This is a great route (map at bottom).
If you have climbed Alpe d’Huez, you may have looked across the valley and seen an amazing little road carved into the cliffs above Bourg d’Oisans. I’d avoided it for years, but with my new found “tunnel courage” I finally went to explore.
The climb starts from the back of Bourg d’Oisans and heads up immediately. A sign warns of four unlit tunnels, but I was prepared with 3 lights — wooohooo!
And these were indeed dark tunnels. The longest was just under 400 metres, but uphill. Two tunnels also had turns in them making them pitch dark. A couple of the tunnels are so narrow that I was ready to point at light at any car and squeeze against a wall, but in fact, I didn’t see a car for the entire climb.
The tunnels are along the fabulous cliff stretch visible from the valley below. From here, I could clearly see the little known cliff road across the valley that I always recommend to people. It links the lower slopes of Alpe d’Huez to the lower slopes of Col de Sarenne - more details here.
The road is only paved until Villard Notre Dame (10 kms), but this includes most of the climbing and is more than worthwhile if you only have a road bike. After a couple of great signs warning of the dangerous road ahead, I continued for the last four unpaved kilometres to the col.
This stretch is a lot of fun – and occasionally vertiginous – with avalanche debris and no barriers on the flatter stretches. I was treated to more fantastic views of the valley below and Alpe d’Huez across the valley.
I had a glance through some old photos of climbing Alpe d’Huez. Below is one that shows Col du Solude up high, and the start of the cliff road below, in the distance. Photo taken from about half way up the Alpe. You can also see Bourg d’Oisans below.
Just a little over Col du Solude is the little perched village of Villard Reymond, situated at the top of a long gorge, up against big mountains. From the town, the road is paved all the way down. It is a wonderful descent and more than worth climbing too (note, above I included the profile for this side).
Much of the road is cut into a cliff above a tight gorge. Also some great hairpins.
The road exits onto the lower slopes of Col d’Ornon. The fun descent continues from here down to the main road just north of Bourg d’Oisans.
This is such a fun loop. Bring a light or two for the tunnels, a bike with thicker tires, and enjoy.
A superb, near deserted, road with unbelievable views throughout. If you don't mind a few tunnels, this is a truly memorable loop. Remember only paved to the highest villages on each side.
Quiet / No Traffic