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Grande Traversée L'Alpes-Provence

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 3.0 (1) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A multi-day tour that visits one of Europe's largest natural reserves and the famous landscape of Les Terres Noires.


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Map Key

192.9

Miles

310.5

KM

20%

Singletrack

7,680' 2,341 m

High

1,083' 330 m

Low

25,313' 7,715 m

Up

30,792' 9,385 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (3°)

47%

Max Grade (25°)

Dogs No Dogs

E-Bikes Unknown

Features Commonly Bikepacked · Views

The route passes through the Mercantour National Park and other protected areas. Stay on the trail and be respectful to ensure continued MTB access!

Getting to the trailhead may present challenges. There's a small bus from Cuneo, but you'll have to convince the driver to let you bring your (partially disassembled) bike on board. Might be easiest to book a taxi or just build in an extra day and a half to ride up the road, which is not generally too busy.

Overview

The Grande Traversée L'Alpes-Provence is a fully vetted and marked multi-day route, designated--if not actually designed--for MTB and passing through one of France's most wild and beautiful regions. You shouldn't have any trouble finding and staying on the trail, but bring the MTB Project MTB Project mobile app for bail-outs and changes of plan.

The route includes a few excellent technical singletrack sections, so pack light for maximum fun: no full touring rigs on this one!

Need to Know

You stay in hotels, gites, huts, or designated campgrounds in/near the villages along the route. Even the most primitive campgrounds must by French law have toilets and running water (though it may not be hot). Most have much more: cabins, pool, restaurant, laundromat, etc.

Wild camping is not exactly legal in France, and this might even be enforced in the National Parks. Do some research if you want to camp outside of the designated campgrounds. "Bivouac" is often ok, which means you keep a very light footprint: camp set only between sun-down and sun-up, on hardened ground, no fires! But max flexibility.

In spring, late snow may remain in the mountains. Summer temperatures can be very hot. Also, electric storms are common in the Hautes-Alpes during the summer months: descend quickly from high exposed areas when a storm is approaching!

You may encounter sheep. Try to go around, not through the herds.

More info.

Description

The traverse begins in the mountains above Cuneo, on the Italian/French border, at the entry to the Parc national du Mercantour. It works its way to lower elevations over (typically) at least a week of riding. The official stages, designated by difficulty and between villages, are below; I've also included distance and VTOPO difficulty ratings. You can combine 2 (or more) of these stages each day as works best for your desired daily effort and itinerary, but don't make it painful!

6 days is apparently the recommended time, but that leaves little time for anything at all but riding; so build in more time for sightseeing, river swimming, lunches in village cafés or poppy fields, etc.

Col de Larche – Meyronnes.............................19km V3+
Meyronnes – Jausiers......................................16km V3-
Jausiers – Barcelonnette.................................11km V2
Barcelonnette – Méolans.................................15km V3-
Méolans – Le Lauzet Ubaye...............................9km V4-
Le Lauzet Ubaye – Montclar............................26km V3+
Montclar – Seyne les Alpes.............................14km V4
Seyne les Alpes – Verdaches..........................12km V3
Verdaches – La Javie.......................................15km V3+
La Javie – Digne les Bains...............................22km V4+
Digne les Bains – Maillemoisson....................14km V2+
Maillemoisson – Volonne................................18km V3
Volonne – Chapelle St. Donat..........................16km V3
Chapelle St. Donat – Cruis...............................26km V3
Cruis – St. Etienne les Orgues.........................12km V3-
St. Etienne les Orgues – Forcalquier...............20km V4-
Forcalquier – St. Michel l'Observatoire...........15km V3
St. Michel l'Observatoire – Manosque............21km V2

Variation on the main route:
Sisteron – Chateauneuf Val St. Donat............19km V2

History & Background

The Mercantour is botanically rich, endowed with a staggering 2,000+ species of flowering plants. 200 of these are very rare, including edelweiss and martagon lily. There is also a tremendous variety of wildlife, including about 50 Apennine wolves that first migrated there in the 1990s.

Les Terres Noires is a Jurassic-era geological formation of fossil-bearing dark rock and soils. The area includes eroded badlands and legendary, exposed MTB along the peaks of its ridges and fins.

Contacts

Shared By:

F Felix

Trail Ratings

  3.0 from 1 vote

#3663

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  3.0 from 1 vote
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#36

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#3,663

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Photos

Le Crete de St. Jean in Les Terres Noires. See the Alpes de Haute-Provence website for more info.
Aug 30, 2019 near Le Brus…, FR
VIAPAC trail artwork by David Renaud at the Col du Larche.
Jun 29, 2022 near Bersezio, IT
The narrow road above the Ubayette River, going right toward the Col du Larche; and the road heading to Col du Var on the left.
Jun 29, 2022 near Jausiers, FR
The highly erosive geology above the road up the Ubayette Valley to the Col du Larche.
Jun 29, 2022 near Jausiers, FR
Lovely Provence scenery.
Jun 29, 2022 near Peyruis, FR
Red hellborine orchid.
Jun 29, 2022 near Forcalq…, FR

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Jun 8, 2022
F Felix
Rode Volonne to Manosque. Lovely area, pretty crummy riding, except for the Enduro Lure trail, which is awesome!