Guide to cycling Col de la Croix de Fer and Col du Glandon - Epic Road Rides Back to top
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The Ride Croix de Fer and Glandon
(from south),
French Alps

Distance

Elevation gain

Difficulty

Epic rating

42 km (outbound)
1,650 m (outbound)
  
 

Distance

Elevation

42 km (outbound)
1,650 m (outbound) 

Difficulty

Epic rating

  
  

Cycling the Col de la Croix de Fer is a hard, but beautiful, ride you won’t forget. It combines steep, continually changing gradients with majestic scenery and Tour de France history. And when you ride from Bourg d’Oisans in the south, you get a little bonus of the Col du Glandon for barely any additional effort.  

This is one of the big rides of the region and is not to be missed.

Route map and profile

Route statistics

Related rides

CROIX DE FER/GLANDON HIGHLIGHTS

The two spectacular turquoise lakes: the Lac du Verney and the Lac de Grand Maison. The latter is even more stunning than the former.

Barrage du Verney dam near Allemont

Lac du Verney near Allemont

Turquoise water of the Lac de Grand Maison

Lac de Grand Maison near Col de la Croix de Fer

Lac de Grand Maison near Croix de Fer

View towards Col de la Croix de Fer

RIDE LOG

1. Bourg d’Oisans to Allemond: 0-11km

It’s a straightforward, flat warm up along the main road (there’s a bike path), to the Barrage du Verney, the first dam of the day.

2. Allemond to Lac du Grand Maison: 11-30km

Once you’re around the lake, you pass the EDF hydroelectricity museum, and the climb starts to ramp up. The next six kilometres are tough, through the trees, with gradients between about 7 and 10%.

The road winds through Le Rivier d’Allemont and just the other side, there’s a fast descent down to the river. Make the most of the descent and be ready for the cruel kick up that greets you the other side.

It’s then six kilometres of changing gradients as the road winds around steep, grey cliffs. As you approach the huge wall of the Lac du Grand Maison dam, there’s a couple of nasty hairpins which take you up level with the impressive reservoir.

Cycling to the Col de la Croix de Fer
Steep climb by bike to the Col de la Croix de Fer
Hairpins on road to Croix de Fer pass

3. Lac du Grand Maison to Croix de Fer and Col du Glandon: 30-42 km

The Lac du Grand Maison holds 140 million cubic metres of water. It’s huge and, surrounded by mountain peaks, it’s seriously beautiful.

At the end of the lake there’s a short descent for a kilometre or so, and then you’re climbing again. The scenery changes quite dramatically here in the last section to the top. Gone are the trees and narrow, craggy valley. In its place is a wide, almost moorland vista across an open valley with green meadows and sharply jutting peaks on either side. It’s dramatic and inspiring in equal measure.

At 36.5km you pass the Chalet Col du Glandon restaurant and the turning to the Col du Glandon. From there it’s a mere three kilometres to the iron cross of the Croix de Fer summit and an additional couple of kilometres back down to the Col du Glandon.

Green hills and mountains to Col Croix de Fer

Lush green Alpine hillsides on the way up the Croix de Fer pass

Close to the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer

Col de la Croix de Fer sign at summit

Photo credit: COLOMBO NICOLA/Shutterstock.com

CAFé STOPS

In the village of Allemond, you’ll find a boulangerie and a few bars and cafes. Rivier d’Allemont also has some cafe options.

At the top of the Croix de Fer is a small, unpretentious cafe that serves drinks and light food (when we visited it was cash only, so come prepared!). Alternatively, you can call in at the Chalet Col du Glandon restaurant (it gets good reviews) or the little kiosk at the top of the Glandon.

Outdoor seating at restaurant

Rivier d'Allemont restaurant option

Restaurant at the turn to the Col du Glandon

Chalet Col du Glandon restaurant. Photo credit: COLOMBO NICOLA/Shutterstock.com

Restaurant at Col de la Croix de Fer

Chalet du Col de la Croix de Fer

ACCOMMODATION

We stayed at Chalet Ribot at bend 12 of Alpe d’Huez. We enjoyed our stay and found it a good base from which to explore the region.

Want to see some alternative options? Take a look at more of our suggestions in our ultimate guide to the Alps: Alpe d’Huez and surrounds. 

TIPS

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    Don’t underestimate this ride; it’s a big day!
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    Read our tips for cycling in the Alps before you set out.
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    Croix de la Fer has featured in the Tour de France sixteen times since it was first used in 1947.
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    In 1989 there was a 133 km sole break by Gert-Jan Theunisse which included riding Croix de la Fer alone before continuing to the top of Alpe d’Huez to take the stage and the King of the Mountain jersey.


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(Banner photo credit: mj - tim photography/Shutterstock.com)

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