What good is the world if we keep everything we learn to ourselves?
Last year, we planned a 4-week tour of the Vosges and the French Alps. And if you’ve followed our posts for a while, you’ll know that my Africa Twin gave up the ghost in the south of France.
This meant that I didn’t get to ride many of the roads I’d planned. However, I did get to spend a fair bit of time in the Vosges. And I have to say, it gave me one of the best riding experiences I’ve ever had.
To this day, I still don’t really know why it called to me. I’ve toured the mountainous regions of Europe extensively over the years. And despite having ridden most of the ‘big’ passes, it was the Vosges that made me smile the most.
The roads were sublime, and the people were lovely. The food was excellent, and the scenery was beautiful.
In all, I found the Vosges to be the perfect harmony between exhilaration and peace.
If you want to read more about our experience in the Vosges, give this post a go: Motorcycling In The Vosges: Make It A Priority.
Vosges Motorcycle Route: Tour Overview
Days 1-3: Getting There
Getting to the Vosges is easy enough – even coming from the UK.
We recommend catching a Eurotunnel crossing at around 10 am UK time. You could go later, but 10 am should give you enough time to account for any delays.
Once into France, we rode the 65 miles (105 km) to Arras for our first stopover.
Day 2 saw us make a monster ride of 340 miles (547 km) to Verdun. And day 3 was a leisurely 125-mile (201 km) ride to L’Acensement, which sits in the middle of Cornimont and Gérardmer.
From the Eurotunnel in Calais to the Vosges, our total distance was 533 miles (858 km).
Day 1 In The Vosges (Day 4 Total)
- 130 miles (209 km)
- Approx. 5-6 hours (including breaks & lunch)
Heading east from Cornimont, you’ll ride the twisty (yet easy) Route des Bouchaux towards the D34. If the weather is kind to you, the surface is excellent and the twisties inviting!
But be warned, you’re at the foot of the surrounding mountains, and heavy mist and fog are common – as is rainfall. Take a high-vis and some rain gear just in case.
Riding past Kastelberg on the Alsace border, you’ll reach the access road to Le Hohneck after around 30 minutes – the second highest summit in the region at 1,364m.
If you’re lucky enough to avoid the fog, this is definitely a time to get off your bike and wander around. With hiking trails galore, it’s a wonderful place to take some time to breathe in the fresh mountain air and enjoy the views.
Once you’ve had your fill of Le Hohneck, take the road back down the way you came, and you’ll turn right onto the legendary Route des Crêtes. You’ll only be on it for a short while, though (more of that later!)
But for now, you’ll turn onto the delightfully twisty D417 towards the even curvier D5 and D11. Here, you’ll ride past the Grand Hohneck towards Labaroche and Orbey.
Riding alongside Lac Blanc, you’ll have the summit of Gazon du Faing on your left and Tête des Immerlins on your right.
Heading north on the D48, you can see Le Grand Brézouard on the right before turning left after Le Pain de Sucre.
From here, riding southwest takes you back towards Gérardmer via some easier (but still technical) roads and back into civilisation.
Cols You Will Ride:
- Col du Rothenbach
- Collet du Rainkopf
- Col de la Schlucht
- Col du Calvaire
- Col des Bagenelles
- Col de Sainte-Marie
- de Mandray
- Col du Plafond
Sick of route planning? Good news. We have a category just for you.
Day 2 In The Vosges (Day 5 Total)
- 85 miles (137 km)
- Approx. 4 hours (including breaks & lunch)
Today you head the opposite way from your accommodation towards Cornimont and almost immediately onto the Route du Brabant. From here, you will pick up a glorious section of the Route des Crêtes at Rothenbach Ferme Auberge. You’ll stay on the Route des Crêtes for around 30 miles (50km) in total.
Buckle up for this part of the ride. The roads are truly immense, and the feeling of serenity at the summit of the Grand Ballon (the highest summit in the Vosges) is amazing. You can also stop at the cafe for coffee or lunch – but it’s an obvious stop and usually busy.
After enjoying the fabulous RdC for around 20 miles (32 km), you’ll come to the lovely fortified town of Cernay, where there are plenty of places to stop and have lunch.
Sitting outside, you can enjoy watching this sleepy town go about its business whilst enjoying a coffee.
