Alpe d’Huez – Five Different Rides


The legendary 21 Hairpins of Alpe d’Huez are climbed every year by tens of thousands of amateur cyclists. I had goose bumps the first time I climbed this biking Mecca.

But many people don’t realize there is a lot more to do than just climbing the usual Tour de France route.

The Map is explained below

View Larger Map

Here are five different ways to enjoy the Alpe

#1 – The Classic Route

Of course, if you are short of time, this is the route to choose. This is the route the pros do. Each of the 21 hairpins are labeled and named after a former stage winner. FYI, Often there is a pro photographer just before the finish. Remember to smile and act like it’s easy.

The Climb: 15.2 kms (9.4 miles); Ascent: 1,150 metres (3,770 feet)

Map: The Dark Blue Route

Tip for your first time: The first two kilometres are brutal. Make sure to warm-up before beginning the climb. And don’t let the excitement make you start out too hard.

#2 – Add Col de Poutran and Lac Besson
Lac Besson

After you have finished congratulating yourself for climbing Alpe d’Huez, think about continuing up to Col de Poutran and Lac Besson above the town.

The Climb: 18.7 kms (11.6 miles); Ascent: 1,210 metres (3.970 feet)

Map: The Dark Blue Route and add Red Route

#3 – Alternate Route – Start Rochetaillee

There is a nice easier back way up Alpe d’Huez starting in Rochetaillee – the same start point as the fabulous Col de la Croix de Fer. Parts of this route are high along a steep cliff with great views (see the Google Earth link below the map above to view in 3D)

The Climb: 22.3 kms (13.9 miles); Ascent: 1,200 metres (3,940 feet)

Map: The Purple Route then join Black Route

#4 – Add Col de Sarenne

Another extension after climbing the classic route: think about continuing onto the beautiful and remote Col de Sarenne. The route is do-able on a road bike but it is fairly bumpy in places.

The Climb: 22.7 kms (14.1 miles); Ascent: 1,450 metres (4,760 feet)

Map: The Dark Blue Classic route then join the Green route to Col de Sarenne (follow signs to heliport in Alpe d’Huez)

#5 – Col de la Sarenne from the East Side
Peaking over the top of Col de Sarenne

Starting in Bourg d’Oisans, head south towards Col de Lautaret. After crossing the dam, turn left towards Mizoen and Sarenne. After reaching the Col you can descend towards Alpe d’Huez. Of course this can be a loop, by further descending back to Bourg d’Oisans down the classic route.

The Climb: 27.7 kms (17.2 miles); Ascent: 1,390 metres (4,560 feet)

Map: Start in Bourg d’Oisans follow Green route



Happiest while cycling uphill.


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  2. Really like the site. I am camping near Alpe D’Huez in July so will try these rides out.

    Should be a little more challenging than my usual riding in the Peak District in England.

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  4. Randall Richardson on


    I would like to rent a bike in Bourg d’Oisans on July 9 to climb the Alpe d’Huez. Do you know how hard it is to get one since they don’t let you reserve bikes.


  5. Randall,

    My understanding (not 1st hand knowledge) is that they have quite a few and rarely run out BUT July 9 is a busy time …. maybe show up early?

    Possibly have a look in Grenoble?

    Good luck


  6. Will – Thanks for putting together this information.

    I’m finally going to climb Alpe d’Huez in September after dreaming and thinking about it since the 1970’s. I’ve been pouring over maps and thinking about what route to take once I reached Alpe d’Huez. Based on your information, it sounds like proceeding over the Col de la Serenne will be a nice way to return to Bourg d’Oisans.

    I’m also planning to do some of the ‘balcony’ roads (D211a and D211b). It sounds like the approach from Rochetaillee would be a good way to see the scenery on the D211b without doing the climb to Alpe d’Huez again.


  7. Hi Will

    Hope you’re training hard for the mont ventoux at night challenge.

    Just a quick one, is the surface on the ride up Col de Poutran and Lac Besson suitable for a normal road bike? or would I require stronger tyres etc?



  8. Hi John,

    The road is paved. Last time I was there it was in pretty mediocre shape. But it’s well worth a leisurely detour after climbing Alpe d’Huez.


  9. Hi Will,

    Thanks for the web page and the info. I may have the opportunity to visit ADH in late November this year as a detour from a work trip to Milan. Is it possible to do the climb then? How cold is it going to be? Snowing?
    And as a complete newbie – can you hire a bike and shoes to suit nearby? I’m flying in from Australia so won’t be able to lug much gear there.

    Thanks a heap.


  10. Hello Neil,

    Yes, Alpe d’Huez will be open as there is a big town at the top. How cold? who knows? Sometimes warm in November, sometimes a metre of snow. Bring very warm clothes for the descent.

    You should be able to rent a bike at one of a couple of large bike stores in Bourg d’Oisans, although I don’t know how open they are in November.

    If you are trying to drive all the way from Milan, make sure you check for road closures as many of the passes into France may be closed due to snow. The Fréjus tunnel however should be open and may be the best bet.

    PS – it’s a long way to drive just for Alpe d’Huez ……. 🙂 Maybe some fun options closer to Milan?

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  12. Joshua,

    One can never predict the weather but CURRENTLY the road is perfect and the weather warm, so May should hopefully be fine if it doesn’t rain. It’s kept cleared all year so as long as there has been some sun for a few days, even in the colder months it’s often OK.

    Good luck

  13. Hi Will,
    Thanks for the info you’ve put together for ADH, I’m one of 6 Firefighters from GMC Fire Service hoping to tackle ADH next year for a local childrens Charity. We’re hoping for May or possible June 2013, and hoping to base ourselves in Bourg d’Oisans. We’re of good overall fitness although not out and out bike nuts although the ADH Challenge is one for the bucket list. We’ll be over for 3 nights and were hoping to rent bikes there. Would Triple-ring be best for us and could you guide us to the most economical way to get from Geneva to Bourg d’Oisans,
    Many Thanks

  14. Hi Kev,

    Yes, I’d suggest a triple. There is nothing worse than not having the proper (easy enough gearing). I use a triple.

    Fromm Geneva, it’s about 15 euros on the toll roads. Geneva –> Annecy –> Chambery –> Grenoble –> follow signs to Briancon — which then turn into Bourg d’Oisans signs.

    It’s possible to take slower non-toll roads …. once in France follow green signs instead of blue signs —- same sequence

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  16. Dear Will
    I just want to thank you for this very instructive page. I shall be going up the easy way first.

  17. I am planning on taking my partner for his 40th birthday as it is on ‘his to do’ list. Is it suitable to go in October? Thinking of 3 day trip as he would love to ride here

  18. Hi Emma,

    October is very late in the season. I have ridden it in October in short sleeves. But there is certainly a big chance of very cold weather and or snow. August or early September would be a safer bet if you are travelling a long way.


  19. Hi all,

    Im interested in taking on a few challenges this year over the summer and am aware of the Mt Ventoux ‘Cingles’ challenge but does anyone else know anymore that are out there at all?? Would be really interested in getting a list together and having a crack at some of them if so.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Thanks Will, it sounds great, ill check it out further later on!

      If you or anyone else knows of anymore challenges of a similar fashion then i’d appreciate the heads up.


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  21. Michael Farla on

    Hi Will

    Thanks for a great info page on Alpe D’Huez and related roads
    I’ve done the normal ride to the top where the TdF finishes for the last 4 years, plus onwards to Sarenne
    And from Chambon Dam to Sarenne and Alpe D’huez in ’15
    I’d like to try Col De Poutran and Lac besson this year
    How far are these from the TdF finish point please?
    Thanks michael

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