Forty of the Highest Unpaved Cycling “Roads” in the Alps

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Sept 2016: This updates a December 2015 post with five now ten more climbs. summer 2017: 5 more climbs added. Early 2018: 5 more climbs added. Late 2018: 10 more climbs added.

The Alps are filled with super high, unpaved roads perfect for mountain biking. Usually, they are either old military roads (especially along the French/Italian border) or, service roads for ski lifts. Either way: they are almost always stunning, and completely deserted.

Here is a list of many of the very highest. This is not a complete list, only roads that I have cycled. I will gladly take any recommendations:

If you are more interested in paved cycling climbs, see the following links for the highest paved roads in France, Italy, Switzerland, and the Jura Mountains.

#1 Col du Jandri – 3158 metres
Glacier de Mont-de-Lans

Glacier de Mont-de-Lans

jandri700

It is very difficult to get above 3000 metres on a bike in the Alps, but Col du Jandri is completely ride-able on a ski-lift service road high above Les Deux Alpes ski station.

The good quality gravel road ends just beyond the col at the top of a cable car station, at the base of Glacier de Mont-de-Lans. One could start as low as Bourg d’Oisans at roughly 700 metres for a truly huge climb. But the gravel starts at Les Deux Alpes.

Full details here (map, profile, photos, etc).

#2 Gornergrat – 3135 metres

Gornergrat is a high rocky ridge in central Switzerland high above Zermatt. It has dominating views of nearby Monte Rosa (the highest mountain in Switzerland) and of the Matterhorn. There is a tourist train to the summit, and skiing here in winter. To call the surroundings beautiful is an understatement.

Ride details here.

#3 Mont Chaberton – 3131 metres
wooohooo !

wooohooo !

chaberton700

This old military road starts in Italy and ends in France atop a mountain at the highest Fort (now ruins) in the Alps. The fort was used by the Italians in WW2 but de Gaulle demanded the mountain be ceded into French territory as part of the WW2 peace settlement.

The summit is literally the very top of a mountain with commanding 360 degree views (hence the fort). The top was flattened and huge artillery towers built. Amazing place.

Full disclosure, this is the one road on this list where even the strongest cyclists will likely do some pushing. But this is an astonishing road – closed to motor vehicles. The photo at the top of article is me descending near the summit of Chaberton. Yikes!

Ride details here.

#4 Bormio 3000 – 3011 metres

With the same start as Stelvio and Gavia, the paved road to Bormio 2000 is a nice, relaxing ride. But bring a mountain bike to reach the top of the ski station at Bormio 3000.

Remember, the climb is better in autumn than summer as the ski lift takes lazy downhill mountain bikers up to the summit in July and August. I cycled up in September on a deserted mountain.

Ride details here.

#5 Col de Rosaël – 3003 metres

The next two climbs actually meet at the summit, high above Val Thorens ski station, climbing opposite sides of the mountain. But they start perhaps a two hour drive from each other as there is no way to cross the Alps here (except on mountain bike).

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This gigantic climb starts way down in Orelle, not far from the start of Col du Galibier/Télégraphe – but climbs the opposite eastern mountains. I’ve seen people call this Col de Caron, but that is just beside and without a road. The sign at the top of a ski lift says Col de Rosaël – 3000 metres, but it might be just lower: However, one can follow a short linking road through the mountain pass to the far side that links to climb #4 detailed below. This passes another cable car station which is at 3003 metres. Woohoo.

Ride details here.

#6 Above Col de la Montée du Fond – 3003 metres
Road to Col de la Montée du Fond

Road to Col de la Montée du Fond

The unpaved part of this climb starts at Val Thorens (highest ski station in the Alps), but one could begin 39 kilometres lower in Moutiers for a monster of a climb. Me, I compromised and started 10 kms below Val Thorens. I don’t have a profile for this climb. While it is occasionally very steep, it’s generally fully ride-able.

The road reaches Col de la Montée du Fond at 2974 metres and then heads a little higher to the same Cable Car station and linking road to Col de Rosaël discussed above.

Full details here.

