Lac d’Emosson (and above) via Col des Montets


In the shadow of Mont Blanc, Chamonix is perhaps the adventure capital of Europe. Mountain climbing, hiking, skiing , para-penting, etc. And while there are lots of great mountain biking trails, there are not that many good Road bike routes.

But today, I did one of the best (although using a hybrid). Map and elevation profiles at bottom. And reaching over 2200 metres (7280 feet) meant I was in full winter gear for the first time in months.

Col des Montets

Heading north from Chamonix the route started up the fairly easy Col des Montets. This road links the Mont Blanc region of France with the Valais region of Switzerland and thus while not too busy, still has more fast traffic than I usually like.

After descending Montets, I crossed into Switzerland and almost immediately exited the main road to start climbing to Lac d’Emosson – a large glacial lake created by a huge hydro-electric dam.

The Lac d’Emosson was created by building a hydroelectric dam in the 1920s to cover the Swiss Federal Railways power requirements. The lake can be reached by three unusual railways. More here.
At the little chapel was a plaque commemorating the Battle of Emosson in 1323 – yes 1323!

This is a steep climb (see chart below) – the last 6 kms all between 9% and 10% (and much steeper above the lake) – on quiet roads with unbelievable views of Mont Blanc – directly into the sun unfortunately for photos.

Road linking Lac d'Emosson and Lac du Vieux Emosson Colo de la Gueulaz

Lac du Vieux Emosson

At 1950 metres (6400 feet), the Col de la Gueulaz is at the lake itself. Truly beautiful. This was my goal for the day. But while taking photos I noticed a little road across the lake heading higher! You can see part of this amazing little road above in the big photo just left of center.

This was the path to a smaller dammed lake – Lac du Vieux Emosson – at 2220 metres. I was tired but just had to have a look. By cycling over the big dam, then along a little road beside the lake for about 3 kilometres I found this little path.

Steep! For almost 2 kms it averaged 15% – going through a couple of little tunnels and then up to another dam/lake. The view down to the bigger lake is pretty incredible.

View of Lac d'Emosson

I decided to skip the hike to see the dinsosaur footprints (see below) and started heading back – which allowed me to climb the other side of Col de Montets while returning to Chamonix. 75 kms and about 2200 metres of ascent. Fun.

Elevation profiles for the three climbs:

 Col des Montets  South Col des Montets  North

Bike route 84576 – powered by Bikemap 


There is a hike above the little lake to see dinosaur tracks. 250 million years old. And I actually bumped into a dinosaur – above Col de la Gueulaz.


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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. History… engineering… paleontology… and of course cycling. What a day Will! AND… to rub it in our faces even more an absolutely beautiful day. PLEASE… PLEASE… keep these posts coming. One day when I grow up… I want to live in Europe for part of the year.

  2. Nice pictures, where did you find this nice weather?. It is gray and raining everyday here in Zurich. I guess it is nicer to the West.

  3. Pingback: 10 Great Cycling Climbs to Alpine Dams/Lakes : Cycling Challenge

  4. I did the ride from Martigny to Emosson today. The weather was amazing with temperatures in the mid 20s. Despite such warm weather, at the top of Emosson there was still plenty of snow around. The lake itself is practically empty (because it does not start filling up until the glaciers start melting) and frozen over! It’s an amazing sight, a complete contrast to your photo above Will.
    The views of Mont Blanc and the various glaciers are to die for.
    The road up to Emosson from Finhaut is still closed to cars but you can go by bike, no problem.
    Thoroughly recommended, it’s my favourite ride in the region.
    In total it is around 70km there and back with 2’400m ascent. The climb from Martigny Croix up the Col de la Forclaz is exactly +1’000m ascent, so if you have a computer you can be very sure of how far you have to go!

  5. Pingback: Col de la Forclaz and up to Barrage d’Emosson : Cycling Challenge

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