Tour du Mont Blanc camping: A guide to campsites on the route of the TMB

I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc over nine days in July 2015, camping every night, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I was able to stay outdoors rather than the shared dorms of the Refuges. As there is no pre booking I had more flexibility about the distance and route I covered each day, the cost was lower, and it was satisfying to feel totally self-supported. Unexpectedly though, finding the campsites at the end of a long day was one of the most stressful elements of the trip for me.

I used the Cicerone guidebook, which is aimed at walkers staying in Refuges on the route, but I found that it didn’t provide adequate information for me. Some campsites were a little off the standard route of the TMB, meaning that I had to walk further at the end of the day on a route not described in the guide. In some cases it was necessary to extend the day described in the book to reach the next place to camp. These are not real problems, but I would recommend a little extra planning to supplement the guide.

Here is the information I wish I’d had for the route I followed (all prices are for one person, one tent, one night):

Chamonix – I started and finished here, so my campsite wasn’t quite en route, but the Tourist Information is in a square at the bottom of the hill below the Brevent/Plan Praz cable car, and they will give information a map for all Chamonix’s campsites. I stayed at the Ile des Barratts, which was one of the most expensive at €16.50 a night, but had an amazing view, lovely pitches, and top quality facilities. I would recommend it if you are not on a budget.

Ile des Barrats camping, Chamonix

Ile des Barrats camping, Chamonix

Les Houches – Enter Les Houches, go uphill from the railway station and turn right. Tourist Information is on the left, keep going along this main road until you get to the Bellevue Telipherique. Camping Bellevue is opposite the bottom of the Belle Vue ski lift, follow a small road downhill and it’s on the left. Choose your spot in a flat open field (no shade), there are basic facilities – showers, sinks, and power points to charge your phone. There are bars, restaurants, and shops nearby. It’s good value at €7.50 a night.

Camping Bellevue, Les Houches

Camping Bellevue, Les Houches

Les Contamines – Be aware that Camping le Pontet is a further 40 minutes walk from the centre of Les Contamines. There is a short steep hill from the main trail that leads up into the town, Tourist Information is on the left side of the car park at the top of the hill and there are restaurants and shops here. To get to the camping, follow the main trail along the river until you reach a theme park with a swimming lake and playgrounds with climbing for children on your right. Turn right and walk through the theme park, you can see the campsite as you cross the river. It has a bar, restaurant, cafe, and good toilet/shower, washing facilities, with points to charge your phone. It costs around €10.50.

Welcome sustenance and the Cicerone guide at Camping le Pontet, Les Contamines

Welcome sustenance and the Cicerone guide at Camping le Pontet, Les Contamines

Refuge de la Balme – About 2 hours walk from Les Contamines there is a designated camping spot just below Refuge de la Balme with a public toilet and water supply 100m away. It’s in a beautiful quiet spot in the valley, I would have loved to camp here but it was way too early in the day for me to stop.

Les Chapieux – You can’t miss the camping here, as Les Chapieux only has a few buildings (the biggest is the Auberge de la Nova), and the trail descends steeply straight to it. There is a tiny Tourist Information office in the other half of a public toilet block, camping is in the meadows behind it. I didn’t enjoy this spot as it was full of RVs, quite busy, and had no shade, but on the other hand it was free. There is a restaurant in the Auberge but no shop for food, I cooked my own. There is a tiny shop that sells strong smelling goats cheese, honey products, and exceptionally fizzy local beer which I can recommend as a treat at the end of a long day!

Camping for free in the wildflower meadow, Les Chapieux

Camping for free in the wildflower meadow, Les Chapieux

Rifugio Elisabetta – There is a designated camping spot below the Rifugio, it’s a beautiful location beneath a glacier which has waterfalls running off to the valley below. It was too early in my day to stay, but I did eat there and the Italian food was amazing.

2016 update – I have received a lot of questions about wild camping at Rifugio Elisabetta. To clarify, wild camping isn’t legal below 2,500m (the Rifugio is at 2,200m), but if you did choose to wild camp there are suitable places close to the Rifugio. For more see my post on Fastpacking the TMB.