#7 Colle del Sommeiller – 2993 metres
only the top hairpins fit in the photo

only the top hairpins fit in the photo

somm250

Cycling author Daniel Friebe once told me this is the Holy Grail for cyclists. Yep. It’s a beast of a climb, but always ride-able.

It starts in Bardonecchia, in the Piemonte region of Italy. Originally built to service a tiny ski station, it is now completely deserted up high. Early on, one passes a nice Alpine dam/lake, and then the road climbs relentlessly into and through a couple of different valleys. A tiny lake and a savage stretch of French border provide a greeting at the summit.

Don’t forget to carry your bike up some rocks to get above 3000 metres. 🙂

Full details here.

#8 Glacier du Varet – 2900 metres
End of the road: Glacier du Varet

End of the road: Glacier du Varet above

Above Les Arcs 2000 ski station in the Vanoise Alps is a cable car that goes above 3200 to l’Aguille Rouge. I’ve skied there and been terrified coming down the top stretch. From Les Arcs 2000 village one can cycle past Col de Chal (2460 metres) and then up towards Aguille Rouge. But a glacier prevented me from getting beyond 2900 metres.

Although I approached from Les Arcs, one could climb from the far side of Col du Chal, making a gigantic climb on beautiful deserted, unpaved roads.

Full details to the glacier here.

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#9 Pic du Midi de Bigorre – 2877 metres
Wooohooooo

Wooohooooo, view from Pic du Midi

OK, this is the Pyrénées, not the Alps, but one of my very favourite rides ever. Exactly at the summit of the legendary Col du Tourmalet (2115 metres) begins an unpaved road that leads to the Observatory high above. It’s a superb route, even if the road ends a little below the observatory and a steep hiking trail requires a touch of pushing. There are a couple of cols along the ways: Col de Sencours (2378 metres), and Col des Laquets (2637 metres).

Ride your mountain bike to Tourmalet and then watch the road bikers drool as you keep going higher. Full details here.

the goal high above

the goal high above

Photo below: Halfway up. The entire road in view is above Tourmalet.

Nice hairpin. Climbing to Pic du Midi.

Nice hairpin. Climbing to Pic du Midi.

#10 Col de la Bailletta – 2853 metres
Early slopes: Lac du Chevril below

Early slopes: Lac du Chevril below

I probably shouldn’t put this here as I found out afterwards that cyclists aren’t allowed on the highest stretches of this climb. Sorry! But you can at least climb to the beautiful Lac de la Sassière at 2460 metres.

The climb starts by turning off the main road beside Lac du Chevril, in between a couple of tunnels, just below Val d’Isere. It is paved until Lac/Barrage du Saut (the 13th highest paved road in France).

Full details here.

#11 Stelvio Unpaved – 2843 metres

Truly one of my favourite rides ever. the final 26 kilometres completely unpaved including crossing two “unknown” passes, one higher, one just lower than Stelvio.

After climbing through and over various hairpin-filled, completely undeveloped high valleys, the route descends to Umbrailpass (the highest paved climb in Switzerland). It crosses the paved road and finally finishes on the Cima Garibaldi (2843m) directly above Passo dello Stelvio (2757 metres). Amazing.

Ride details here.

#12 Mont Froid – 2822 metres

Another great old military road along the French/Italian border. In the Haute-Maurienne, the perched Fort du Mont-Froid is reached by first climbing to Col de Sollières (2639 metres). Beautiful.

Ride details here

#13 Monte Jafferau – 2805 metres
Battling Vertigo

Battling Vertigo

jaff250

Another Piemonte climb starting in Bardonecchia. The summit has the ruins of Fort du Jafferau, the second highest in the Alps. Built between 1896 and 1898. It was bombarded and largely destroyed as part of the peace treaty ending World War 2.

There are a couple of ways up, but the ride-able one goes via Col Basset (2596 metres). Full details here. Or an excellent alternate route here – both routes converge before Col Basset.

