets des Prés trail junction (#20), continue straight towards Refuge des Prés and Alpage des Prés.
The wide grassy track passes through a line of spruce to another extensive pasture area, with swell views of Aiguilles de la Pennaz. Cowbells ring in the near distance.
It’s an easy jaunt to the managed Refuge des Prés.
Refuge des Prés to Col du Bonhomme (45 minutes)
The track continues across the Prés mountain pasture, always progressing towards Aiguilles de la Pennaz.
Soon, you’ll see the main TMB valley route.
At the Carrefour de la Cantine (1910 meters) trail junction, we continued straight, following the sign to “Col du Bonhomme par raccourci,” which means Col du Bonhomme by shortcut. There’s a cautionary “chutes de pierres” (falling rocks) sign.
Looking down the valley, you can see Refuge de la Balme. If you want to visit Refuge de la Balme, you can take the descending path to the valley (25 minutes) from the Carrefour de la Cantine trail intersection.
The shortcut trail traverses the rocky slopes of Aiguilles de la Pennaz and rejoins the TMB.
The Tour du Mont Blanc track ascends the upper reaches of Val Montjoie.
Ignore the trails leading left to Lacs Jovet. Further up, cross the stream over a footbridge.
Off to the right, there’s an enclosure of sheep with several cream-colored Patou guard dogs. If you get too close, the dogs will bark. They are trained to protect their flocks from predators.
The path narrows and ascends steeply to Plan des Dames, a meadow marked with a giant stack of rocks.
Nearby, you may witness a shepherd herding his sheep with the help of enthusiastic border collies.
The ascent to the Col du Bonhomme (2329 m) saddle is characterized by several steep and rocky passages.
Col du Bonhomme to Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (55 minutes)
The TMB continues left along the saddle and then wraps around the rocky slopes of Rocher du Bonhomme.
Along the way, there are gratifying views of Vallon de la Gittaz flanked by some interesting mountains.
After navigating some steep slabs of shale, cross the Nant des Lotharets stream and make a sharp right.
Soon the path eases and it’s a gentle and quick ascent to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme.
Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2433 m) is located just below the saddle.
Stay in Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme
Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme is managed by the FFCAM alpine club (Fédération Française des clubs alpins et de montagne). The refuge is situated on the crossroads of the TMB and GR5 hiking trails.
Check-in | Take off your hiking boots and store them in the shoe room. You can check-in at the self-service counter inside the hut. The staff will show you your room right away, provided that you already took off your boots.
Rooms | Dormitory-rooms only. 109 beds available.
Payment | Cash only
Dinner | Dinner is served at 6:30 pm.
The seating is arranged by the hut staff. Locate your name and sit down at your designated table.
Dinner is served family-style in three courses. The first course was a vegetable soup with bread and mountain cheese. The second dish was a delicious pasta casserole with wild mushrooms and various meats. The third dish was dessert.
Breakfast | Breakfast is laid out between 6:30 am and 8 am.
Lunch Packet | If you order a sandwich, you can pick it up at breakfast. The sandwich is a large homemade baguette stuffed with meat and cheese.
Drinking Water | Drinking water is free and readily available inside the hut. There’s a small room with a sink and charging station, just behind the main counter.
Electronic Charging Stations | The charging station is located in the room behind the counter.
Toilets | The outdoor toilets are available to day visitors and overnight guests all day long. Overnight guests are granted access to the indoor toilets, starting at 5 pm.
Showers | In 2022, there were no operating showers due to a shortage in water.
Hut Rules | Pack out all your waste. Do not leave any garbage in the hut.
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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 – 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: