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Mythical Alpine passes — five breathtaking rides in Chamonix

Jenny Tough

Mythical Alpine passes — five breathtaking rides in Chamonix

Road Cycling Collection by Steph Lightfoot

5

Tours

25:36 h

266 mi

33,650 ft

Fancy riding through the heart of the Haute-Savoie, at the foot of the highest peaks in the French Alps, Mont Blanc and its foothills? Starting in my hometown of Chamonix, a mountain town renowned for mountaineering and extreme sports, I bring you some of the best road bike routes and loops in the region.

These are my five favourite routes. They’re all less than 100 kilometres (60 mi) long, and are designed for experienced cyclists who like to climb! The Tours either start from the centre of Chamonix or within a 30 minutes trip by car, bus or train.

These routes are, in my opinion, the best in the region. Here, you’ll find mythical passes such as the Col de la Colombière, the Col des Saisies and the Col des Aravis, and unforgettable views of the highest mountains in France.

You’ll pass through historic villages and ski resorts while cycling in the footsteps of professional cyclists who have been training and competing on these routes for decades. There are plenty of photo opportunities, so plan for a lot of breaks!

If you're coming from far away, I recommend finding accommodation in Chamonix. It's a historic alpine town, nestled beneath the incredible bulk of Mont Blanc. This mighty peak stands at 4,810 metres (15,780 ft) and is the highest mountain in Western Europe. Easily accessible by plane, train, bus or road, Chamonix offers a wide choice of accommodation and restaurants. Geneva International Airport is only an hour's drive away and there are regular bus connections. Remember to book your bike space on the train or bus.

There are two bike shops in the town centre if you need spares or repairs. There are two more specialised road bike shops in Sallanches, which is a 30-minute drive from Chamonix.

Even if you come to Chamonix to cycle, I recommend taking at least half a day to enjoy the town's atmosphere with its bars, restaurants and museums steeped in history. The greatest mountaineers and adventurers have been here.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    04:13
    39.3 mi
    9.3 mph
    6,200 ft
    6,200 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly well-paved surfaces and easy to ride.

    The climb to the Émosson dam is one of the most famous road bike routes around Chamonix. Present on the Tour de France in 2016, the dam is located in Switzerland, so don't forget your passport and a few Swiss francs if you're planning a coffee break at the top.Starting from the center of Chamonix, you will have a …

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  • Difficult
    04:40
    51.7 mi
    11.1 mph
    5,575 ft
    5,575 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    Leaving the center of Chamonix, take the cycle path towards Les Houches. You will cross the lake of Gaillands, the Bossons, and the village of Les Houches. From there, after a short climb, you will find yourself at the top of Vaudagne. With perfect asphalt, this descent through forests and chalets is formidable. There aren't many cars but the road is narrow so watch out for the bends, even if you want to let go!

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  • Difficult
    05:03
    56.3 mi
    11.2 mph
    6,525 ft
    6,525 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly well-paved surfaces and easy to ride.

    This route to the Col des Saisies begins in Servoz, a small mountain village a 15-minute drive from Chamonix. I advise you to park in front of the climbing wall. You can also get to Servoz by train. Links leave from Chamonix (and its many stations along the valley) every 30 minutes.A 90-kilometer journey of typical Haute Savoie landscapes, …

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  • Difficult
    05:28
    57.0 mi
    10.4 mph
    6,950 ft
    6,950 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly well-paved surfaces and easy to ride.

    This loop going to the Col de Colombière is a classic route in the region: add it to your list of things to do before you die! The pass is open between May and October, depending on snow and weather conditions.You leave from Sallanches, around 30 minutes drive from Chamonix. If you don't have a car, there are 5 …

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  • Difficult
    06:13
    61.3 mi
    9.9 mph
    8,400 ft
    8,400 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly well-paved surfaces and easy to ride.

    I advise you to start this route off the beaten track at the car park near the old Saint-Martin bridge in Sallanches. From there, you immediately join the cycle path in the direction of Cluses. Sallanches is easily accessible from Chamonix, by bus or car. If you take the bus, don't forget to reserve your bike space, places are limited.

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    5
  • Distance
    266 mi
  • Duration
    25:36 h
  • Elevation
    33,650 ft

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Mythical Alpine passes — five breathtaking rides in Chamonix

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