#14a Strada Militare Colle delle Finestre – 2800 metres

IMG_0671 - Version 2

In 2015, The spectacular endurance cycling event The Transcontinental Race brought some publicity to the high altitude old Italian military road Strada dell’Assietta. This amazing gravel route of perhaps 50 kms rides along mountain ridges and is almost completely (well) above 2000 metres, passing perhaps 10 passes, the lowest being the famous and fearsome Colle delle Finestre. This is all above the 10 unpaved kilometres below/to Colle delle Finestre that Giro d’Italia fans may know.

But what most don’t know is there is side-road extension Strada Militare Colle delle Finestre that is even crazier/higher than Strada dell’Assietta and – I am not certain the exact high point – gets to roughly 2800 metres.

Top tip: Cycle Assietta on Wednesday or Saturday in summer as it’s closed to cars (it’s popular with Jeep-type trek companies), but ride the Militare Finestre extension anytime as it is closed/unpassable to motor vehicles. Full details here. Or see here for another route that climbs the famous side of Colle delle Finestre before exploring higher.

#14b Strada Militare Colle delle Finestre via Gran Serin- 2800 metres

There are several ways to reach the Strada dell’Assietta and above. All are hors-categorie climbs just to reach this military road. Here is a completely different route that is not well known. It starts in Susa – like Colle delle Finestre – but follows a different old military road eventually descending down to Finestre (“only” 2178 metres) and back to Susa. 2300 metres ascent in a single climb. Huge, deserted, beautiful.

View of Colle delle Finestre from above the fort

Ride details here.

See here for a detailed post on all the routes in this high-altitude gravel cycling mecca.

#15 Col de Chassoure – 2739 metres
Cliff Road above Col des Mines

Cliff Road above Col des Mines

Finally, Switzerland is included on this list. (written before I climbed Gornergrat). Passo Umbrail (the 3rd, lesser-known Swiss way, to Stelvio) is the highest paved climb in Switzerland at 2503 metres. But above Verbier ski station are some fabulous, much higher, unpaved roads.

I made it to Col de Chassoure, the highest I’ve ever been in Switzerland on bike. This route has it all: plenty of hairpins, a crazy tunnel, several other cols on the way up, a few super high alpine lakes, and …… a giant stork. Note, in the comments section of the link below, my friend Chris has ridden even higher there to Col des Gentianes at roughly 2900 metres.

Full details here.

#16 Col de la Met – 2735 metres

There are several fabulous old military gravel rides high above Lac du Mont Cenis, but the “road” to Col de la Meta is a ski-lift service road. I started in Lanslebourg, in the Haute-Maurienne. The south side of Col de l’Iseran (highest paved mountain pass in Europe) also begins here.

Lac du Mont Cenis below

One can’t see Lac du Mont Cenis until the Col, but the view is worth the effort. the route includes another nearby high pass: Col de la Tomba (2635 metres). The link below also includes a very fun loop of Lac du Mont Cenis (unpaved on far side).

Ride details here.

#17 Col de la Vallée Etroite – 2732 metres

The Maurienne Valley is home to many of the most famous paved climbs in France: Galibier, Iseran, Croix de Fer, Glandon, Madeleine, etc. (see here for 15 of the best climbs in this valley). The climb to Vallée Etroite actually starts at the exact same start as Télégraphe-Galibier but heads up in the opposite direction.

Almost there

The summit is almost 100 metres higher than Galibier and completely deserted. (I think I still hold the Strava KOM only because no-one else has ridden this entire climb).

Ride details here.

#18 Pas de la Beccia – 2717 metres

View of Lac du Mont Cenis

In the above photo, look at Lac de Mont Cenis far below. Road bikers have to stop there ….. and think they’ve done a big climb.

Perched strategically above Col du Mont Cenis and Lanslebourg, Fort de la Turra (2507 metres) was built in the 1890s by the French. Just above – formerly the border – is Pas de la Beccia with towering views of Lac du Mont Cenis.

Ride details here.

