Lac de Mauvoisin and up to Chanrion


It’s becoming the summer of beautiful Alpine Lake / Dam rides. But this time I went another 14 kilometres past the dam on a small gravel road up into beautiful deserted valleys surrounded by glaciers.

I used a hybrid satellite map above to show how deserted the route is – apart from mountains and glaciers.

The profile above only includes the paved road from Le Chable up to the dam itself at 1,970 metres. It’s a long, sometimes steep, but beautiful climb.

But from the dam, it’s possible to continue much higher on an unpaved road after first passing through perhaps a mile long wet and muddy tunnel that runs uphill beside the lake.

View of the lake from a window in one of the tunnels:

After the tunnel the route winds up and down beside the lake – occasionally on slightly vertiginous roads. I passed several cyclists enjoying the day:

At the end of the lake, I had no clue how far the road would continue, but decided to keep following it. The surface remained fairly good as I continued up through a beautiful valley, again often on slightly vertiginous roads. And just as I expected the road to end it suddenly turned sharply up some great hairpins:

Ultimately, I was able to reach 2500 metres, with the high point being near the alpine “Cabane de Chanrion” – see here for details.

Wonderful views of glaciers and cows:

9.5 Awesome

On its own, the climb to the huge dam is a great ride (do-able by road bike). But adding the mountain bike adventure around the lake and then much higher makes this a top ride.

  • Views 9.5
  • Difficulty 9.5
  • Quiet / No Traffic 9.5
  • Fun Factor 9.5
  • User Ratings (4 Votes) 8.4

Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. I followed the suggestion and did this climb to Mauvoisin from Le Chable: it’s a great climb, fantastic scenery and the dam and lake at the top are stunning.
    At the lake it was getting a bit cold, I was knackered and had the road bike so I did not continue to Chanrion, although it also looks great.
    Instead I headed back down to Le Chable, caught my breath, and then recreated the 2009 Tour de France Verbier stage finish: start your stopwatch as you go through the roundabout and turn up towards Verbier. If you want to beat Contador you’ve got 20’53” to get to Verbier! It took me a tad longer….
    Thanks again Will!

  2. ha, 21′ I think I need about 45 minutes or probably more. Well done, yes, Mauvoisin is a really nice climb – and adding Verbier too is a good day out. Beyond the dam …. it immediately requires a mountain bike.

  3. I also did this climb recently. The road up to the damn is very nice. The long tunnel up to the damn and onto the unpaved road is incredible – certainly the most awesome tunnel I’ve ever found. Riding along the edge of the lake and then further up the valley to Chanrion then makes this an absolutely epic ride, one of my favorites ever. I did it with my cyclocross bike with about 32mm tires on, which was ideal for that section. After Chanrion, I tried to continue so that I could come back along the east side of the lake. Unfortunately, most of the hiking trail is completely unrideable, and I did a few kms of pushing/carrying the bike (some of it continuous carrying over a wide rocky valley – very tough), but eventually I got back onto a rideable trail and was able to complete the loop back onto the dam from the other side.

    There is also a pass out of the SW corner of this valley into Italy at about 2,800m altitude. From what I’ve seen and heard, most of the top section of that is unrideable on both sides above about 2200-2400m, but the idea of going over that and returning via the Gd St Bernard pass is extremely tempting – I might give it a try next summer 🙂

  4. Hey Chris.

    Well done. Yes, the tunnel and the trail beside the lake are pretty amazing.

    Wow, you made it around the lake? Not from Chanrion but from down where the trails leaves the lake (I hope). I couldn’t see how to do this.

    Yes, at the chalet before the last climb up to Chanrion, I saw what looked like a great cliff road that headed straight at the glacier … but didn’t have time to explore. Maybe a crazy day in August would make for a huge adventure trying to get out of that valley. 😉

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