The TOUR

The TOUR Route

Updated 20/01/24

Bikepacking Route & Logistics Guide

Updated 07/06/24

Alps Divide is a mixed-terrain bikepacking route, weaving along the Western Alps, from the Mediterranean Sea to Lake Geneva, crossing back and forth along the national borders of France, Italy and Switzerland.

 

We spent three years piecing together a 1000km journey, that showcases many of the amazing diverse landscapes the Alps has to offer, whilst taking you on paths less travelled. Spectacular and remote scenery filled with high mountain passes, alpine pastures, turquoise lakes, and historic military gravel roads. To show you beautiful parts of the Alps that you might have not been to before.

 

The route goes South to North, starting in the picturesque town of Menton on the Côte d’Azur and finishing on the shores of Lake Geneva in the small town of Thonon les Bains. Of course, the route can be ridden in reverse, but please note that there are some places where the ascent and descent of climbs will not be as optimal in reverse. Hike-a-bike would be greatly increased going North to South. When we created the route we were mindful of making ascents as ridable as possible and descents as fun as possible. Turn the route around and you change that on a good number of the climbs. 

TERRAIN

The route crosses serious, mountainous terrain. The Alpine environment should not be taken lightly, it is a significant undertaking that will require a high level of fitness, extensive preparation and carefully selected equipment.

 

As much as we have tried to create as “ridable” route as possible, the going will be tough. The terrain will vary from smooth tarmac to unrideable footpaths. If you are looking for a route where you will ride your bike 100% of the time, then the Alps Divide route might not be for you. We have however, included a number of variants, so that you can avoid a couple of the hike-a-bike sections.

 

The few hike-a-bike sections you will encounter on the main route, are however, all well worth the effort for the views and to take you to quiet hidden valleys away from the crowds. Nothing has been included just for the sake of it, or to make the route harder.

 

The majority of the route is on gravel tracks and quiet paved lanes, with just a little single-track. However, in order to link up some of the remote sections, you will occasionally be on busier roads. Whether it’s day or night, you will be sharing these roads with vehicles, please take the upmost of care and make sure you can be seen.

 

There are small sections of the route where you will be on narrow trails/footpaths with consequential terrain around you. You need to stay vigilant and focused.

 

The route files including the variants are in our Komoot Collection. However, you can also download the GPX files HERE. (Latest Update: 01/05/2024). If you are touring the route this summer please make sure you check the route files have not been updated before your departure. Only there may be times, due to road closures or landslides for example, that we may have to make adjustments to the route.

 

The route has been divided into 5 sections to be more navigation-device friendly than one large file would be. The sections have not been designed to be ridden as stages. The start and end points of the sections are just convenient places to break the route roughly into 200km chunks.

 

 

Section 1:

The Alps Divide route sets off from Menton, a small Mediterranean town known as the Pearl of France. Nestled in the far Southeast of the French Riviera, it is full of charm and personality, with its pastel-coloured houses, grand Baroque buildings, pristine beaches, palm trees, and lemon gardens. With its close proximity to Italy, Menton feels as Italian as it does French, a perfect mixture of all things Mediterranean.

 

As we ride away from the water’s edge, it is up, up, up straight into the mountains. Climbing up out of town we soon come to the stunning little village of Sainte-Agnès. If you have the time it is well worth a quick visit. Perched at an altitude of nearly 800m, the village has a breathtaking view of the Côte d’Azur, narrow cobbled streets and military history dating back to Roman times.

 

Fast-flowing gravel links St Agnes to the Col du Braus, where we can enjoy the last of the spectacular views over the Mediterranean in the direction of Monaco. Off the top of the Braus, the back road avoids all the motorbikes and enjoys gravel switchbacks down into the small historic town of Sospel.

 

Sospel became prosperous in the 13th century when the salt trading route between Nice and Turin was established. The tower in the centre of the fortified bridge in town was originally the toll gate for the mules using the trade route.

 

NOTE: Sospel is the only town in ‘Section 1’, so if you have forgotten anything then make sure you stock up here. After Sospel there are villages with cafes, bakeries, places to stay etc, but no supermarkets.

