Sometimes called the Venice of the Alps, beautiful Annecy and its mountain surrounded lake is one of my favorite places to cycle (about 45 minutes from Geneva). It’s one of the most popular tourist sites in France.
When friends visit us, we usually take them here.
Sometimes, I will leave visitors to explore the historic sites and walk along the lake-front while I go off and cycle a mountain – and we then meet for lunch along side a little quaint canal.
For cyclists there is a wonderful (flat) bike path that goes most of the way to Albertville along old railway lines. But I love Annecy for the many great and challenging cycling climbs in the area.
My top 5 Cycling climbs – all of these routes start from Annecy
#1 – Le Semnoz – Classic route
Le Semnoz (also called Cret de Chatillon) is the huge massive on the west side of Lake Annecy. The majority of the ride is through beautiful protected woodlands. The top is a small ski station.
The Climb: 18.3 kms (11.4 miles); Ascent: 1,210 metres (3,970 feet)
#2 – Lake Loop via Col de la Forclaz
Be careful doing a lake loop down low. On weekends, the west side of the lake can be pretty traffic filled. Far better to do a loop via the short but super steep Col de la Forclaz. This was the first place I ever saw a mountain stage in the Tour de France – the suffering!
The Climb: 9.5 kms (5.9 miles); Ascent: 700 metres (2,300 feet)
#3 – Col de Cherel
OK the first two are obvious. This may be a surprise. Not a well known climb. Most of this route is closed to cars and goes through a beautiful protected mountain valley. But to get to the top, you really need a hybrid or mountain bike as the route becomes a gravel road. Amazing ride. Note, I had trouble finding the entrance to the climb, so the gps route is a bit windy.
I have updated the blog link to a loop that includes descending the other side of Cherel and taking an interesting route back to Annecy. Really fun loop …. no road bikes remember.
The Climb: 15.9 kms (9.9 miles); Ascent: 1,030 metres (3,380 feet)
#4 Big Lake Loop – via Col de l’Epine
A fantastic loop that covers 3 small climbs and much of the start of stage 8 of the 2007 Tour de France. The route up to l’Epine in eiter direction is like a visit to a secret unknown valley.
The Entire Route: 64.8 kms (40 miles); Ascent: 1,040 metres (3,400 feet)
#5 Col des Contrebandiers
Smugglers Pass. This is a bit of a secret climb, unknown to most. It is certainly possible with a road bike but a pretty lousy surface – I would recommend a mountain bike. Doreen and I had intended to ride the cycle path, but the Annecy marathon was that day. So we went in the opposite direction and climbed. Surprise, up to the greatest cliff view overlooking the lake and town.
At the Col sign, take the trail at the RIGHT by foot, and follow upwards for stunning views of the lake below ( a 15 minute hike).
For the more adventurous, there are lots of other famous climbs within striking distance of Annecy. Scroll the map or see below for a few.
- Le Semnoz – quiet and scenic south – east route
- Col de la Croix Fry, Col de Plain Bois, Col des Aravis
- Mont Revard
- Col des Glieres!
- Col de l’Arpettaz
- Col de la Frasse
Click “View Larger Map” at bottom for a clearer view of climbs.