When I am planning an unpaved ride in the mountains often I am not certain if the route is bikeable.
So I’ll map a gpx file to try and estimate grade throughout, and I’ll check maps and satellite photos to see if it’s a trail or a gravel road.
So I knew the route to Lac Jovet was on the edge of being a bad idea. In summary, it’s a tough surface, and at times very steep, but usually rideable until perhaps 2000 metres altitude. Here any semblance of a road ends. The last couple of kilometres is a steep, bumpy hiking trail. I walked most of it.
For a more rideable, and truly great mountain bike ride also starting from Les Contamines see this ride to Col du Joly (1990m) and above to Aguille Croche (2435m).
A 3D Video:
I started in Les Contamines-Montjoie, the paved road soon becoming a nice gravel road beside a river. One could start much lower, but the paved road up to Les Contamines is very busy.
At the hiking parking/trailhead, things get steep. For me, I was constantly switching between pedalling and short pushing stretches for the first kms of the climb. Then the valley opens up, the road surface improves, and it is better riding until the restaurant at La Balme (1706m).
The road above La Balme is steep and an awful surface. More pushing at times. Then, at roughly 2000m, the road ends and I took a hiking trail up to the lakes (2174m).
There is a tiny second lake just above the first, and they both are called Lac Jovet. So all the hiking signs say “Lacs Jovet.”
Trying to pedal (lake above green ridge in middle):
The last stretch approaching the lake is more rideable. Woohoo! I was glad to have made it.
I had looked at possible loops via Col de la Fenêtre (2245m), or Col du Bonhomme (2329m) but they both would clearly require not just pushing but carrying the bike – steep, narrow hiking trails. Perhaps possible if touring through, but not part of my ambition here. So I just turned around and gingerly descended.
My route (except the last 2 km hike), and Col du Bonhomme are part of the well-known GR5 Tour du Mont Blanc hiking loop.
I loved this ride. But, at the risk of repeating myself, avoid if you don’t like pushing your bike! 🙂