Travel report: French Alps 2022

We already planned to do a tour of the French Alps in 2020, but we had to cancel our plans due to the well-known virus. The routes were already mapped out, but before we could finally depart on our trip in June of this year, a reality check forced us to do some fine-tuning a few weeks earlier. Certain campsites were still closed, and some parts turned out to be too big of a detour for the limited time we had (a week).

When creating the routes we took the Route des Grandes Alpes as a base and added interesting passes, roads and gorges. Doing all the nice roads you can find there is impossible in a week, so you have to make choices.

Eventually, this became our plan:

View the large version on Google Maps here or download all routes via MyRoute App.

Describing each pass would probably take us too far, so I’ll stick to the most memorable moments of each day. Do you want a list of all the passes we did? Scroll all the way down.

Day 1

A boring day on the highway, but still we were very glad to be on the road. Finally! The three fellas who traveled through Andalusia together in March were eager to get out there again: Jan F on his 1200 GS, Shih on his R nine T Urban G/S and myself on a test bike: the Husqvarna Norden 901 (the review can be found here).

There is not much to report about this day. Lots of straight asfalt, until we arrived at the campsite south of Lake Geneva.

Day 2

A gray morning, some rain. The first passes served as a warm-up. No insanely high or stunning views although the Col de la Joux Verte was beautifully green.

Fortunately the sun came through in the afternoon when we rode two impressive cols: Col Du Pré and Cormet de Roselend.

The roads were very varied. One moment they were narrow with many blind corners, the other moment they were covered with leaves and branches after a heavy rain shower, but we also had a lot of hairpins and wider, faster roads. A scenario that (except for the leaves and branches) we would encounter the following days as well.

Day 3

We left for Col de la Madeleine under a lovely sun, but it’s the next pass on the program – the Col de Glandon – that I’d like to highlight. Not only because of the beautiful run-up, but also because of the great peak with an enormous panoramic view.

From there it went to the dead end of the Col du Sabot. A very bad road surface with lots of gravel leading up to that wonderful alone-in-the-world feeling. Traffic wasn’t very busy on the previous passes, but we rode through quite a few villages, unlike the Pyrenees where you sometimes really feel like you are the only living soul for miles around.

After Alpe d’Huez (hello cycling tourists), the Col de Sarenne followed as a great end to the day. The Huez felt like a highway compared to the Sarenne with its many narrow, blind corners. What a feast for the eyes: rough and overwhelming nature, spectacular views over the valley.

Day 4

The day of the smaller and more unknown cols with less fast roads, but no less enjoyable for that.

Col de Parquetout for example, with very beautiful parts through green forests. Or the impressive rock formation on the Ruisseau de la Posterle. Or the photogenic part along the Gorges de Bachelard.

But without a doubt the highlights of the day: the Col de Cayolle and the Col des Champs, both with fantastic landscapes. A mix of green meadows, flower fields and downright awe-inspiring rock formations. And all of this with very few people on the track. Lovely.

Day 5

The day of the gorges. Less panoramic views, but certainly not less impressive. We did the Gorges de Daluis and the Gorges du Cians in the morning, and a loop with the Gorges de la Vésubie and the Gorges de la Mescla in the afternoon: lovely cliffs and rocks where you would want to stop every five meters for a photo.

We descended to the southernmost point of our Alps journey, and the roads were clearly less traveled than the popular cols of the previous days.

Day 6

For breakfast we got a succession of smaller cols served. Quiet and often fairly tight corners. Personal favorite view: the top of the Col Saint-Roch.

The literal and figurative highlight of the day: the Col de la Bonette. Amazing, far-reaching panoramas. If you want to feel insignificant, you should definitely come here.

Day 7

We were already impressed by yesterday’s Bonette, but this was perhaps even more impressive: Col d’Izoard followed by Col du Galibier. Less grand than the Bonette, but even more a feast for the eyes. Craggy and more varied.

The run-up to the Col du Télégraphe was a bit disappointing after this unforgettable duo, probably because we came from the Galibier. Though the descent to the valley was fun.

The Col de l’Iseran was quite spectacular again. Wonderful landscapes and rock formations, and a mighty view on Val d’Isère.

Day 8

Back to Belgium and eating up those highway miles. Time enough to reflect a bit:

  • Traveling with the tent for a week, and having to set up and take down that tent every day: actually it wasn’t too bad. We were lucky with the weather, otherwise it would have been less fun.
  • I really enjoyed the Alps. Its grandeur makes it more impressive than the Pyrenees, but in the Pyrenees I often had that alone-in-the-world feeling and if I had to choose I would probably prefer that last experience.
  • I can’t complain about our routes, but if we’d do this trip again, I would most likely shorten days 5 and 6 (for example, ride back north after the Col de Valberg via the D30 and the M30 to the M2205). Not that days 5 and 6 were not worth the effort or boring, but compared to the other days they scored a little less.
  • Planning routes based on 6 hours riding time turned out to be a good target for us once again. Not having to rush, enough time to regularly do a photo stop and arrive in time at the campsite (we usually arrived between 5 and 6 pm) so that you can start the evening ritual in peace. Perfect scenario for me.
  • Riding with two biker buddies also made the trip more fun. When are we off again guys?

And finally, as promised:

Overview of the POI’s per day

Day 2
Col de la Joux Verte
Col du Ranfolly
Col de Joux Plane
Colle de Romme
Col de la Colombière
Col des Aravis
Col du Pré
Col de Méraillet
Cormet de Roselend

Day 3
Col de la Madeleine
Col du Glandon
Col du Sabot
Alpe d’Huez
Col de Sarenne
Combe de la Fayolle

Day 4
Col d’Ornon
Col de Parquetout
Col de l’Holme
Col du Noyer
Col de Pontis
Gorges du Bachelard
Col de la Cayolle
Col des Champs

Day 5
Viaduc de Maouna
Gorges de Daluis
Col de Valberg
Gorges Supérieures du Cians
Gorges du Cians
Col de la Sinne
Col Saint Martin
Gorges de la Vésubie
Gorges de la Mescla
Pas Masséna

Day 6
Col du Savel
Col Saint-Roch
Pas de l’Escous
Col de l’Orme
Col de l’Ablé
Col de Braus
Gorges du Piaon
Col de Turini
Col Saint Martin
Col de Pourriac
Col de Raspaillon / Col des Granges Communes
Col de la Bonette
Col de Restefond
Col de Vars

Day 7
Gorges du Guil
Col d’Izoard
Col du Lautaret
Col du Galibier
Col du Télégraphe
Col du Mont Cenis
Col de la Madeleine
Col de l’Iséran
Gorges de la Daille

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.