Col du Galibier from Briançon via the Col du Lautaret
Col du Galibier is an iconic cycling climb located in the French Alps that reaches an altitude of 2642m. From Col du Lautaret, on the southern side, the climb is 8.7km in length at an average gradient of 6.5%. On its northern side, the climb starts in Valloire and is 17.6km in length at an average gradient of 6.7%. Col du Galibier first featured in the Tour de France in 1911 and has featured 58 times since giving it its iconic status. It is one of the highest passes in the French and over 500m higher in elevation than Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees.
This cycling route to the top of Col du Galibier starts from Briançon and first climbs Col du Lautaret before heading to the top of Col du Galibier. The route is an out and back covering a distance of 72km with 1,541m in elevation gain and is suited to more experienced cyclists. There are plenty of places along the way to grab food and water including cafes at the top of Col du Lautaret and just below the summit of Col du Galibier.
Suggested cycling route
Distance: 72.3km / 45mi
Start elevation: 1,218m / 3,997ft
Max elevation: 2,642m / 8,668ft
Metres climbed: 1,541m / 5,056ft
Metres descended: 1,541m / 5,056ft
Categorised climbs: 2
Climb No 1: The Col du Lautaret 2056m
This ride route departs Briançon and heads to the summit of the Col du Galibier, the tenth highest mountain pass in Europe. From this approach, you will firstly need to tackle the long climb of the Col du Lautaret. This long mountain pass begins from the outset as soon as you leave Briançon. Whilst the average gradient for the Col du Lautaret may only be just over 3% it is a very long climb so be sure to measure your effort. At the summit, there are a number of small food outlets and a cafe where you can resupply food and water. You can also pause to take your picture in front of the big yellow bicycle monument – a tribute to the climbs Tour de France pedigree.
Climb No 2: The Col du Galibier 2642m
As you make your way through the first section of alpine meadows you can see the summit of the Col du Galibier looming in the distance. You also have commanding views of the Lautaret valley where you first started your ride. Once you pass the memorial to Henri Desgrange the steepest gradients await you. The road continues on, seemingly sat perilously on a knife’s edge. If you are scared of heights or prone to bouts of vertigo then make sure you do not look over the edge. Instead, let yourself be distracted by the giant peaks of the alps which are all-encompassing. At this elevation, your breathing will be labored and the summit views are made all the sweeter. Standing at 2642m high the Galibier is one of the highest road passes in Europe so you can be very proud of your achievement to get to the top. Take in the commanding views and take stock of your ride. The good news is from here you turn back the way you came and can now enjoy an uninterrupted 36km/22mi descent all the way to Briançon.
The summit of the Col du Lautaret.
Food and water
There are cafes and food vendors at the summit of the Col du Lautaret where you can restock with food and drinks.
- Standing at the summit of the tenth highest road in all of Europe!
- From the summit of the Galibier it is all downhill for the return journey back to Briançon.
27.5kms/17mi into this route you will reach the summit of the Col du Lautaret. A long climb that leaves you above 2000m/6700ft in altitude!
Climb statistic and gradient profile
Col du Lauteret
Length: 27.5km / 17mi
Average gradient: 3.1%
Start point: Briançon
Elevation at top: 2,058m / 6,752ft
Col du Galibier
Length: 8.7km / 5.3mi
Average gradient: 8.5%
Start point: Col du Lauteret
Elevation at top: 2,642m / 8,668ft
The summit gives a good perspective of how steep the final km/mi of the Galibier climb is.
The Galibier is the tenth highest mountain road in all of Europe.
Discover our comprehensive guide to Cycling in the French Alps
Cycling the Col du Galibier and Col du Lautaret is just one of many great cycling routes near Briançon that you can enjoy. This area of the French Alps is very popular with cyclists year-round owing to its close proximity to these famous Tour de France climbs. Our handy guide to Briançon has lots of practical information about visiting the areas and also includes plenty of other cycling routes to select.
If you are not familiar with the cycling available in the French Alps then our comprehensive guide will help you plan everything you need for your cycling holiday. The guide includes information such as:
- a map of the French Alps with climbs and towns marked
- where to base yourself whist on your cycling holiday
- cycling hotels and lodges
- bike hire outlets
- overview of transport links to the main areas in the Alps
- non-cycling attractions and activities in the region
Click here to see a list of cycling routes available in the French Alps.