#19 Monte Fraiteve – 2702 metres
Strdaa dell'Assietta from Sestriere, just below Col Basset

Hairpins below Monte Fraitève

This is another detour above the Strada dell’Assietta, but above Sestrière, the opposite end from Finestre. From Sestrière, it’s a fabulous twisty climb towards Col Basset – 2426 metres on the beginning of the Strada dell’Assietta. From Basset, one detours up Fraitève on a ski lift service road. One can go to the absolute high point of the mountain and enjoy perfect 360 degree views. Details here.

#20 Glacier de St-Sorlin – 2680 metres
Glacier de Saint-Sorlin

Glacier de Saint-Sorlin

Col de la Croix de Fer (2067 metres) is a favourite among road bikers. But most don’t know that exactly at the summit, behind the little parking lot at the Col sign, is a gravel road that climbs up to a couple of cols and two beautiful alpine lakes/dams. And beyond, on trails, one can reach the Glacier de Saint Sorlin. Beautiful. Full details here.

#21 Faux Col de Restefond 2656 metres

Looking down as one nears the summit of Cime de la Bonette (2802m), the highest paved road in France, one can see a little gravel road winding up a steep valley. It joins the paved road Bonette at Faux Restefond.

One can climb Col de la Moutière at 2454 metres the 5th highest paved road in France, then take a 3 kilometre gravel stretch to Faux Restefond – see here. But that’s not much of a climb.

Better, one can start the climb to Col de la Cayolle and then, at Bayasse, enjoy a 13 kilometre remote gravel climb to Faux Restefond – see here (unfortunately I have only descended this).

#22 Tunnel (Col) du Parpaillon 2643 metres

Once the highest road in France, with 1900 metres of ascent, it’s the biggest single un-interrupted climb I have done in France.

The route du Parpaillon was built between 1891 and 1911 by the French military to link the Ubaye and Embrun valleys. The high point of the road is the tunnel – 520 metres long – at 2643 metres. The geographic col is above at 2780 metres. Full details here. Update: I have now also done the south side. Fabulous, see here.

Parpaillon South Side

#23 Monte Gran Costa – 2615 metres
Monte Gran Costa

Monte Gran Costa

I mentioned above, in ride #14a and #14b, the amazing Strada dell’Assietta. Monte Gran Costa is a little mountain above the Strada with old fort ruins at the top. For this ride I approached Assietta from a different route, through the beautiful Parco Naturale Gran Bosco (big woods). Almost 2000 metres of climb in a deserted cycling paradise.

Ride details here.

#24 Col des Chavannes – 2592 metres
Col des Chavannes - 2592 metres

Col des Chavannes – 2592 metres

On the Italian side of the road up to Col du Petit St. Bernard is a side road into a long valley. Soon becoming unpaved, this road seems to go on forever, finally reaching Col des Chavannes and its majestic view of the Mont Blanc Massif. Details here. Note the link discusses another ride almost as high on the other side of Petit St. Bernard

Ride details here.

#25 Colle Belvedere – 2569 metres

Colle Belvedere

Another very fun old above Colle del Piccolo San Bernardo on the Italian side of the Italian/French border (part ski lift service road and part old military road). I actually rode this earylier on the same day as Col des Chavannes above.

Details here. Also see here for a ride just a touch lower over the French side of the border here including a visit to Le Fort de la Redoute Ruinée.

#26 Lago di Misérin – 2580 metres

2580 metres

miserin250

It’s tough to find a road with 2250 metres continuous climb (Stelvio has 1800m).

This giant climb in the Aosta Valley, Italy is 29 kms uphill with the second half unpaved and deserted. The reward at the end of the “road” – the beautiful Lago Misérin at 2580 metres. Details here.

#27 Schwarzsee – 2589 metres

Fabulous central Swiss climb from Zermatt to a little lake in the shadows of the Matterhorn.

Ride details here.

#28 Col des Cerces – Behind Le Grand Galibier – 2574 metres

If you’ve climbed Col du Galibier from the north (Télégraphe) side you may have seen a crazy-fun looking gravel road in the distance that begins at Plan Lachat. This leads to a still-used French Army Base at Col des Rochilles (2496 metres).

View from the 6km-to-go marker on Galibier road

I wasn’t certain what to title this ride as it passes a bunch of cols all grouped either side of 2500 metres. Col des Cerces is the high point. The route continues down to Briançon. Stage one of a superb three day Tour.

