Col de l’Iseran and the Northern Alps are stunning, with soaring peaks and twisting ribbons of tarmac that wind their way to spectacular summits. It’s a cyclist’s paradise.
The climbs and landscapes of the Northern Alps are very similar to the better known Central Alps. Yet the Northern Alps are less regularly visited by the Tour de France. As a result, they are better known for their ski resorts than their cycling destinations.
We think the Northern Alps are the choice for the cycling connoisseur. They’re for those that have ridden the Central Alps and are looking to dig deeper into France’s cycling heritage.
Everything you need to cycle the Col de l’Iseran region
In this guide you’ll find information on rides, accommodation and bike hire that’s accessible from Bourg Saint Maurice.
Bourg Saint Maurice is a bustling town at the start of the Col de l’Iseran climb and the entrance to the Isère valley. It offers easy access to:
Bourg Saint Maurice is also just 30 minutes drive from Feissons Sur Isère and the infamous Col de la Madeleine. If you’re willing to drive for around an hour, you can get down to the Central Alps. For example, La Chambre is 1 hour 15 minutes, and from there you can ride the Glandon and Croix de Fer.
Other awesome Alpine cycling destinations
Check out our other French Alps guides:
Cycling routes: Col De l’Iseran and beyond
The main reason to visit Bourg Saint Maurice is easy access to bucket-list-essential, the Col de l’Iseran. You can also ride the wonderful Cormet de Roseland and the more easy-going Col du Petit Saint Bernard. There are runs to Tignes and Les Arcs too.
We rode the Col de la Madeleine from Bourg Saint Maurice (admittedly driving to Feissons Sur Isère before our both sides extravaganza). If you're up for a long day, it would be possible to avoid the car transfer and ride the Madeleine from Bourg Saint Maurice.
The cols of the Central Alps are just about do-able from Bourg Saint Maurice, but you’d need to drive first: Col du Glandon, Col de la Croix de Fer, Lacets de Montvernier, Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier and Alpe d’Huez.
In summary, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Bourg Saint Maurice for a four day weekend, but you might end up repeating some rides or driving further afield if you base out of Bourg Saint Maurice for a week. Instead, you may want to cross over to Bourg d’Oisans and tackle Alpe d'Huez and some of the routes in the Central Alps.
Col de l’Iseran
- Distance: 48km
- Elevation: 2,250m
- Epic rating:
Col de la Madeleine
- Distance: 26km
- Elevation: 1,700m
- Epic rating:
Col du Petit Saint Bernard
- Distance: 31km
- Elevation: 1,420m
- Epic rating:
Lac/Cormet de Roselend
- Distance: 27km
- Elevation: 1,220m
- Epic rating:
Want some support with your trip? Check out our pick of the best French Alps cycle tours!
Family cycle routes near Bourg Saint Maurice
The classic routes around Bourg Saint Maurice are all pretty demanding, due to the fact you’re surrounded by 2,500m peaks. However, there are some good options in the Isère valley. We haven’t tested them ourselves, but we did see the river bike path which looked fantastic for those with kids.
Here are some ideas:
1. Aime via river bike path
A flat-ish bike path follows the river south from Bourg Saint Maurice to Aime. At 8.5km you reach the rather lovely Plan d’Eau where there are a café, playground and lots of water-based activities that kids love.
2. Aime valley loop (via landry and river bike path)
This route takes you out to Aime via the pretty D220 and small quiet villages. It’s more undulating than the bike path route, with 350m of elevation gain.
3. Aime Valley Loop (both sides of the valley)
This is a pleasant ride along roads either side of the Aime valley. The route incorporates nearly 1,000m of climbing, so not one for those cycling with younger kids.
4. Sainte Foy Tarentaise Loop
This route passes through some very pretty, untouched villages on small lanes. There is around 780m of climbing.
Alps cycle tours
If you'd like some help with organising your trip to the Alps, check out our article on the best bike tours in the Alps. You might also be interested in our tips for how to pick the best bike tour company for your needs and the different kind of French cycling holidays out there.
This section includes details of hotels and villas we have either stayed in or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a booking, we may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy for further information.
People often us ask us where in the Alps they should stay.
We suggest you start by deciding what rides you most want to do. This will help you decide on the best summer Alpine resort for you. Take a look at our road rides section for more on the rides from Bourg Saint Maurice. Also, take a look at our road rides suggestions for the Alpe d’Huez region and Ventoux region.
Once you’ve identified the rides you want to do, then consider other things, like what there is for when you’re not cycling, bike hire options etc.
Once you’ve decided you want to stay in Bourg Saint Maurice, the next question is, where?
We stayed about 20km east of Bourg Saint Maurice, in Sainte Foy Tarentaise station. The village is 4km above the main Isère road, at around 1,500m. Despite only being 25 years old, it’s charming. There are gorgeous mountain views, and planning restrictions mean all the buildings have traditional stone roofs and are built from wood.
The Peak, Sainte Foy Tarentaise
The Peak is a great place to stay in Sainte Foy Tarentaise. It has a solid, modern feel with spacious, well-furnished rooms. The huge living room is a particular highlight with chunky exposed wooden beams, funky light fittings and comfortable sofas. A winter snow theme is evident even in summer, and it’s cosy yet wonderfully light due to the enormous windows that look out over the mountains and distant waterfalls. We stayed on a half board basis.
What we loved
The Peak is a relaxing and comfortable place to stay in the French Alps. Staff are friendly and helpful, the accommodation is good quality, and the mountain panoramas are impressive.
Most of the accommodation in and around Bourg Saint Maurice is small and family run. There are a few chain hotels, but those tend to be up in the big ski resorts. The Peak was good, and we’d give it four stars, but generally we found it hard to find high-quality accommodation.
Here are the places we would consider staying on a future trip:
Surprisingly, road bike hire rental in and around Bourg Saint Maurice is not that obvious. Hopefully this will help.
This information is offered as an indicative guide only: we periodically update it but prices, services and bike brands may change. Please let us know if you find anything that is incorrect.
Bikes and services
Bike hire Bourg D'Oisans
Limited information available
Zone commerciale de Super U
+33 (0)4 57 37 20 08
Note: this is a repair shop too.
Bike hire La Rosière
Centre Commercial La Rosière
+33 (0)4 79 06 81 21
Stock is limited. Management confirmed they would have two Scott Speedsters for 2018 season.
Undecided on whether to hire a bike or bring your own? Read this now.
Tips and articles
This section includes details of products we have either used and liked or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a purchase, we will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy (which includes our Amazon Associates disclosure) for further information.
Maps and books
IGN has a useful map covering Bourg Saint Maurice at 1:75,000 scale. It covers the Cormet de Roseland, Petit Saint Bernard and Les Arcs but doesn’t get very far east so doesn’t cover the Iseran or Tignes. Click here to check prices
Many of the area’s climbs are described in evocative detail in Chris Sidwell’s Tour Climbs, the complete guide to every mountain stage on the Tour de France.
Good to know
Enjoyed our guide?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the Col de l’Iseran/Bourg Saint Maurice area. Don’t miss our ride guides to the area’s most famous climbs: Col de l’Iseran, Cormet de Roseland, Petit Saint Bernard and Col de la Madeleine.
Want to check out some other destinations? Search by the month you want to travel or cycling destination you want to visit, here.
(Banner photo credit: slava17/Shutterstock.com)