 

Next, we head to Italy over the gentle Col de Vescavo and into the Roya Valley. The way out of the Roya Valley is a little steeper. Firstly on a narrow, and steep in places, tarmac road, before turning to gravel for the second half of the climb. The gravel section is pretty rough in places and may be slow going, but as you near the top, the gravel becomes smoother and an old military balcony road awaits, with panoramic views that make the climb worthwhile.

 

After a long gravel descent into Pigna, and passing the medieval hilltop village of Castel Vittorino, we have a tarmac climb up to the Colle Langon before we can head to the Refugio Allavena and onto the “Alta Via del Sale”.

 

We then get to ride 80km of the spectacular Alta Via del Sale (the Upper Salt Road). Fast and fun gravel, winding along the Italian and French border. This ancient road can trace caravans of traders, transporting salt from the coast into the Alpine regions, since the year 1207! In the last century, the Salt Road transitioned into a military road, relics of once mighty military forts line the route, dating from the 18th century to the Second World War.

 

Staying up high, between 1800 and 2100 meters above sea level, we pass through the almost lunar landscape of Carsene, an area rich in geological phenomena, as well as the contrasting lush Mediterranean landscapes of the Ligurian Alps and Alps Maritime.

 

At the meadows of the Baisse de Peyrefique, we continue on the salt road, for a fast and fun gravel descent into the village of Tende.

 

OPTION: For anyone longing for a smoother descent, after many kilometres of gravel, Variant-A will drop you down into the hamlet of Castérino, from where you can take a tarmac descent down a stunning valley before rejoining the main route in the Tende Valley.

 

 

Section 2:

We climb out of the Tende Valley via the route de la Maglia, a small road built into the rock in 1888. The road eventually turns to gravel and joins old military roads heading towards the Massif de L’Authion. Once you’re on the high balcony route, don’t forget to keep looking back behind you, the view is suburb. At the top, there is a multitude of old military buildings, including the Redoute des Trois Communes Fort, built in 1897, which is one of the first forts in France to be constructed of reinforced concrete.

 

As we descend towards the Col de Turini, there are a couple of options: 1- stay on the route file, which turns down a gravel track a few hundred meters before the col. 2- take a detour to the col if you need food or accommodation, as there are a couple of hotels available, and then return to the route when you are done. 3- take Variant-B, taking the tarmac descent off the col.

 

OPTION: Variant-B – The Col de Turini is probably the most famous mountain pass in the Southern Maritime Alps, with lush dense vegetation and iconic hairpins. If you want to skip a bit of gravel for some smooth tarmac, then this is the descent to do it on.

 

NOTE: If you need to restock your supplies, you will find a supermarket on the way into the town of Roquebilliere.

 

After riding up the valley floor, we climb into the old perched village of Venanson and take the high gravel tracks above Saint Dalmas. The next medieval hilltop village on the route is Rumples, which looks out over the Mercantour National Park.

 

Following a little more road riding on the valley floor, we pass through the town of Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée and then things become a little more wild again.

 

The ascent up the Col de la Moutière is superb! Almost all motorised traffic will be going over the Col de la Bonette, which means the Moutière will be super quiet, and the landscape will change dramatically as we climb higher.

 

Before heading down the other side of the climb, we can traverse on a gravel track to ride a short loop around the Cime de la Bonette. At 2802m, the Cime is the highest tarmac road in France. It’s often quite busy with motorbikes and camper vans, but the views are great and we are already so close to the top it seems silly not to.

 

Then we can leave all the crowds behind us and head back to the gravel for a long descent. The gravel is loose and rough in places, but take your time and enjoy all the solitude in a truly magnificent valley, as we head towards the tiny hamlet of Bayasse.

 

 

Section 3:

We start by descending through the George du Bachalard, following the beautiful river on a quiet narrow road. At the bottom of the gorge, the charming French town of Barcelonnette awaits, providing all the amenities and services you might need.

