It’s nice to live at the bottom of a mountain.
Le Salève is the massif overlooking Geneva just to the south of the city. There are five road bike routes up this mountain. All interesting, and some very challenging.
I cycle up Le Salève often – especially in winter. It’s possible to ride several kilometres along the top, with great views of lake Geneva on one side, and the Alps on the other. It’s a great place to cycle.
Before we start:
- I have put all the routes plus key locations on the map at the very bottom.
- I have all five routes ending at the Orientation table (15 second hike above the road) — a couple of kilometres above Col de la Croisette. At 1300 metres, this is one of the two high points up Le Salève.
- The other high point is near Col des Pitons at 1340 metres (again see map).
Here are details of the five routes:
1. North-West side – STEEP!!
This side is short but hard. There aren’t many paved 4km stretches any where that are steeper than the middle 4 kms here — averaging around 12% — with lots of stretches far steeper.
There are 7 or 8 absolutely beautiful hairpins as the road winds straight up. We watched the pros fly up this during the Dauphiné in 2008.
2. South-West – from Col du Mont Sion
This is the side I climb most often – and probably the quietest side. I have started the route at Mont Sion, but it can take quite an effort just to get there. Tip: Approach the Mont Sion via Col de la Croix Biche and Charly – avoiding the very buys D1201.
The first few kms up to Château des Avenières are steep but fun.
After a short descent from the château, the route turns up through the woods. This is a lovely, less steep stretch – on windy roads …. with the occasional group of deer running past.
After seven kilometres along this route, the road is closed for several months during winter all the way to Croisette. But we frequently take our bikes over anyway.
A video from last year:
Often in autumn and winter Geneva is covered with low, grey clouds. But it can sometimes be easy to get above the clouds into bright sunshine just by cycling up Le Salève. It’s hard to believe in the photo below, but it’s a dark, grey depressing day in Geneva under those clouds.
3. South Side – Cruseilles
Just for the sake of completeness, this is just the more normal variation of route #2. Starting from Cruseilles it’s a consistently gentle climb through the woods that joins the route from Col du Mont Sion after about 5 kilometres.
4. North Side – Long and Hard
Starting near Annemasse, this side starts at the lowest altitude.
The first couple kilometres can have a little bit of traffic … but the road soon becomes fairly quiet. In the middle, after Monnetier-Mornex are some very steep stretches and a couple of good look-out points down to Geneva and the lake. It becomes less steep as you pass the cable car station and pass the Grande Gorge.
Not the easiest side …. but probably my least favourite.
5. East side – from La Muraz
I don’t do this side very often. But it’s a perfect way to “return” to Geneva after visiting some of the smaller Cols on the other side of Le Salève like Col le Parc. For example see the map in this link.
There are also lots of ways to Mountain bike up Le Salève. Hopefully later in the year, I’ll map them as well – after a little more exploration
Map of all Five Routes
View Le Salève in a larger map
If you’d rather descend than cycle uphill. Here’s the descent from the Orientation table down the steep north-east side: