Briancon, Montgenèvre and Serre Chevalier, a big city in the middle of the mountains.

Mountainbike routes

You could probably spend your entire life in the area around Briancon, mountain biking, rock climbing and off piste skiing/boarding, without doing the same route twice.
There are XC, enduro and bike park routes for all skill levels, from gentle pootles around the valley floor to proper black runs.
The bike parks of Montgenèvre and Serre Chevalier are so close by that I will describe them here as well.

Mountain biking in Briancon

Pro’s

  • The abundance and variety of trails.
  • The big city for those that enjoy it.
  • Or the quiet Vallée de la Clarée for those that want to get away from it all.
  • Plenty of other things to do from old forts to via ferrata’s and rock climbing.

Cons

  • none?

The village

Briancon (1326m.) is a large provincial town in the Hautes-Alpes departement. After Davos (1560m.) in Switzerland it is the highest city in Europe. This means that you’re surrounded by beautiful mountains and you can ride from your doorstep for some epic mountain adventures.
If you’re not looking for the big city experience during your holiday, but still want all sorts of facilities close by, I can recommend Serre Chevalier. This is a string of small villages that have grown into a ski resort. It is situated on the valley floor just north of Briancon.
If you want to go even higher up in the mountains there is the ski resort of Montgenèvre (1860m.) on the border with Italy.
Or maybe you will prefer the peace and quiet of the Vallée de la Clarée, which is a thinly populated area between 1400 and 2000 meters altitude at just a 15 minute drive from Briancon.

Besides all the big city conveniences like bars, restaurants and large french supermarkets, there is also a lot of history surrounding briancon, because of it’s strategic location. Most visible are the fortresses overlooking the city, they were build in the 18th century to the designs of military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban

Vauban briancon enceinte

Hotels and apartments

Booking.com

Campings

There is an abundance of campings in this area, my favorite is
Camping La Clarée it is in a central location from which you can easily drive to Serre Chevalier, Bardonecchia, Montgenèvre and Briancon. The pitches are roomy and scattered in the forest. You can pitch your own tent or book one of the luxuruous canvas tents, with a kitchen, real beds and a small wood stove.
This last feature is really nice, since it is high up in the mountains and it can get chilly at night.

Mountainbike trails

Bike park Montgenèvre

The bike park is spread out over 3 lifts, the Chalmettes chairlift is the main sector. This bike park hasn’t changed a lot over the years, in this case this is a good thing. The trails are mainly natural with some small berms, northshores and drops build in. All the drops have a plank behind them, even on the black trails, so you can start with small jumps and then make your jumps bigger and bigger.
The top part is mostly loose rocks, when you drop down into the forest it becomes more compact and flowing. But there is always some grit, never 100% compact. It dries out quickly after rain.
About 3/4 down there is a road section to catch your breath, followed by a funpark with different sized drops.
You can download a map of the Montgenèvre bike park here (pdf).

The green trail La Durance mostly follows the road down.

The blue Chenaillet is a flowing single trail it has been worn down over the years, so not suitable for complete beginners, but when you know the basics of mountain biking you can have a lot of fun here, but also experienced riders will find a challenge to ride this trail at speed.

The red Chalmettes is in a similar style but takes it up a notch, most noteworthy are to small rock gardens at the start of the trail. You can see them from the lift.

Bikepark Montgenèvre - piste rouge ( piste des chalmettes )
Watch this video on YouTube.

Les Rhodos starts with a slightly steep trail with a lot of loose rocks, the only way to ride this is to ride it at speed, if you’re braking to much you will loose control, then at the end it spits you out down a short steep section on to the road. After that it’s not more difficult then the red, there are some bigger hip jumps and drops you could easily go around.
There used to be a sketchy rock garden, but this has been closed off.

Half way down you will also find the start of the north shore trail, the last couple of times I was there it was closed, because of the rain. From what I remember there are quite a lot of modules, with either a red or a black difficulty.

From the Chalmettes lift you can roll down the road to the Gondrans lift.
There are three bike park trails under this lift or maybe a green with some blue and red alternatives is more accurate.

The most epic trail this lift gives access to is not a bike park trail, but an enduro trail that goes all the way down to Briancon. It’s No. 56 La batterie de la Lame

Espace VTT Grand Briançonnais, circuit Enduro n°56 Noir : La Batterie de la Lame
Watch this video on YouTube.

On the other side of the valley is the Chalvet gondola.
The Coupe de France track is steep, loose and fast. More build for speed than to be an exciting bike park trail I guess.
There are also two easy enduro trails at this lift, you have to pedal a little bit, but not that much.
And you can also use this lift to access the Vtopo No 34 trail described below (not signposted)

Bikepark Serre Chevalier

Most trails begin and end at the Casse du Boeuf chairlift.
I find it easiest to park along the torrent du Bez. Where and how close to the lift you’re allowed to park seems to change every year.

The Melezine is a playful flow trail with berms and tables. It’s not suitable for complete beginners. Halfway down you can turn right for the blue shore with some easy north shores connected by a natural single trail.
It will be closed when it’s wet.