Val Veny/Rifugio Monte Bianco (Courmayeur) – There are no campsites as far as I am aware in Courmayeur, I stayed at Camping la Sorgente which is beneath Rifugio Monte Bianco (it is 1 hour’s walk from here to Cormayeur). I loved this campsite, my pitch included a hammock! It has fantastic facilities, including good showers (they cost €2 extra), toilets and sinks, points to charge your phone, a bar and takeaway restaurant with great food. You can order pastries for the morning and the bar serves proper Italian coffee. Camping costs €12.00. There are two more campsites in close proximity to this one, well signposted as you descend from the Rifugio, although I didn’t visit them.

Val Veny – La Peule – There are no designated camping spots as far as I am aware between Val Veny and La Peule which is equivalent to a 10 hour walking day. You have three options: stay in a Rifugio rather than camp, take a local bus for a short way to reduce the walking to a manageable distance, or wild camp.

Wild camping – Is not generally encouraged, but it’s understood that people do discreetly wild camp along the route, setting up camp at dusk and moving on at dawn. Ask at the Refuges, they will explain the local rules, and don’t camp within sight of them unless they indicate that it is permitted, or they may be fined as well as you for illegal wild camping. It goes without saying, leave no trace.

La Peule – This is a small dairy farm in a remote location just after you leave Italy for Switzerland. Although you can’t camp at La Peule, they have a couple of yurts and hikers can sleep in them on hay bales for around 5CHF.

La Fouly – Camping des Glaciers is a large family campsite in an ideal location on the route of the TMB with a great view of the mountains above. The restaurants, shops and cash machine in the  centre of La Fouly are five minutes walk away. There is a designated field for TMB campers, including a building to cook and shelter in if it rains. Maybe it rains a lot because there was a huge storm on the evening I stayed – it was the only rain of my trip. It costs 8CHF, and the facilities are good, including showers, sinks, and a small shop where you can order pastries for the morning. When you leave, follow the track through the field you are camping in into the woods and you are on the TMB trail.

Best view in the house of an electrical storm at Camping des Glaciers, La Fouly

Best view in the house of an electrical storm at Camping des Glaciers, La Fouly

Champex-Lac – There is a supermarket on your left after the lake in Champex-Lac and I would advise stocking up here as this is the last one for a couple of days. The camping is on your right as you walk up the hill and start to leave town. However, if you plan to walk the Fenetre d’ Arpette route I would very much recommend going on to the next camping spot at Relais d’ Arpette.

Relais d’ Arpette – This is a beautiful location where you can camp outside the refuge and have use of their facilities including modern showers and toilets. The refuge sells food, and I bought a packed lunch which was ready for me in the morning as I left (€10.50/CHF). The directions to the Relais d’ Arpete are not very clear – as you leave Champex-Lac and the camping is on your right, carry on 50m or so up the road, then turn off left where you will come to a ski lift. Turn right under the ski lift to follow a Bisse (drainage channel). Although it isn’t well signposted, stick with the path by the Bisse all the way, it will eventually rise steeply until you reach a small road where you turn left to the refuge. Camping is €13.50/CHF.

Camping at Relais d' Arpette

Camping at Relais d’ Arpette

Col de la Forclaz – There are two options for camping here, and the first is on terraces behind the Hotel du Col de la Forclaz. It has a great view up to glaciers above, and good facilities including a small toilet and shower. Camp on the lower terrace to catch the sun earlier in the morning. On the downside, the restaurant in the hotel is very expensive (26-40CHF for a small main course), and the shop opposite sells an array Swiss chocolate, but no useful supplies. Camping costs €13.50/CHF.

Swiss camping on the terrace at Hotel du Col de la Forclaz

Swiss camping on the terrace at Hotel du Col de la Forclaz

Le Peuty – This camping is 30 minutes walk down hill from the hotel, and is easy to find as it is well signposted and located next to a small road which is part of the TMB route. It is a designated camping area in a small field with a public toilet and shelter to sit/cook in, and costs around €5/CHF.

Argentiere (Tre-le-Champ) – At this point I detoured slightly because I wanted to visit Argentiere, so there may be camping closer to the TMB route at or just after Tre-le-Champ. I stayed at Camping du Glacier, and it was a fantastic vibrant campsite full of climbers and mountaineers. The facilities are good, with plenty of hot showers, toilets, points to charge your phone, and a bar and restaurant. I arrived on barbecue night which offered good value fresh food with veggie options. The onsite shop sells pastries which you can order in the evening and collect from 6:30am. The only downside was that the field was quite sloping so there were no flat pitches. It was really good value at €8.50 and I plan to stay there again.

