Belvédère des Avalanches and Col du Merle

Jura Cloud Wall

Another steep, beautiful climb on deserted roads in the Jura mountains.

Starting near Bellegarde, the ride got off to a slow start as the bridge to Montanges was closed. This left me on the wrong side of a gigantic (stunning) gorge. I considered changing plans but I’d been wanting to climb this for a long time!

Following a nice cliff road, it took me about 10 kms until the gorge ended and I found a way around.

It was overcast all day in Geneva – on the other side of the mountains – a huge cloud wall was on top of the mountains. I was in a little sunny micro climate valley.

The hard work starts in Champfromier. There is a tiny, forestry road that heads up the cliffs. It’s not often that I get to use the extra dark red in my elevation charts for kms averaging over 12%. Wow!

chart just to Avalanches Clouds above Juras Belvédère des Avalanches Belvédère des Avalanches

My plan was to continue on small unpaved forestry roads to the Col du Merle. Thanks to Bastien for this idea. For his excellent photos – see his article (in French) on this route here.

It is “possible” to use a road bike up to the Belvedere des Avalanches. But beyond this, the route requires a mountain or touring bike.

Luckily, I had programmed the route into my GPS, as the route criss-crossed several other forestry roads. After climbing through the woods for a while through some fog/clouds, I broke through into sunshine again.

Some History:
Nearing my goal, in the middle of no-where, it was time for some history.

La Borne au Lion French Resistance monument

First, I stopped to look at La Borne au Lion (under my bike in photo at left). This is the largest of a series of stone markers implanted in 1613 to indicate the border between Franche Comté – then owned by Spain (until 1678) – and Le Bugy and Pays de Gex owned then by the Kingdom of France.

At the same location was a monument to the Maquis (French Resistance). This site was used as a headquarters and hospital by the Maquis de l’Ain and the Haut-Jura during the fighting with the Nazis in 1944.

Less than a kilometre further up the road, I reached my goal: the Col du Merle.

A thoroughly enjoyable 70 km there-back ride.

Col du Merle


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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. I love these climbs and this area ! the photos are beautiful and the two with the cloud wall are very impressive.

    Well done 😉

  2. What a great picture! I’m going to have to show this to my wife… I think I may have mentioned before she’s a meteorologist. She loves to see cool cloud formations. What a great shot of a cloud wall. Way to go on the 12% grade… you’re killin’ me!

  3. Good news : the Pont des Pierres is open again. Just need to be careful on the road that leads down into and up out of the valley as there is a band cut out of the asphalt almost all along that road and this has not been filled again yet. You do not want to end up in there with narrow bike tires.

    The forest road des Avalanches is a pure killer indeed…steep! FYI It is possible to continue the road over Col du Merle (1300 something meters alt) to end up in Lelex (800 something meters alt). It is off-road, but 100% rideable. Nothing like the descend from Col des Annes towards le Reposoir.

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