The Best Mountain Biking in the South of France
Provence and the Southern Alps have attracted mountain bikers from all over France for a long time now, but it’s only in recent years that the region has drawn visitors from further afield. With its dry trails, winter sun and easy transport links, the south of France truly is paradise for mountain bikers.
The climate and geography of the south of France means there’s superb riding to be had year round – in summer, choose a higher resort and ride in the cool alpine air. Spend the rest of the year on lower ground, riding trails facing the sea. You’ll find the terrain in the south of France incredibly varied with singletrack through limestone, wooded areas, and steep mountainous terrain that will satisfy the most extreme riders.
South of France MTB Holidays
Guided and self-guided multi-day mountain biking trips in the Southern Alps and Provence.
Where to go mountain biking in the South of France
Alpes-Maritimes mountain biking
The mountains behind Nice provide high altitude riding and uplifts in the resorts. Be sure to check out the Mercantour National Park, La Haute Roya around Tende, and Peille – ten-time Downhill World Champion, Nicolas Vouilloz’s training ground.
1. Mountain biking in Nice Côte d’Azur
Where the mountains meet the sea, discover the Nice backcountry, a land of contrasts and a unique place to ride. 335 kms of trails including 16 graded trails all with breathtaking views over the Côte d’Azur. Pick the trails up in Levens, about 26 kms from Nice.
With 3 lovely red tracks, an insanely good black aimed squarely at downhill freaks who love getting airborne and 2 long top-to-bottom blue trails, Isola 2000 is fulfilling its promise to become one of the hotspots for biking in the Alpes Maritimes. Just an hour and a half from Nice the Mercantour cablecar will whisk you up to 2400 m giving access to a huge 1200 m vertical drop.
2. Mountain biking in Haute Roya
The Haute Roya mountain bike area comprises 360 kms of trails graded from green to black. Situated on the border of the Mercantour National Park, there’s way-marked singletrack looping from La Brigue, Tende, Castérino and Col de Tende, which is the starting point for the 70 km black-graded xc Route du Sel.
A mountainous mountain biking area just half an hour from the Mediterranean which enjoys warm temperatures and dry terrain year-round. You’ll find nice easy climbs on forest tracks and more technical singletrack descents. You can link in to the Paillon valley and the village of Peille, training ground for some of the world’s best riders.
4. Mountain biking in Peille, Pays des Paillons
Just 20 minutes from Nice, the Pays des Paillons has 265 kms of mountain bike trails and 20 graded routes from green to black with an equal split of terrain for novice and expert riders. Enjoy the stunning landscape, as you ride the dry trails of this coastal mountain range. Open year round.
Situated in the Mercantour National Park just 90 kms from Nice, Auron-Saint Etienne de Tinée has 60 kms of downhill mountain bike trails and 18 graded routes from green to black with an emphasis on trails suitable for intermediate riders. Ride fast open blues and steeper more technical reds, plus some outstanding XC loops. Lifts open June to September.
Highest lift: 2270 m Vertical drop: 1120 m
Km of trails: 60 Best for: Downhill/XC
A super little bike park just 1 hour 15 mins from Nice. A good mix of trails for all abilities make Roubion an easy trail centre to enjoy from the off. The blue running under the 2-man chairlift pure fun. Lifts open May to October.
Highest lift: 1710 m Vertical drop: 310 m
Km of trails: 30 Best for: Downhill/Enduro
With dry trails and a lovely gradient in a big mountain setting, Valberg in the south-eastern France has been quietly earning itself a reputation as a hot spot for Enduro mountain biking. For the last five years the resort has hosted the Enduro des Portes du Mercantour and in September 2016, Valberg-Guillaumes will host the Enduro World Series.
Highest lift: 2060 m Vertical drop: 660 m
Km of trails: 65 Best for: Enduro/XC
The little resort of La Moulière in the Audibergue mountains in south-east France may have a chairlift from a bygone era, but the mountain biking on offer is well worth the detour. Just an hour inland from Cannes, La Moulière is easy to get to and has 12 graded trails through natural terrain in a beautiful mid-mountain setting. Great fun for a day.
Highest lift: 1640 m Vertical drop: 290 m
Km of trails: 28 Best for: Downhill
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence mountain biking
In the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, you can mountain bike through terrain that varies from easy trails through fields of lavender to high-alpine technical singletrack. The close proximity of resorts like Val d’Allos, Pra Loup and Les Orres makes this region of the southern French Alps a great option for a mountain biking holiday. Don’t miss the moab-style terrain of the Terres Noires, the dry dusty downhill tracks of Pra Loup and Les Orres or the epic cross-country routes of the Ubaye Valley.
Val d’Allos is where Enduro mountain biking was born! 24 different graded trails with chair-lift access criss-cross the Upper Verdon Valley, plus there’s a bike park and huge scope for striking out on a cross-country adventure.