 

Next up, a whopper of a 22km gravel climb, to the Tunnel du Parpaillon! The tunnel is 520m long and sits at 2637m, making it one of the highest tunnels in Europe. It was hand-built by the French military in 1891 but took until 1901 to complete. This old military road connects the Ubaye Valley to the Embrun and is one of the real highlights along the Alps Divide route. The road becomes rough for the last 10km of ascent, as the landscape becomes rocky and barren, but it is still rideable. The tunnel is pitch black, beware of deep puddles and possible ice inside (good bike lights are needed). Once through the tunnel, the landscape changes to green mountain meadows, just sit and enjoy it for a while, before the long rollercoaster ride down the other side.

 

NOTE: The tunnel only opens around the beginning of July, as it will be snowed in until then. The exact opening date will vary depending on the winter’s snowfall. It also closes near the end of September, so please check if it is open before you leave Barcelonnette (links on the Alps Divide website).

 

OPTION: If the tunnel is closed, then please use the route file Variant-C from Barcelonnette.

 

As we head up the Combe du Queryas, It’s here we take the backroad up towards one of the most famous road cols in the Alps, the Col d’Izoard. After passing the 13th-century fortress Château Queyras, perched on a cliff like a scene from a movie set, we weave our way up the mountain along some spectacular quiet lanes and gravel tracks, avoiding the large volume of traffic going up the Col d’Izoard. Eventually, the gravel finally turns to a hiking trail and it is hike-a-bike time. It’s a relatively easy walk up and over the Col des Ayes, but it is a walk nonetheless. Why choose the hike-a-bike I hear you ask? Because the Col d’Izoard is super busy and the Col des Ayes is beautiful and tranquil.

 

OPTION: For anyone who doesn’t want to hike-a-bike, then please use the route file Variant-D to take you over the last part of the Col d’Izoard.

In contrast to the Vallée des Ayes, comes the large bustling fortified town of Briançon. It is the highest town in the European Union, at 1,326m. Briançon will have all the amenities you could need to resupply, but it is also steeped in history if you have the time to explore it a little. The route takes us up through the old village, contained in a fortress. You will need to push your bike up the main street, but it’s worth the walk and not to be missed.

 

Next, let’s head to Italy! We cross into Italy via the Vallée de la Clare and the Col de l’Echelle. A beautiful high valley and quiet mountain pass that has views to stop you in your tracks.

 

 

Section 4:

We start with an out and back up the Colle del Sommeiller, which peaks at 2,993 meters above sea level, making it on one the highest roads in Europe. It’s a long gravel climb of 26 km, a little rough in places, especially near the top, but it’s always ridable and worth every bead of sweat. The Col sits on the border between Italy and France, and the 360-degree view at the top is spectacular! At the top, the gravel road comes to an end, as it was built as a service road for glacier skiing back in the 50s, and on the French side is only a hiking path. (We did try the French side, it’s a very very long hike-a-bike!) So back down the Italian side we go, but enjoying this epic road and the magnificent natural amphitheatre of the Valle Di Rochemolles one more time is no bad thing.

 

NOTE: As well as cyclists, this climb is also on the bucket list for motorised off-road vehicles too, so can get busy on the weekends and during the holidays. Between the 1st of July and the 30th of September, I would recommend heading up on a Thursday if you can, as the road is closed to motorised transport on a Thursday.

 

In complete contrast, we are likely to have our next climb all to ourselves. Although less iconic than the Sommeiller, this next long climb, on an old military road, will definitely have you stopping to look back several times, as the track has some real wow moments. At Piano del Mart we’ll pass an old military barracks and then the track turns to a short hike-a-bike section to reach the Col de la Roue, and then we are back into France.

 

After a road section in the Maurienne valley, we can escape back into the wild by climbing over Le Perronnet and into the Vallée des Encombres. Here you are likely to have little other than marmots for company, enjoy.

 

NOTE: The small town of Moutiers will be the last place you will find large supermarkets for a while, so stock up on supplies if you need them.

From Moutiers we traverse above the Tarantaise Vallée, using a network of farmers’ tracks and forest trails, as we make our way to the beautiful Laval Vallée. Just before we get to the top of the valley, the Cormet d’Arêches, we’ll pass by the little Refuge de la Coire. We’re in Beaufort country now, so the high mountain pastures of the surrounding area are where the hazel-coloured Tarine cows live. Tarines, make arguably the most prestigious of all French cheeses, AOP Beaufort d’Alpage. Make sure you stop off at the refuge and try some of this amazing local cheese!

