With high-altitude blasts, epic rocky paths and hidden tracks, mountain biking in the Alps is a fun and action filled holiday idea. Not only do you get to explore beautiful off-the-beaten-path areas on your own set of wheels, but you can also improve your health and fitness levels while doing it.
The Alps are one of the greatest mountain ranges in the world, and they run from Austria and Slovenia, all the way through Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and France.
When exploring the Alps on your bike, there’s so much to take in that it can be tough to pick a trail. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you and put together five of the most impressive trails in the Alps.
This stunning Swiss peak continuously tops the best mountain bike trails list. With a single track that meanders around postcard-perfect backdrops, this trail is suitable for all levels. The funicular opens from the beginning of May – just in time for the dry biking season.
Balcony Hill is one of the prettiest trails in Saint-Luc, and it’s also the longest. This trail runs past Hotel Weissenhorn before heading down to Zinal. It passes through gingerbread-style houses surrounded by pine trees, and over around enormous mountain-edges that look more like the Himalayas than the Alps.
There is also a small but challenging bike park near to the balcony trail which is also open from May. Many of the larger resorts and restaurants in the area open from June.
There are several accommodation options in the area to cater for all tastes and budgets. The Hotel Beausite is a popular mid-range option that features marvelous views of the valleys. For those traveling on a shoestring, the Camping D’Anniviers campsite which is lower in the valley and offers affordable pitches starting at just 10 euros a night.
Not for the faint of heart, Crans-Montana impresses with its huge heights, downhill tracks and grassy slopes. The area is home to three trails: The Park, Plaine Morte to Violettes and the rather long Morte to Sion. For the best views check out Plaine Morte to Violettes, where you will also pass a glacier, forests, and meadows.
A large cable car will give you access to the start of several of the routes, and it is open from early May until Mid-October. You can also take funicular train up from Sierre, at the cost of ten euros. Unlike the cable car, the funicular train is open almost all year round – you can check the timetables here.
If you’re planning a trip to Crans-Montana, and looking for an affordable way to stay out in nature, then camping may be a good option for you. The camping Moubra site offers tent pitches that are surrounded by towering pines and valley views from just 8 euros a night.
The area has a sleepy-town vibe to it, but there are a few things to keep you entertained and refreshed after a long day pedal-pushing your way around the trails. Bar 36 is just the spot for an icy beer or hearty snack, while Pizzeria Molino is a hit with its freshly-baked pizzas.
If downhill mountain biking while surrounded by classic alpine scenery if your Jam, then go for Tignes. This mighty downhill trail has routes that are suitable for all abilities. Newbies can take the green runs, while thrill-seekers can try their hands at the black runs. All trails are incredibly well signposted, so you’ll never have to worry about taking a wrong turn.
When it comes to staying in Tignes and the surrounding areas, for the very best deals it’s best to book mountain bike holidays that include accommodation, lift passes and bike hire. You can save a whole lot of money, tiem and hassle by going down this route.
France: Le Tour, Chamonix
Arguably one of the best mountain biking spots in Europe, if not the world, is the legendary Le Toure Trail in Chamonix, France. Located towards the Swiss end of the mountains. The tiny trails teeter along golden ridgelines, passing through peaks, glaciers and breathtaking backcountry. The trail also features three different trails: Les Frettes Ridge, Lac de Charamillon and Border Run. It’s worth noting that you can only explore these three trails in July and August.
Le Frettes Ridge is the most-loved trails of the bunch. Starting at Col de Balme, this trail runs through Col des Portes, and along a long, flowing trail with some rather challenging trial-like sections. Lifts run in the area from May until September, and single, day pass and week pass options are available.
Staying in Chamonix brings with it host of benefits. There are plenty of accommodation options available to choose from including camping, B&Bs, luxury resorts and apartments. Because of the variety and competition, you can often score some pretty sweet deals if you book early enough in advance and do a little research.
La Petite Kitchen is a firm favorite with both locals and tourists alike, and offers uninstall delicious cheese strudel. Unlike some of the other mountain-biking trails, Chamonix has a rather excellent nightlife scene and caters for music-lovers and late-nighters.
France: Alpe d’Huez
One of the most popular places for mountain biking tours is the Alpe D’Huez in France. Sitting high on a plateau above the valley, these trials move their way through a range of sceneries including glaciers, moorlands and forest pines.
The Mega is the most impressive trail of the three and also by far the longest. Known as the Megavalanche, this super long and challenging trail is most suitable for more experienced cyclists. Remember to pack plenty of layers, as the temperatures can vary greatly depending on where you are on the trail. One moment you can be in snow and the next in glorious sunshine, so be sure to pack wisely.
Lifts open in the area between July and August, although they vary year by year – so be sure to check before you go. Campsites are plentiful in the area, but can get booked up fast during mountain bike season. Wallet-friendly guest houses can also be booked here. A great place to enjoy some food in a casual setting is at the ‘O’ bar. Located at the bottom side of town, this quaint eatery delivers good tapas and local beers.
Bonus Trail: Sauze D’oulx
Just in case you’re thinking of pulling the wildcard, this sweet slope may sway your mind. These Italian trails feature mellow paths that are suitable for all ages and levels. Not the largest trail in the Alps by any means, these gentle routes are perfect if you want to take in the scenery without having to worry about sheer drops gnarly off-road terrains. The two main trails here are Super Sauze and Tippy’s Switch. Lifts run here from June to early September, with single and return day passes available.
A perk of choosing this Italian trail is of course, all the Italian fare you will get to sample. Hotel Gran Baita not only has affordable rooms, but serves up some of the most delicious Italian-cuisine in town. If you’re looking for a fine-dining option to take someone special, then the Defalco Restaurant will tick all the right boxes.
So what’s it going to be? The hair-raising trails of Saint Luc or the sweeter, calmer slopes of Sauze D’Oulx? No matter what you chose, any of these options provide one of the most exhilarating ways that you can explore the great outdoors. Happy cycling.