Trivia: Name a climb south of Annecy with virtually the same stats as Alpe d’Huez yet double the hairpins. Oh, and with almost zero traffic. If you didn’t guess Col de l’Arpettaz, don’t worry, not too many other people seem to know about this superb climb.
I’ve put the map next to encourage you to zoom and count the hairpins. What a great road.
Markus and I started near Annecy so we could enjoy the wonderful Annecy bike path. It’s a repurposed old railway line – fantastic. Near Annecy it can be popular (busy), but after a few kilometres it’s much quieter. Relaxing riding.
It’s more than 30 kilometres along the bike path until – a couple of kms short of Ugine – we turned left, across the main department road, onto a tiny signed road soon to be called “route des montagnes.” The first couple of kilometres pass through some houses/chalets but soon it’s a quiet, steep, narrow, oft-shaded, route that has — something like 42 hairpins. Nice.
Much of the ride is through lovely forests:
Higher, the road opens up with great views of the Aravis Alps behind.
Just about every-time I bike with Markus we seem to enjoy a beer together. Exactly at the Col is a very nice auberge with a good menu ….. and Belgian Beer:
The route we descended is also very interesting. A fun descent (but I highly recommend our route direction).
Col de l’Arpettaz is a fantastic climb – and not well known. The Tourist board does a great job sign-posting all sort of climbs in Haute Savoie / Savoie ….. but not this one. Very, very light traffic. Fun hairpins, nice views, challenging, etc. Woohooo!
I notice you guys did that on your MTBs, so I’ll suggest a nice route you can do. From Annecy, head south east over the Col de Bluffy, down the other side, and through to Thones. Take the road up to Manigod, and the Col de la Croix Fry, then down towards La Clusaz, but turn right on the road up to the Col des Aravis. Just after the tourist shops at the summit, you’ll see a gravel road off to the right, which is where you’ll need the MTBs. This gravel road will take you all the way to the top of the Col d’Arpettaz. It’s a nice mix of road and off-road.
Ben, thanks. Ha, yes, we had mountain bikes because we had planned to ride that great unpaved stretch, but decided we were too
tiredweak. THat’s a great recommendation. I have done that unpaved road between Aravis and Arpettaz. Details here: https://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-des-aravis-and-above-to-col-de-larpettaz/. It, along with Arpettaz, will also be part of a new sportive: La Resistance, taking place in September. See here: http://www.laresistance.cc/
I’m going to this area in a few weeks 🙂 I’ll probably only be able to take one bike, so it’s likely to be my tourer as it makes most sense for family rides. Is the route mentioned out and out mountain bike stuff, or will I be ok on my tourer? I’m not fazed by a bit of bridleway-type riding…
Only the part we did NOT do. In other words, the road that starts at Col de l’Arpettaz and heads towards Col des Aravis. It is quite rough, although I’ve ridden it on a hybrid without too much trouble (descending slowly) – but generally I’d suggest a mtb for it.. The route we did in this post is fine on any bike. Enjoy
Will – have you ever tried the off road route from Col de l’Arpettaz to the Col des Aravis ? I’ve been hoping to try it this summer
yes, it’s very nice. Worth doing. See link in above comment
Wow. Looks great. Likely still to be snowed in during March, I guess, which is when my annual work trip to Geneva is?
Matt, I tried it in early May a decade ago on a very warm day and bumped into too much snow several kilometres from summit. I don’t think it gets cleared, they wait until it melts. Unfortunately, no way March would work
I didn’t have much ideas about Col de l’Arpettaz climbing before…The location is just awesome.
Thank you for the post.
Great route – really looking forward to trying it out. I recently moved to Annecy and your blog has been a great resource!
A hidden gem, tks for highlighting this climb Wil. As you said its strange that its not on the official maps which are generally fantastic. Great info as usual and i combined this climb with the Annecy Forclaz into a tough but very enjoyable day.
Thanks for the routes! I’ll be using some of these in a visit to Annecy in the summer!
Thanks for your routes. We rode several this year, favourite being the cool de l’Arpettaz!
Been to Lake Annecy last year Wil and rode l’Arpettaz twice ..on the recommendations on this site.its a lovely climb.I am going back there this year and will climb it every day as a warm up for the Etape Du tour on 8th July.
As a matter of Interest nearing the top of the climb maybe 2 k from the summit I noticed a big rock in a field to the right with a round plaque with a mans face carved on it ..I’ve never managed to find out why it’s there or who he is ?? any ideas
Hi Will, together with my mate JW we did this fantastic climb on our MTB’s (last week) starting in Saint-Jorioz. Then from Arpettaz (after a drink in the Auberge/Refuge) we went XC over to Col des Aravis. The 13 km off road path between Arpettaz and Aravis is brilliant! On our right we had the Mont Blanc and we only saw 1 car and 2 motorbikes.This trip is my highlight of 2019. After the Aravis we went down the D909 towards St Jean de Sixt heading Annecy.
Thanks for your inspiring blog, JP&JW
Excellent, thanks for the note
This is now my favourite route close to Annecy.
What a hidden gem – thank you for the post about it.
I took the risk of going a little early in the year, so I opted for the VTT. Glad I did, as it’s not the smoothest road and I would have been nervous about punctures with my road bike.
I found quite a bit of snow on the road for the last few kilometres (so I got off and pushed) but I knew I was close to the top and couldn’t resist continuing.
The absolute *highlight* was riding up through the forest. I was totally alone and the atmosphere, the light through the trees, the mist, was almost literally breathtaking.
It was kind of eerie being alone up there at the top with the refuge closed and very heavy mist covering much of the view, but that only motivates me to go up again on a sunny day.
Well done, Melanie. Very nice trip report.
Here’s an idea for a big ride on a nice summer day: climb Arpettaz and then continue higher along the unpaved Route de la Soif all the way to Col des Aravis: https://www.cycling-challenge.com/la-route-de-la-soif-via-col-de-larpettaz/
Hi Will, your site is such a great resource, thank you! You have been my guide on two visits to the area. I took this route a few days ago in late August and it’s one of my favourite rides of all time. A long but steady climb with plenty of shade, hardly any traffic, refreshments at the top and then a stunning descent with views of Mont Blanc. Thanks for highlighting this amazing route.