Whether on 2 wheels or 4, Route des Grandes Alpes is a fabulous mountain road. The 684 km between Thonon-les-Bains and Menton include 16 passes that are among the highest in the Alps. It's an exceptional natural and cultural environment.
The journey between Lake Geneva and the shores of the Mediterranean embraces the entire French Alps. The winding road crosses spectacular mountain landscapes, and in the valleys you'll find local cultural features and gastronomic specialities.
Route des Grandes Alpes is open between June (after the snow has melted) and October. In spring, you can appreciate the diversity of the landscapes, particularly in the national and regional parks. Between Haute-Savoie and Alpes-Maritimes there are the Chablais, Vanoise, Queyras, Ubaye and Mercantour ranges.
You'll also take in Mont Blanc and Les Ecrins, the emblems of the French Alps.
For the more intrepid, Route des Grandes Alpes by bike – a legendary experience – incorporates several sections of the Tour de France, including a number of passes: Aravis, Cormet de Roselend, Iseran, Galibier, Izoard, Bonette and Cayolle. And those who make it to the end are awarded the Borne d'Or diploma.
Whether you go by car, by bike or on foot, you'll need to do some planning « roadbook » section gives you details of the different stages, and suggestions on accommodation.
A long distance ride needs to be well planned, so we provide every information you need to easily organise your hike :
- Full description of every stage,
- Map and profile,
- GPX tracks
- Accomodation fitting hikers needs
- Shops and usefull service providers
- Touristic points of interest
You can download every information in a "PDF" file and/or save it in "My account" to easily find it again !
In the 18th century, roads were built through the Alps to communicate with the various fortifications. But they also served many remote communities. And the construction work was a source of income for local people.
At the end of the 19th century, the Touring Club de France, whose original remit was to promote tourism by bicycle, opened its doors to motorists. It campaigned for improvements to roads and signposting, and for the provision of facilities in wayside inns. It laid out numerous tourist itineraries, with viewpoint indicators, including, in 1911, the Route of the Alps, which was soon being used by PLM's charabancs and coaches, though it was completed only in 1937, when President Albert Lebrun cut the ribbon on the road across the Iseran pass.
Automobile tourism was initially reserved for a privileged few. But in the '30s, as demand rose, the car makers began producing smaller vehicles at lower prices. And tourism took off after WW2, with the appearance of the first truly mass-produced vehicles: the 2CV, the 4CV, the Dauphine, the Beetle, etc.
Key dates :
1909 : the Touring Club de France starts work on Route des Grandes Alpes.
1913 : PLM (Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée) begins operating along Route des Grandes Alpes, in 5 stages.
1914/18 : WW1 puts a stop to the work.
1930 : the journey from Nice to Chamonix now takes just 1½ days.
1937 : the President of the Republic, Albert Lebrun, opens the road over the Iseran pass – the highest in Europe.
1970 : the road over the Cormet de Roselend pass is completed.
1995 : Route des Grandes Alpes links up Thonon and Menton for the pleasure of travellers !