Cols Cayolle, Champs, and Allos


Col des Champs

The quintessential south Alps loop. Three beautiful, long, not-crazy-hard Cols – all above 2000 metres. Approximately 120 kms and 3500 metres of climbing.

From Barcelonnette, I started with the Col de la Cayolle. Not the hardest climb, but almost 30 kms long and a scenic, easy start through a lovely narrow gorge to warm up the legs.

It gets a little steeper for the last few kilometres as one climbs out of the gorge. This was the first time I’d seen the other side – wow! Amazing hairpins and cliff roads, I didn’t get any good photos, but a real highlight of the loop.

There is a drinks chalet one kilometre from the summit of Cayolle. If you are thirsty stop there as there is nothing at the summit or until well down the descent.

After a super fun descent I turned right to climb Col des Champs. Note, early in the climb the road splits – both ways go to the Col – but turn right following “Colmar via Col des Champs” for the “classic” route.

The early slopes are nothing special, but once the road gets above the tree-line it’s a superb, hairpinned route.

Col des Champs

Again, if you want a drink, the last restaurant is roughly 9 kms from summit.

The descent is in a different French department, and the surface is awful. Very bumpy. I should have climbed this side.

Which is the best direction for this loop? Without a doubt, counter-clockwise – opposite of my choice. This climbs the more beautiful side of Allos, the bumpier side of Champs, and the cliff-road side of Cayolle. Next time 🙂

The south side of Col d’Allos starts out very easily, and has a little traffic as the road approaches the ski station of Allos. The fun part of this side is the last 5kms above the final ski-village. I had a dog follow me up for the first 4 kms – which was a little alarming but he seemed happy.

See little pic of yellow sign above – The top part of Allos is closed to cars every friday morning in the summer – nice.

Col d'Allos

I had a beer at the top and then thoroughly enjoyed the amazing cliff-road descent into Barcelonnette. I love the north side of Allos – details of climb here.

Col d'Allos

This loop was hard work for me, but so it was so rewarding to complete it. Some time in the future I’ll have to try and survive it again in the opposite direction.

9.1 Awesome

The quintessential south Alps loop. Three beautiful, long, not-crazy-hard Cols - all above 2000 metres. Approximately 120 kms and 3500 metres of climbing. Almost entirely on quiet roads.

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  • Difficulty 9
  • Quiet / No Traffic 9
  • Fun Factor 9.5
  • User Ratings (37 Votes) 5.1

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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Did the reverse loop on september 22 with a group of 6 from the states, thanks for all the info on your site. I would add that there is NO FLAT on this route, my type of fun but not for every rider. the car park at colmars is great and safe place to start

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  4. Jered Gruber on

    First time I saw your post on this loop – just rode it a few weeks ago – LOVE it. If you go back, we found an incredible place to stay in Jausiers on airbnb along the first kilometer or so of the Bonette. Super cool.

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  6. if I had a beer after 100 km I´d be tumbling down the ravines of the col d´allos 🙂

    nice reportage. I´ll plan to ride the loop next summer. I must know s if the Champs downhill is still in baaad conditions


  7. 1999 I think on my dutch batavus from Utrecht holland to Marseille and back with camping gear end all
    the days when I was young,fit and handsome now only handsome but still love the bikes and did the col du Luens as wel

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  9. I did the 3 cols early this month, but from St Andre les Alp.
    So clockwise with the Allos first then the Cayolle, still feeling ok then got caught in a thunderstorm down to St Martin, then the Champ, the last few (5k) was really hard as found it steep as a last climb, followed by a dark descent with no lights to Colmar where i got picked up – all in all a crackin ride worth it for the scenery alone.
    Not bad fpr a 59year old paraplegic ?

  10. Hello Will, I hope that your recovery is just about complete and the you’re getting a chance to enjoy some nice fall rides.
    I rode this ride a few weeks ago in mid Sept. and am happy to report that the bumpy west side of the col de Champ has received a beautiful coat of asphalt from top to bottom, which I ascended with much pleasure!
    What an awesome ride, thanks again for your direction on this loop and several others which I enjoyed.
    I rode the combe laval loop on the last day of my 16 day adventure and noted that it was posted to be closed from early October onwards .

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