Tour des Écrins – cycling along the borders of France’s Écrins massif

Simon Rosmolen

Tour des Écrins – cycling along the borders of France’s Écrins massif

Road Cycling Collection by Simon Rosmolen



13:22 h

165 mi

16,075 ft

It’s March 2021. The winter season at our mountain hotel in the French Alps has just ended. It was a strange winter. The ski elevators were at a standstill. Normally the slopes are teeming with people and our hotel is bursting at the seams with crowds. But it was quiet. We received some guests who dined in their rooms and entertained themselves by sledding or ski touring during the day.

Our team was a lot smaller this year, but, as we’d hired hardly any staff, we still had our hands full. As the snow slowly disappeared and the roads cleared, it was time for a well-deserved break. We strapped our bags onto our road bikes and set off to explore our backyard – the Écrins National Park.

I planned a three-day round trip along the borders of the Écrins Massif with hotel stays in Bourg d'Oisans and Embrun. In total, you cycle around 265 kilometres (164 mi) and almost 5,000 metres (16,400 ft) of elevation gain. Ascents are common here, as the Écrins Massif has no less than 150 peaks that are over 3,000 metres (9,842 ft) high. The landscape in the Southern Alps is pristine and brimming with impressive mountains and pointed peaks. This area is considered one of the most beautiful nature parks in the country for good reason.

The route starts in Puy Saint Vincent and heads anti-clockwise. You can also start somewhere else on the route or cycle clockwise. The route is entirely paved and is therefore suitable for road bikes or touring bikes.

If you start in Puy Saint Vincent, you pass Briançon and climb the Col de Laurette, after which a long descent follows to Bourg d'Oisans. Along the way, you'll cycle past La Grave, the mountain village by La Meije, one of the most beautiful peaks of the Écrins. After our night in a hotel in Bourg d'Oisans, we climbed the Col d'Ornon and Col du Parquetout, a lesser known, but incredibly beautiful and steep climb. Next, we followed the Route Napoleon down towards Gap. Just before the city, we cycled over the Col de Manse and descended to Embrun. The next morning, we returned to Puy Saint Vincent via a balcony route.

Personally, I like this route best in spring or autumn. We rode this route at the beginning of spring. Because of the large differences in altitude and the way you flit between the shade cast by the mountains and the sun, you cycle through snow-covered winter landscape one moment and through a valley where lambs are jumping around in green and sunny alpine meadows the next. The transition from summer to autumn is also wonderful.

On The Map


Tours & Highlights

  • 03:49
    53.9 mi
    14.1 mph
    4,225 ft
    6,550 ft

    The first stage starts in Puy Saint Vincent. This mountain village is located at 1400 meters and is located on the edge of the Ecrins Massif. From Briançon you start with the climb of the Col du Lautaret to 2058 meters. The climb is quite long at 26 kilometers, but not difficult due to the gradient of 3%.Along the …

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  • 06:03
    74.6 mi
    12.3 mph
    7,850 ft
    7,375 ft

    At 120 kilometers, this stage is the longest stage of the three. When we cycled here in the spring, many hotels along the way were closed so we drove on to the larger Embrun for a place to sleep. But above all, feel free to get off early.After coffee in Bourg d'Oisans (go to Café de Paris and the …

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  • 03:30
    36.2 mi
    10.4 mph
    3,975 ft
    2,150 ft

    With our legs stiff from the previous ride, we woke up to the buzz of the market. We opened the shutters of our room at Hotel de Marie and looked down at the many stalls. The market in Embrun is on Wednesdays and Saturdays all year round and is bursting with local delicacies.We drank a cup of coffee and …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    165 mi
  • Duration
    13:22 h
  • Elevation
    16,075 ft

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Tour des Écrins – cycling along the borders of France’s Écrins massif

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