Tour des Combins: Hut-to-hut trek for afficionados

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Tour des Combins: Hut-to-hut trek for afficionados
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The Tour des Combins is tucked away between the popular routes of the Tour du Mont Blanc, and the Walker's Haute Route. This trek, covering nearly 100 kilometers, takes you mostly through Switzerland but also briefly touches Italy. Wander around the impressive "Massif des Combins" and along vast lakes such as Lac de Mauvoisin and Lac des Toules. Think of it as the Tour du Mont Blanc without the crowds. A hut-to-hut trek for enthusiasts.

Tranquil trails, authentic huts, the Alps at their grandest, and Switzerland and Italy at their best. The Tour des Combins is one of the better-kept hut-to-huts, and though we prefer to keep it that way, we're sharing it with you!

What and Where Is the Tour des Combins?

The Tour des Combins offers a quieter alternative to the popular Tour du Mont Blanc, which typically ranks among the most crowded hikes in the Alps. If you long for a more peaceful experience without compromising on stunning vistas and challenging hikes, then the Tour des Combins might be your choice. This trek begins and ends in Bourg Saint Pierre, a picturesque town near the Swiss-Italian border.

During the Tour des Combins, you'll encircle the impressive Massif des Combins, pass by vast lakes, and traverse open fields between the mountains, with the highest point at Col des Otanes (2,863m / 9,393ft). The journey is divided into 7 stages, but for experienced hikers, there's also an intensive 6-day option available. Although the trails are generally well-maintained, don't underestimate this trek. Almost daily, you'll encounter ascents and descents of up to 1000 meters, and some sections of the route are quite narrow. In the evenings, you'll stay in cozy cabanes (in Switzerland) and rifugios (in Italy), where a warm meal awaits you after a day filled with hiking adventures.

What and Where Is the Tour des Combins?

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Is the Tour Des Combins Suitable for Me?

The Tour des Combins is not an easy trek and in terms of difficulty, it's comparable to the Walker's Haute Route and the Eastern Tour du Mont Blanc. It's advisable to have some prior experience in the Alps before attempting this journey. The hiking paths are generally well-maintained and not overly technical, but the daily ascents and descents of around 1000 meters make the trek challenging and long. Fortunately, these stages offer stunning views around the impressive 'Massif des Combins,' and you'll walk by vast lakes such as Lac de Mauvoisin and Lac des Toules. If you're seeking a hidden and challenging adventure in the Alps, the Tour des Combins might be the best choice you can make.

If you have little experience with hut-to-hut treks and want to see if overnight stays in huts suit you, take a look at our blog about the Kesch Trek in the slightly more easterly region of Graubünden in Switzerland. It's somewhat less strenuous, and with the Kesch Hütte, you'll get to experience one of the most popular huts in the Swiss Alps right away.

Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the Tour des Combins with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

What Is the Best Season for the Tour Des Combins?

The official season for the Tour des Combins runs from mid-June to mid-September, but if you hike it between mid-July and the end of August, you have a better chance of good weather and snow-free mountain passes. This is high season, so be sure to book your accommodations as far in advance as possible. If you decide to walk the Tour des Combins in September, you can still enjoy it, and it will be less crowded on the trail. However, in this case, the days are shorter, the weather is colder, and there is a chance of snow.

July and August are the best months for this trek in Switzerland, but they are also high season, which can lead to more crowded trails. The Alps, though, are unpredictable, and the weather can easily change. While you might enjoy bright sunshine one day, the next day could bring heavy rain.

What Is the Best Season for the Tour Des Combins?

Tour des Combins Map and Navigation

There are plenty of maps and guides available to assist you in undertaking the Tour des Combins or any other trek in the Alps. Below, you'll find a map providing an overview of the route.