Highest lift: 2371 m Vertical drop: 870 m
Km of trails: 200 Best for: Downhill/Enduro/XC
The Ubaye Valley (Vallée de l’Ubaye) is mountain biking heaven for cross-country and all-mountain riders – more than 340 kilometres of waymarked trails and home to the legendary 100 km Transubayenne trail. Find trails for a great day out right through to a multi-day singletrack expedition, and all set to a stunning Southern Alps backdrop. Downhill and enduro riders are well catered for too with the Pra Loup bikepark, Le Sauze, Vars and Val d’Allos trails nearby.
Pra Loup is the main downhill mountain biking area in the Ubaye Valley and blends fast and technical trails in a way that will delight purist downhillers. The resort’s main gondola brings you swiftly to 2000m where you can access all 6 downhill trails. Don’t miss the black Rock n’ Run with it’s fast open sections and more technical singletrack through the trees.
Highest lift: 2130 m Vertical drop: 530 m
Km of trails: 51 Best for: Downhill
The Verdon et des Vallées de l’Asse mountain bike area offers a network of 341 km of trails split into 20 way-marked routes ranging from easy 3 km loops to challenging 30 km rides with over 1000 m of vertical drop. The trails start from 4 towns in Verdon; Castellane, Saint-André-les-Alpes, Barrême et Tartonne. You’ll ride a mixture of singletrack and wider trails, high altitude traverses and fast, technical descents through forests of beech and boxwood.
9. Mountain biking in Digne-les-Bains and the Terres Noires
Digne-les-Bains is located where Haute-Provence meets the Alps. 310 kms of MTB trails provide a huge choice of riding suitable for every level. The famous Terres Noires area offers Moab-style thrills.
10. Mountain biking in Buech-Sisteronais
With nearly 1,500 km of trails including 490 km of way-marked trails in the Alpes de Haute Provence, this is the third largest dedicated mountain biking area in France. Ride rocky trails, ridges and through fields of lavender. Peaceful wilderness in the Provençal sunshine.
11. Mountain biking in Val de Durance
With 22 routes totalling 550km of way-marked trails, the Durance Valley is a paradise for mountain bikers. A huge area rising from 400m to 1400m in altitude, offers something for all abilities. Biking in Val de Durance is year round and is one of the most beautiful spots to mountain bike in France.
12. Mountain biking in Verdon des Collines
Located within the awesome Gorges du Verdon National Park, the villages of Esparron-de-Verdon and Gréoux-les-Bains are your gateway to 460 kms of trails, including 17 loops from 3 to 60 kms. This is a year round mountain bike destination with trails suitable for all skill levels.
13. Mountain biking in Vallée de la Blanche – Bès – Serre-Ponçon
With 370 kms of cross-country trails to suit all levels, a world-class downhill run, a bike park and even an airbag, this mountain bike area is pure fun. The Chabanon downhill run drops 2000 meters in 2.5 kms of trail, has chairlift access in summer and is reputed to be one of the best downhill tracks in France.
14. Mountain biking in Forcalquier-Montagne de Lure
Located between the southern Alps and Provence, the Forcalquier-Montagne de Lure mountain bike area has 194 kms of trails including 11 graded tracks from green to black. Ride a wonderfully diverse landscape, along the ridges and steep tracks of the Lure mountain, through villages and the intriguing Mourres rock formations.
Hautes-Alpes mountain biking
The Hautes-Alpes is a playground for mountain bikers with many trail centres operating chairlifts during the summer months. Don’t miss the bikeparks of Montgenèvre and Les Orres, and the cross country trails of the Vallées du Gapençais, Queyras escarpment, Embrun and the Col du Briançonnais.
With graded runs from green to black, Montgenèvre has some great high altitude riding for all levels. XC riders can ride the unspoilt natural terrain across the border into Italy. Downhillers will love the red and black runs under the chairlifts, and freeriders can head to the Chalvet area and ride the jumps, drops and northshore.
Highest lift: 2760 m. Vertical drop: 900 m.
Km of trails: 100. Best for: Downhill
With consistently good weather and nearly 1000 m of accessible vertical drop, Les Orres is a hidden gem. Two chairlifts provide access to red and black downhill tracks, whilst blue trails snake down with fast berms and low-profile jumps. Recent work to make the bikepark more accessible to beginner and intermediate riders compliments the more extreme northshore, drops, gaps and wall-rides.
Highest lift: 2530 m. Vertical drop: 960 m.
Km of trails: 80. Best for: Downhill
17. Mountain biking in Les Vallées du Gapençais
The new Vallées du Gapencais mountain bike area offers more than 800 kms of trails with 40 graded routes starting from 9 separate points between 500 and 2000 meters of altitude. Ride incredibly varied terrain through mountains, forests, meadows, lakes and streams.
