3 Days on the Route des Grandes Alpes in France

Col de l'Iseran Cruizador

We take you on a road trip on the famous Route des Grandes Alpes (RDGA). This legendary route, nearly 720km long, crosses the French Alps from north to south, passing 17 mountain passes, 6 of which culminate at more than 2000m in altitude. Starting from Thonon-les-Bains you will end up in Nice. So hop on and… ride on! 3 days on the Route des Grandes Alpes 

[updated in Aug 2022]

In a nutshell

  • Country: France
  • Starting point: Lugrin
  • Duration: 3-5 days depending on the itinerary and riding style
  • Top sights : Cols de l’Iseran, du Galibier, du Lautaret, de l’Izoard, etc.

About a year ago, Adrien, the founder of Cruizador told you how he nearly lost his life on the RDGA due to a drunk driver (read the incredible story here). But we have to admit that we must not dwell on bad memories and that this road has so much to offer that it would be a shame not to take advantage of it. Also, we offer you a road book that will take you on these mythical passes.

Some practical info

  • Preparation: our selection of road trip essentials (here)
  • Most of the passes are not open all year around. Usually from Mid-June until September. So check online the latest status to make sure you’ll not face a closed gate. 
  • Be careful on the road, because the RGDA is very busy, especially on weekends and during school holidays. And unfortunately, the behavior of some users, on two or four wheels, borders on unconsciousness (here). So we do enjoy but we remain aware of our surroundings.
  • If you can avoid high season/week-ends, as a consequence of the business of those passes, you will enjoy it even more ;-). 
  • Some passes are over 2000m altitude, so take some warm clothes with you (e.g. ski technical underlayer). A cold biker is a biker that is less focused on the road.

3 days on the Route des Grandes Alpes 

Day 1

Road book Day 1 (here)

Cruizador Route des Grandes Alpes RDGA Jour 1

We chose the Maison Laplagne bakery in Lugrin as our starting point. This artisan bakery offers a wide choice of pastries, sandwiches, coffee etc. and will allow bikers to warm up before embarking on this magnificent road trip. This establishment is open every day from 5 until 8 p.m. and has a small car park where you can park your bikes.

Your breakfast swallowed, and after making sure that the luggage is securely stowed on your motorcycle, hop on and head towards the first pass of your road trip from Thonon-les-Bains, namely the Col des Gets (1170m), then the Col de la Colombière (1613m), the Saisis (1657m) and the Cormet de Roselend. We recommend that you take breaks throughout your progress, depending on your state of fatigue and your driving style. But a coffee at Cormet de Roselend, to enjoy a coffee with a view of the lake is almost obligatory.

Cruizador Cormet de Roselend Roadtrip Motorbike Moto Motorrad France Frankreich RDGA Route des Grandes Alpes Touring Roadtrip
Cruizador Cormet de Roselend

And we will make our first stopover for the night in Val-d’Isère. This major resort offers many options, both hotels and restaurants. In addition, it is located at the bottom of the Iseran and will allow you to attack this mythical pass in the early morning, when it has not yet been stormed by cyclists, camper vans, etc.

Where to stay in Val-d’Isère?

It seems that the Hôtel-Auberge Saint-Hubert where we had made our last stopover has ceased its activities. So, a search on the booking platforms led us to the Avancher Hotel (more info here). And we were not disappointed. Not only does it offer private underground parking.

The rooms are modern and comfortable and there is even a SPA on the top floor of the hotel, with a sauna on the roof, with a view on the resort. What better way to rejuvenate after a long day on the road? In addition, the hotel offers biker deals with night + dinner + breakfast. So you’ll find what you need! Oh, and the breakfast buffet was great! 

Also, restaurant-wise, we had more choice than on our last stop, where we had to settle for the only open restaurant in the resort, Creperie Val’s. This time there were many more options available. So we decided to go to the restaurant le garage (info here). The name was indeed too tempting, as this restaurant is located in a former garage. But it has more to offer than just a nice setting. The menu is rich and varied, the dishes are hearty and there is a wide selection of craft beers, wines, etc. Yes, because the pilot also needs to be recharged! We hope you like it. 