Staying in Cabanes and Rifugios During the Tour des Combins

At Bookatrekking.com, we like to do things the right way, and when it comes to accommodation on the Tour des Combins, it means you'll primarily stay in rifugios and cabanes. A rifugio is the Italian name for a hut where mountaineers can enjoy a bed, a meal, and, in most cases, even a freshly tapped glass of blonde beer or a good glass of wine. Cabane is the Swiss name for the same, on the Swiss side of the Tour des Combins. In some cases, mountain huts and cabanes are owned by alpine clubs; in Switzerland, that's the Schweizerische Alpen Club (SAC), and Italy has its own association known as Club Alpino Italiano (CAI), which has been around since 1863. What all these mountain huts have in common is their unusual location: in the most remote places in the Alps, you can check into these small refuges.

The huts along the Tour des Combins offer the option of half-board, which means both breakfast and dinner are included in the price. This has several benefits that make your trek even more enjoyable. After a long and often strenuous day on the trails, there's little that can compare to the satisfaction of arriving at a mountain hut and knowing that a warm, nourishing meal awaits you. It eliminates the need to cook for yourself or carry food, giving you more time to relax and savor the mountain atmosphere.

Additionally, there's the practical aspect. Every gram counts when you're covering miles with a backpack on your shoulders. By opting for half-board, you can avoid the weight of your own food, reducing the load on your body and making your trek lighter and more comfortable. This means more energy to enjoy the breathtaking surroundings and challenges of the Tour des Combins. In short, half-board is a smart choice that both your stomach and your back will appreciate during this adventurous journey.

7-day Itinerary in the Combins

Have a look ath the itinerary of this 7-day trek that begins and ends in Bourg Saint Pierre, a picturesque town near the Swiss-Italian border.
Day
1

Day 1: From Bourg-Saint-Pierre to Cabane du Col de Mille

Duration: 04:40 h
Distance: 11.9 km
Ascent: 950 m
Descent: 140 m
Starting from Bourg-Saint-Pierre, you begin your trek by almost immediately venturing into the mountains and embarking on your first stage. You steadily climb up to your first accommodation, Cabane du Col de Mille, situated at an elevation of 2472 meters. On this very first day, your legs face a substantial challenge, as you'll be overcoming an elevation gain of a remarkable 1000 meters almost right away. This rapid gain in altitude helps you quickly settle into the rhythm of the journey and allows your body to adapt to the efforts that lie ahead.

Cabane du Col de Mille

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Cabane du Col de Mille
Day
2

Day 2: From Mille to Cabane FXB à Panossière

Duration: 05:50 h
Distance: 14.6 km
Ascent: 800 m
Descent: 620 m
After your first night's stay, stage 2 is on the agenda. You'll start almost directly at the foot of the Col de Mille and head east towards Cabane Brunet. Here, you can take a short break for a snack and a drink. Then, you continue your journey towards Cabane Panossière, where you have the option to take a detour via the impressive Col des Avouillons before reaching your accommodation for the evening.

Cabane FXB à Panossière

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Cabane FXB à Panossière
Day
3

Day 3: From Cabane FXB à Panossière to Mauvoisin

Duration: 03:20 h
Distance: 6.8 km
Ascent: 240 m
Descent: 1020 m
Stage 3 brings a shorter stage that leads you to the picturesque village of Mauvoisin. Nevertheless, this stage includes a significant descent. Your route takes you over the Col des Otanes, the highest point of the entire journey, and ultimately, you reach Mauvoisin, nestled at the foot of the impressive Lac de Mauvoisin.

Hôtel de Mauvoisin

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Hôtel de Mauvoisin
Day
4

Day 4: From Mauvoisin to Cabane de Chanrion

Duration: 04:20 h
Distance: 10.3 km
Ascent: 780 m
Descent: 170 m
Today, your path mainly follows the shores of Lac de Mauvoisin, a picturesque lake with an extensive length of about 5 kilometers. This lake is not only a visual gem that's perfect for stunning photos, but it also houses one of the highest arch dams in all of Europe. After a hike of more than 10 kilometers, you reach your last Swiss mountain hut of the journey, where you can enjoy a well-deserved rest.