 

 

Section 5:

Once over the Cormet d’Arêche, a fast and fun descent into the Beaufortain awaits. A little after you pass Lac de Saint-Guérin you can choose between two routes. The main route involves a short hike-a-bike section up a hiking trail up and over the ridge to join a magnificent gravel track with, in our opinion, the best view of the whole Alps Divide route. So if the weather is good then this short hike is well worth the effort.

OPTION: If the weather isn’t going to provide you with a view, or you just want to avoid the walk, Variant-E is a good option.

 

The views over Lac de Roselend and Mont Blanc are picture postcard, and cycling across the dam wall is always a thrill. We then head down to Lac de la Gittaz, a much less frequented spot. Gravel switchbacks take us up and out of this hidden valley, heading for the Col de la Gittaz. Once at the top, there is some flowing single track to enjoy.

 

On the Col du Joly we’ll get superb panoramas of Mont Blanc and the mighty glaciers that surround it. At the Col de Voza, we are closer still to the vertiginous glaciers. You can even spot the ‘spaceship style’ Refuge du Goûter, the highest wardened mountain hut in France at 3,845m. We also cross the Mont Blanc Tramway, the highest cogwheel train line in France.

 

The next stop is Chamonix, regarded as the mountain capital of the world. Chamonix is a beautiful town, filled with such history. We would highly recommend stopping to explore here if you have the time.

 

NOTE: If you plan to stay on the main route, Chamonix will be the last town until the end with large supermarkets.

 

Switzerland here we come! We take the tiny backroads and forest tracks through the Vallée du Trient and into the Vallée de Salanfe. I’m pretty sure that as you near the end of this valley, and look up at a wall of mountain in front of you, you will question “Well where do we go?” Up of course! A steep but fantastic dirt road has been built into the rock, zigzagging back and forth up to Lac Salanfe. Once past the mountain refuge, the gravel track will turn to a trail for the last bit of the climb to reach the Col du Jorat.

 

NOTE: The trail up to the Col du Jorat is wide and ridable on the ascent, however, please avoid this route during or after heavy rains in case of landslides. Use Variant-F.

 

After the hamlet of Mex, a permanent road closure has meant the route now takes a wet and rocky path through the forest. You will need to walk, pushing or carrying your bike downhill. It is a short section of 1.5km. If you would prefer to not take this section of trail, please use Variant-F, or descend from Mex to join Variant-F.

 

OPTION: Varient-F avoids both hike-a-bike sections.

 

As we traverse around the west side of the Dent d’Midi mountain range, we are met with ‘chocolate-box’ Swiss countryside, and the Plateau de Barme is the ‘cherry on the top’, a hidden valley that hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. In the past, this plateau on the border of France that was a hotspot for smuggling, now it is just a beautiful place to enjoy riding your bike. Stop of at Cantine de Barmaz and get yourself a Swiss röstis, yum.

 

Once we are back in France, we are in the Géoparc du Chablis region. We might be on the home straight now, but the beautiful trail and views will keep coming thick and fast.

 

The charming village of Abondance will provide an opportunity to stock up on a last few supplies, but it also is a great place to try another Alpine cheese, the AOP Abondance cheese. You will undoubtedly cycle past many herds of the Abondance cow in this region, she is easily recognisable with her mahogany red piebald coat and her glasses around her eyes. And of course, like all herds of cows in the Alps you will hear them before you see them, because of the hefty bells they wear around their necks.

 

From the top of the climb out of the Abondance valley, you might get your first view out over Lac Leman / Lake Geneva and the finish line, but there are still a couple of mountains to conquer.

 

After Bernex, its fast and flowy rolling countryside all the way to the shores of the lac at Thonon-les-Bains.

 

 

TUNNEL DU PARPAILLON

The tunnel only opens around the beginning of July, as it will be snowed in until then. The exact opening date will vary depending on the winter’s snowfall. It also closes near the end of September, so please check if it is open before you leave Barcelonnette either on the Facebook page about the tunnel here or contact the Ubaye Tourism Office for an update on +33 (0)4 92 81 04 71. (If the tunnel is closed, then please use the route file Variant-C from Barcelonnette.)

