I don’t mind admitting that during a recent trip to France, motorcycle touring in the Jura mountains was a bit of an afterthought.
The object of going to France was to enjoy a two-week tour without succumbing to the Swiss Alps.
For sure, the Vosges mountains were on our list. And for good reason! In fact, we enjoyed the Vosges so much that I produced a dedicated article here.
But the Jura mountains?
Well, my radar missed them altogether. Why? Because there isn’t much to find about them on the internet.
Few people rave about motorcycling in the Jura mountains. And that’s because hardly anybody visits.
But the next time you’re circumnavigating the Jura to reach the iconic climbs of the Alps, make time to explore this wonderful region of eastern France.
Where Are They?
The Jura mountains (Massif du Jura) are a sub-alpine mountain range near the western Alps. They largely straddle the French-Swiss border, and you can expect to spend time in both countries during your visit.
From Sainte-Claude in the southern part of the region, Geneva is around 60 km (36 miles) away.
Annecy is within reach in under two hours and is your gateway to bigger mountains such as the Col de la Colombière and the French Alps.
Further east, Mont Blanc lies approximately 170 km (102 miles) away. It will take you just over two hours to get there via road.
Once into the region of Chambéry, you’re close to Mont Ventoux and the cols of Colombiere, Galibier, and Iseran.
Motorcycling Touring In The Jura Mountains: Overview
A system of ranges that extends for around 360 km (225 miles), the Jura mountains follow the French-Swiss border from the Rhône river to the Rhine.
In the north, the elevations are lower. The roads are sweeping yet easy to ride and will take you from one village to the next through green, luxuriant pastures.
For hours, you will have the roads to yourself.
On the higher planes, you can see into Switzerland. And on the lower ones, the riding reminds me of relaxing rides through Luxembourg.
With lush green fields, views as far as the eye can see, and beautifully crafted twisting roads winding through the middle, it’s a lovely way to spend a day.
To the south, you will find the higher peaks and crests; including the Crete de la Neige at 1,718m and Le Reculet at 1,717m.
Off-Roading In The Jura
If you have an off-road bike, you can add trails to the perfect tarmac to traverse the mountains that straddle the French-Swiss border.
Incorporating routes in both countries, you can navigate from north to south, starting with Mont Vaulion in the northeast section of the Jura.
As you approach the end of the single-track road, a short hike will get you to the summit. Panoramic views will open up of Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, Lake Geneva and Eiger.
Below Mont Vaulion, you’ll find an abundance of trails just waiting to be explored.
On tarmac, you can spend hours enjoying the roads circling Mouthe before continuing your journey south.
You’ll soon come to Sainte-Claude, which is the unofficial north-south separator of the Jura. It’s not the prettiest of towns, but it’s convenient for picking up supplies, stopping for lunch, or finding accommodation.
In the morning, take your pick from the bounty of trails that take you up and out of the gorge and back into the solitude of the mountains.
Following your road of choice, head up and around Les Bouchoux where you’ll emerge onto a high plateau with glorious views over the Tacon valley.
If you want more, continue east to Thorens-Glières. Here you can ride hairpins galore through woodlands and forests to the summit of the Col des Glières.
Motorcycle Touring In The Jura Mountains: Things To Do
You can easily navigate your way through this small mountain range in a few days. But it’s worth taking a day off to hike the many trails through the forestry and up onto the plateaus overlooking the Alps and lakes.
The most famous long-range hiking trail is the Jura Crest trail. It covers 320 km (192 miles), has scenic views in all directions, and celebrates two countries, cultures and languages.
Exploring craggy cliffs and deep ravines, you can expect views to reach as far as the Vosges mountains, the Alps, and the Black Forest.
How To Get There
From the UK, I’d recommend taking your time to enjoy the Vosges mountains after arriving in Calais.
You can reach the northern part of the Jura from the Vosges in a few hours and spend the night either in the range or in nearby Pontarlier.
Heading south towards Besancon and then south-east towards Saint-Hippolyte, you’ll enter bikers paradise on the D414 and the D211 as you wind your way through craggy gorges and dense forests.
In Saint-Hippolyte, you’ll find plenty of places to stop for lunch. But we recommend Les Terrasses – a favourite haunt for bikers that produces wonderful local cuisine. You can also stay here overnight and be ready to experience the Haut-Jura in the morning.
Motorcycle Touring In The Jura Mountains: Conclusion
It’s a shame that so many bikers forego the beauty of the Jura mountains.
With the Vosges mountains to the north, the French Alps to the south, and the Swiss Alps to the south-east, many ignore this amuse-bouche in favour of diving straight into the main course.
But that only serves to make a more special trip for those who take the time to explore it!
It isn’t a big region, and you’ll only need a day or two to enjoy it.
Whether you stick to the twisting roads on a touring bike or the remote trails on an off-road bike, you can be sure to have this wonderful place to yourself.
Want more posts like this one? Try these!
- Motorcycling In The Vosges Mountains
- Why You Shouldn’t Dismiss Motorcycle Touring In France!
- Motorcycle Touring In The Alpe di Siusi
- Off-Bike Gems: Visiting Bohinj, Slovenia
Top image via Leonard Cotte / Unsplash