Cabane de Chanrion

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Cabane de Chanrion
Day
5

Day 5: Cabane de Chanrion - Rifugio Letey-Champillon

Duration: 09:15 h
Distance: 22.4 km
Ascent: 1100 m
Descent: 1140 m
Stage 5 is the longest and most demanding stage of the Tour des Combins, so it's highly recommended to start this challenge early in the morning. Your route takes you to the Fenêtre de Durand pass, a tough climb that will put you to the test. This pass forms a natural connection between Switzerland and Italy, and after overcoming this challenge, you'll have completed most of the altitude gain. You continue your journey on the Italian side, where the enchanting Aosta Valley awaits, ready to be explored. This stage promises to be an unforgettable experience, with breathtaking views and the satisfaction of conquering the Fenêtre de Durand pass.

Rifugio Letey-Champillon

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Rifugio Letey-Champillon
Day
6

Day 6: Rifugio Letey-Champillon to Saint-Rhémy

Duration: 06:00 h
Distance: 15 km
Ascent: 470 m
Descent: 1290 m
After a delicious breakfast at the Italian mountain hut, you can continue your journey. If the weather conditions are favorable and the sky is clear, today, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the majestic Mont Blanc! Since this is almost the last day of your hiking adventure, you gradually re-enter civilization. But don't worry, today you can still enjoy the tranquility as you walk through the valley, slowly approaching the picturesque village of Saint-Rhémy. The perfect conclusion to an unforgettable journey.

Pension Maison Farinet (Saint-Rhémy)

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Pension Maison Farinet (Saint-Rhémy)
Day
7

Day 7: From Saint-Rhémy to Bourg-Saint-Pierre

Duration: 06:40 h
Distance: 18.2 km
Ascent: 950 m
Descent: 920 m
Today, the last stage of your journey is on the agenda as you return to Switzerland, and it promises to be a challenging hike. With a distance of nearly 20 kilometers and an elevation gain of almost 1000 meters – both ascent and descent – you're in for a long but absolutely stunning journey. About 6 kilometers into your day, you'll come across the picturesque Lac du Grand Saint Bernard, a lake that divides the border between Italy and Switzerland. Just before your endpoint, you have one last treat in the form of the beautiful Lac des Toules, a Swiss lake that offers you the opportunity to take a few final photos before concluding your hiking adventure. With these stunning lakes as a backdrop, you can fully enjoy the last kilometers of your journey and cherish the memories of the Tour des Combins.
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Did you know that we can book all huts and refuges for the Tour des Combins for you? Check out all our options here.

Packing List for the Tour des Combins

It doesn't matter where you are going trekking or for how long: Carrying the right equipment with you is paramount. For a hiking trip in the mountains, you will need, first and foremost, a good backpack. Its size will depend on how many days you will be spending in the mountains, the season, and the clothes you will be taking with you. We have prepared a packing list with some essential clothing that you should include and some extras that you may find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

How Do I Get to the Starting and Ending Points?

The starting point of the Tour des Combins is in Bourg Saint Pierre, a small town near the border between Switzerland and Italy. The beauty of this trek is that it forms a loop, bringing you back to Bourg Saint Pierre.

By Car:

You can, of course, drive to Switzerland, passing through Germany. It's best to head towards the town of Bern in Switzerland and then make your way to the town of Martigny. For the final stretch, exit the highway at Martigny and follow the signs towards Grand-Saint-Bernard to reach Bourg-St Pierre.

By Plane:

The nearest airport is Geneva Airport. From here, it's 166 kilometers to the starting point of the trek. Traveling to Bourg Saint Pierre by public transport takes approximately 3-4 hours with a few transfers, and offers beautiful views. You could consider hiring a car, which is easy to organize and relatively cheap.

Public Transport:

The best way to reach Bourg Saint Pierre using public transport is to take the train to Geneva (via France) or Bern (via Germany). From there, you can take the train to Orsières and then a bus to Bourg-St Pierre.

At Bookatrekking.com, we not only book your huts, we also send you on your way with a comprehensive hiking guide with the most important information for your Tour des Combins, including interactive Komoot maps. Browse all our options here and turn your dreams into reality.

What to Do in Case of an Emergency?

There is an emergency situation when a human life (yours or someone else's) is in danger and you cannot do anything to solve the situation. You should call for help if there has been an accident, someone is stuck, you are lost or in trouble and cannot continue due to the time of day or weather conditions, or if you are stuck due to technical climbing challenges beyond your capabilities.

