Col du Solude


This is a great route (map at bottom).

soludeeast solude_west

If you have climbed Alpe d’Huez, you may have looked across the valley and seen an amazing little road carved into the cliffs above Bourg d’Oisans. I’d avoided it for years, but with my new found “tunnel courage” I finally went to explore. 🙂

The climb starts from the back of Bourg d’Oisans and heads up immediately. A sign warns of four unlit tunnels, but I was prepared with 3 lights — wooohooo!

And these were indeed dark tunnels. The longest was just under 400 metres, but uphill. Two tunnels also had turns in them making them pitch dark. A couple of the tunnels are so narrow that I was ready to point at light at any car and squeeze against a wall, but in fact, I didn’t see a car for the entire climb.

Entrance to 4 Tunnels

Entrance to 4 Tunnels

The tunnels are along the fabulous cliff stretch visible from the valley below. From here, I could clearly see the little known cliff road across the valley that I always recommend to people. It links the lower slopes of Alpe d’Huez to the lower slopes of Col de Sarenne – more details here.

View of Great Cliff Road

View of Great Cliff Road

After the tunnels, the route is just as good. It winds up and up, in a fabulous environment, getting ever closer to big mountains. Unfortunately it was overcast, but this entire route seemed so beautiful that I am eager to do it on a perfect day.
Big waterfall behind

Big waterfall behind

The road is only paved until Villard Notre Dame (10 kms), but this includes most of the climbing and is more than worthwhile if you only have a road bike. After a couple of great signs warning of the dangerous road ahead, I continued for the last four unpaved kilometres to the col.

This stretch is a lot of fun – and occasionally vertiginous – with avalanche debris and no barriers on the flatter stretches. I was treated to more fantastic views of the valley below and Alpe d’Huez across the valley.


I had a glance through some old photos of climbing Alpe d’Huez. Below is one that shows Col du Solude up high, and the start of the cliff road below, in the distance. Photo taken from about half way up the Alpe. You can also see Bourg d’Oisans below.


Just a little over Col du Solude is the little perched village of Villard Reymond, situated at the top of a long gorge, up against big mountains. From the town, the road is paved all the way down. It is a wonderful descent and more than worth climbing too (note, above I included the profile for this side).

Much of the road is cut into a cliff above a tight gorge. Also some great hairpins.

Villard Reymond side

The road exits onto the lower slopes of Col d’Ornon. The fun descent continues from here down to the main road just north of Bourg d’Oisans.

This is such a fun loop. Bring a light or two for the tunnels, a bike with thicker tires, and enjoy.

9.3 Awesome

A superb, near deserted, road with unbelievable views throughout. If you don't mind a few tunnels, this is a truly memorable loop. Remember only paved to the highest villages on each side.

  • Difficulty 8
  • Views 9.5
  • Quiet / No Traffic 10
  • Fun Factor 9.5
  • User Ratings (21 Votes) 6.1

About Author

Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. I’d also noticed this road while riding in the Alpe d’Huez region. Thanks for the description, it sounds even more awesome than I’d imagined. I’ll have to make it there one day.

  2. awesome, I have run as far as that longer tunnel but wasn’t game to go further. WIll be heading there in 3 weeks and will hire a mountain bike and do that circuit.

  3. Scott Neilson on

    Great post, a group of us rode the same loop last year, although we rocked up on road bikes and rode the gravel road all the way up to Col du Solude, miraculously with no punctures! Check out the climb up to Oulles if you get a chance at the bottom of the descent off the Col d’Ornon, hairpin heaven.

  4. Tony, I am not 100% certain if cars are even permitted. Generally it would be OK, except a kilometre or so stretch that is a gravel cliff road with no barrier and signs of lots of little landslides. I wouldn’t take my car there.

  5. I climbed the Bourg D’Oisans side to Villard Notre Dame last Friday when a group of us were down there. Most of us went to the Galibier but I’d been there before and wanted to explore this.
    How beautiful the climb and views were, and how peaceful! And how pitch black in the tunnels where water dripped into the holes in the road 🙂 fortunately had lights, forewarned.

    A lovely morning with amazing views and I’m glad to know that that road is indeed the way to the Sarenne as that is a place I want to go. Have to admit to stopping with my wife for lunch in the tiny restaurant in the village- an unexpected treat in such a tiny place and I’ve never had a view like that with my food in my life.

  6. Hi there,

    Just back from an amazing week in Bourg with the wife and kids. (last week in August).

