Col de la Bonette - D64/D2205 AlpineRoads Hot
Written by AlpineRoads     April 16, 2012    
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Le Chef Lieu, Nationalpark Mercantour, 04850 Jausiers, Frankreich, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

Noiret, Nationalpark Mercantour, 06420 Isola, Frankreich, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur


Le Chef Lieu, Nationalpark Mercantour, 04850 Jausiers, Frankreich

General Route

Route Type
(Partial) toll road
This road may be seasonally closed
Barcelonnette is also the gateway to one of the great routes of the Alps, the Cime de la Bonette .There are several claims as to the highest tarmacked pass in the Alps, but this one actually wins at 2802m, because the French cheated by building an otherwise useless loop above the actual pass. This actually makes the road another 87m above the real pass.

Take the main road east out of Barcelonnette and then take a right at Jausiers. The pass may be signposted as the Col de Restefond [2678m]which is part of the route just before the top on the north ramp.

This pass is high, we've nearly always tackled it in good or moderate weather conditions, but if it's cool and raining in Barcelonnette, it could be snowing at the top. Any bike with carburettors is also going to suffer a big power drop due to the low air pressure. It can feel like ringing the neck out of a 125 cc learner. (Worse, if you are on a 125, think garden strimmer)
The pass as a whole can be divided into 3 main sections:

The North Ramp:
Moderate/Easy. The best bit.
The hairpins start before you even get out of town. The surface used to be a bit bumpy and patched up. Only the first bit out of Jausiers is still a bit uneven as they've finished resurfacing and in places rebuilding the whole north ramp. It is now a complete blinder!

The fairly wide road is demanding, it took us 24 minutes to drive the 24 km to the top (that was back in 1999 with the old narrow bumpy road...). There are some moderate straights, and every degree of curve or hairpin you can imagine, mostly medium/tight to wide corners. The countryside is barren and bleak except for the flocks of sheep straying across the road. Do watch out for these especially just before the scree slopes at the top. A good excuse to take a breather and take in some of the fantastic views. Or perhaps some of you may just want to check out the local talent.
The very top is black slate scree slopes and very, very desolate.Think Magrathea.

The South Ramp: Top to Port Haute
The southern ramp from the top starts off moderately. It passes through an abandoned army barracks (This is the Route Napoleon. Check out the cartoon murals inside). After the barracks the road narrows and the hairpins are many and tight. This open treeless, crass-covered scree slope suffers continual subsidence in a BIG way. This really was the bumpiest bit of road that I've ever ridden. Horrible. We used to rate this bit difficult. It's now been totally remade from top to bottom and freshly resurfaced for the Tour de France in 2008, apart from a couple of hairpins near the restaurant just above the treeline. The road is still just that bit too narrow to make it more than a pleasant ride, but pleasant it is and the scenery is impressive.

The South Ramp: Port Haute to St Sauveur sur Tinée
This is an easy section, and on average a ton-up stretch. Going down, you enter some trees where the road surface returns to civilisation. The road twists through a narrow river gorge, which gradually widens and the road becomes straighter and faster.....Eventually you arrive at a 4 mile plus straight. The road is dead straight; there're no towns or side turnings. Must be time to clean out those carbs that got clogged up on the pass! Officer.

The Cime de la Bonette now has a great surface and the northern ramp some brilliant corners and knee down hairpins. Even without those plus points its sheer scale makes it one of the biker routes of the Alps.
Continuing down the Gorges de Valabres, just before the town of St. Sauveur sur Tinée you reach red rock country. Yep, the rocks and cliff faces round here are a dark red. Metamorphic rock, according to Tim, who knows these sort of things. Heading further southwards and the road becomes a wide main road with fast sweepers as it follows the Tinée River. Eventually you join the major road the N202. Here the fun officially ends. Another 20 miles onwards and you are in Nice heading for the beach.

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AlpineRoads Reviewed by AlpineRoads April 16, 2012
Last updated: March 24, 2013
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Col de la Bonette

Doesn't get much better than this!

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