This short but challenging ride can be done in half a day, including getting from Chamonix to the start point and back. It is a 15km climb with 855m of ascent that passes by farmhouses and old chalets, through a couple of quiet little villages and amongst dense pine forest to emerge on a sunny plateau with stunning views of the valley below.
The first section of the ride takes you uphill and away from the busy main road, into a quiet residential area where most of the buildings are either farmhouses or traditional alpine chalets. The road snakes back and forth, with the land in between the bends being mostly farmed fields or wild meadows.
The first village you pass through is Passy, a small place with an old-fashioned French feel. There is a tourist office and a few small shops and cafes.
The middle section of the ride, between Passy and Plateau d’Assy, is the hardest being a fairly consistent 7% for most of the 5km that lie between the two. Not a super-steep climb but enough to make you feel like you’ve put in a bit of effort.
After about 10km you'll come to the town of Plateau d’Assy; there is really just one main street with a few more shops and cafes, but nothing in particular to stop for. There is a turn-off to the right but ignore this and carry on climbing, following the signposts for Plaine-Joux.
Once you’ve gone through Plateau d’Assy the road starts to venture further into the forest and tall trees line the road - very welcome on a hot day. The last section starts to give glimpses of how high you’ve come as the trees part of some of the bends to give sweeping views of the valley far below. Waterfalls and fast-flowing rivers cut through the rock face and run beneath the road, disappearing back into the forest on the other side.
The last push brings you round past a huge ugly pink building and up to the car park at Plaine Joux, where you can take the obligatory victory photograph by the final cycling signpost.
What to do
What to bring
What to see
Where to lunch
Level: Intermediate | Advanced
Typical Duration: 2 hours