Once finished, jump back on your bike and head towards Thann before turning off onto the D13 towards Geishouse, where you’ll once again pick up the RdC.
Heading west, you’ll come to the D27 – a lovely, quiet road that takes you through the mountains toward Lac du Kruth.
The last part of this route is quite technical on small, narrow, and often slippery roads.
But it takes you through the forests of the Vosges and away from the well-trodden paths of the tourist routes.
Cols You Will Ride:
- Col du Hahnenbrunnen
- de Bramont
- Col du Grand Ballon
Day 3 In The Vosges (Day 6 Total)
- 94 miles (151 km)
- Approx. 4-5 hours (including breaks & lunch)
On your final loop day of the Vosges, you will head southwest through La Réserve Naturelle Ballons Comtois – a technical ride through the dense forests of the Vosges. It’s probably the most difficult ride of the three due to the concentration you need to get around.
This isn’t a fast route. But you’ll spend a lot of time on forest roads and paths, avoiding gravel, moss, and uneven surfaces. If you’re slow-riding skills are lacking, I’d suggest brushing up on them before you leave!
That said, it’s perfectly okay if you’re confident in your riding and observational skills.
The start of the route is fast, flowing and easy – spending almost 40 miles (64 km) on the D16 and passing the Ballon de Servance and La Planche des Belles Filles.
As you reach the Route du Ballon d’Alsace, the roads are fast and technical, and you duck and weave through dense forest interspersed with harsh sunlight bursting through the canopy of the trees.
Riding through the forest, you’ll find a few hidden parking places where you can enjoy the views of Ballon d’Alsace and Le Wissgrut before reaching Saint-Maurice-sur-Moselle for lunch.
When you’re suitably refreshed, you’re onto the Route d’Alsace, and back onto the technical roads through the forest. After around 15 miles (24 km) of tight and twisty roads, you’ll ride the Route de Vieille Montagne back to La Bresse
You’ll also pass the Monument of Sacré Coeur on the Route des Bouchaux – a statue of Jesus overlooking La Bresse.
Cols You Will Ride:
- Col de Morbieux
- Col des Croix
- La Gentiane
Vosges Motorcycle Route: Day 7
Okay, so Day 7 isn’t technically the Vosges as it moves south towards the Jura Mountains. But it’s a wonderfully fast and twisty route that takes you to the foothills of the Alps.
Following the D436 for around 30 miles (48 km), the roads are silent and easy to ride. With the sun beating down on you, it’s easy to find a place to stop where you can see over the border into Switzerland.
Passing through sleepy villages, the locals stare at you, and the kids come out to wave at you.
It reminds me a lot of the quiet areas of Luxembourg.
The D39 is a highlight – a fast road with very few towns that passes through the surrounding canyons on its way to Saint-Hippolyte. Once you start approaching Saint-Hippolyte, the environment changes as you enter a tourist trap.
The good news is there are cafes and restaurants aplenty – so it’s a good place for lunch.
We recommend Las Terrasses – a local hotel and restaurant popular with bikers. You can park right in front of the restaurant with the dozens of other bikes and enjoy the local food.
Days 8 & 9
Returning to the Eurotunnel, you could ride it in one day if you don’t mind motorways and toll roads.
The most direct route to Calais is around 435 miles (700 km) and should take 6.5 hours (not including breaks.)
You could also split it into two days to avoid motorways and toll roads. This would be around 416 miles (670 km) and 10 hours of riding split over two days.
Vosges Motorcycle Route: Conclusion
If you’re looking for a route that’s a little different from the Alps, this Vosges motorcycle route is the route for you!
It’s not as high or as impressive as the Alps. But the roads are just as good, and the addition of riding through the forests adds to its uniqueness.
The ride up to the Grand Ballon will stay with you forever – the roads are out of this world.
Finally, the people in the Vosges are brilliant – helpful, hospital, and kind. A word of caution, however. If you’re English, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb – and the locals will stare at and talk about you.
Very few of the locals speak English. I recommend you try your best to converse in French – a quality most of the locals seemed to appreciate.
All-in-all, I love the Vosges. And I think you will too. So get out there, follow our Vosges motorcycle route, and enjoy it!