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Route des Grandes Alpes: the most beautiful alpine cycling adventure !

Road biking · Rhône-Alpes
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  • La Route des Grandes Alpes
    / La Route des Grandes Alpes
    Photo: Brice Milbergue, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Le col de la Colombière
    Photo: Brice Milbergue, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Le col des Aravis
    Photo: Brice Milbergue, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Dans la montée du col de l'Iseran
    Photo: Brice Milbergue, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Le lac de Roselend
    Photo: Lionel Terrail, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / La montée du Cormet de Roselend
    Photo: Lionel Terrail, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / L'ouverture du col du Galibier
    Photo: Alain Leboul, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Le sommet du col du Galibier
    Photo: Brice Milbergue, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Le panorama au col d'Izoard
    Photo: Philippe Lemonnier, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Les derniers lacets du col d'Izoard
    Photo: Philippe Lemonnier, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / La montée du col de la Cayolle sous le soleil des Alpes du Sud
    Photo: Lionel Terrail, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Le sommet du col de la Cayolle
    Photo: Lionel Terrail, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Le village de la Bollène Vésubie
    Photo: Brice Milbergue, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Les lacets parfaits du col de Turini
    Photo: Brice Milbergue, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Arrivée à la Méditerranée sur la plage de Menton
    Photo: Lionel Terrail, TILT COM’SEIL
  • / Teaser Route des Grandes Alpes
    Video: Grande Traversée des Alpes
  • / La route des grandes Alpes - Echappées Belles
    Video: Echappées belles
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No need to go to the other side of the world to offer you the most beautiful trips! 700 kilometers, 18 mythical passes and 14 stages, the Route des Grandes Alpes is undoubtedly the most majestic mountain cycling route.
difficult
682.1 km
45:43 h
17,056 m
17,479 m
An incredible cycling trip

From Thonon-les-Bains to Nice, as soon as the snow melts, this unique route is opened to travelers only for a few months, from early June to mid-October, depending on the snow cover, and invite you to enjoy for a few days, a week or more what the french side of the Alps has best to offer. The great passes such as Iseran, Galibier, Izoard or Cayolle, Colombière, Bonette, or Cormet de Roselend are all milestones along this incredible journey and promise both panoramic views and great victories!

Even if the Tour de France has crafted the legend of this route, everybody is welcome to discover it at its own pace and to take the time to enjoy the heart of the typical villages of the alpine valleys, to walk to one of its magnificent viewpoints at the top of the passes, to visit a dairy cooperative or a museum of traditions and to meet those who live on the Route des Grandes Alpes.

The Route des Grandes Alpes by electric bike

If you will need courage at every stage to overcome the positive elevation, today the route becomes more accessible to the greatest number. Indeed, the entire course is punctuated with e-bike charging points, distributed every 30 to 40 kilometers. Thus, going in groups of different levels becomes possible. If some cyclists will prefer to ride a "classic" bike, others will be able to accompany them on e-bikes and catch the dream of the route and its high passes!

So, ready for an incredible trip?

Profile picture of Brice Milbergue
Author
Brice Milbergue
Updated: August 31, 2020
Difficulty
difficult
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
2,763 m
Lowest point
8 m
Best time of year
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Safety information

 WHEN TO GO?

The two best periods to travel the Route des Grandes Alpes are from June 1st to mid-July and from late August to mid-October (depending on the snow cover). Traffic is less important than in mid-summer and moderate temperatures are better for cycling several days in a row. In any case, it will be necessary to inform you about the weather conditions and to make sure that the roads are completely accessible and cleared of snow.

Tips, hints and links

PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR E-BIKES

Accessible to everyone, whatever your physical abilities, adapted to all types of courses and fun, e-bike allow to perform longer courses with ease. Climbing passes become real moments of contemplation and are no longer discouraging or synonymous with suffering for the less athletic. Kilometers accumulate and bring their quota of landscapes, meetings and slices of life quite simply. The different stages will be as many opportunities to discover the terroirs, the wealth of the heritage and will allow you to recharge your batteries (yours and your e-bike's) before going on the road again. To get the most out of the engine assistance, make a stop at the recommended addresses to recharge your battery and leave safely. A consumption index has been calculated for each stage to control its autonomy and anticipate any breaks needed to recharge its battery.You will also find all along the route e-bikes charging stations Bosch with battery racks. These will allow you to charge your battery and to deposit some of your gears there for a visit.

Start

Thonon-Les-Bains (429 m)
Coordinates:
DD
46.373281, 6.478368
DMS
46°22'23.8"N 6°28'42.1"E
UTM
32T 306064 5138613
w3w 
///corals.plodded.archives

Destination

Nice

Turn-by-turn directions

From Thonon-les-Bains, the route follows the historical route of the Route des Alpes, as it was originally designed, notably by the Touring Club de France, which has developed car tourism in the Alps . It evolves through the mountain range to reach Nice passing by the most majestic road passes such as Colombère, Iseran, Galibier, Izoard or Cayolle.

And beyond the main route, the Route des Grandes Alpes also offers several variants (see "alternative routes") that offer cyclists as many combinations as possible to cross the Alps and discover even more its riches.

