Cycling In the Ubaye Valley

Camping River is situated in the middle of a climbing Mecca. In amongst the most savage and unspoilt areas. In the range of climbs which brush alongside the Mercantour National Park, is an alpine Eden with rare flora and fauna notably wolf and the ibex. Situated in the Southern Alps (known as the dry alps) the area is often warmer than the Northern Alps. The Ubaye valley is at the heart of this area, less populated and quieter it makes for a haven for cyclists with some breath-taking sites such as the gorges of the Alps Maritime, the lofty heights of the Cime de la Bonette or the simple loneliness of the countryside around the Col d’Allos.

This is our favourite region of the alps. Camping River is a perfect base, 16 km from Barcelonnette making it easy to explore several mountains in one stay. We are handy for the Cime de la Bonette, Col d’Allos, Col de Cayolle, Col de Vars, Col de Larche, Col Saint-Jean, Col de Pontis and the climb to Pra Loup.

With all this choice, the region challenges you to the “Brevet des 7 Cols”. An average of 400 people earns this certificate and the rights to buy a “special” cycling shirt each year. You simply have to climb all seven of the Ubaye’s impressive cols - at your own pace.

All different, they offer unique views over the valley from the Cols de Saint-Jean et Pontis offering spectacular views over the Lac de Serre Ponçon in the west, to the col de Cayolle and Allos both classics of the Tour de France, the Col de La Bonette-Restefond on Europe’s highest road, also a classic queen stage of the Grand Tour and features regularly in the Giro d’Italia and the aerial climbs in the east of Saint-Anne and the Col de Vars running alongside the peaks of le Parpaillon.

More Information

The Climbs

Col de la Cayolle (altitude. 2326m – 29km) – depart from Barcelonnette.

  • Height difference – 1191m
  • Average slope – 4.1%
  • Maximum slope – 8.2%
  • Col d’Allos (altitude. 2247m – 20km) – depart from Barcelonnette.
  • Height difference – 1112m
  • Average slope – 6.3%
  • Maximum slope – 11%
  • Montée de Sainte-Anne (altitude. 1840m – 16km) – depart from Barcelonnette.
  • Height difference – 705m
  • Average slope – 9%
  • Maximum slope – 12%

Col de Vars (altitude. 2108m – 30km) – depart from Barcelonnette.

  • Height difference – 973m
  • Average slope – 5.7%
  • Maximum slope – 10.6%

Col de Pontis (altitude. 1301m – 34km) – depart from Barcelonnette.

  • Height difference – 506m
  • Average slope – 10.1%
  • Maximum slope – 17%

Col Saint-Jean (altitude. 1333m – 33km) – depart from Camping River.

  • Height difference – 427m
  • Average slope – 4.3%
  • Maximum slope – 7.4%

Col de La Bonette-Restefond (altitude. 2802m – 32km) – depart from Barcelonnette.

  • Height difference – 1667m
  • Average slope – 6.6%
  • Maximum slope – 9%

Click here for more information and links to each climb. Can't download? Click here


VTT is close to hand with over 340 km of excellent runs marked and labelled by the French Cycling Federation. All levels of downhill tracks can be found at Praloup resort with chairlift access. This area has hosted the World championships and European masters MTB, DH and XC.  If you feel like riding the classic Ubayen trails but without too much effort, all the beautiful escapades can be ridden with an electric bike, making the whole area accessible to all cycling enthusiasts.

You can download the complete brochure with map here. 

Ubaye cycling map


The VTT circuits

Camping River is situated on the famous Transubayenne route which follows in part an old railway route with tunnels (some very long) that was never completed. This track forms part of a single route which runs for over 100km the full length of the valley and can be completed in full in two days. The Transubayenne route is considered mainly as a fun track and is divided into a dozen sections making it accessible to all abilities.

Easy routes

Between the Mercantour and Piémont (circuit 13) – depart from Larche

  • Distance – 11.5km
  • Elevation – 320m

The Ubaye Balcony (circuit 16) – depart from Larche

  • Distance – 10km
  • Elevation – 450m

Medium routes

The Maginot Alps (circuit 4) – depart from Meyronnes

  • Distance – 6.5km
  • Elevation – 400m

The Ubaye Balcony (circuit 17) – depart from Tournoux

  • Distance – 13.5km
  • Elevation – 600m

Difficult routes

Playing with the Relief/Terrain (circuit 10) – depart from Barcelonnette

  • Distance – 18km
  • Elevation – 750m

The Big Classic (circuit 1) – depart from Jausiers

  • Distance – 33km
  • Elevation – 1500m

Click here to discover all the circuits.

A Bit of ‘Ubaye’ History of the Tour de France

The Ubaye Valley and its surrounding climbs are used by the Tour de France, Paris-Nice and The Giro almost annually.

The climb to PraLoup is infamous for the day that Eddie Merx, who was attempting to win his sixth Tour de France, was stripped from the leader’s jersey that he had held for 10 days by the Frenchman Bernard Thévenet. During stage 14 of the 1975 tour, Eddie Merx became a victim of violence. Many Frenchmen were upset that a Belgian might beat the record of five wins set by Frenchman Jacques Anquetil so a spectator leapt from the crowd and punched Merx in the kidney.

Continuing, stage 15 saw Merx fall and break his cheekbone and he was subsequently unable to take back the lead. Bernard Thévenet slayed Eddie Merx into second place and went on to win the tour, becoming the first Frenchman to win in 8 years. This momentous event on the stage from Nice to PraLoup is celebrated by a monument in PraLoup, showing the ‘Tombée of the cannibal’.