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Les Contamines to Les Chapieux via Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (no Col des Fours)

· 4 reviews · Hiking route · Rhône-Alpes
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  • Photo: Minna Harshbarger, Macs Adventure
m 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 km Refuge de la Balme Col du Fours Col du Bonhomme Refuge de Mottets Notre Dame de la Gorge Information Center

A gentle start from Les Contamines to the chapel at Notre Dame de la Gorge, where the path turns upwards and climbs to the  Col du Bonhomme  before descending to Les Chapieux, avioding Col des Fours. 

Distance 18.7 km
6:59 h
1,395 m
993 m
2,486 m
1,151 m

Leaving Les Contamines the path turns upwards and climbs steadily on the Chemin Roman through the Contamines Montjoie Nature Reserve towards the distant Col du Bonhomme. A steady climb reveals increasingly rugged views of the high peaks and you quickly reach the rugged landscapes of the Col du Bonhomme (2329 m).

A further hour on rough and rocky ground brings up the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. This route has you staying in Les Chapieux, and you descend past the spectacularly located Refuge Col de la Croix du Bonhomme all the way to the valley below. If you are staying at Refuge des Mottets, you will need to walk up the road from Les Chapieux for 5km, or take a shuttle bus (season dependent- please see transport info below)

Author’s recommendation

Please check where you are staying tonight as this route is leading you to Refuge la Nova and walking to Mottets will require a 5km ascent from Les Chapieux at the end of your walking day. 

Profile picture of Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith
Update: August 23, 2022
Highest point
2,486 m
Lowest point
1,151 m

Track types

Show elevation profile

Rest stops

Refuge de la Nova

Safety information

There are several river crossings. There are always stepping-stones available but these may be slippery, and especially when wet. Take extra caution on these crossings.

Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.

There are some exposed edges; be sure to read instructions carefully, stick to the main path, and don’t wander close to the edge. Use handrails where provided.

In early spring/summer there may still be patches of snow. Walk around where it is possible, and otherwise place your feet carefully and use walking poles if you have them.

This route is above 2,500 metres so bear in mind you may feel a shortness of breath and additional muscle fatigue associated with the altitude.

Tips and hints

 Points of Interest


Notre Dame de la Gorge

Since 1699 this small chapel with an ornately painted façade has marked the end of the road and the start of the mountain trails. Over the years many travellers have entered to pray for safe passage over the Col du Bonhomme. Why not pop in yourself; who knows what fortune it may bring?


 For bad weather transport options, please see our guide (in the "Docs" section of your Macs app, and in "My Documents" in your Macs account online)

Optional Shuttle Bus from Les Contamines to Notre Dame de la Gorge. 

A free shuttle operates between The Office de Tourisme in Les Contamines and Notre Dame de la Gorge, with several stops between including Le Lay. The summer shuttle operates approximately between the end of June and the beginning of September. In the morning, it runs about every 45 mins to 1 hour from about 09:00. Timetables are usually published just before the Summer season, check the following link for a pdf titled ‘Horaires Navette été’ or ask at your hotel.

This shuttle cuts 5 km and about 1 hour of walking from the day.


Optional Shuttle Bus from Les Chapieux to Mottets

If you are staying at Refuge des Mottets and prefer not to go over the Col des Fours then you should take the shuttle from les Chapieux to Mottets.

The shuttle from Les Chapieux to Mottets operates from approx. beginning of July to the end of August. Specific timetables are not available until the start of the Summer season & it costs 3.50 Euros. Please note that the last bus of the day departs at 1625. For more information, please visit the following website closer to the time of departure: 

In June/September, when the shuttle is not operating, you should plan on walking. Alternatively, Taxi Besson is now offering a shuttle service between Les Chapieux and Les Mottets by reservation. Call them the night before or ask your accommodation to do this. Places are limited and payment is direct to the driver: Taxi Besson:   Tel : +0033450936207


Food and Drink

Between Les Contamines and Les Chapieux there are few opportunities to buy food or drink, so be sure to bring enough provisions with you, there are a couple of water fountains where you can fill up your water bottle on the first half of your walking day. 

There is a café at Notre Dame de la Gorge after 3.7km. You will also pass Refuge Nant Borrant, Refuge de la Balme and Refuge du Bonhomme, after 5.4, 7.9, and 13.3kilometres, respectively.


Les Contamines (1,156 m)
45.820312, 6.727502
45°49'13.1"N 6°43'39.0"E
32T 323467 5076594


Les Chapieux

Turn-by-turn directions

 Start walking south of Les Contamines on the flat footpath beside the river, following signs to Notre Dame de la Gorge. As you head further upriver the valley begins to constrict around you. After 3.7km you will pass the charming chapel and pilgrimage site of Notre Dame de la Gorge, after which the path begins to climb steeply towards Col du Bonhomme with the sound of the river fading away on your right.

At 5km you cross over the Roman bridge and continue climbing. The striking figure of Aiguilles de la Pennaz soon appears, jutting into the head of the valley and with the Col du Bonhomme visible on its left, still high above you. At 5.4km you will pass Chalet du Nant Borrant, and at 7.9km you will reach Chalet de la Balme. After passing Chalet de le Balme, bear left as the path forks, still following signs to Col du Bonhomme.

At 11.5km the fantastic views from Col du Bonhomme will reward your uphill efforts, however further climbing still awaits to reach Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, as you ignore the downhill path ahead and bear left to walk along the rocky flank of Rocher du Bonhomme; this is the mountain with the distinctive natural rock tower on its peak. Some of this path may be more tricky and require you to use your hands to assist you.

After enjoying the view from Col de la Croix du Bonhomme at 13.3km, the path splits with the traditional Mont Blanc trail continuing downhill towards Les Chapieux, and the high route alternative turning left to head uphill towards a pylon and the sign for Col des Fours. 

Continue downhill toward Les Chapieux, Refuge de la Criox du Bonhomme lies just 50 min(5min) below the south side of the ridge. The path bears left after the refuge to take you across some grassy hills and streams before descending a steep path to the Chalets de Plan Varraro (2006m). Pass these on your left before another steep descent to the Chalet de la Raja (1789m) where you will bear right, crossing a bridge and coming on to a stony track which will take you round the hillside on the left before reaching a junction signposted Refuge La Nova. Follow the trail to Les Chapieux and La Nova. 


all notes on protected areas


45.820312, 6.727502
45°49'13.1"N 6°43'39.0"E
32T 323467 5076594
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


Such is the way of Alpine hiking that you need to be prepared for all seasons and weathers; sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required, as is plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.

Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.

Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.

This walk is isolated with few opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.

Questions and answers

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Sam Fromartz
August 05, 2019 · Community
Now I understand why they recommend doing the shorter hike on day 1. This day 2 is quite long. Once the trail begins, about a half hour from Contamines, you have an uphill to Col du Bonhomme that lasts for about 4.25 hours, some of it steep. The day we did it was quite warm and I felt the effect of the sun until I covered up with a hoody. After crossing the peak you still have a long downhill. We began this day about 8:30 and rolled into Les Chapieux about 5:30, probably our longest day on the TMB. But it was spectacular.
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Photo: Sam Fromartz, Community
Photo: Sam Fromartz, Community
Richard Heifetz
July 13, 2019 · Community
Thanks for your comments, Sandy P. Will definitely note the difficulty of the trail down.
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18.7 km
6:59 h
1,395 m
993 m
Highest point
2,486 m
Lowest point
1,151 m


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