This is a punchy ride with over 114 km and 1,700m of climbing. Other than for the section to the dam (which can be bypassed – see tips), the mellow gradients mean you’re rarely on the edge.
It takes in quiet, winding roads and hilly terrain that gives you a real feel for cycling Catalonia and the heart of the Catalan countryside. The route is dominated by the relatively gradual 20 km uphill to Sant Hilari, but there’s also blissful descents and scenic, twisting lanes that make traffic a distant memory.
All metrics in this article are approximate.
Highlights of the Sant Hilari Loop
Our favourite section is the 20km ascent from Santa Coloma de Farners up to Sant Hilari Sacalm. It’s a really pleasant climb on a quiet road that never gets too steep, as it weaves in and out of the main road in the valley.
Runner-up is the Susqueda reservoir and dam. The road might not be in the best condition, but you won’t forget the sight of the huge dam wall and the inky reservoir waters.
1. Girona to Santa Coloma de Farners: 0-27 km
You leave the initial seven kilometre grind through the outskirts of Girona behind you and cross the motorway. Country lanes take you above the pretty village of Aiguaviva and through Brunyola to Santa Coloma de Farners.
This route is so much better than following the bigger roads.
2. Santa Coloma de Farners to Osor: 27-64 km
8 kilometres out of Santa Coloma de Farners you pass a turnoff onto the C25 motorway. You’ve been climbing for a while, but this turnoff marks the end of the valley approach and the start of the climb. Just after that, you hit the steepest kilometre or so of the ascent, at around 10%.
From there on the climb mellows out and you’re looking at averages between about 4 and 7%. As you get higher, you leave the dense forest behind you. The road winds in and out of the main road and the views open up. It’s a beautiful climb.
Sant Hilari is a good place for a breather – you’ll find a water fountain and lots of cafés to choose from.
Your climb up to Sant Hilari is rewarded with a 15 kilometre descent to Osor. It’s fun, though there are some tight hairpins that could catch you out. Take care if the road is wet as there may be debris and rocks on the road (see tips section below about possibly reversing the route).
3. Osor to Girona: 64-114 km
If you’re up for the steep climb to the dam, you turn off just before Osor (otherwise continue on the GI-542 – see the tips section below).
You climb up on a remote road that takes you through silent forest to the Susqueda dam. It’s only 4 km but it’s steep – your legs will undoubtedly burn where you hit the ramps to 15%!
If you want to continue the sufferfest, turn left at the top of the hill (it’s at about kilometre 68), for more super steep road up to a restaurant which we’re told has fantastic views. It’s a dead-end though so you’ll need to head back down the way you came. (We didn’t have the legs for it, so our GPX route doesn’t incorporate this!).
The road down to the reservoir is very steep, narrow and twisty. We also found it wet and cracked so take care. The views from the road along the side of the lake are incredible. Even on a cloudy day like we had you’ll find deep inky waters, velvety green tree cover and the contrasting vastness of the yellowy-brown concrete dam wall.
The road follows the river back towards civilisation. After Anglès you’re on the GI 540, a lovely quiet twisty road that goes up to El Mas Llunés and then down through forest until you hit the road back to Girona.
Much of the ride feels very remote, but there are still some good options for a stop:
- 17.5km: Brunyola: Restaurante El Castell comes well recommended and is right in the centre of Brunyola.
- 26km: Santa Coloma de Farners: it’s a reasonable sized town, so there are plenty of options.
- 47km: Sant Hilari Sacalm: like Santa Coloma, there are plenty of options.
- 62.5km: Osor: restaurant Can Puig is a good option.
- 86-87km: La Cellera de Ter and Anglès both have a few restaurants if you’re feeling in need of a stop before home.
Hotel Nord 1901, a family-owned boutique hotel was a great base for our trip to Girona. It’s got a great location a stone’s throw from the old town, and the staff are very accommodating towards cyclists.
For more suggestions, take a look at our article on where to stay in Girona for cyclists.
If you’re doing this ride between December and March, consider reversing the route as we’ve heard that descending from Saint Hilari towards Anglès can be dangerous during those months. We visited in September.
In any event, take care on the descents, particularly the one down to the dam wall – and the descent to Osor.
If you don’t fancy the road to and from the dam, it’s easy to cut it out. Instead of turning left just before Osor, continue along the GI-542 and rejoin the route near Anglès. Bear in mind the comment above though about descending into Anglès and consider reversing the route.
If you want a quicker return home (or outbound journey if you reverse our route), you could take the N-141e through Bescanó and Salt.
Read our tips for cycling in Girona before you set out.
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Don’t miss our other ride guides on the area: find them in the related rides section, below.
Check out our complete guide to planning a cycling holiday in Girona and other articles on Girona, below.
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