A great campsite although not a great photo, Camping du Glacier, Argentiere

A great campsite although not a great photo, Camping du Glacier, Argentiere

I finished the next day in Chamonix, and returned for a few more nights to Ile des Barrats. In total my accommodation cost €106 for ten nights.

If you plan to camp along the TMB, I hope you find this useful. Since I published this blog post I’m often contacted by people preparing to hike the TMB, so I have added a blog post summarising your questions.

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47 thoughts on “Tour du Mont Blanc camping: A guide to campsites on the route of the TMB

  1. deb

    Hi Anna, your blog inspired me to plan the trip to the TMB in late July! I was lucky enough to secure a room with 4 bunkbeds at Elizabatta and one at Ref Bonatti in the dorms, I’ve read so much about both, those are the only 2 refuges I plan to stay in. Concerning Courmayeur, I have booked (refundable) a hotel for now, thinking it is a city to explore, but it is very expensive. Is it worth it to visit and to spend a night here or should I go back up the trail after visiting town and camp there? Also Bellevue campsite lists 20 spaces…can you just show up and get a spot? I also have a (refundable) room booked at Les houches at the start of the trip just to be closer but would rather camp if able. Thanks to all who are giving such great tips! I will be going to the Jungfrau after the TMB to be doing hiking there and it looks very difficult to be able to camp up on the trails around the area, doing a multi day hike sort of loop from Schynige Platte to grosse scheidegg and past kleine scheidegg to above murren (rotstock hut) and down to lauterbrunnen. Any ideas about camping up here? (I know it is off the topic, sorry)

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    1. Anna Paxton Post author

      Hi Deb,

      That’s fantastic, I’m so pleased you’ve been inspired to plan the trip! I’m also very envious that you’re staying at Rifugio Bonatti, I’ve been told that you have to try their hot chocolate 🙂

      If budget is no issue I would stay in Courmayeur, if you are passing through it would be great to see as much as possible rather than have to leave to find a place to camp.

      I didn’t have any problem camping at Bellevue, it was an open field with plenty of space. If it was me I would camp, especially at the start of the trip when you won’t be desperate for a bit of luxury.

      I’m afraid I don’t know anything about the Jungfrau, but would be keen to hear about it as I’m always looking for new places to go.

      Thanks for your questions and have a great trip!

      Anna

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    2. Andreas Westphal

      Hi Deb

      here is a map for planning hiking trips in switzerland: https://map.geo.admin.ch/?Y=637742.21&X=166591.11&zoom=5&bgLayer=ch.swisstopo.pixelkarte-grau&layers_opacity=0.7,1&lang=de&topic=bafu&layers=ch.bafu.bundesinventare-jagdbanngebiete,ch.bafu.wrz-wildruhezonen_portal

      The colored areas are “camping forbidden” areas (Hunting Areas). In Interlaken (Camping Alpenblick), Lauterbrunnen (Camping Jungfrau), Grindelwald (Camping Gletscherdorf) for example are some beautiful campsites. Generally wild camping is not allowed in this area.

      Here for your TMB Trip: https://map.wanderland.ch/?lang=de&bgLayer=pk&resolution=20&X=550057&Y=68435&trackId=2584617 incl. possible Camping Spots ;-).

      Regards
      Andreas

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  2. deb

    What does a variation mean? Is there not one trail? Also all the pictures show cars and buildings, it looks like you’re just walking along a road? I am considering this vs another trip to the cascades; this looks crowded and urban.

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    1. Anna Paxton Post author

      Hi Deb

      There is more than one trail. The variations would go over the higher routes or avoid higher routes depending on what you choose. Some of the higher ones are weather dependent.

      The pictures were taken at the official campsites, most of them are accessible by car (unless you decide to wild camp).

      The route itself is mainly in the mountains, it crosses through towns/small villages with sections of road/tracks along the way. This is a big advantage if you want to buy food en route.

      The TMB is a very popular route so it can be crowded at times. I wouldn’t describe it as urban at all though – have a look at this fastpacking post for a few pictures of the trails http://wp.me/p5f31F-Sa

      Hope you have a great trip whichever you choose!

