• Distance 42 km
  • Elevation gain 1650m
  • 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.

Looking for a return GPX route? Click here.

All metrics in this article are approximate.

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 AllemontLac du Verney near Allemont
Turquoise water of the Lac de Grand MaisonLac de Grand Maison near Col de la Croix de Fer
Lac de Grand Maison near Croix de FerView towards Col de la Croix de Fer

Route notes

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 FerLush 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 summitPhoto 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 restaurantRivier d’Allemont restaurant option
Restaurant at the turn to the Col du GlandonChalet Col du Glandon restaurant. Photo credit: COLOMBO NICOLA/Shutterstock.com
Restaurant at Col de la Croix de FerChalet 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

  • Don’t underestimate this ride; it’s a big day!
  • Read our tips for cycling in the Alps before you set out.
  • Croix de la Fer has featured in the Tour de France sixteen times since it was first used in 1947.
  • 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.

Found this guide useful?

Clare Dewey

Clare Dewey is a road cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com to help make it easy for road cyclists to explore new places by bike.

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