Cycling in the French Alps is a truly unique experience. With stunning views and challenging terrain, cycling here offers a challenge for all levels of cyclists.
Whether you’re an experienced rider looking to explore some of the most iconic mountain roads in Europe or a beginner just getting started, this guide will help you make the most of your cycling trip to the French Alps.
Where are the French Alps located?
The French Alps are a picturesque mountain range in southeast France and span the Rhône-Alpes regions and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and border Italy and Switzerland.
The French Alps reach 4,808m above sea level at their highest elevation point. The mountains encompass 210,000km in total, with most of that area located in the north.
Due to its large geographical area, we have split the French Alps into three to make writing this guide easier.
- North starts from Annecy and Geneva and southwards towards Bourg Saint Maurice.
- Central starts from Bourg Saint Maurice and southwards towards Bourg d’Oisans.
- South starts from Bourg d’Oisans and southwards towards the Cote d’Azur and Nice.
When is the best time to cycle in the French Alps?
Cycling in the French Alps usually runs from the middle of April to the middle of October. The exact timing varies depending on the altitude of the area.
Many mountain passes are closed during the winter from November to April, so it’s important to check before you go. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the mountain pass is, the earlier it will close and the later it will reopen.
Here is some general guidance on the months when the mountain passes are closed.
|Below 2,000m||November to April/May|
|2,000m to 2,500m||Late October to late May/early June|
|Above 2,500m||mid-October to early/mid-June|
What are the traffic conditions?
Traffic is an important consideration for cyclists in the French Alps.
The peak summer period between the second week of July and the third week of August is the year’s busiest period. This also coincides with the Tour de France. So, be prepared to share the road.
If you want a more enjoyable and stress-free riding experience in the French Alps, try to go in May/June or September/October. Besides having less traffic, the weather is also more comfortable, and you can avoid the summer heat wave.
What are the most popular climbs in the French Alps?
The French Alps are a popular destination for cyclists worldwide for their mountain passes and stunning scenery.
Where to stay for cycling in the French Alps?
The French Alps are a vast area across the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. There are many cyclist-friendly towns in the region where you can set up a base and ride the surrounding roads and mountain passes.
We have picked the most popular towns among cyclists below.
Annecy is a city located in the Haute-Savoie department in southeastern France. It’s situated on the northern tip of Lake Annecy and is known as the Pearl of the French Alps because of its location between the lake and the mountains.
Climbs nearby Annecy
How to get to Annecy
- By air. The closest airport is Geneva Airport, about a 1-hour drive away. The other nearby airports are Lyon Airport, Chambery Airport, Milan Malpensa Airport, and Turin Airport.
- By car. If you’re from France, the easiest and most convenient way to get to Annecy is by car.
- From Lyon, via A41/A43 (146km, 2 hours)
- From Grenoble, via A41 (107km, 1.5 hours)
- From Paris, via A6 (560km, 6 hours)
- From Geneva, Switzerland, via A41 (42km, 45 minutes)
- By train. The closest train station is Saint-Gervais-les-Bains Le Fayet, which is about an hour away by bus or taxi. From there, you can take a regional train directly to Annecy.
Aix-les-Bains is a major spa town in France, situated on the shore of the Lac du Bourget. The town is known for its thermal baths, which were once a popular destination for the wealthy and nobility.
These days, tourism is the main industry in Aix-les-Bains, and the town hosts several major festivals each year, including the Musilac festival.
Climbs nearby Aix-les-Bains
How to get to Aix-les-Bains
- By air. The nearest airport to Aix-les-Bains is Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (IATA : LYS), located 80km (50 miles) away. The airport has direct flights to and from many major European cities, including Paris, London, and Frankfurt. Aix-les-Bains can be reached by car in about 1.5 hours from the airport. Several shuttle services operate between the airport and Aix-les-Bains.
- By car. Aix-les-Bains is located halfway between Lyon and Geneva, two of the largest cities in France. It is easy to reach Aix-les-Bains by car from either city. When driving to Aix-les-Bains, it is important to consider that the town is in a mountainous region, and the roads leading into and out of Aix-les-Bains can be narrow and windy.
- From Paris, via A6 (578km, 5.5 hours)
- From Lyon, via A43 (114km, 1.5 hours)
- From Grenoble, via A41 (74km, 1 hour)
- From Geneva, Switzerland, via A41 (71km, 1 hour)
- By train. Aix-les-Bains is located on the TGV high-speed rail line between Paris and Marseille. From Paris, Aix-les-Bains can be reached by train in about 4 hours.
- By bus. Several bus companies operate between major cities and Aix-les-Bains. The journey by bus is typically longer than by train but can be a more affordable option.
In recent years, Bourg d’Oisans has become a mecca for cyclists. Situated at an average of 720m above sea level, Bourg d’Oisans offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Climbs nearby Bourg d’Oisans :
Bourg-Saint-Maurice, more widely known as Bourg is a small French town near the French-Italian border. It’s a charming alpine town that serves as the gateway to the Tarentaise Valley.
The town is an excellent base for exploring the valley’s famous mountain resorts, which include Les Arcs, La Plagne, Tignes, Val d’lsère, La Rosiere, and Sainte Foy. Bourg-Saint-Maurice is home to the world’s second-largest interconnected ski area.
Climbs nearby Bourg-Saint-Maurice
How to get to Bourg-Saint-Maurice
- By air. The nearest airport is located in Geneva, Switzerland. From Geneva, you can take a bus or train to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. The estimated travel time by bus is 4 hours and 30 minutes, and the estimated travel time by train is 4 hours and 15 minutes.