      Anna

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      1. deb

        Thanks, your reply rekindled my interest. If I go I will bring my own gear to wild camp to keep flexibility, although I will probably utilize some lodging there. I have a whole month off so I have plenty of time to mosey. I would be going during the busy time (mid july to august). I am concerned that the huts and such along the way only take cash…is it safe to carry loads of cash, that seems wrong. Also when you reserve a space at a hut or other lodging are you paying upfront? I fear being committed to an itinerary which I may want to change once I get there.

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  3. Rob

    I finished the TMB a few weeks ago and thought I would share where I camped. I used the Jim Manthorpe guide, which had most of the campsites listed.

    Day 0: Arrived in Milan (from NYC), bus to Courmayeur, hotel in Courmayeur

    Day 1: Hiked Courmayeur to La Fouly, camped at Camping de Glaciers

    Day 2: Hiked to Refuge les Grands (variant route), camped outside the refuge. The refuge wardens were incredibly friendly, and the view from my tent was beautiful. There aren’t many level spots to pitch, but not many people were there so it was ok. The refuge is very basic, minimal food options, outhouse toilet, outdoor shower. I highly recommend this variant route though, so beautiful.

    Day 3: Hiked to Refuge La Flagere, camped below the refuge. Worst camping site of my trip. You are at the top of a ski resort basically, next to an artificial pond, rocky ground, and you don’t really feel the nature. Also you needed a reservation to eat dinner there (at least on that night), so I was only able to buy a beer and an apple tart. It was my favorite day of hiking though, saw several marmots and ibex. I highly recommend the Lac Blanc variant route.

    Day 4: Hiked to Les Houches, camped at Bellevue. Very crowded and a bit loud, particularly the young couple shagging in the neighboring tent 🙂

    Day 5: Hiked about 1 1/2 hours past Les Contamines, camped at La Rollaz. There was a sign for an Aire de Bivouac, and it was getting late so I stopped. It has a toilet and that’s about it, but the view is beautiful. There were 5 other tents there. This is about 40 minutes before Chalet La Balme.

    Day 6: Hiked about 1 hour past Refugio Elizabetta. I ate dinner at the Refugio and asked them about camping. They made an uncomfortable face and said it’s not legal at this altitude, but people do it. I asked if it was ok though if I was near the Refugio, and they said “not too close”. I did notice one tent camped below by the ruins, but I decided to continue on for an hour and wild camp at a lovely spot just off the trail.

    Day 7: Hiked into Courmayeur, bus to Milan, train to the beach!

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  4. Jenn

    Hi Anna, My friend and I are on day 7 of the TMB and your site had been an invaluable resource! Thank you so much. We are wondering how you got from Argentires to Chamonix? Again, thanks so much for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Anna Paxton Post author

      Hello Jenn, are you en route?! From Argentiere you can walk back to Tre le Champ and rejoin the TMB, or you can take a trail straight up from the centre of Argentiere which will join back to the TMB too. Enjoy the rest of the trip!

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  5. Ioana

    Hello!

    Thank you for your article! It is so useful for anyone who wants to camp during Tour du Mont Blanc! 🙂

    About electricity at tent, can you please tell me if we need a cable or if we simply have spots for our phones and camera? I ask because I used to stay at campings in Europe a few years ago and there was a electricity pole for 4-5 tents and we had to use our own cable in order to have electricity at our tent.

    But during this tour we only want to charge our phones and camera so we don’t want to bring a cable in our backpack, but we want to be sure that we can charge these 3 at the camping.

    Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Anna Paxton Post author

      Hi, thanks I’m glad you’ve found it useful!

      You will be able to charge everything at the campsite, there are plug sockets in the shower/toilet blocks. It does mean you have to leave your items in there to charge. I use a portable battery which can recharge a phone 2-3 times. They don’t cost much, and no one has ever taken it or moved it when I’ve left it for a few hours.

      Hope this helps!

      Anna

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  6. Juha Ranta

    Hi, I did TMB this year 2016. Concerning “Rifugio Elisabetta – There is a designated camping spot below the Rifugio”. The home page of Elisabetta now says that camping is not allowed at this altitude, and when I asked about camping at phone to Elisabetta, she told “No! Camping is not allowed above this much meters from sea!”. I also did not see anyone camping around Elisabetta. So at least don’t count on getting a camping place there.