Day 2

Road book day 2 (here)

Cruizador Route des Grandes Alpes Jour 2

For those who choose not to have breakfast at the hotel, there is a very good bakery in the centre of the village, with a pleasant terrace. Boulangerie Chevallot to name but one. And the owner won the title of best craftsman in France at the time. And in addition, it serves coffee / tea. So don’t hesitate to have your breakfast there.

Then, once the check-out is complete and the bike is ready, head to the Col de l’Iseran (2764m). Pay attention to the temperature of the asphalt, however. Cool morning temperatures often rhyme with limited grip. So we raise the temperature of the gums gently and avoid riding full throttle straight away. In addition, there are no guardrails along the road. So if you miss a turn, you will find yourself a few floors below. We say that we say nothing…

Col de l'Iseran Cruizador

Once at the top, and after enjoying the view, we continue our way to the Col du Télégraphe (1566m), the Galibier (2642m) then the Lautaret. Mythical passes of the Tour de France (TdF), they are stormed by hordes of cyclists, some of whom have an unexpected talent for sometimes stopping in improbable places, in the middle of the road for example, to take a selfie. Also, we would only recommend that you be particularly careful when visibility is limited (exiting a curve).

Cruizador Col Galibier Tour de France Roadtrip Motorbike Moto Motorrad France Frankreich RDGA Route des Grandes Alpes Touring
Cruizador Col du Galibier

Overnight in Briançon?

Once at the top of Lautaret, you will descend to Briançon. A city that also offers many stopover options. It will be time to make a strategic decision. Stop there to spend the night. Indeed, some, after 3h40 of riding without breaks, and a few meters of positive elevation will be washed away.

Others will prefer to push as far as Barcelonnette, via the Col de l’Izoard and Vars (5h49 and 260km approx.).

Cruizador Col Izoard Tour de France Roadtrip Motorbike Moto Motorrad France Frankreich RDGA Route des Grandes Alpes Touring
Cruizador Col Izoard

You are free to decide according to the mood of the moment. And for accommodation in Barcelonnette, consult the search engines to find an option according to your budget / desire.

And for all those who should be there at the beginning of September, why not combine it with the Alpes Adventure Moto Festival. This is a festival dedicated to motorcycles and enjoying increasing popularity. The atmosphere is very relaxed, and the program more than tantalizing: motorcycle tests, piloting workshop, film screenings, secret lunches, etc.

But personally, we found an intermediate solution and decided to camp in the Embrun/Lake of Serre-Ponçon region.

Cruizador Lac Serre-Ponçon Tour de France Roadtrip Motorbike Moto Motorrad France Frankreich RDGA Route des Grandes Alpes Touring
Cruizador Lac Serre-Ponçon

Day 3

Road book day 3 (here)

Cruizador Route des Grandes Alpes RDGA Jour 3

Last day of a hefty riding, since you will reach Menton via the Col de la Bonnette (2802m), Col de St-Martin (1503m) then Col de Turini (1607m), for a total of 4h22min, without breaks.

Also note that there is an alternative route (here), which goes through the Col de la Cayolle (2326m), and the Col de la Couillole (1678m) for a total of 5h8min, always without breaks.

End of the Route des Grandes-Alpes!

For your way back, there are many options available to you. For those who still have a few days available and/or who would like to avoid the motorway, why not combine it with Mont-Ventoux? See our roadbook -> here <-

No suitable motorbike for a long road trip?

Book one in a few clicks on Cruizador

And to conclude, here is a small gallery with the different views gleaned along the way. 

3 days on the Route des Grandes Alpes 

Cruizador

Hey! Je suis le fondateur et le Chief Biker Officer chez Cruizador. Motard et passionné de voyage depuis longtemps, c'est en 2018 que j'ai décidé de lancer ce nouveau service, en espérant qu'il parle aux plus grands nombres de motard(e)s qui partagent la même philosophie et la même soif de grands espaces. C'est avec plaisir que je prends note de vos commentaires, idées d'amélioration, etc. Ride on!

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