To discover along the route

Between massive mountains, valleys and mythical passes, the Route des Grandes Alpes offers you the best of the Alps "à la carte".

  • Chablais: First link of the Alps between Lake Geneva and the Mont Blanc massif, it is by the Aulps valley that the Route des Grandes Alpes crosses the Chablais. Between forests, pastures and ski resorts, from the shores of Lake Geneva to the villages of Les Gets and Morzine, through the gorges du Pont du Diable, here, the first slopes of the route climb gently
  • The Aravis: A real wall with sharp teeth, the chain of Aravis evokes above all pastures, typical villages and ... reblochon! After passing the Col de la Colombière, the Route des Grandes Alpes plunges into the heart of this magical setting through the famous villages of Grand-Bornand and La Clusaz, and of course the Col des Aravis, and its postcard landscape
  • Beaufortain: Bordered by the Mont Blanc massif, a real backdrop to this stage, the Beaufortain is a favorite for many visitors. If its cheese, the Beaufort, has largely contributed to its notoriety, it is its preservation and its wild and authentic side which make it an exceptional territory. The Cormet de Roselend and the nearby dam form a unique and wild landscape, where the blue of the lake contrasts with the green and white of the surrounding mountains.
  • The Tarentaise and the Vanoise massif: The valley which goes from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Val-d'Isère is famous for its famous ski resorts. On the edge of the Vanoise National Park, the route takes a road that crisscrosses the bottom of the valley to end in high point in Val-d'Isère and a little higher at the Col de l'Iseran, crossing point to the Maurienne Valley.
  • The Maurienne Valley: With its 120 km between Italy and the Hautes-Alpes, the Maurienne Valley holds the record for the longest alpine valley. But it is especially its concentration in mythical passes that makes it a well-known territory for cyclists. Moreover, it claims it openly by displaying itself as the "largest cycling area in the world"! And if Iseran and Galibier make it famous, the valley also gives access to the crosses of the Croix-de-Fer, Madeleine or Mont-Cenis, as many variations on the main route.
  • Briançonnais: Located at the gateway to the Écrins National Park and the high mountains, Briançonnais is at the crossroads of many valleys: Guisane, Clarée, Haute-Durance and Cerveyrette each offering unique landscapes. In the heart of this territory, Briançon labeled "City of Art and History" is a must step. It is here that the climate changes, the landscapes too. We enter the southern part of the French Alps
  • Queyras: When we arrive from the north, we reach it by the Izoard pass, which some people call "the most beautiful pass of the Route des Grandes Alpes". Its Mediterranean landscapes, sometimes lunar, make the traveler sway in the Queyras Regional Nature Park, one of the jewels of the Alps. Between larches and Scots pines, this massif where time seems to have stopped is incredibly rich, away from the beaten track.
  • The Ubaye valley: Between Queyras and Mercantour, the Ubaye valley is just as wild as torrential. Renowned for its whitewater activities, it has other assets also renowned as Barcelonnette and its famous Mexican villas. It is here that you will have to choose between the main route that leads to the sumptuous Col de la Cayolle or the variant that will take you to the heart of the Mercantour via the Col de la Bonette. A Corneal choice!
  • Mercantour: Backed by Italian Piedmont, this 150 km long national park includes the last peaks of the Alps before diving straight for the sea. Here, the landscapes are clearly southernish, without doubt is due to the direct proximity to the Mediterranean whose cultural influence is felt even in the architecture of villages and works of art and history. Accessed by the highest road in Europe, the Col de la Bonette offers grandiose and incomparable views.
  • Le Haut-Pays Niçois and the Côte d'Azur: Made of steep roads and perched villages, the high-country Nice is the last chainlink of the Alps before the "Big Blue". The sea is omnipresent and the Col de Turini will be the last great effort to provide before diving on Menton and the Côte d'Azur. From there, the Mediterranean will accompany you with its sweet presence to Nice, where only the Col d'Èze, the last highest point of the route will remind you of the incredible challenges you already achieved.

Note


all notes on protected areas

Public transport

Many train stations (SNCF) are located at the start and finish of the Route des Grandes Alpes but also all along the route to facilitate access to the heart of the Alps.

Coordinates

DD
46.373281, 6.478368
DMS
46°22'23.8"N 6°28'42.1"E
UTM
32T 306064 5138613
w3w 
///corals.plodded.archives
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Book recommendation by the author

Topoguide of the Route des Grandes Alpes (in French)

Stage by stage, this guidebook offers a precise discovery of the route and its riches, with all the practical information to organize your stay by bike or electric bike: maps, profiles of stages, accommodation, charging sites and consumption indices for your E-Bike batteries.

This topo has just been published by Editions Glénat but  it is unfortunately only available in french language. You can still use maps, detailled information on the stages and things to see/do along the way...

Author’s map recommendations

IGN Map of the Route des Grandes Alpes

Indispensable if you want to have a precise and global point of view of the route, IGN has published in 2017 a very complete map on the Route des Grandes Alpes, with among other information for cyclists electric.

