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Fitness
Hiking trail

Les Houches to Les Contamines via Bionnassay

· 6 reviews · Hiking trail · Rhône-Alpes
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    Photo: David Leta, Community
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Your epic Tour du Mont Blanc adventure is finally underway! Follow the traditional TMB trail along this lower route, which takes you to Les Contamines via Bionnassay. 
moderate
11.6 km
3:56 h
288 m
1038 m

The alpine village of Les Houches is cradled in a valley at the foot of what appears to be an endless and impenetrable wall of rock and ice. This is the mighty Mont Blanc massif with some 400 peaks, 40 glaciers and some of Europe’s most dramatic mountain scenery – and you’re about to walk a lap of it all.

Kickstart your adventure from Les Houches with the aptly-named Bellevue (beautiful view) gondola ride into the mountains. Only the most purist of hikers will opt to climb this comparatively dull section on gravel roads through woodland, which would transform the first day into a gruelling 18km stretch with nearly 1,500 metres of climbing and descent.

From the top of the gondola, the path plunges into valleys and climbs up to various cols (a low-point between two mountains), which provide unique and spectacular views. 

This is the lower route option, it is only slightly less demanding but has less exposed trails and we would recommend embarking on this trail during poor weather.

 

Author’s recommendation

This is your first day on the trail, take it easy and don't over-exert yourself. We highly recommend taking the Bellevue telepherique, this reduces the climb out of Les Houches by 800m.
Profile picture of Neil Lapping
Author
Neil Lapping
Updated: February 18, 2020

Difficulty
moderate
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
1802 m
Lowest point
1012 m

Rest Stop

Refuge du Fioux
Auberge de Bionnassay

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 2,000 metres so bear in mind you may feel a shortness of breath and additional muscle fatigue associated with the altitude.

You must cross over the Mont Blanc tramway; be sure to double-check both directions before crossing.

Tips, hints and links

Points of Interest

Col de Voza

A col with splendid views back down into the Vallee de L'Arve, flanked by a row of Aiguilles. Here you will also find a large hotel, the Tramway du Mont Blanc and some small bar and restaurant stands. 

Transport

Kickstart your adventure from Les Houches with the aptly-named Bellevue (beautiful view) gondola ride into the mountains. Check their website for the most up to date time table and costs - https://www.chamonix.com/bellevue-cablecar,231,en.html   

Food and Drink

You will pass the APAS Cafe and Restaurant on the Col de Voza, shortly followed by the Refuge du Fioux, Bioannassay and La Gruvaz. All provide an opportunity to enjoy food or drink in a spectacular setting.

Start

Les Houches (1801 m)
Coordinates:
DD
45.873767, 6.779710
DMS
45°52'25.6"N 6°46'47.0"E
UTM
32T 327688 5082419
w3w 
///cobweb.treadmill.datable

Destination

Les Contamines

Turn-by-turn directions

When you emerge from the Bellevue Gondola (more information here: https://www.chamonix.com/telepherique-de-bellevue,29-179584,en.html ), take a moment to appreciate the view into the Chamonix Valley behind you, before walking past the café on your left. Follow the path signposted to Col de Tricot and Chalets de Miage which will pass under a ski-lift and over the Mont Blanc tramway. At 300 metres, after a section of woodland, you will emerge onto a gravel road which is where you must choose between turning left for the high route via Chalets de Miage, or right for the low route via Bionnassay.

Turn right to follow the trail to Bionnassay, this trail will lead you all the way to Col de Voza (1653m) where you can admire splendid views back down the Vallee de L'Arve. From the col, continue to cross the tramline on a dirt road which slowly descends into the woods and on to an open meadow to reach Chalet Refuge du Fioux

Continue down to the car park and onto the paved road, pass the buildings of Le Crozat to your left and the local buvette (french pub) and a cafe to reach the outskirts of Bionnassay. As the road curves sharply to the right, the TMB route breaks off to the left following the Chemin des Tetras

Pass a tiny chapel as you descend into the forest to cross 2 bridges which cross the roaring river of meltwater, the Torrent de Bionnassay. Ascend steeply to reach a dirt road, turn right and walk through the forest until you emerge with a view into the valley, continue on the high trail until you reach Le Champel, which is marked by a couple of old houses and a chapel. Continue following the TMB signs as you slowly descend on a paved road until you reach a hairpin turn. Leave the road, follow the track, taking you to La Villette.

In the village bear left at the water trough to follow a narrow road past farms, chalets and meadows filled with a colourful riot of wildflowers which follows the outskirts of La Gruvaz. You can short cut the road bends via the smaller tracks between the road. When the road ends bear left at the entrance of the Gorges de la Gruvaz and cross the torrent via the bridge, turn immediately right in front of the restaurant to descend on a narrow path through the forest. 

Reach Tresse, a small village and continue descending to the D902, the main road, continue straight to cross it on the Chemin du Quy, across the Bon Nant river and follow the winding, ascending road to the handful of houses that make up  Le Quy. Continue on the paved road as you follow the Bon Nant river to reach Les Contamines. 

The path finishes at the main road beside the church and clocktower. Les Contamines is a long, thin village running through the valley; to get to your hotel which may be slightly to the north or south, there is a pleasant footpath running beside the river which is the best way to get there!

 

Note


all notes on protected areas

Coordinates

DD
45.873767, 6.779710
DMS
45°52'25.6"N 6°46'47.0"E
UTM
32T 327688 5082419
w3w 
///cobweb.treadmill.datable
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Equipment

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.


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Reviews

4.3
(6)
Profile picture
Julie Hicks
August 20, 2018 · Community
Thank you for your comments David. Please keep them coming. Julie
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David Craft
August 19, 2018 · Community
Delightful and about 2 miles shorter taking the gondola.
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Bellevue Telepherique
Photo: David Craft, Community
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Photos from others

Bellevue Telepherique
Refuge du Miage
Suspension Bridge
Hotel Du Bois
+ 5

Reviews
Difficulty
moderate
Distance
11.6 km
Duration
3:56h
Ascent
288 m
Descent
1038 m

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