 

 

ALTA VIA DEL SALE

The Upper Salt Road, between Mont Tanarel and the Col de Tende, can get busy on the weekends and during the holidays. However, the road is closed to motor vehicles all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Therefore, if you can plan your itinerary to ride this section on either a Tuesday or Thursday, an ‘amazing’ section of gravel road will become a ‘spectacular’ gravel road. 

 

 

COLLE DEL SOMMEILLER

The out and back up the Colle del Sommeiller, one of the highest roads in Europe, can get busy on the weekends and during the holidays motorised off-road vehicles. Between the 1st of July and the 30th of September, I would recommend heading up on a Thursday if you can, as the road is closed to motorised transport on a Thursday.

 

 

SINGLE-TRACK AFTER LAC SALANFE

Once past the mountain refuge Salanfe, the gravel track will turn to a wide ridable single-track trail for the last bit of the climb to reach the Col du Jorat. However, please avoid this route during or after heavy rains in case of landslides. (Use Variant-F).

 

 

WET & ROCKY SINGLE-TRACK AFTER MEX

After the hamlet of Mex, a permanent road closure has meant the route now takes a wet and rocky path through the forest. You will need to walk, pushing or carrying your bike downhill. It is a short section of 1.5km. (If you would prefer to not take this section of trail, please use Variant-F, or descend from Mex to join Variant-F.)

 

 

 

BIKE CHOICE

The question we get asked the most! There is no clear-cut answer here, as the perfect bike does not exist. Whatever bike you choose to ride, there will be times during the route you might wish you chose something different. 

 

We have ridden the route a good number of times, on both gravel bikes and mountain bikes.

 

There are plenty of paved mountain roads and fast-rolling gravel, where you want a fast and light setup. However, there is also plenty of rough terrain, with many long rocky descents, where you will be very grateful for the extra comfort of a mountain bike and suspension, but it is not essential. There are also a few sections of the route where you will be hiking, regardless of your bike choice.

 

Whether you choose to ride a hardtail mountain bike or a gravel bike, have front suspension or no suspension, is completely down to how much comfort you need, your bike handling skills and what bike you have available to you.

 

One thing’s for sure, we would recommend very low gearing, definitely less than 1:1, as the climbing is very steep in places and the climbs are long! We also recommend tyres that are at least 50mm / 2.0” wide.

 

EQUIPMENT CHOICE

Bikepacking equipment choice is very personal. The level of comfort you’re looking for, what time of year you’re riding, your budget, kit weight preferences etc, will all influence your kit choice.

 

However, here are a couple of resources that might be useful. A copy of my (Katie-Jane) Alps Divide touring kit list, and a downloadable base template, for you to fill in and adjust as needed, to calculate base weight, consumables, shopping list, costs etc.

 

MY KIT LIST: Alps Divide Route (Touring)

TEMPLATE SPREADSHEET: Bikepacking / Touring Trip

 

GETTING TO THE START 

Whether you arrive by car, rail, air or by bike, you will find Menton relatively straightforward to get to. 

 

By train through France, you can take the high-speed TGV train to Marseille, before swapping to regional trains that will take you to Menton. Or you could arrive via Ventimiglia in Italy.

 

If you are arriving by air, then you will fly into Nice Airport. From there the regional TER trains depart from Nice-St Augustin Station frequently throughout the day. You can either walk to the station or catch one of the trams from either terminal for free. The train is a cheap and easy option but will take approx 1 – 1.5 hours as it is not direct.

 

You can also cycle from Nice Airport to Menton! A stunning 55km road route along the Côte d’Azur. View a Komoot route file here.

 

TRAIN TRAVEL WITH A BIKE IN FRANCE

All SNCF trains allow you to travel with your bike. However, the acceptance rules vary depending on the type of train.

 

YOUR BIKE ON THE TGV (HIGH SPEED LINE)

On board TGV INOUI and INTERCITÉS trains, you have two solutions:

Option A: If your bike is NOT dismantled, you will need to reserve a place for your bike, for a fee of 10€, when purchasing your ticket. There are a limited number of these places available. 