Similar routes nearby

  • Les P'tites Routes du Soleil de Thonon-les-Bains à Nice
  • P'tites Routes Du Soleil - Les balcons du Léman à vélo (A1)
  • Evasions au fil de la Route des Grandes Alpes
  • Les 3 grands lacs des Savoies, Léman, Bourget et Aiguebelette, à vélo ou VAE
  • Route des Grandes Alpes - From Thonon-les-Bains to Cluses (1)
 These suggestions were created automatically.
Difficulty
difficult
Distance
682.1 km
Duration
45:43h
Ascent
17,056 m
Descent
17,479 m
Point-to-point Multi-stage route Scenic Cultural/historical value

Statistics

  • Contents
  • Show images Hide images
  • 14 Stages
Road biking · Rhône-Alpes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Thonon-les-Bains to Cluses (1)
Top moderate Stage 1
58.2 km
4:25 h
1,183 m
1,123 m

From Lake Geneva, this 1st stage of the Route des Grandes Alpes offers you a beautiful cycling trip in Haute-Savoie, from the Chablais massif to ...

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Rhône-Alpes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Cluses to La Clusaz (2)
Top difficult Stage 2
36.7 km
3:35 h
1,391 m
810 m

From Cluses, you will go to Le Grand Bornand by the col de la Colombière for the first "Tour de France style" climb! You will then arrive in the ...

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Rhône-Alpes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From La Clusaz to Beaufort (3)
Top difficult Stage 3
51.3 km
4:05 h
1,474 m
1,808 m

You will leave La Clusaz to climb the Col des Aravis directly before crossing the Val d'Arly and reach Beaufort by the Col des Saisies.

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Rhône-Alpes
Route des Grandes Alpes - Beaufort - Bourg Saint Maurice (4)
Top difficult Stage 4
39.7 km
4:45 h
1,491 m
1,414 m

This 4th stage of the Route des Grandes Alpes takes you to the heart of the Beaufortain, between lakes, dams and green summits. You will climb the ...

from Brice Milbergue,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Rhône-Alpes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Val d'Isère (5)
Top difficult Stage 5
31.3 km
3:42 h
1,140 m
118 m

This stage of transition between Bourg-Saint-Maurice and Val d'Isère takes you along the Parc de la Vanoise, on the Tarentaise side and to discover ...

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Rhône-Alpes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Val d'Isere to Termignon (6)
Top difficult Stage 6
54.6 km
4:18 h
1,120 m
1,658 m

This 6th stage takes you to conquer a giant! You will climb Col de l'Iseran (2764m), the highest road pass of the Alps, before descending to the ...

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Rhône-Alpes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Termignon to Valloire (7)
Top moderate Stage 7
51.5 km
4:41 h
938 m
831 m

After a first part slightly downhill in the heart of the Maurienne valley and its perched forts, you climb Col du Télégraphe (1566m), to reach the ...

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Rhône-Alpes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Valloire to Briançon (8)
Top difficult Stage 8
52.8 km
4:12 h
1,232 m
1,379 m

A mythical stage of the Route des Grandes Alpes with the climbing of Col du Galibier which will allow you to go from the northern part to the ...

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Hautes-Alpes
Route des Grandes Alpes - Briançon to Guillestre (9)
Top difficult Stage 9
51.9 km
5:03 h
1,529 m
1,749 m

Another mythical stage of the Route des Grandes Alpes which will bring you to theCol d'Izoard (2360 m).

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Hautes-Alpes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Guillestre to Barcelonnette (10)
Top moderate Stage 10
49.3 km
4:13 h
1,121 m
1,019 m

This 10th stage will take you from Queyras to Ubaye by tCol de Vars and its 1111 meters of ascent. A nice journey in the heart of the preserved ...

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Barcelonnette to Valberg (11)
Top difficult Stage 11
75.5 km
8:25 h
2,366 m
1,844 m

A long stage in the heart of the Ubaye landscapes with the ascent of the magnificent Col de Cayolle (2326 m), the descent of Val d'Entraunes and a ...

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Alpes-Maritimes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Valberg to Saint-Martin-Vésubie (12)
Top difficult Stage 12
58.8 km
6:31 h
1,540 m
2,247 m

A long stage in the Mercantour that will take you from Valberg to the valley of Vésubie. On the menu: grandiose landscapes, perched villages and ...

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Alpes-Maritimes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Saint-Martin-Vésubie to Sospel (13)
Top difficult Stage 13
52 km
6:32 h
1,567 m
2,184 m

You will cross the valley of Vésubie to cross the last "big" pass of the Route des Grandes Alpes: Col de Turini, before joining Sospel, last stop ...

from Brice Milbergue,   TILT COM’SEIL
Road biking · Alpes-Maritimes
Route des Grandes Alpes - From Sospel to Nice (14)
Top moderate Stage 14
56.6 km
5:48 h
940 m
1,293 m

Direction the Mediterranean Sea! This last stage of the Route des Grandes Alpes allows you to join the big blue from Sospel. About fifty kilometers ...

from GTA Move Your Alps - 2017,   TILT COM’SEIL
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