Ride details here.

#29 Col du Galibier via the Old Road – 2556 metres

This is a truly special ride on the remains of the old original south side road to Col du Galibier. I started in Briançon riding on fun trails/farm roads avoiding the busy main road before eventually joining the old Galibier road below Col du Lautaret.

Galibier old “road”

First built in the 1880’s, this was the only way up the south side until 1938. As best I can tell it was abandoned/closed in 1947. This means that between 1911 and 1938 the Tour de France would have climbed or descended this road over twenty times. It is far to the east of the modern road and except near the beginning the two routes don’t intersect until the top near the Desgranges monument at the entrance of the tunnel (2556 metres). The final kilometre to the Col (2642 metres) takes the paved road.

Note, the link below includes a fabulous descent of the north side of Galibier where I crossed into a deserted valley parallel to the paved road for several kilometres. This was day 3 of this Galibier 3 day tour.

Ride details here.

#30 Col Hunting Above Col du Granon – 2546 Metres.

Why do I often bring a mountain bike on big paved climbs? Col du Granon is 6th highest paved climb in France. But after reaching the summit I cycled to 5 more unpaved Cols, 4 higher than Granon. There’s another world up there.

Heading to Col de Buffere – 2427 metres

I rode Granon on its bike-only day. But while all my companions had to head down after reaching the summit, the highlight of my ride was after the event. In addition to all the cols, the route also includes two old perched stone forts (from the late 1800s / early 1900s). Day 2 of of this Galibier 3 day tour.

Ride details here.

#31 Colle della Rho – 2541 metres

Here is an amazing loop that starts in Italy, crosses into France via Colle della Rho, visits a couple of other high Cols in France before returning to Italy — Col de la Replanette (2338m), and Col de la Vallée Etroite (2434m). Note, this is a different Col de la Vallée Etroite than discussed well above – etroite means narrow).

#32 Col du Fréjus – 2541 metres

Col d'Arrondaz

A rare (admittedly minor) positive legacy from war: the great network of old, high, unpaved military roads in the Alps on the Italian/French border. This climb runs above the famous Fréjus tunnel that links Savoie (France) to Piedmont (Italy). The road to the Col was built in the 1890’s at the behest of the French Général-Baron Berge. Lots of old fortifications along the way. Minor WW2 skirmishes occurred here. Detail here.

Note, the Col itself is at the French/Italian border. The top stretch of the Italian side is a very steep trail, but passable on bike carefully – a future project for me will be to ascend from Italian side starting in Bardonecchia.

#33 Grand Col Ferret – 2537 metres

High on the Italian/Swiss border, Grand Col Ferret was a highlight on our three day tour of Mont Blanc on mountain bike. Glaciers, glaciers, glaciers.

Just above Grand Col Ferret

Don’t expect to pedal this entire climb. While the early slopes from Courmayeur through the Val Ferret is totally rideable, above Rifugio Elena (2061m) the gravel road ends and the well used hiking trail above often becomes too steep/technical to ride (at least for me). But wow, so beautiful. A pleasure to push a bike here.

Ride details here.

#34 Rifugio Sogno di Berdzé – 2531 metres
wooohooo

wooohooo

cogn700

35 kilometres uphill! The first 22 paved kilometres of this huge 35 kilometre climb are paved, but there are 13 kilometres higher requiring a mountain bike for the real fun.

The Cogne Valley is one of many interesting side “finger” valleys of the Val d’Aosta region in the Italian Alps near Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco). Beyond the rifugio, the adventurous can hike higher, carrying their mountain bike over a much higher pass and link up with Lago di Misérin (see higher). More details here.

#35 Col de Chanrouge – 2531 metres

Above Courchevel are several very rideable unpaved Cols. In addition to Chanrouge, this link includes Col des Saulces (2456 metres), as well as Col de la Platta (2408 metres).