Option B: If your bike IS dismantled and placed in a bag/cover/bike box, with dimensions under 120X90cm, then your bike can travel for free (counted as luggage), does not need reserving and there is no limitation on spaces available. Please note, that from our experience if you arrive with your bike in a cardboard bike box, then you are likely to be turned away, as they are usually larger than the maximum dimensions.

 

If you are trying to opt for option A, and your search does not show any results, then either an unassembled bicycle cannot be taken on that particular train or there are no more spaces available. You will then need to resort to option B and modify your search criteria by adding “+ a bike” and choosing the “dismantled bike under cover” solution.

 

YOUR BIKE ON BOARD TER TRAINS (REGIONAL)

On board TER trains: your bike travels free of charge, suspended or placed in a space provided for this purpose. These locations are accessible subject to availability and cannot be reserved. You also have the option of travelling with your dismantled bike in a bag/cover/bike box no bigger than 120X90cm.

 

YOUR BIKE ON OUIGO TRAINS

On board OUIGO trains: your bike must be folded or dismantled and stored in a bag/cover/bike box no bigger than 120X90cm. It is compulsory to book an “Additional baggage” option, at the price of 5€, when purchasing your ticket. 

GETTING HOME FROM THE FINISH

If you are looking to fly home, then Geneva airport will be the closest airport.

 

BY TRAIN TO GENEVA

To travel from Thonon-les-Bains to Geneva by train you will need to take Line 1 on the Léman express. Bikes are allowed on the Léman Express. Bikes packed in a bike box or suitable transport bag are free of charge. For cross-border journeys (France – Switzerland), there is an additional fare for travelling with a bike. You can buy a day pass for the transport of a bike at the cost is CHF 15.- For more information please visit Leman Express.

 

Once you arrive in Geneva, there are trains from Geneva city centre train station to the airport approximately 8 times an hour at peak hours. The journey takes about 7 minutes.

 

BY TRAIN TO OTHER PARTS OF FRANCE

If you are travelling to other parts of France, and not into Switzerland for your journey home. Then please refer to the French train information in the above ‘Travelling to the start’ section, for how to travel with your bike.

 

BY BIKE

It is a 44km easy cycle along the lake to get to Geneva. There are plenty of bike shops in Geneva where you might be able to find  a cardboard bike box to pack up your bike for onward travel. You can find a cycle route into geneva from Thonon-les-Bains here

RESUPPLY

There is no scarcity of resources along this route. You will find water fountains in nearly every village. There are bakeries and small supermarkets in most larger villages, and plenty of bike shops and hotels in larger towns along the way. 

 

Despite resupply being abundant along the route, it is worth noting that you may find opening hours of shops and restaurants to be quite limited in quiet areas, so please plan accordingly.

 

You will also pass a number of mountain refuges on some of the more remote trails. A mountain refuge is a large hut with a guardian (staffed) providing shelter and food to people in the high mountains. It is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy a room with a view, whilst meeting with people from all over the world with one thing in common; a love of the mountains. Refuges can be pretty basic, but you are always guaranteed a warm bed and a filling meal. Plugs/sockets for charging mobile phones or other portable electronic devices may not be available or very limited in number. There will often be no phone signal or wi-fi. The beds are often in dormitories, and there are sometimes some self-catering facilities, but usually, a booking is on a half-board basis.

 

Evening meals are hearty and typically include soup, a main course with plenty of carbohydrates in the form of pasta/polenta, a dessert and maybe some cheese. Breakfast is typically a choice of coffee, hot chocolate or tea with bread, butter and jam. Most refuges will also offer packed lunches, but remember to order this on arrival the night before.

 

I highly recommend you stay at least one night of your journey in a mountain refuge, it won’t necessarily be the best night’s sleep of your journey, but it is a truly alpine experience that I highly recommend to all.

 

It is worth always phoning beforehand to check they have space for you. (Check season closing dates if you are riding in the autumn so you’re not left disappointed, as many of the refuges close by mid September).

