Le Semnoz – Annecy’s Biggest Climb

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The 2013 Tour de France will be climbing route #2 below

Nearing top of Le Semnoz

I cycled up Le Semnoz the other day and thought I’d put together a comprehensive post about this great mountain that is not too well known by cyclotourists.

Le Semnoz is the mountain on the west side of Lake Annecy. Unlike the bigger mountains on the east side of the lake, it’s possibly to cycle up to the peak: Crêt de Chatillon.

View from Cret de Chatillon

There are several interesting choices to cycle this beautiful mountain. It’s easy enough to construct a fabulous loop by going up one side and down another.


View Le Semnoz in a larger map

#1 The Direct North Route

RED on map -> 18.3 kms; 1210 metres ascent

Le Semnoz Le Semnoz ski station Mont Blanc in Distance

The first 2 routes are similar and the shortest, thus the steepest. Primarily through the woods, apart from a flattish stretch in the middle, this is hard work. This route is kept open in winter almost to the summit to serve the small ski station at the top.

I ran into a traffic jam of goats here once (video).

#2 The North Route with Western start

ORANGE then RED on map -> 18 kms; 1160 metres ascent

This route starts on a very quiet forested road from the west and then joins the north route roughly half way up.

A very good alternative to the north side.

#3 Via Col de Leschaux – from Annecy

BLUE on map -> 26 kms; 1200 metres ascent

Lake Annecy Col de Leschaux

I once described the climb from Annecy to Col de Leschaux as a perfect introductory climb for someone new to cycling in the mountains. Twelve kms long and not steep at all – and plenty of views of Lake Annecy.

From Col des Leschaux is a beautiful and quiet back way up to the top of Le Semnoz. Just above the col are superb hairpins that lead ever higher with great views. This route is often but not always closed in winter.

#4 Via Col de Leschaux – south

PINK then BLUE on map -> 20.7 kms; 1070 metres ascent

Coming from the south, this route could be extended all the way to Aix-les-Bains or combined with a loop of Mont Revard.

This link shows a way around Le Semnoz from the south to make an excellent loop in either direction.

#5 via Col de Leschaux via Saint-Eustache

GREEN then BLUE on map -> 26 kms; 1350 metres ascent

This is perhaps my favourite way. I take the Annecy bike path to Saint-Jorioz and then follow a very quiet road up to Saint-Eustache on the way to Col de Leschaux, qnd then up to Le Semnoz. This route gives the best views of Lake Annecy on the early slopes.

View of Le Semnoz (over my left shoulder) from the other side of Lake Annecy:

Le Semnoz to the right

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

11 Comments

  1. I did this climb from Annecy via the Col de Leschaux then down the other side back into Annecy. It was a nice loop. I particularly got a kick out of the fact that I was descending when I “summited” the Col de Leschaux! :-)

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  3. Hi Will,

    Thanks for sharing this information. I recently went to Annecy and we took your advice and did route #1, the direct north route. Was pretty tough. The first time we did it their was snow at the top and it was snowing – we didn’t go equipped for those conditions so we had to descend slower than we went up!

    The 2nd time we rode up it the weather was much better and the views were great from the top, followed by a super fast descent. Looking forward to seeing how quickly they do it in The Tour this year.

    Cheers,
    Rob

  4. Great post! Off the back of zero cycling in the past 3 years, having spent July 2013 doing 3 x 45 mins spinning classes a week, and weighing 14 stone, I set myself the challenge of climbing Semnoz (the red route) on a recent family holiday to annecy. I accomplished my goal the first full day there, and climbed Semnoz two other times as well… All three times ascending the red route, and descending on the eastern side, through Leschaux and St Jaurioz, then back to Annecy. Absolutely magical rides. they are super challenging but doable. Great restaurant at the summit. Annecy is beautiful for anyone who has family – great shopping centre, the lake has loads of amenities (water sports centre which rents canoes and dinghies – we rented a hoboe cat twice), kids fun centre, pedal boating, lake swimming and beaches. Brilliant holiday and great ride – would strongly recommend.

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  7. Great info on the the Semnoz options. Fortunately I found this post prior to arriving in Annecy and I opted for route 5. I come from flat Perth, Western Australia and your suggestions made my first serious climb vey enjoyable. Met with a Dutch rider at the summit of Le Semnoz and he suggested route 1 back to Annecy. It was quiet and I got a taste of a nice long descent. The descent left me 300m away from my Hotel. Perfect!

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