9 best French mountain biking tours: Multi-day MTB routes in France

Feb 22, 2019 BY AWE365 Team

Looking for epic off-road rides? Then multi-day MTB routes in France are hard to beat. From the Pyrenees to the Alps the options are endless. Lucky for you we’ve pulled together the 9 best French mountain biking tours!

Multi-day MTB routes in France

France is known for thee things: great cheese, great wine and great cycling. But the focus is often on road riding – I can’t think why….

Chamonix Mountain Biking Flickr image by NeilCain

But France has some of the best long distance mountain biking routes on the planet. They don’t just rival the challenges of ‘Le Tour’, but provide an adventure in the wild away from civilisation.

France boasts hundreds of thousands of miles of off-road trails. They are maintained by one of the most dedicated national cycling federations in the world: the FFC (Fédération Française du Cyclisme).

9 best French mountain biking tours

When planning your mountain bike holiday in France, check out the top ten below. After reading about the best multi-day MTB routes in France you’ll still be struggling to decide which tour to take. But it’s always good to be spoiled for choice!

Le tour du Mont Blanc

Although not entirely in France, the Mont Blanc massif – the tallest in the Alps – cannot be overlooked for off-road aficionados. Start this epic ride in France in either Chamonix or Les Contamines.

Ride northwest to Trient in Switzerland then down to Courmayeur in Italy, and eventually loop back to Chamonix. It is a well-worn route that can be ridden over three or five days.

Tour du Mont Blanc one of the best French mountain biking tours Wikimedia CC image by Nick Moyes

If you’re really enthusiastic there is a 24-hour endurance race around the mountain! The terrain various from thick underbrush to harrowing bare singletrack between boulders. It’s a difficult ride but the views are second to none.

La Grande Traversée du Jura

As one of the greatest undiscovered areas of France, the Jura offers an incredible variety of off-road trails. You’ll ride in almost complete solitude compared to the trail-traffic you’ll find around Mont Blanc.

Formed during the Jurassic period (hence the name), the Jura’s thick forests are in stark contrast to the rocky slopes of the Alps. However the climbs are not any easier.

This five-day very challenging trip follows the French-Swiss border to the north. Definitely one of the best French mountain biking tours!

Les Dentelles de Montmirail, Provence

In the heart of Provence, you’ll find more than great wine and Van Gogh. Just east of Avignon lie rocky and dry paths throughout the limestone ridged foothills of Mont Ventoux.

Les Dentelles de Montmirail one of the best French mountain biking tours Wikimedia CC image by jean-louis zimmermann

Itineraries can last one day to one week. Just make sure to pack plenty of water since the region is excessively arid and the winds can be fierce.

An added challenge would be the long switchbacks to the summit of Mt Ventoux. Alternatively tackling the steep scree around the village of Eygalières. The Les Dentelles de Montmirail has some of the top multi-day MTB routes in France.

Tour de l’Ardèche

South of the French Alps and just north of Provence lies the Ardèche – a mountain biking Shangri-la. It offers great terrain for expert and intermediate cyclists.

Riding alongside the Ardèche River is refreshing and calming. And the trails are in pristine condition thanks to the FFC.

Whether it’s the volcanic paths in the hillsides or a peek off of “devil’s bridge,” these moderate routes offer great multi-day mountain biking options. Plus there are many multi activity opportunities in the Ardeche for a little time out of the saddle.

Annecy to Grenoble

The Rhône-Alpes region offers a plethora of off-road itineraries for all ability levels. One of the best French mountain biking tours if you are looking for a challenge is crossing both the Bauges and Chartreuse mountain ranges.

Mountain biking your way to Grenoble from Annecy is a huge but very rewarding challenge. The two massifs are stunning yet entirely different from each other.

The Bauges boasts high, flat plateaus. Where the Chartreuse exhibits thick forests. Be sure to visit the small monastery where the favoured green elixir ‘Chartreuse’ was first made in the 1700s.

Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi was built in 1662 to connect the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. It allowed trading ships to bypass the hostile southern coast of Spain. These days it’s one of the most popular multi-day MTB routes in France for those looking for an easy ride.

The canal is lined with sycamore trees with just the occasional barge breaking the bubbling of the gently running waters. The paths – upon which cows and oxen once pulled the barges – now provide a lovely ride along this picture perfect canal.

Canal du midi one of the best Multi-day MTB routes in France Flickr CC image by camilo g. r.

The itinerary is flat and gravelly so there is minimal technical riding. And with significant elevation loss on the way to the beautiful shores of Narbonne, it’s a great ride for families.

Corsica

Corsica is unlike mainland France. Its trails and paths are less manicured allowing for exciting and technical trails. There are plenty of obstacles to manoeuvre from loose scree, to tree trunks and the occasional lost sheep.

Flocks of sheep graze the hillsides and their shepherds may sell you some local casu marzu cheese. The riding is amazing and the savage beauty of the island is breathtaking.

Ride up to the Plateau de Coscione and then descend to the eroded stone pinnacles at Aiguilles de Bavella. Not only does this demonstrate the island’s geological richness but its diversity of riding.

La Grande Traversée Ariège Pyrénées

The benefit to mountain biking in the Pyrénèes is the abundant amount of hot springs and spa hotels. At higher altitudes there are plenty of refuge and smaller huts to accommodate self-sufficient riders. But when you come into the larger spa towns make sure to take a soak.

Ax les Thermes to Lacave in Pyrenees one of the best Multi-day MTB routes in France Image of Ax 3 domaine Maxi Avalanche 2018

The Grande Traversée of the Pyrénées can take up to 12 days to complete. Running from Ax-les-Thermes to Lacave there are trails with various levels of difficulty.

The grades are steeper, but shorter than the Alps, but the views are no less spectacular. Expect twisted single-tracks and hair-raising descents on narrow paths, and plenty of cassoulet to fill the tank for tomorrow’s ride. Also Check out the Megavalanche race in Ax 3 Domaine.

Grande Traversée de la Massif Centrale

This is possibly one of the most underrated multi-day MTB routes in France. Often overshadowed by the Alps to the east and the Pyrenees to the west, the Massif Centrale offers breathtaking panoramas and legendary single-track.

If you have ten days to spare, a brilliant itinerary exists from Clermont Ferrand all the way to the Mediterranean coast. You’ll ride past storybook villages and silent lakes enjoying challenging ascents and technical descents.

You lose elevation as you head towards the coastal fishing villages near Montpellier along the shores of the Med. With changing scenery along the way this is a beautiful ride.

Planning an MTB trip? Check out our mountain biking holiday discounts as you could save a fortune.

 
 
     

    Related Articles

     

    Small rucksack with adjustable back: Vaude Brenta 24 reviewed

    Taller people need small rucksacks too. The problem is getting a small rucksack with an adjustable back. The Vaude Brenta 24 reviewed here looks like an answer to a...

    Destinations: N/A
    Read Article
     

    The best kept kitesurfing secrets: 4 unknown kitesurf spots to visit

    We just discovered this article that was written back in 2005 about the best kept kitesurfing secrets. Obviously 15 years later these '4 unknown kitesurf spots to...

    Activities: Kitesurfing
    Read Article
     

    Review of LARQ self cleaning bottle: Flask with UV water purification

    Would you like to buy less plastic bottles of water, particularly when travelling? But are you worried whether the tap, or wild, water you fill your bottle with is...

    Destinations: N/A
    Read Article

    Newsletter sign up