 

REFUGES ON THE ALPS DIVIDE ROUTE

 

Refugio Allevena (1520m):-
The refuge has a restaurant with 50 seats and offers traditional cuisine; it is open to the public every day and reservations are welcome Tel: +39184241155 or WhatsApp +393298922193
https://www.nuovorifugioallavena.it/

 

Refugio Collemelosa (1543m):-
In the heart of the Ligurian Alps since 1952
Tel: +39184241032
https://www.collemelosa.it/


Refugio don Barbera (2079m):-
Located in the heart of the Natural park of the Marguareis under the “Colle dei Signori”, Rifugio Don Barbera is situated at the foot of the queen of the Ligurian Alps
Hut number: +39174086157
https://www.rifugiodonbarbera.eu/en/home-en/

 

Refuge/Hotel Bayasse (1800m): –
Welcome to Bayasse Mountain Lodge, located 20 km from Barcelonnette and Pra-Loup, at the gateway to the Mercantour Park
Tel: +33492322079
https://refuge-hotel-bayasse.com/en

 

Refuge Scarfiotti (2165m): –
The refuge is located on the suggestive plateau of the Grange du Fond at an altitude of 2165, on the route that goes up from Rochemolles Bardonecchia to the Colle del Sommeiller.
Tel: +39122901892
https://www.rifugioscarfiotticrosetto.com/il-rifugio/

 

Refuge Gittamelon (1510m):-
In the heart of the Encombres Valley where the ibexes have taken up residence, my team and I welcome you, for an evening in the
mountain pastures rich in flavour, in an authentic Belleville chalet.
Open dates: July 1 to August 27
Tel: +33663787528 or +33676432812
https://www.refuge-gittamelon.com/

 

Refuge de la Coire (2059m):-
Above the St Guérin dam on the Beaufort side and above the small village of Granier on the Tarentaise side.
Tel: +33687699809 or +33673690422
https://refugedelacoire.fr/

 

Refuge de L’Econdu (1884m):-
Nestled in the heart of the mountain pastures, this preserved, calm and soothing place is ideally located on the Tour du Beaufortain. The refuge is open from the beginning of June to the end of September
Tel: +33682058641
https://refuge-econdu.com/

 

Refuge de la Gittaz (1660m):-
The refuge is a large building renovated with traditional and warm materials. With its large capacity (40 independent beds divided into 4 dormitories)
Tel: 0642853441
https://refuge-gittaz.com/

 

Refuge du Fioux (1505m):-
Old alpine farm renovated in the 1990s. Located in the middle of the mountains, very quiet. Panoramic terrace, view of Mont Joly, the Bionnassay glacier, the Dôme du Gouter
Tel: +330450935243 
https://www.montourdumontblanc.com/fr/il4-refuge_i32356-refuge-du-fioux.aspx

 

Auberge de Salanfe (1950m):-
The refuge is open from the first weekend of June to the beginning of October depending on snow conditions.
Tel: +41277611438
https://salanfe.ch/

 

Cantine de Barmaz (1492m):-
Exploited since 1891, our canteen is located in an enchanting setting among pastures crossed by the stream, surrounded by a green forest. Nestled at the foot of the Massif des Dents Blanches, one can also see the Dents du Midi.
Tel: +41244791163 or +41764381164
https://cantine-barmaz.com

 

Cantine des Dents Blanches (1492m):-
Open from May 31st – Oct 31st
Tel: +41792174855
https://cantine-dentsblanches.com/

 

Refuge de Chésery – Lac Vert (1981m):-
The Refuge de Chésery is an old 19th-century barn initially built for cows. Renovated in 1987, the building was transformed into a welcoming refuge. The Es-Borrat family took care of it for 21 years and handed it over to William and Simone Grenon in 2008.
Tel: +41797256820
https://www.lacvert.ch/

 

Refuge d’Ubine (1500m):-
Unguarded chalet, except in summer. Reservation is required by order of registration. During the guardian period, self-managed refuge, no half board. It is possible to eat at the inn about fifty meters away
Tel: +33450731298
https://anthonon.fr/chalet-dubine/

 

RIDE SEASON

The best months to ride this route are between July and mid-September.

 

If you were to try and ride the route in June, you may need to make several detours, as you may encounter snow on a number of the high cols. You would also find the tunnel du Parpaillon closed. The tunnel only opens around the beginning of July, as it will be snowed in until then. The exact opening date will vary depending on the winter’s snowfall. It also closes again in late September. (If you are riding in the shoulder seasons whilst the tunnel is closed, please use the route file Variant-C from Barcelonnette.)