- By car. You can drive to Bourg-Saint-Maurice using the Motorways (Autoroutes). These roads have a A prefix.
- Paris via A6 (675km, 8 hours)
- Lyon via A43 (253km, 3 hours)
- Nice via A7/A8 (600km, 6.5 hours)
- Turin, Italy via A5 (193km, 3 hours)
- Geneva, Switzerland via N90 (144km, 2.5 hours)
- By train. You can take a train from Paris to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. The estimated travel time by train is 6 hours and 30 minutes.
- By bus. You can take a bus from Paris to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. The estimated travel time is 7.5 hours, costing around $80 for a one-way ticket. You can also take a bus from Geneva to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. It takes about 4.5 hours and costs around $35 for a one-way ticket.
La Clusaz is a popular ski resort located just 32km east of Annecy, near the French-Swiss border.
It’s a mountain biking haven with over 125km of well-maintained trails for all ability levels. Road cyclists also have no shortage of mountain passes to ride around the area.
Climbs nearby La Clusaz
How to get to La Clusaz
- By air. The nearest airport is Geneva International Airport, located 96km from La Clusaz. The estimated driving time is 1.5 hours
- By car. La Clusaz can be reached via the A40 motorway.
- From Paris, via A40 (583km, 6 hours)
- From Lyon, via A41/A43 (178km, 2 hours)
- From Grenoble, via A41 (139km, 2 hours)
- From Geneva, Switzerland via A40 (50km, 1 hour)
- From Annecy, via D16 (31km, 45 minutes)
- By bus. The Fil Neige bus service operates during the winter season and provides transport to/from La Clusaz from several locations, including Annecy, Geneva, and Lyon.
- By train. La Clusaz has no direct train service, but it can be reached via the “Chemin de fer de la Haute Savoie” railway line from Annecy or Thonon-les-Bains. The estimated travel time from Annecy is 45 minutes, and from Thonon-les-Bains is 1 hour and 15 minutes.
In recent years, Morzine has become a mecca for cyclists. Situated at an elevation of 1,000m, Morzine offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Climbs nearby Morzine
How to get to Morzine
- By air. Morzine is served by the Geneva International Airport (GVA), just over an hour away from the town center. Many direct flights are available from Europe and beyond into Geneva. Once you land at GVA, you can either rent a car or take public transportation to Morzine.
- By car. If you’re planning on driving to Morzine, it’s easily accessible from major highways. The drive from Geneva takes about an hour and a half, and the journey from Lyon is just over three hours. Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase a vignette (toll sticker) to use the highways in Switzerland.
- From Paris, via A6/A40 (595km, 7 hours)
- From Lyon, via A43 (230km, 3 hours)
- From Grenoble, via A41 (191km, 2.5 hours)
- From Geneva, Switzerland, via D907/A40 (61km, 1 hour)
- By train. There are direct trains from both Geneva and Lyon that go directly to Morzine. The trip from Geneva takes around two hours, while the journey from Lyon is just over four hours. Tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the train station.
- By bus. Several bus companies operate services to Morzine from both Geneva and Lyon. The trip from Geneva takes around two hours, while the journey from Lyon is just over four hours. Tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the bus station.
Moûtiers is a town in the Savoie region of France. The town is located at the gateway to the 3 Vallées resorts of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, Les Menuires, Val Thorens, Méribel, and Courchevel.
Moûtiers is a great place to stay for people who want to explore the natural beauty of the Vanoise National Park or enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the thermal resorts of Brides-les-Bains and La Léchère.
Climbs nearby Moûtiers
How to get to Moûtiers
- By air. The nearest airport to Moûtiers is Chambéry Airport (IATA : CMF), located approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the town center. There are several direct flights available from Paris and other major French cities.
- By car. Moûtiers is easily accessible from most major French cities. The town is located at the junction of the A43 and A430 highways.
- From Paris, via A6 (646km, 6.5 hours)
- From Lyon, via A43 (182km, 2 hours)
- From Grenoble, via A41 (106km, 1 hour)
- From Nice, via A6 (489km, 6 hours)
- From Geneva, Switzerland, via A41 (117km, 2 hours)
- By train. The TGV high-speed rail service serves Moûtiers with direct trains from Paris and other major French cities. Travel time from Paris is approximately 5 hours.
- By bus. Several bus companies operate services to Moûtiers. Travel time from Paris is approximately 7 hours.
Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is a town located in southeast France. It’s situated in the French Alps at an altitude of 1,000m (3,280ft), making it a popular tourist destination in summer and winter.
Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne has just over 10,000 people and is known for its picturesque setting and friendly locals. Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is especially popular with cyclists as it offers a variety of routes with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Climbs nearby Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
How to get to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
- By air. The nearest airport is Chambery Airport (IATA : CMF), located 90km away. Reaching the town by car from the airport will take approximately 1.5 hours. Other airports located nearby include Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport (IATA : LYS) and Grenoble-Isère Airport (IATA : GNB), both of which are around 2 hours away by car.
- By car. You can drive to Bourg-Saint-Maurice using the Motorways (Autoroutes).
- From Paris via A6 (644km, 7 hours)
- From Grenoble via A41/A43 (104km, 1.5 hours)
- From Lyon via A43 (222km, 2.5 hours)
- From Nice via A8 (484km, 6 hours)
- From Geneva, Switzerland (159km, 2 hours)
- From Turin, Italy (139km, 2 hours)
- By train. The TGV stops at Modane, around 10km away. From there, catch a local train to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, which takes around 15 minutes.
- By bus. The nearest bus station is in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, around 10 minutes away by car. You can take a taxi or bus to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne from Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne.