Are you a fan of cycling in the mountains through stunning landscapes? Then the Route des Crêtes in the Vosges is a destination you won’t want to miss. In this article, we’ll explore the enchanting beauty of the Vosges and introduce you to the unique experience of cycling on the Route des Crêtes.
Not only the riders of the Tour de France will be visiting the Vosges in 2023. CycleMasters has also been in this region before and has various workouts available, in the Vosges and in the Alscase area. Want to prepare your trip in advance? Then follow one of these Scenic Rides with CycleMasters’ trial membership.
The Vosges: Cycling in a Green Paradise
The Vosges offer a cycling experience that sets them apart from other mountain ranges in France. While the Alps and the Pyrenees may be better known, the Vosges have their own charm and advantages that will surely appeal to cyclists.
One of the great advantages of the Vosges is accessibility. Although not as high as the Alps, the Vosges still offer challenging climbs and picturesque routes for cyclists of all levels. The mountain roads are well-maintained, and there are plenty of routes to choose from, giving you the freedom to tailor your own adventure. In this article, we’ll tell you more about cycling on the Route des Crêtes in the Vosges.
Green valleys and picturesque lakes
The landscape of the Vosges is covered with lush forests, green valleys, and picturesque lakes, making cycling in this region a visual spectacle. As you pedal along the winding roads, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of breathtaking mountain peaks and idyllic landscapes that will quicken your heart.
Another advantage of the Vosges is the peace and quiet you’ll experience during your cycling journey. Compared to more touristy mountain ranges, the Vosges are less crowded, allowing you to enjoy the peaceful beauty of nature without too many distractions. This makes for a tranquil and relaxing cycling experience, where you can fully immerse yourself in the stunning surroundings.
Cycling on the Route des Crêtes: A Journey through History
The Route des Crêtes has a rich history and was part of significant events, including World War I. Along the road, you’ll find memorials and remnants that commemorate this period of struggle and sacrifice.
Originally built between 1913 and 1915 as a military road, the Route des Crêtes served strategic purposes. It enhanced the mobility of the French army and fortified the defense of the region. This route follows the ridge of the Vosges, connecting various important points and viewpoints, allowing you to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the Vosges.
Cycling 88 kilometers through the Vosges
Today, the Route des Crêtes is a popular tourist route known for its pristine natural beauty and breathtaking panoramic views. This route stretches for approximately 88 kilometers, offering cyclists the opportunity to enjoy the majestic mountain landscapes, green valleys, and vast forests of the Vosges.
Along the route, there are several viewpoints and attractions you won’t want to miss, such as the impressive Hohneck Pass, the picturesque Col de la Schlucht, and the enchanting Lac Blanc. These places offer stunning vistas of the surroundings and allow you to fully experience the beauty of the Vosges. The Route des Crêtes officially begins in Saint-Maries-aux-Mines and continues to Cernay in Alsace. We will share some points below that you should definitely include in your route when cycling on the Route des Crêtes.
Col du Bonhomme
Col du Bonhomme, situated at an altitude of 949 meters, is a beautiful starting point or stop along the Route des Crêtes. From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the surroundings and acquaint yourself with the breathtaking mountain peaks of the Vosges. Take some time to relax at the picturesque Lac Blanc, a mountain lake at an altitude of 1,050 meters.
And when you have regained your energy, continue your journey along the enchanting Gazon du Faing, where you have a breathtaking view of, among other things, Lac Vert, far below you.
Col de la Schlucht
Col de la Schlucht is located in the heart of the Route des Crêtes and is a popular starting point for cyclists who do not want to complete the entire route or prefer to ride it in two parts. You have two options to begin the ascent. Starting from Xonrupt Longemer, you begin gently and gradually, allowing you to warm up comfortably.
As you ascend higher, the road becomes steeper, putting your climbing skills to the test. You’ll notice that the landscape around you becomes increasingly impressive, with expansive views over green valleys and dense forests.
Alternatively, you can start your journey on the Munster side in Soultzeren, where you are immediately challenged with steep sections and sharp bends. As you cycle upward, you can enjoy a stunning view of the Munster Valley halfway up before the majestic mountain peaks loom before you as you reach Col de la Schlucht. After this, you can continue cycling on the Route des Crêtes.
One of the most iconic stops along the Route des Crêtes is Hohneck. Situated at an altitude of 1,363 meters, this mountain peak offers spectacular views of the surrounding Vosges and is an absolute must-visit for cyclists exploring the route. In addition to the breathtaking view, Hohneck also offers a cozy mountain hut where you can relax, enjoy some food and drinks, and reward yourself for your efforts during the climb.
What makes Hohneck so special is not only the panoramic landscape stretching out before you but also the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the snow-capped peaks of Mont Blanc in the Alps on clear days. It’s the perfect place to take a break, recharge for the rest of the stage.
Kastelberg, with an altitude of 1,350 meters, is one of the higher peaks in the Vosges. This is also the ridge where snow lingers the longest after winter. Sometimes, in May, you can still find cooling snow in the shadow of the mountain. In winter, this is a popular skiing area, officially part of La Bresse.
If you’re not visiting the region solely for cycling on the Route des Crêtes and are here for a longer stay, it’s definitely worth following one of the many hiking trails that have been laid out in the area from this spot.
With an altitude of approximately 1,183 meters, the mountain station Le Markstein offers various cycling routes for both beginners and experienced cyclists. The climb to the top is rewarded with a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. In addition to cycling, you can also enjoy other activities here, such as hiking, sledding, and paragliding.
Furthermore, there are several restaurants and cafes where you can savor a delicious local lunch. After your visit to Le Markstein, it’s time to get back on your bike and head towards the final mountain peak of the ride: the Grand Ballon.
At the top of the Grand Ballon, there are several attractions to discover. When you’re cycling on the Route des Crêtes, this is literally the high point of your trip. If you still have energy and want to continue on foot to the summit of the mountain (at 1,424 meters), you’ll come across the striking white radar station and the memorial monument Les Diables Bleus.
Due to its strategic location, with views extending far into Germany, there was fierce fighting for this place in the Alsace-Vosges region during World War I. It’s a fascinating location that bears witness to the history and significance of this mountain peak in the region. If you’re interested, be sure to start your descent to Cernay and make a stop at Hartsmanwiller. An impressive monument and museum here will tell you all about the rich history of the region.
Conclusion: Cycling on the Route des Crêtes in the Vosges
Whether you’re an avid cyclist who loves challenging climbs or simply want to enjoy the beautiful landscape, cycling on the Route des Crêtes in the Vosges is a must for anyone visiting the region. It combines the beauty of nature with a touch of history. Whether you’re an experienced cyclist or just starting out, the Vosges offer routes and climbs for every level.