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Passy to Plaine-Joux

Half day bike ride with great views up to a lovely destination

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

Plaine-Joux is a ski resort in winter and a popular hiking area in summer. The main hub of activity is the wide clearing that greets you as soon as you arrive.

There are dozens of trails heading off into the surrounding mountains and to the nearby lake called Lac Vert; the more adventurous can launch themselves into thin air on a tandem parapente flight.

During the summer months there is a treetop rope park and pony rides to keep children entertained.

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What to bring

You don't need to pack loads of snacks and drinks as there are plenty of places to stop along the way. Travel light but think about the weather when you get to the top, Plaine-Joux's exposed position means that it can be very hot on a sunny day or very cold on an overcast one. Sunscreen and a few layers of clothing are a good idea.

What to see

As well as the wonderful views from the road there are a number of more unexpected sights along the way. The commune of Passy seems to have a particular penchant for unusual sculptures. Some, such as the twisting spire of shiny metal, are not so bad but the nightmarish vision that greets you outside the post office in Plateau d'Assy is a whole other story.

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Where to lunch

There are a few cafes and restaurants to choose from up at Plaine Joux, as well as the one beside Lac Vert, and in nice weather they all have lovely sunny terraces to sit out on.

They all offer fairly typical French cuisine and local dishes; big fresh salads in summer and cheese-laden carb-fests in winter. Most also serve drinks, cakes and ice creams if you just fancy a snack.

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Directions

The easiest point of reference is to start outside the Auberge de l’Orangerie on the D39 towards Sallanches. In front of the restaurant is a mini-roundabout, where Plaine Joux is clearly signposted.

If you don't have access to a car you can get the train from Chamonix to Saint Gervais, from where it is a flat 6-7km to the start point.

Also see: Maps of Chamonix, France

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Location: Passy


Style

Level: Intermediate | Advanced


Stats

Typical Duration: 2 hours

Descent

855m

Distance

15km

Highest Point

1352m

Vertical Gain

855m



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