Ecoutes is a flow trail with berms, (gap) jumps and drops. 

Tabaz’co is a steep natural single trail, with some big drops you can go around in the top part. A couple of fun little rock gardens and then proper steepness in the bottom part, that will be slippery either because of the mud or the dust.

At the bottom of these three trails you will find three small drops, after you land you will have to turn left and follow a trail back to the lift. (don’t continue down to the village)

In the past mountainbikers could use the big gondola Téléphérique Serre Chevalier from where three machine build flow trails used to descent. In 2020 mountainbikers have to use the Combes chairlift, which doesn’t go all the way up. The green trail Soupline has become one km. shorter.
The blue Ricelle hasn’t changed, but you have to climb 100m. to the start.
The red Alpage has changed to blue and is also one km. shorter.

You will find the new map for the bike park Serre Chevalier here.

XC and Enduro routes around Briancon.

There are to many trails in this area to mention them all. So here are some of my favorites.
No 23 Chemin du Roy 36km. +820m., the kings road. You climb off road up from Monetier les bains to the Col du Lauteret. From the col the trail continues to climb and traverses some steep mountainsides, you have to be comfortable to ride narrow trails along steep drops. After this you are rewarded with a steep but flowing trail, with a lot of hairpin turns, that should be rollable for most riders.

Espace VTT Grand Briançonnais - Circuit 23 Chemin du Roy
Watch this video on YouTube.

No 47 Le tour de l’Aiguille Rouge 25km + 920m.
The first part follows the road over the Col de l’Echelle towards Italy.
Then you climb up through the Vallée Étroite, this is a gentle climb on a forest road, where the natural beauty and quietness of your surroundings will make you forget the effort you’re putting in. This will change after the Refuge I Re Magi , on the climb to the Col de Thures most riders will have to push their bikes up a steep but otherwise easy path.
After the col you come to the sheep pastures, a surprisingly flat area after the previous climb. This is an easy and fast descent through an open field.
And then it becomes steep again, the path was machine build, but has become more eroded with loose rocks and some tree roots and a lot of wide open hairpin turns.
If you haven’t had enough fun keep your eyes open for the signs of red route No 42 Les Balcons de Névache after crossing the torrent Roubion at an altitude of 1740m. From here the red route climbs about 100m. and then traverses a steep exposed slope, for a fun, loose and mostly steep descent down to Névache. This is the most interesting part of that red route.

Vtopo Hautes Alpes Est No 34, 9km 430m.  If the lift is running (daily during high season) take the lift otherwise work your way up a ski slope that suffers from erosion. It’s worth it, you will be treated to an awesome single track. Well at least if you can do tight hairpins, otherwise this is the opportunity to learn.

Books and maps

You can get a map with XC and Enduro routes at the tourist info, at the bottom of the Cité Vauban. If I remember correctly it was 1 Euro.
You can also find all the info including gps tracks on this website.
Have a good look at the map from the tourist info, some routes also descent on forest roads.
The routes are way marked but sometimes the route markers are missing or not in an obvious spot so it is better to download the tracks and use a gps.

The Vtopo Hautes Alpes Est is no longer available with the publisher, it might be in the local shops or second hand on amazon.fr
There is also a newer version Vtopo Haute Alpes 2nd edition which should be available more widely.

GPS

You can find gps tracks for the signposted XC and Enduro routes on espace-vtt-brianconnais

You can also buy the gps tracks for the Vtopo book on their site.

Bike shops/ guiding/ Mountainbike rental

There are to many bikeshops in this area to mention them all.
Near the lifts in Serre Chevalier and Montgenèvre are plenty of bike rental shops with bike park bikes.
Whatever bike your looking for there will be someone that rents it out, from a simple xc hardtail to high end carbon (road) bikes.

The same goes for guiding, from a simple shuttle to week long package deals. Do you have good experiences with a company? Tell us in the comments below.

The local bus company, run some scheduled busses from Briancon to Montgenèvre with the possibility to bring your bike, but you will have to make a reservation 36 hours in advance. If you’re travelling with a group you can also make custom arrangements with them to be picked up by a van with a trailer suitable for up to 20 mountainbikes.

Tips and tricks

After an exhausting bike ride you have deserved a patisserie from Florent Guibaud

Other useful links

Nearby

Bardonecchia is a small bike park in Italy, Briancon mainly has natural trails, whereas Bardonecchia mostly focuses on machine build flow trails.
So if  that is what you need, this is a nice daytrip.

Les Deux Alpes A large bike park with mostly flow trails and an epic long descent down to Venosc.

Valloire Smaller village, with a medium size bike park and a similar laid back alpine feel.

Guillestre Just go over the Col d’Izoard for even more natural trails. Or at least drive your car up to the col to experience the stunning rock formations.

Similar

There aren’t a lot of places where you have a big city like Briancon and the stillness of the Vallée de la Clarée, 3 bike parks and more natural trails than you can ride in a holiday, in such a small area.
Maybe Bourg st. Maurice, with Les Arcs and Tignes bike parks.

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