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    1. mhanmore

      We had the opposite experience at Elisabette last week (July ’16) – the manager said ‘the law says you cannot camp, but i do not see you’. No hot showers for campers but they let you use the other facilities. The refuge was full that night and a number of people opted to camp rather than sleep in their allocated cot as it was so packed.

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  9. Sophie

    Hi Anna,

    Thanks for this, I’m planning on camping in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be hiking and camping as a youngish solo female, do you feel completely safe?

    Thanks,

    Sophie

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. alpsoutdoors Post author

      Hi Sophie

      Good question, I get asked this quite often.

      Personally I did feel completely safe the whole time. The hiking is never too exposed or dangerous, and all the people I met were very friendly. Although I did spend plenty of time alone, there were enough people around that there was always someone to talk to if I needed help.

      I didn’t meet too many other solo female hikers so it was great to stop and chat to them when I did!

      I hope this helps, have an amazing trip 🙂

      Anna

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    1. alpsoutdoors Post author

      Hi Rob, I did use a map – Carte de Randonnees hiking map Pays du Mont-Blanc. The TMB is well signposted, but I would recommend having the guide book and the map too.

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  10. Alice Fennell

    Hi,
    Super read, so helpful for our upcoming trip we’re planning to camp too.
    Did you have to book the campsites in advance or can you just show up ?
    Would there be a case where it would be too full ? We’re going at the end of June.

    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. alpsoutdoors Post author

      Hi Alice, thanks, I’m glad it was helpful!

      It’s not possible to book the campsites in advance, but they are used to hikers arriving and staying for one night. Some of them had separate areas especially for TMB campers with plenty of space.

      I can’t promise that they never fill up, but I didn’t have any problems with the campsites being too full in the first week of July.

      Have a fantastic trip!

      Anna

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    1. alpsoutdoors Post author

      Hi Tom, another great question, thanks! Last year I used the Rab Ascent 900 sleeping bag. It’s really thick and very comfortable, but it’s quite large and weighs 1.7kg. You don’t need anything that warm for the TMB in the summer.

      Since then I’ve bought a Rab Neutrino 400 sleeping bag which I’ve used for fastpacking. I think it’s one of the best available for a balance of technical spec and price. It comes with a drybag, weighs around 900g when packed, and packs down to 18 x 27cm, so I would really recommend it.

      Hope this helps and have a great trip.

      Anna

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    1. alpsoutdoors Post author

      Hi Isabel, thanks, I’m glad you found it useful! Yes you can eat at the huts even if you aren’t staying in them. The food in Rifugio Elisabetta was really good, and Val Veny is so beautiful 🙂

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  11. Andreas

    Looking for information on the TMB, found your homepage and i am very impressed about your “camping guide”. Very helpful and useful. Thank you very much … I try to walk the TMB in September, unfortunately i`ve got only 6 days to walk! Friendly regards, Andreas from Zurich, Switzerland

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  12. Heidi Nicole

    Oooh, I needed this three weeks ago! I bailed off the TMB after 3 days because I was so tired of staying in the hostels and such. I didn’t want to just hike from city to city [instead, I added in a lot of trips up to SAC huts for the night, definitely worth ditching the TMB!]. I’m saving this for later!

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  13. alpsoutdoors Post author

    Hi, thanks I’m glad you liked the post 🙂 I hope other walkers will find it useful.

    My tent is a Terra Nova Laser Competition 1, it’s quite small and only weighs about 900g!

    What a shame you got bad weather, that would really make it a lot harder to enjoy the walking. This year there was a heat wave, unusually hot for the time of year. It was above 30 degrees (86 farenheit) every day so I carried 3 litres of water at first, and drank it all.

    I haven’t planned my next trip yet so I’ll have a look at the Haute route.

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  14. nian

    Great post. Is the tent Terra nova or Hillberg? We (me and partner) probably used the same tent as yours on our 2013 TMB. Amazing sceneries.We also did walker’s Haute route last year but suffered from terrible weather big time. It’s the coldest summer in many many years in Switzerland Alps. Had may be two sunny days and all others were snow and rain (yes snow). How was the weather this year on Alps?

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  16. Drew

    Great write up! I did this last year staying in huts and hotels, I would love to return to do this camping. I’d also love to try the Haute route with the same approach. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

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