Vercors Col Hunting – and a scary tunnel!


A great loop in the beautiful Vercors Massif. Four Cols, two typically stunning Vercors gorges, and a terrifying tunnel.

I hate tunnels – and Eric had told me about this particularly nasty one. But the route seemed so enticing that I somehow found the courage to at least have a look. Several signs warn that cyclists must have a light — I had a tiny thing in my pocket ready to wave at oncoming cars – while screaming and hugging the wall.


The route starts by cimbing into the Gorges des Ecouges. It was about 7 or 8 kms to the tunnel and I was nervous and enjoyed this lovely climb less than I should have. It leads into huge cliffs and waterfalls (2nd photo above) and I started to understand why a tunnel might be required.

A few minutes before the tunnel a motorcyle passed me and offered to lead me through – an answer to my prayers! I picked up the pace and going uphill through this dark monstrosity – with my moto support behind – I hit my max heart rate for the year. 😉

Important tip (for next time): If you are planning a loop that passes through a long dark tunnel, try and do it downhill – it ends faster.

After the tunnel, my spirits were sky high – and I flew up the straight stretch to Col de Romeyère.

Col de Prélétang Col du Mont Noir Vercors - Gorges du NanFrench Reesistance Monument

The next part of the route was designed to Climb Col du Mont Noir via Col de Pra l’Etang (also spelled Prélétang).

Most of this is single lane (occasionally bumpy) forestry roads. I passed some sort of French army manoeuvre. I think I saw the HQ of one side, and then saw quite a few advancing guys hiding behind trees. Luckily they all ignored me.

Mont Noir is so named due to all the fires that locals used to light trying to chase/kill wolves – apparently a couple of the fires got out of hand.

From the Col du Mont Noir is an amazing descent that passes through the Gorges du Nan. Wow, I stopped to take a couple of photos and was noticeably shaky on my feet looking off the cliff road. The descent also goes by the Pas (pass) de Pré Coquet and a large French resistance memorial (ubiquitous in the Vercors) – photos above.

Vercors - Gorges du Nan

Vercors - Gorges du Nan

This great route is definitely worth doing in the opposite direction – climbing through the Gorges du Nan and – importantly – descending through the nasty tunnel (but remember to bring some moto support).


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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Will, this is simply great!!! I’m very happy you did this and I’m sure you are too. So, I guess you have no more fear of tunnels now? Congrats!

  2. Descending is even worse! Well, without support. At least while climbing, when you crash into the wall it will only be at 10 or 15 km/h…

  3. Mums know best…. those motorcyclists are nice 🙂

    And William, if you post any more great rides/pics like this, you’ll have me camped in your backyard again waiting to go with you 😉

  4. Superbe sortie ! Je suis d’accord pour le sens du parcours d’ailleurs, il est peut être mieux de monter le Col du Mt Noir par les Gorges du Nan, et c’est une très belle ascension longue et plutôt difficile…
    Mais la montée du Col de Romeyer est pas mal non plus surtout jusqu’au tunnel (lampe indispensable). Dommage que la route qui contourne le tunnel soit fermée, définitivement semble t’il.

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  6. I have friends who did pass through the dark tunnel des Ecouges without lights. Don’t know how they managed to do that, and I would definitely not suggest anyone tries it! I did come down the through the tunnel 3-4 times with only my mobile used as a torch, held in my mouth… but again it just isn’t safe enough.

    Nice pics once again !

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  8. I’m just about to write a blog post of a ride I did in that area and I came across this excellent blog. My route was slightly different to yours. I’m interested in doing that tunnel. Can anyone here please confirm whether the Tunnel des Ecouges is still open. I have read a couple of things that seem to indicate it may have closed.

    Thanks for the excellent blog!

    • Hi Vince,

      As best I know the tunnel is still open. Looking at a michelin live traffic web site it is marked as through-traffic. But I haven’t been there personally since this blog post.

      • Hi all I cycled through the tunnel last June it is not a nice experience you need good lights there are signs on the wall letting you know how you are in and how far before you are out not sure if they are every 25m or 50m. There is a gradient from the St Gervais side of maybe 5% there are also a couple of larger spaces for cars to pass once they are in the tunnel. I did go through both up and down on different days. I had a head light and a bike light both were required. The alternative is to walk around (which you have to go around the fence) and the old road has big holes now that are not getting repaired.

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