Jura Mountain Col Hunting – unpaved


The goal was to do some unpaved Jura mountain climbing and find a WW2 monument at the top of a mountain forest.

I started in Nantua, the capital of Haut-Bugey region of the Juras. The town is nestled below mountains and not far from downtown there is a little, unpaved path that immediately heads up.

Wooohooo. A fence, no cars!

The climb is to Monts d’Ain (spelled correctly). It’s perhaps 5 kilometres averaging a little more than 10%. First a good quality gravel road but ever rougher and narrower as it gets higher. Completely deserted, lots of hairpins. I’d seen this on some maps but not all, and feared it would be less ride-able, but it was terrific.

Monts d’Ain

At the top, the forest road continues but is more up and down. Another good 10 kilometres without seeing a dwelling, person, etc. These are roads for the timber industry and mountain bikers. No-one else. No farms, cattle, villages, etc.

I would then take a big paved road until Champdor. But I barely saw a car. At Champdor, I turned up again taking a tiny, vaguely paved road winding through forests. Stress-free climbing that eventually becomes unpaved.

In 1944, a Canadian aircrew crashed here trying to supply arms to the French resistance. I knew there was a monument higher and I eventually ran into a sign leading me along a muddy path to a beautifully maintained monument at perhaps 1100 metres or so.

There is also some plane debris surrounded by rocks beside the monument. It’s wonderful to see how cared for the site is, and I have seen internet photos of remembrance ceremonies here.

Nearby is the Bornes des Trois Cantons at 1163 metres. It must have some historical significance but I can’t find any information about it. The Borne says: “Par Arret de la Cour de Lyon du 26 Aout 1864

Next, on trails, I would briefly descend to Col de la Croix d’Orme (1099m), and then a scenic traverse to Col de Valorse (1079m). The descent of Valorse is on a fun, tiny road that is badly paved.

View from Col de Valorse

I was perhaps less creative from here on, mainly returning on paved roads, but — yes, I repeat myself — they are so, so quiet. Half way back I turned onto a narrower road that climbs the easy side of Col de la Belleroche (1056m).

The side of Belleroche that I descended is a favourite of mine. Here is a 5 col road bike loop that climbs it.

At 1000 metres. Deserted roads, very nice cycling.

The descent of Belleroche, below Col de Colliard (979m), was marked as closed – they often have landslide issues here. But it was fine, I made it down without any problem back to the start.

Col de la Belleroche

I passed a few other cols on this route. See labels on map below.


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Happiest while cycling uphill.

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