Cols Cayolle, Champs, and Allos

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Col des Champs

The quintessential south Alps loop. Three beautiful, long, not-crazy-hard Cols – all above 2000 metres. Approximately 120 kms and 3500 metres of climbing.

From Barcelonnette, I started with the Col de la Cayolle. Not the hardest climb, but almost 30 kms long and a scenic, easy start through a lovely narrow gorge to warm up the legs.

It gets a little steeper for the last few kilometres as one climbs out of the gorge. This was the first time I’d seen the other side – wow! Amazing hairpins and cliff roads, I didn’t get any good photos, but a real highlight of the loop.

There is a drinks chalet one kilometre from the summit of Cayolle. If you are thirsty stop there as there is nothing at the summit or until well down the descent.

After a super fun descent I turned right to climb Col des Champs. Note, early in the climb the road splits – both ways go to the Col – but turn right following “Colmar via Col des Champs” for the “classic” route.

The early slopes are nothing special, but once the road gets above the tree-line it’s a superb, hairpinned route.

Col des Champs

Again, if you want a drink, the last restaurant is roughly 9 kms from summit.

The descent is in a different French department, and the surface is awful. Very bumpy. I should have climbed this side.

Which is the best direction for this loop? Without a doubt, counter-clockwise – opposite of my choice. This climbs the more beautiful side of Allos, the bumpier side of Champs, and the cliff-road side of Cayolle. Next time :)

The south side of Col d’Allos starts out very easily, and has a little traffic as the road approaches the ski station of Allos. The fun part of this side is the last 5kms above the final ski-village. I had a dog follow me up for the first 4 kms – which was a little alarming but he seemed happy.

See little pic of yellow sign above – The top part of Allos is closed to cars every friday morning in the summer – nice.

Col d'Allos

I had a beer at the top and then thoroughly enjoyed the amazing cliff-road descent into Barcelonnette. I love the north side of Allos – details of climb here.

Col d'Allos

This loop was hard work for me, but so it was so rewarding to complete it. Some time in the future I’ll have to try and survive it again in the opposite direction.

9.1 Awesome

The quintessential south Alps loop. Three beautiful, long, not-crazy-hard Cols - all above 2000 metres. Approximately 120 kms and 3500 metres of climbing. Almost entirely on quiet roads.

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Happiest while cycling uphill. More enthusiastic than talented, my 2014 Challenge is to cycle 50 great rides, slowly.

8 Comments

  1. Did the reverse loop on september 22 with a group of 6 from the states, thanks for all the info on your site. I would add that there is NO FLAT on this route, my type of fun but not for every rider. the car park at colmars is great and safe place to start

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  4. Jered Gruber on

    First time I saw your post on this loop – just rode it a few weeks ago – LOVE it. If you go back, we found an incredible place to stay in Jausiers on airbnb along the first kilometer or so of the Bonette. Super cool.

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