Col des Saulces – Moo

#36 Mont and Fort Janus – 2529 metres
Monte and Fort Janus

Mont and Fort Janus

Above Briançon, at 2347 metres, Col des Gondrans is the 11th highest paved road in France (only debatably paved in places). But as one summits this little known military col a huge yellow/copper mountain appears: Mont Janus. And in the distance I could see a “road” up to a very old military installation.

Crazy fun. The “road” is slippery and steep. And my vertigo made me nervous to pedal parts of it. But wow. I am not certain the altitude but the peak is at 2565m, and the sign beside the fort said 2529 metres. Makes sense? Note this link describing the ride also includes a superb climb up the 29 hairpins to La Croix de Toulouse.

#37 Col de la Seigne – 2512 metres

Glaciers

On the French/Italian border, the Italian side is from Courmayeur is very rideable and dominated by the Mont Blanc Massif with glacier views the entire ride. Details of Italian side here.

Or see here for the French side on a ride that includes several other super high unpaved cols during day one of three on our Tour of Mont Blanc by Mountain Bike.

#38 Chanrion – 2500 metres

Hairpin Heaven

Near Verbier in Switzernad is a terrific road bike climb to the dam/Lac de Mauvoisin. At the damn, there is a little known tunnel leading above to the lake, then an unpaved road alongside the lake and then much higher to Chanrion. Paradise. Details here, or here.

Lac de Mauvoisin

#39 Col de Clapier – 2491 metres

For more than two millenium, historians from Polybius to Hunt have been debating which pass Hannibal used to cross the Alps. Napoleon thought it was Col du Mont Cenis, and the local tourist office agrees (photo below). Many others, including this guy, believe it was the more remote Col de Clapier (map at bottom).

Above Col du Pt. Mont Cenis, heading to Col de Clapier

Hannibal Monument

Ride details here.

#40 Les Grands Platières – 2480 metres

The highest I’ve been (on a bike) close to home. Les Grands Platières is the top of the main Gondola at the top of Flaine ski station in Haute Savoie.

The road to Flaine crosses Col de Pierre Carrée (1844m) the highest paved col open all year in the north French Alps. Details here.

Ride details here.

Final Thoughts

It’s no exaggeration to say that each of the above rides were truly memorable experiences. I love road biking the big paved cols but there is something extra special about being all alone, up high, on some of these slightly crazy “roads.”

When I get a chance I’ll probably lengthen this list to 20 climbs. And again, please use the comments to suggest any of your favourite, super high, unpaved Alpine roads.

Not yet convinced these are fun? Well, the top of Col du Jandri – the highest I have ever been on a bike – serves beer.

Le Bar 3200 was open :)

Le Bar 3200 was open 🙂

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Happiest while cycling uphill.

29 Comments

  1. Salut will,

    Une petite suggestion de cols à plus de 3000m : le Théodulpass depuis Valtournenche. Je n’ai pas l’impression que tu l’aies déjà gravi…

  2. Will, I did the Grand Raid from Verbier once and that went above 3000m at one point – I’m pretty sure anyway. You might want to check that out.

  3. Lot of good ideas for my summer rides in Europe! (I am living in Taiwan). If one day you visit taiwan, you can participate to one of the best road race: the taiwan KOM challenge, one single climb from the beach up to 3170m… with the last 8km always above 12% gradient

  4. The Pic du Midi de Bigorre is tough but doable on a road bike with 25mm tyres… at least until the road turns to shale but by then you can’t even ride a MTB.

  5. Fantastic ,I love the numbers of the big climbs but too go higher is superb .Shame I live near London .Have ridden the Galibier ,Alpe D’Huez,Croix De Fer amongst others but riding over 3000 metres off Rd your a lucky guy .

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  7. You should try the Sierra Nevada in Spain. When I was 17 I cycled from the beach at Salobreña up to the top of Mulhacén at 3479m the highest point on mainland Spain (climbed the final 500m on foot) and then Valetta, the highest paved road in Europe at 3398m. The ride afterwards was an unbelievable 50km without any pedaling down to Grenada. If you like hills this definitely one for you.

