Aravis / Cycling / Biking

My Aravis bike tour: from majestic routes to well-kept secrets

Discover cycling in the Aravis mountains through the lens of Sébastien Jarrot, aka @cycliste_tricolore on Instagram, who gives us his best tips for a bike tour while enjoying a spring getaway at Chalet Arpitania.

Discover the Aravis mountains…


Alpine passes in the early cycling season

Immersed in this early cycling season, I set off to tackle the Alpine passes in the first days of March, heading for the majestic Aravis massif, just a stone’s throw from Annecy. My itinerary? A cycle around the Aravis mountains, with a family getaway in a haven of peace, the Chalet Arpitania, chosen on the recommendation of OVO Network.

The conditions for cycling are quite simply idyllic now in early spring: summer-like temperatures hovering between 15 and 20 degrees, little traffic on the roads, and unique landscapes where winter meets spring, with the peaks still draped in white alongside the first flowers of the season. I would say that autumn and spring are the perfect seasons for a mountain road cycling getaway.

Aravis bike tour and balmy spring days

From the first day, buoyed by the enthusiasm of these warm spring days, I decided to warm up for the Col des Aravis, an unmissable stage on the bike tour. This pass, which the Tour de France has crossed 42 times, reaches a height of 1,486 metres. From Chalet Arpitania, it’s just a 20-kilometre round trip, with an elevation gain of 620 metres. And the rewards are huge! Once you’ve passed the resort of La Clusaz, the landscape transforms into an Alpine panorama, a succession of pleasant switchbacks on a gentle 5-6% slope, offering breathtaking views of the Aravis peak on one side and the Merdassier peak on the other, both wrapped in their pristine white coats, contrasting with the first shoots of spring peeping through. A kilometre from the pass, the panorama opens up even further, offering a 180-degree view of the Mont Blanc massif.

It’s a gentle ride back to the chalet, where my children and I are about to take advantage of all the facilities it has to offer: a heated indoor pool with a stunning view and a sauna for a well-earned break, then I’ll be preparing a home-made pizza with the older children.

The bright and cosy living room of Chalet Arpitania delights children and parents alike. Photo credit: Sébastien Jarrot.
The heated pool is particularly enjoyable after a long day exploring the mountains… Photo credit: Sébastien Jarrot.

Cycling, and more…

The next morning, not far from Les Confins and the Nordic skiing area, I jumped on the Aravis Bus shuttle to enjoy 2 hours of Nordic skiing in this natural setting at the foot of the Aravis mountain range. I love Nordic skiing as a complement to winter cycling, so why choose when you can have both in early March? The afternoon was spent with the family: a stroll through the heart of the resort, board games and relaxation at the chalet swimming pool.

Peace, quiet, and exploration

The end of my stay was set aside for my own revamped Aravis bike tour. I mapped out a route taking in the classic passes but also lesser-known alternative routes, in search of peace and quiet and exploration, enhanced by stops at my favourite cafés.

The route is a loop from La Clusaz over the Col des Aravis and the Col de la Croix Fry, with a thrilling descent towards Manigod and a must-see stop at the Garajo café-boutique, offering spectacular views of the region. Next up is the little-known climb to the Col du Plan Bois, with some inclines reaching 13%, but the panoramic view of La Tournette, the Pointe de la Sambuy and the twists and turns of the Col de la Croix Fry is well worth the effort.

At the summit, a break is in order, but I recommend heading back down to the valley at Thônes for a snack at the Mountain Coffee café, run by a couple of friendly baristas. Then it’s back to La Clusaz, avoiding the main road and taking the alternative route from Villars to Thônes, to enjoy the panoramic view of Mont Lachat.

Back at the chalet, it’s time to recuperate with a sauna, a hammam (Turkish bath) and a family dinner before preparing a new route.

The mountains, in a different way

For my last day, I opted for a more niche route combining road and forest path, starting from the chalet with my gravel bike, heading for the Col des Annes and the Vallée du Bouchet. The ascent is as challenging as it is majestic, offering a panoramic view of the Aravis mountain range, finishing in a very typical mountain pasture hamlet. My high-speed descent was followed by a return to the chalet via Saint-Jean-de-Sixt.

In conclusion, it was a holiday that went by too quickly, but it was the perfect way to kick off this cycling season. Despite the limited snow cover, I was able to enjoy the mountains in a different way, on my bike and with my family, in an outstanding setting. I thoroughly recommend an off-season getaway; I think it is the best time to discover and enjoy the mountains.

To make the most of your stay at Chalet Arpitania, I’m sharing with you my top addresses for bike-friendly coffee shops and other places that make a cyclist’s life easier.

Sébastien Jarrot’s recommendations

Top tips & contacts

651 Rte du Col de la Croix Fry, 74230 Manigod

4 Rue Blanche, 74230 Thônes 

38 Rte de la Vall. du Bouchet, 74450 Le Grand-Bornand

10 Mnt du Château, 74220 La Clusaz

Routes departing from Chalet Arpitania 

My revamped Aravis bike tour 

Col des Aravis 

Col des Annes gravel route 

The Aravis mountains are calling…


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