Sometimes called the Venice of the Alps, beautiful Annecy and its mountain surrounded lake is one of my favorite places to cycle (about 45 minutes from Geneva). It’s one of the most popular tourist sites in France.
When friends visit us, we usually take them here. Sometimes, I will leave visitors to explore the historic sites and walk along the lake-front while I go off and cycle a mountain – and we then meet for lunch along side a quaint little canal.
This is an updated version of an old post. I receive a lot of emails re: cycling from Annecy. I am always happy to try and give any additional trip planning info.
For cyclists that prefer flatter roads, there is a wonderful (flat) bike path that goes most of the way to Albertville along old railway lines. But I love Annecy for the many great and challenging cycling climbs in the area.
#1 – Le Semnoz – five ways up
Le Semnoz (summit also called Crêt de Chatillon) is the huge massive on the west side of the lake lake. It is the highest cycling climb near Annecy. It has become a little better know after appearing in the 2013 Tour de France. The direct way through the woods is steep, but there are far longer more peaceful options too. The top is a small ski station.
#2 – Lake Loop via Col de la Forclaz
Cycling around the lake down low is a mistake. The road can be very busy, especially on weekends. Instead, take the bike path on the west side of the lake and then climb the steep and beautiful Col de la Forclaz de Montmin on the east side — and enjoy some fantastic lake views. This was the first place I ever saw a mountain stage in the Tour de France – the suffering!
Best done counterclockwise.
Above Col de la Forclaz is a great unpaved detour to Col de l’Aulp – see here.
#3 – Lake Loop via 3 Cols
Here is a bigger ride that goes around the lake after first heading a little south to visit Col du Tamié and Col de l’Epine before climbing Col de la Forclaz.
#4 – Col de Chérel / Col du Plan Joux Loop
OK the first three are obvious. This may be a surprise. Not a well known climb. Most of this route is closed to cars and goes through a beautiful protected mountain valley. But to get to the top, you really need a hybrid or mountain bike as the route becomes a gravel road. Amazing ride.
I have updated the link to a loop that includes descending the other side of Chérel and taking an interesting route back to Annecy. Really fun loop …. no road bikes remember. Details here.
#5 – Col du Tamié and Col du Vorger
A long, lovely, but not too hard ride. Head down the bike path to Albertville with a slight detour over Col du Voerger, then return via Col du Tamié. One could always make it a lake loop too, by adding Col de la Forclaz — see above.
#6 Col de l’Arpettaz
Some serious hairpins (42) on this challenging climb that starts well down the Annecy bike path towards Albertville, Ride Details.
There is also an incredible traverse between Col des Aravis and Col de l’Arpettaz only possible on mountain bike. See here.
#6 Col de la Croix Fry and Col des Aravis
On the other side of the mountain on the east side of the lake, Col de la Croix Fry is one of my favourite winter Alps climbs, but obviously works in the summer too. The climb starts near Thônes, which can be reached fairly easily from Annecy. Here are a few climb options:
- Direct including Col des Aravis
- Via the steep and deserted Col de Plan Bois
- Big Loop with Col de la Croix Fry, Col des Aravis, Col des Essérrieux, Col du Marais, and Gorges de l’Arly.
#7 Big Lake Loop – via Col de l’Epine and Col du Marais
A fantastic loop that covers 3 small climbs and much of the start of stage 8 of the 2007 Tour de France. The route up to l’Epine in either direction is like a visit to a secret unknown valley.
The Entire Route: 64.8 kms (40 miles); Ascent: 1,040 metres (3,400 feet)
Here’s yet another variant that loops the lake via Col de l’Epine, descends via Col des Esserieux (worth climbing as well), then climbs Col de la Forclaz:
#8 Col des Contrebandiers
Smugglers Pass. This is a bit of a secret climb, unknown to most. It is certainly possible with a road bike but a pretty lousy surface – I would recommend a mountain bike. Doreen and I had intended to ride the cycle path, but the Annecy marathon was that day. So we went in the opposite direction and climbed. Surprise, up to the greatest cliff view overlooking the lake and town.
At the Col sign, take the trail at the RIGHT by foot, and follow upwards for stunning views of the lake below ( a 15 minute hike).
#9 Col de la Colombière
It’s a short ride to Le Grand Bornand and the start of the (easier) west side of Col de la Colombière. But it is probably the nearest “famous” Tour de France climb from Annecy.
Details of all three sides here.
#10 Col des Leschaux
Are you interested in cycling some alps climbs but a little intimidated or unsure if you can manage it? Col de Leschaux, near Annecy, is a fantastic introductory climb. Note: you can continue higher from the col up to Le Semnoz if you feel strong – see #1 above. Or see here.
For the more adventurous, there are lots of other famous climbs within striking distance of Annecy. Scroll the map or see below for a few.
Click “View Larger Map” at bottom for a clearer view of climbs.