 

Riding the route after mid-September is also very possible, and the autumn colours can be beautiful. However, you would need to be prepared for colder weather and be more organised with your accommodation and resupply points. Most mountain refuges/huts and cafes close in mid-September, so you will need to plan your accommodation and re-supplies in the valleys. Nights will become a lot colder, so you wouldn’t want to sleep up high. You could also receive a dusting of snow up high, but it is unlikely to settle for long.

 

In the peak of the summer holidays (August), the accommodation will be at its busiest, so you will need to call up mountain huts and campsites before your arrival, to make sure they have space for you.

 

WEATHER

During the months of July to mid-September,  the average temperatures will range between 8°C at night and 26°C in the day. However, weather in the Alps can be serious and you need to be prepared for anything. Ranging from: Soaring heat and avoiding the risk of dehydration. Thunderstorms, resulting in lighting strikes, hail, flash floods and landslides. Through to cold fronts bringing snow, below freezing overnight temperatures at altitude and the risk of hypothermia. (We had snow in the Alps in July and August last summer. So snow over 2000M is always a possibility.)

 

The route spends a lot of time going up to altitudes between 2000m – 3000m. Bad weather at these heights can be very serious! You really don’t want to be stuck on a ridge line or mountain pass in an electrical storm, so please monitor the weather carefully and make sensible decisions, knowing that the weather down on the valley floor can have no correlation to isolated weather that might be happening on a 3000m mountain pass. In the summer months, it is common for there to be blue sky above you and then a large thunderstorm to appear in a matter of minutes. We recommend downloading the free ‘My Lightning Tracker‘ app to help determine when an electrical storm is coming, helping with sensible decision-making. 

 

ANIMALS

If you are lucky, you may encounter some of the spectacular wildlife the Alps has to offer. Bearded vultures, Golden Eagles, Ibex, Chamoix, Deer and Marmots will all be watching you from afar, even if you haven’t spotted them yet. Several packs of Wolves and Wild Boar also call parts of the route home, but your chances of encountering them is very unlikely. However, it’s worth being vigilant for Wild Boar or Deer crossing your path when your descending, particularly at night, so they don’t become obstacles.

 

Patou, the Pyrenees mountain dog, probably represent the most intimidating animal you may encounter along the route. They are large dogs, with a thick white coat, and are bred to guard and protect sheep. Many of them are behind fences these days, and they generally sound more daunting than they actually are, but it is important to know how to deal with them just in case.

  • If there is a flock of sheep up ahead, then you might find the Patou will come towards you barking furiously.
  • They may come quite close (5 to 10 metres), they are just working out if you are a potential threat to the flock.
  • Stop, get off your bike and stay calm, and speak calmly to the dog.
  • Avoid making direct eye contact with the dog.
  • Don’t do anything that could seem like a threat.
  • Don’t shout, don’t wave your arms or throw stones.
  • If the terrain allows, try and give the flock a wide berth.
  • Move slowly away from the dog and the flock. If the dog starts barking again, stop again!
  • The dog may take a several minutes to decide that you are not a threat, but It will gradually calm down and may then wander back towards the flock.

LEAVE NO TRACE

Respect the environment and local communities you will be travelling through. You will be crossing some fragile ecosystems, please respect both the flora and fauna and leave nature unchanged (or better). Aim to travel in a way that avoids damaging the land, leaving obvious scars, making any lasting impact on the terrain, or threatening future access. Sometimes the simple act of cutting a corner can cause lasting damage, so please ride mindfully.

 

RESPECT

Please respect other mountain users. Particularly hikers on single-track trails. They have priority, slow down or stop to let them pass.

 

In case of emergency, please use the following numbers.

 

France            112

Italy                 112      
Switzerland    144

 

We highly recommend you download the free Echo SOS app onto the first page of your phone. Use this app when making an emergency call, as it automatically uses the right phone number for your location. It also automatically transmits your location the second you trigger the call. This means the emergency services have your exact coordinates straight away, and prevents mistakes being made, particular if you are in a country where you don’t speak the language fluently.

 

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