The “Secret” Road to Col de la Charmette. A Chartreuse Alps Loop

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The Chartreuse Alps is the massif between Chambéry and Grenoble. It is home to the Grande Chartreuse – the head monastery of the Carthusian order.

It’s a great place for cycling col hunters with Col du Granier, Col de Porte, and Col du Coq probably the most “famous.” Click here for several Chartreuse Alps loops.

Col de la Charmette Tunnel

For this ride I was looking to see of it was possible to climb a tiny “road” up to Col de la Charmette. Leaving St-Laurent-du-Pont heading into the Gorges du Guiers Mort there is almost immediately a tiny, unsigned, unlikely looking road to the right. This is the start of the climb. See map at bottom for details.

After Chartreuse de Curière monastery the road is closed to cars (wooohooo) and no longer decently surfaced. It shouldn’t be descended on a road bike ….. and probably shouldn’t have been climbed on one either. Very rough at times. But it is fairly awesome.

I’ll let the video below explain the rest.

I forgot my camera so all photos are with my phone.

Half way to Col de la Charmette:

Col de la Charmette

The other side of Charmette is steep but a normal little road — I saw several cyclists. Next, I set off up into the Chartreuse …. first on a deserted, but challenging road to Col de Palaquit.

Col de Porte Col de Palequit Charmant Som

Here the route joins the quiet (but main) road to Col de Porte. At Col de Porte I had lunch (!!) and then headed left on a little road for another 6 kilometre climb up beautiful hairpins to Charmant Som.

Charmant Som

Note, the profile above for Charmant Som is for the principle road from Grenoble, I started higher and took a quieter road, and then joined up at Col du Palaquit. Both are great.

View from Charmant Som:

Charmant Som

From Charmant Som it’s completely downhill back to St-Laurent-du-Pont. The second half is through the fabulous Gorges du Guiers Mort. The tunnel sign was scarier than the tunnels. :)

Scary tunnels

This is a terrific loop. I was thrilled that it was passable by road bike. But next time I’ll bring my hybrid.



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The "Secret" road to Col de la Charmette is one of those special routes that while riding it you can't help but smile.

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

6 Comments

  1. We did this climb up the “closed” road a couple of years ago on a road/touring tandem bike with panniers. The road was completely dry then, and it wasn’t too hard to keep traction. In those conditions, you could certainly climb it on a road bike, although I would agree that descending it would be very sketchy. The lower section was the steepest, and that was all paved. It was an awesome adventure. See photo here:
    http://www.murray-white.net/PhotoPage.html?2011&cyclingViaFerrata&8

  2. thanks for the pics Chris. You guys are incredible with the tandem ….. that road is so steep, especially early on. Yeah, agree, I caught the road early in season, wet, and lots of debris. As long as one isn’t too fussy, road bike is “ok” going up.

    Fun route.

  3. hi there,
    I’ve never used this road, only went up the col de la Charmette from the other side and backtracked.
    I know (have seen pictures) this side you climbed is really pretty, deserted and therefore quite, etc. But I think it is also important to stress that this is a forbidden road and that one can be fined for cycling/hiking there.
    I still hope to go at some point, but I thought, given others might want to follow suit…. well… one should know! There are lots of rocks falling down etc so it IS most definitely a dangerous area… avoid having picnic there ;)
    Do you agree?

  4. I don’t think it’s forbidden. It is closed to cars, but I saw no signs forbidding bikes …. and it is certainly open to hikers. There was some work happening when i was there fixing one section.

    No doubt there are some falling rocks, but I didn’t see it as dangerous at all.

  5. Pingback: Ten “Fun” Tunnels to Cycle in the Alps

  6. Hi, thanks to your blog I discovered this beautiful climb (Col de la Charmette). Climbing (beginning of June 2014) on a dry day is absolutely no problem with a race bike – descending would be a bit more ‘adventurous’ and is not recommended.
    The part where we climbed the Col de la Charmette via the infamous ‘route forestière’ can be seen from 8’35” in this video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02nSh4IYK9A&list=UURhr7LlC_ukh9zSXqTXrt6Q
    Parts from the Gorges due Guiers Mort and climb/descent of Charmant Som can also be viewed in this video.
    Thanks for the tip !

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