Commonly Bikepacked · Views
Fire danger can close the scrub and forest of southern France in the summers.
You should be crystal clear that this is old-school MTB. You ride what the terrain throws at you, not something that's been groomed to modern preferences. Perhaps due to property lines—and certainly due to thin soils allowing the disregard of erosion—trails do not switchback, but go directly up and downhill.
You need to be strong, and should plan for short days.
The French Cycling Federation (FFC) designated this mountain bike tour that crosses the high places of the Luberon Regional Nature Park and adds Provençal accents. But they must have used a motorcycle—cut the mileage recommendations in half or suffer regrets!
Rideable almost all year, the paths pass near the ochres of Roussillon, superb perched medieval villages with their colorful and animated markets, and the wild massifs of Petit Luberon and Grand Luberon. But you'll need extra time to divert and check all this out: just riding by won't do it.
Need to Know
This ride is best in spring and fall but possible year round, with exceptions for extreme heat and flooding conditions.
You'll stay in villages along the route. There are hotels, gites and restaurants, or camping if you are determined to bikepack. Best to make reservations in advance to avoid having to ride far off the route to find a room for the night--the hilltop villages can be very crowded (and expensive) during summer vacation.
Learn more about the ride, the area, and other trail options on the Grande Traversée de Vaucluse
A word about e-bikes: though they would seem to be the perfect solution to this ride's distance and climbing difficulties, you need to be sure that you and your e-bike can handle steep, technical terrain: pushing a lightweight MTB out of some of these places is hard—shoving a heavy pig would be impossible.
You can jump into the loop at any point, including from the larger, more convenient highways near Cavaillon, as mapped. But this description starts and ends at Apt. You can/SHOULD also break up the roughly 30-mile ride stages for a longer, more manageable tour with more time for sight-seeing. Whatever you are used to, doing days that big is insanely hard here: don't view this as pure MTB, but as a way to sample the highlights of Provence from the backdoor. You'll need extra time to do more than just scratch the surface and survive!
Day 1: Your first stage of the Grande Traversée du Luberon has you ride across the plateau of Caseneuve, the plains of Calavon and Largue, then head south to connect between the mountains of Vaucluse and the eastern Luberon. This stage alternates between climbing and descending. You may want to spend the night in/near Vitrolles-en-Luberon, at the very furthest (but you'll have to be tough and determined to go that far).
Day 2: Ride the crests of Grand Luberon, with panoramic views. Then, a technical descent passing through villages and hamlets typical of the Luberon Regional Park. After that, you'll alternately climb and descend to the Petit Luberon massif. This stage is more physically and technically difficult than Day 1. Staying in/near Bonnieux positions you well for tomorrow.
Day 3: A long climb from the valley bottom to the heights of the Petit Luberon and its Cedar Forest. Follow singletrack to Merindol and ride through fragrant garrigue shrub and limestone cliffs. End with a nice descent to Robion and Maubec where you'll spend the night.
Day 4: This stage is easier. Beginning on the north face of the Petit Luberon massif, then heading north, you cross famous perched hilltop villages: Oppède le Vieux, Lacoste and Gordes. Descend into the narrow Gorges de Véroncle then cross the valley and climb back up to reach the striking ochre-tinted village of Roussillon.
Day 5: This stage takes you through the gorgeous orange Colorado Provençal, then returns to your starting point in the city of Apt.
History & Background
Provence's hilltop villages are a remnant of the violent Middle Ages, when communities retreated from their fertile farms to the fortified heights to avoid the roving armies of religious conflicts and constantly bickering feudal overlords.
Gordes was ground-zero for the French resistance in WWII. The Maquisard guerillas fled forced labor and concentration camps, hid out in the hills near the village, making trouble for the Nazis and earning themselves vicious reprisals.
Colorful ochre was mined as pigment for a century; the quarries now provide beautiful views of this amazing geological phenomenon.
Shared By: F Felix