  8. John Sanderson on

    I used to live up in Zermatt in the Swiss alps. A long brilliant ride is from town up to Schwarzsee, which is at 2580m or so. You ride up right beneath the matterhorn and it’s really spectacular. There are a few ways down including some serious downhilling. Worth a visit.

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  10. At the suggestion of Jobst Brandt, I rode/walked my road bike over Col Ferret (2490m), Col de la Seigne (2516m), and Passo San Giacomo (2313m) on a cycling trip I took in 2009. I was expecting “non-paved” passes but found I was instead taking my road bike with 700×28 tires over mountain hiking trails. I loved it! A mountain bike would have been better suited for the route but Jobst Brandt rode these same “roads” on a true road bike … skinny tires with standard road gearing.

  11. I’m guessing at least some of these routes can be considered do-able on a gravel bike, Will? I live in Vevey, Switzerland, have a GT Grade 105, and I’m looking forward to putting it to use off-road next year. But I’m guessing some of these rides are only possible on an MTB. Which would be the best rides for a gravel bike? Anyone out there fancy taking a few of these on with me next years as the days warm up and lengthen?

    • Hi Elliot,

      The issue is rarely the climbing but the descending. Some of these can be very bumpy/rough, and a mountain bike can help soften the ride. For example I have done Finestre/Assietta on both a hybrid and a mountain bike and enjoyed the day much more on the mtb – (even if both days were great fun). All of them could be done on a gravel bike, and several I did with 35c tires on a hybrid sort of gravel bike. But if you enjoy fast descending ….. a mtb is usually better. It depends how fussy you are.

      Narrower tires? The best options perhaps: Jandri, Sommeiller, Varet, Pic du Midi, Parpaillon, Janus

  12. Thanks Will, I’ll try the Sommeiller and Jandri this summer. I had my eye on them. Gravel biking is what I prefer – I’ve tried to get the hang of MTBs but I find them too clunky, particularly the bigger ones. Where, in your opinion, are the best stretches of ‘gravel biking’ tracks around Europe/the Alps? Here in Vaud/Valais, Switzerland, you could probably poach an egg on the flat, smooth roads in the summer. Where does one go (perhaps a bit lower-level) to find really good long and (not completely rocky) Iceland- or Colorado-style gravel stretches, outside old air-strips?

  13. Your final photo of the col du Jandri is shocking. I rode it in ’91 and the glacier came right up to the restaurant then. You could cycle around the base on snow.

  14. Great post, gives me inspiration for a next trip.
    I would recommend the Pico Veleta. It is the highest road in Europe with 3400m. There is a paved (mostly) and unpaved road.
    I did both. The unpaved is of course the more adventurish one.
    https://www.strava.com/activities/999415470

    Did not make it all the way up, since I did it two before on the paved side and i ran short of time 19:00.
    Only just made it back before dark.
    The mostly paved side: https://www.strava.com/activities/995348039

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  16. Jonas Decraene on

    This is becoming a very impressive list, Will. Congratulations!
    Another gentle reminder to plan my next trip to the Alps as an (almost) off-road only trip. Maybe in two years… 🙁
    Thanks for the write-up! Social media will never beat this blog 😉

  17. Hi Will!

    I recommend you Madritschjoch/Passo Madriccio in South Tyrol in the Ortler Range. Reaching 3123 m a.s.l. it’s the highest pass during Transalp trips. There is a very steep ascent from Solda/Sulden and a tough but beautiful descend towards Val Martello/Martelltal. I was there this year it in the end of July, at the top it was 0*C, weather was rather unpleasent but it was something special, unforgettable. If you don’t mind a little bit of pushing/carrying your bike, Passo Madriccio will satisfy you for sure and in the Ortler Range you have other very, very high passes for MTB freaks 😉

    Greeting from Poland!

  18. This became one of the most interesting lists! Thanks for sharing, it’s really impressive! I’m thinking about going to Europe next year and this list really got my attention, I will have to include at least one climb 🙂

    • It’s always a tough question. It depends how fussy you are. I used to do lots of these climbs with a cheap hybrid but found it more fun on a mountain bike. Especially the long unpaved descents.

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