The most important thing to do in an emergency situation is to remain calm and assess the situation. Do not panic and do not take pointless risks if the people in need are difficult to reach. In case of emergency, first and foremost, call for help. When calling for help, make sure to provide your location and the number of victims and type of injuries. Then, protect the victim from cold and other environmental threats and provide first aid, if you are capable.

Useful emergency phone numbers

144 (General) / 1414 (Mountain Rescue)

Safe hiking tips for the Tour des Combins

When you go on walking holidays it is wise to be aware of a few points. Even if this is not your first time, you should never underestimate the mountains. Good tour planning and compliance with the regulations on the mountains will significantly increase safety. To ensure that your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, here below you can find a list of 8 recommendations for safe hiking in the mountains:
  • Know your limits

    Hiking the Tour des Combins is the perfect outlet to escape from daily life. It is an endurance sport along with a beautiful nature experience with a positive effect on body and mind —as long as one is in good shape and has a realistic picture of one's possibilities and limits—. Never overestimate yourself or underestimate the route. Don't overdo it! Always choose the slower variant and take more time for your plans. Hiking under time pressure is not fun and at too fast a pace it can be dangerous. Be wise!

  • Plan carefully

    Good planning is half the work! Hiking maps, literature, the Internet and expert advice are invaluable when planning the route in the Tour des Combins and enable you to determine the length, altitude difference, difficulty and conditions of the hike. When planning group treks, the itinerary should always be planned for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. For this reason, always check the weather forecast beforehand and contact our trekking experts to find your way around before you start.

  • Be fully equipped

    Equipment is everything. In the most extreme case, it makes the difference between life and death, and in any case, it definitely makes the difference between having fun and having a bad time. Food and water, sunscreen and waterproof and warm clothes must always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone with a full battery (in case there is an emergency). However, packing light makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra luggage with you. Your equipment should always be suitable for the terrain you'll be hiking on in the Tour des Combins.

  • Wear suitable footwear

    Good walking shoes protect your feet and provide a better fit. Shoes with a good fit, with non-slip soles, water-resistant and lightweight are a must for additional walking pleasure during the Tour des Combins. Trail running shoes are great for a weekend in the mountains, but on longer hikes or more technical trails, you'll want at least A/B hiking boots. That means it is recommended wearing high mountain shoes that are water-repellent with extra ankle support to prevent sprains.

  • Stay on marked trails

    Tour des Combins has endless marked hiking trails, which are controlled and maintained and should not be deviated from. It may be tempting, but it's not a good idea to take shortcuts or alternative routes through unmarked terrain. It increases the risk of disorientation and you're more likely to get lost and have accidents or fall in the mountains. Even steep slopes of packed old snow are often underestimated and dangerous. Are you in doubt? Better don't do it. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you. FYI, 75% of stumbles occur due to carelessness on marked paths or roads, not in open terrain!

  • Take regular breaks

    Remember you're on a hiking holiday. Timely and regular breaks not only provide welcome relaxation but also make it possible to enjoy the Tour des Combins. The body needs a regular food and drink intake to maintain performance and concentration. Our advice is that if you have little time, it's better to follow the short itinerary than to speed up the long one.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Tour des Combins.

  • Respect nature

    Leave no rubbish behind, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

How much does the Tour des Combins cost?

A hut-to-hut trek doesn't have to be expensive. Huts are typically simple but provide everything you need to recharge your mental and physical batteries for the next day(s) of hiking. For a 7 or 6-day trek on the Tour des Combins, you can expect to spend approximately 80 EUR/CHF per hiking day. This includes route information, navigation assistance, your accommodation in a mountain hut, and half-board or breakfast where available.

For hut-to-hut treks in general, it's advisable to carry 40 to 60 EUR/CHF in pocket money, which covers lunch and beverages. Keep in mind that you'll mostly stay in Swiss huts, so they naturally use Swiss Francs as their currency.

How much does the Tour des Combins cost?

Where Can I Book the Tour des Combins?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided Tour des Combins and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the Tour des Combins not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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