Alsace-Lorraine & France-Comté

Rolling scenery, hills, and mountains dominate this area

While the Vosges sit on the eastern frontier with Germany, there are more mountains just a little further south on the Swiss border. The rolling hills of the Doubs and taller peaks of the Jura hide some of the finest, least well-known riding in France.

These are well-settled regions, with some stately towns and the odd interesting city. Ancient châteaux appear briefly on the skyline, frowning down on the rolling pastures and dark woods that are the key notes in this landscape. Agriculture and forestry dominate the land and the local cuisines are some of the finest in France. But we’re not here to eat, we’re here to ride – right? From the rolling hills of the northern Vosges to the high peaks of the Jura, this southernmost, eastern-most corner of France is crammed to the rafters with amazing roads. Best of all, it’s so easily reached from the UK.

 The Auberge du pied du Hohneck offers great coffee and better views

The Auberge du pied du Hohneck offers great coffee and better views

PLACES TO STAY

ARBOIS

Charming town in the foothills of the Jura, ideally placed to use as a base for exploring the Doubs and the Jura. The arcaded central square is good for a lap and dairy-lovers should check out the Louis Pasteur museum, which loans out iPads to provide audio/visual guides for the 40-minute tour.
Hotel tip: Les Caudalies

BESANCON

Built into a bend of the River Doubs, the fortified citadel of Besançon is a stunning place. The Romans left the 13-metre high Battant Bridge, there’s an excellent art gallery, cathedral, and the ‘Astronomique Horloge’, a huge clock with 57 dials that indicates the seasons, tides and movements of the planets, as well as the time.
Hotel tip: Hotel Florel

COLMAR

Nestled at the foot of the southern Vosges, just a few miles from the Rhine and the border with Germany, is the charming little city of Colmar – modern, but with a lovely historic centre.
Hotel tip: Hotel Beausejour

BITCHE

Easily reached from the channel, this is a small town with a huge fortress in the centre. It is surrounded by the rolling hills and epic roads of the Northern Vosges.
Hotel tip: Relais des Chateaux Forts


OFF THE BIKE

ROCHER DE DABO

A towering rock rising above the rolling hills of the northern Vosges, topped with a church and a handy hotel, complete with a café for visitors.

BAUME-LES-MESSIEURS

Tucked away in the Jura at the head of three valleys, Baume is surrounded by steep wooded slopes rising to high cliffs - the Cirque de Baume. Stalactite-filled caves and the Hérisson waterfalls are easy to get at and are very impressive.

LALIQUE MUESUM

The exquisite Lalique glassware hails from the quiet wooded hills of the northern Vosges – where the Lalique Museum and dangerously tempting factory shop are waiting for visitors. Good café, too.

NATZWILLER-STRUTHOF

The only German-run concentration camp in present-day France. The Natzwiller-Struthof is a small, well-preserved site housed 52,000 mainly political deportees from 30 different nations and manages a tasteful presentation of a ghastly period of history.

CHATEAU DU HAUTKOENIGSBOURG

A ruin of an 11th-century castle that was restored in the 1900s to give you a good feel for everyday life in a medieval fortress. The Chateau du Hautkoenigsbourg has living quarters, kitchens and storerooms, cisterns and moats, and some incredible antique artillery pieces located high up in the battlements which give panoramic views to the stunning Black Forest.

SCHLUMPF COLLECTION

The Cité de l’Automobile in Mulhouse is huge, so there’s something for every petrolhead, from the world’s largest collection of Bugattis to the 8-bit splendour of a collection of 1980s and ’90s driving arcade games.

OBERNAI

A compact gem of a picture postcard town, with lots of delightful medieval houses, that looks like it hasn’t changed since the 16th century. The marketplace is a lovely square in the very heart of the town. Market day is every Thursday.

EGUISHEIM

Listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Eguisheim’s winding, cobbled streets, fountains and medieval, brightly painted half-timbered buildings have a prestigious 4-star Ville Fleuri award from the Government (the highest award). Storks nesting are a rarity, but Eguisheim has two pairs and a sanctuary to boot.

FLECKENSTEIN CASTLE

Near the beautifully maintained medieval town of Wissembourg are the ruins of Fleckenstein château – the ‘troglodyte castle’ with some of the rooms built into the cliff on which the château is perched.


Getting there

It is – just – possible to get to the Vosges in a long day if you mostly spend it on the motorway from Calais. Putting an overnight stop in makes it more pleasant – and is essential for getting to the Doubs and the Jura, further south. The big question is whether you take a full two days to get there or just allow a day and a half, with a bit more motorway mileage. To save even more time, the Bikeshuttle service will freight your bike to St Genis-Pouilly in the Jura foothills: you fly out (to Geneva), pick up the bike and you’re away. See www.bikeshuttle.co.uk

Routes to getting there

CALAIS TO ARBOIS: Distance: 430 miles. Riding time: Two days. Overnight stop: Nanteuilsur-Marne
Day one map   Download the GPX file,   Day two map   Download the GPX file

CALAIS TO COLMAR: Distance: 435 miles. Riding time: Two days. Overnight stop: Moussy
Day one map   Download the GPX file,   Day two map   Download the GPX file

CALAIS TO BITCHE: Distance: 405 miles. Riding time: Two days. Overnight stop: Monthermé
Day one map   Download the GPX file,   Day two map   Download the GPX file

 

Our motorcycle touring routes

THE JURA

Start/finish: Arbois. Distance: 215 miles. Riding time: 6 hours
Proper high-mountain riding in the Haut Jura, over Col de la Faucille and Crêt du Chat.
The Jura map,   Download the GPX file

THE DOUBS

Start/finish: Arbois. Distance: 185 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours
A blast through the amazing landscape of the Doubs, including the Cirque de la Consolation and Gorges de Noailles.
The Doubs map,    Download the GPX file

BESANCON AND THE DOUBS FOOTHILLS

Start/finish: Besançon. Distance: 325 miles. Riding time: 7 hours
A relaxing ride from the amazing fortified city of Besançon out into the unspoilt countryside.
Besancon & the Doubs foothills,   Download the GPX file

ROUTE DES CRETES LOOP

Start/finish: Colmar Distance: 175 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours.
A sublime day on the beautiful, challenging roads of the Vosges mountains.
Vosges Route des Cretes, Download the GPX

AN ALTERNATIVE COLMAR

Start/finish: Colmar. Distance: 200 miles. Riding time: 6.5 hours
With so many great roads in the southern Vosges, a second day of riding is most definitely needed – so here it is!
Morning route map   Afternoon route map    Download the GPX file

CENTRAL VOSGES

Start/finish: Wasselonne. Distance: 210 miles. Riding time: 6.5 hours
The peaks are lower in the Central Vosges but the riding’s no less spectacular.
Morning route map  Afternoon route map    Download the GPX file

NORTHERN VOSGES

Start/finish: Bitche. Distance: 170 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours
More hills than mountains, the Northern Vosges are crammed with great roads.
Morning route map  Afternoon route map    Download the GPX file

 

Please note: This page contains the routes for The RiDE Guide To France which came free with RiDE magazine in July 2017. These website pages are not regularly updated, so please check all critical information before you travel. All route files are in .gpx format. Garmin and BMW users can download the main file, which contains all the routes. TomTom users can either download the individual routes or use the MyRouteApp (depending on the age of your device). For many routes we also have Google Map links. However, as Google Maps will not plot routes over seasonally closed roads, such as high Alpine passes when they’re shut, so these may not work for every route all year round.