    Left them in the pool at the campsite at the foot of Alpe D’Huez and got on with it. The loop you did is truly an amazing one, I did it on my last morning in gorgeous sunshine.
    I took some lights as I had heard about the tunnels – but they were almost entirely useless in the end. The biggest tunnel says 365 feet – and to be honest it scared me to death. 27 degrees of bright sun and yet after the first corner it was like having my eyes shut. I got off the bike and walked, crapping myself. However, it didn’t seem to me to be anything like it’s stated length (i’m pleased to say) and I was spat out into the sun quite quickly.

    The climb is totally stunning – and the views incredible the entire way up. I actually rode up the unpaved 4km section to the Solude on my narrow road tires on Cosmic Carbones with no problems – just took it slow.
    Could see every hairpin of Huez from there too – but wouldn’t like to crash off !! Only saw about 4 cars on the entire ride.

    The only amendment I made was to turn left after the Solude and climb to the summit of the Ornon before the long and fabulous descent back into Bourg.

    What I will add is that the 2 “balcony” roads off Alpe D’Huez (D211a, 211b/c) are quiet yet totally stunning. Running from La Garde and Huez village respectively – they form new loops to try. Also found another (D220a) off Les Deux Alpes – and that took my breath away !! all end in a descent back home too !

    Will be going back for more next season !!

    Keep pedalling.


  7. Pingback: Beyond Alpe d’Huez: The Best Cycling Climbs from Bourg d’Oisans

  8. What beautiful pictures! I went up this road last year on my road bike. The unpaved part was quite ok, a little slippery here and there, but nothing serious. I just took it easy and stopped a few times to admire the views.

    Thanks for a beautiful website by the way. I just found it this evening and can’t stop reading and watching!

  9. Hi,

    This looks like a great little loop, just wondering if anyone has done it recently and can give an indication as to what state the gravel section is in now? The gravel section is just a 3 km stretch from Villard-Notre-Dame to the Col du Solude and a couple of hundred metres down the other side, right? Would it be passable on a road bike?

    Many thanks, Adam

    • The unpathed or gravel section is ok. Ive ridden this section many a time, always on a road bike. What i will say is, its different EVERY time. The rocks fall, the rain etc etc, but its always been ok.

      Just take it easy and keep away from the edge, its a massive drop!

      At the top of the gravel section, where you have a gravel bend that takes you up over the top, there is a great bench to sit and admire the views of Alpe D’Huez, Villard Reculas and the rest of the valley.

      As a precaution, steady on the decent for about 2k, as the narrow road is currently peppered with tiny gravel bits……you don’t want to brake to fiercely on here as you really pick up speed!

      I love this decent into the Ornon areas it really cuts deep into the valley….

      • Thanks Kevin for the info. I think it’s worth remembering your comment “it’s different every time” as an insight on dozens of high gravel roads. One never knows, especially after a tough winter,

  10. dylan fernley on

    just did this on sunday 20th may , the gravel section is fine on a road bike , just take a bit of care , one or two slips to negotiate but hey , more than worth it , the restaurant in ville raymond is recommended , all local caught and grown food , the bar in notre dame is also very accommodating ….. c’est tres bon !!

  11. Justin Fisher on

    Thank you so much for this recommendation, however we rode it in the opposite direction )with the addition of an ascent up to Col du Ornon) the descent down the twisty road to and through the tunnels is amazing! Had to keep stopping for photot’s the views are stunning, in fact I’m still smiling a day later.

  12. Colin Brodsky on

    This is indeed a fantastic ride. Rode it today clockwise on GP5000 tubeless 25s at 75 psi and it was great – no issues on gravel, just took it slow. The tunnel felt dark even with a 900 lumen headlamp mainly because of the sudden contrast on a sunny day! The first couple miles up were the messiest with debris and after that, very good conditions.

    What really surprised me was how beautiful the descent down to Ornon was! That was even better than the balcony road IMHO as it’s so wild and undeveloped. Also the alpine meadows over Villard notre dame were quite nice.

    Great site and I’ve referred to it many times planning rides out here!

  13. I did this route from Bourg d’Oisans (plus Col d’Ornon and Oulles, both great) on a road bike yesterday. It’s spectacular! The gravel section is fine if you have a little off-road experience and the views are well worth the handful of slippery spots. The longest tunnel (400m) now has lights, the other two are short but a bike light is useful (the forth tunnel has cutaways with plenty of sunlight). We encountered a few cars and motorbikes on the paved sections, so the secret may be out about this gem. A must-do if you’re in the area.

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