Located in the Southern French Alps in the heart of the spectacular Ecrins National Park, Orcières has 8 downhill tracks, 5 enduro trails and access to some 750 km of FFC waymarked XC trails. 3 lifts whisk bikers up to 2650 m and if you ride all the way to the bottom of the valley there’s some 1800 m vertical drop. Although the bike park’s not huge, there’s plenty of riding to keep intermediate and advanced riders entertained for a few days. XC riders can explore the network of FFC trails in the Champsaur Valley – see below.
18. Mountain biking in Champsaur & Valgaudemar
The Champsaur & Valgaudemar mountain bike area is not to be missed. From the Orcières 1850 bike park to the miles of flowing single track in the valley, there’s something for everyone. For a multi-day cross-country epic, try the 230 km Tour de la Vagaude.
The trails in Serre Chevalier really take advantage of the perfect gradient for mountain biking. You’ll find 10 downhill trails with chairlift access between Chantemerle and Villeneuve la Salle, with the cross-country loops just across the valley. Let the brakes off and ride the flowy La Ricelle and L’Orée du Bois trails flat out.
Highest lift: 2492 m. Vertical drop: 1142 m.
Km of trails: 193. Best for: Downhill/XC
20. Mountain Biking in Pays des Ecrins
Mountain biking in the Ecrins is a true mountain experience. Bike through the picturesque villages of the Vallouise valley to the wilderness of Freissinières and the banks of the upper Durance river. With 200 kms of riding including 15 graded trails, you’ll find everything from downhill runs to easy family loops.
Vars has some amazing enduro style downhill trails, the best of which is the Balcon de Vars which involves a bit of pedaling but the reward is an outstanding singletrack traverse with stunning views across the valley. If you like to ride fast downhill, you’ll love the flow of the Taillefer trail.
Highest lift: 2580 m. Vertical drop: 930 m.
Km of trails: 111. Best for: Downhill/Enduro/XC
22. Mountain Biking in Embrunais – Savinois
On the edge of the Ecrins National Park, along the Serre-Ponçon lake this superb mountain biking area links 15 villages and takes in forests, meadows and rivers. The designated MTB area offers 380 km of way-marked trails, including 31 graded trails and a 30 km long descent! If you’re feeling fit you could tackle the 180 km Tour de l’Embrunais.
23. Mountain Biking in Grand Briançonnais
Where the Hautes-Alpes meet Savoie, 36 kms north west of Briançon, the Grand Briançonnais is a fantastic mountain bike area with 589 kms of waymarked trails including 46 graded trails. Ride high altitude trails through the beautiful valley of La Guisane and snake down singletrack through the Sestrière forest towards Italian border.
262 kilometres of waymarked cross-country trails including 16 graded trails from green to black, plus 6 super-fun downhill tracks accessible from Superdévoluy and La Joue du Loup and a 12 km enduro trail. Ride through majestic mountainous terrain, forests and meadows, or enjoy chairlift access in summer and hit the downhill mountain bike trails and northshore tracks.
25. Mountain Biking in Guillestrois
Epic cross-country mountain bike trails between the Ecrins and the Queyras ranges. Ride on mountain tracks and climb through forests of larch trees before picking up pace through green alpine meadowns. For an XC adventure, try the superb 3-day tour du Guillestrois, or the easier Tour de la Durance which runs along the banks of the Durance river.
Right on the border with Italy, the Queyras and Val Varaita mountain bike area has 354 kms of trails including 21 graded tracks. Challenging climbs, technical descents, exposed ridges and fast flowy forest runs. This is high alpine mountain biking at it’s best.
Var mountain biking
Var stretches north from the gulf of St Tropez to the Gorges du Verdon and west from the Esterel mountains to the lavender fields of Provence. Ride the dry, rocky trails of the Saint Tropez backcountry, on an island off Hyères or find more challenging terrain in the Drailles et Bancaus du Verdon.
27. Mountain biking in Drailles et Bancaus du Verdon
Linking 3 villages, Ginasservis, Saint Julien le Montagnier and Vinon sur Verdon, Vinon-sur-Verdon, the Drailles et Bancaus du Verdon mountain bike area offers 218 kms of mtb trails including 31 graded trails from green to black. A 40 km cross-country route links the 3 villages.
28. Mountain Biking in Hyères – Les Iles d’Or
5 separate dedicated mountain bike areas make up the total 95 kms of graded trails from green to red. The biking is split between the mainland and the beautiful Ile de Porquerolles.
Bouches-du-Rhône mountain biking
You have the rolling hills of lower Provence and the beautiful countryside of Sainte-Victoire, Sainte-Baume, Garlaban (the Pagnol hills) between Marseille and Aix-en-Provence. Not forgetting the picturesque Luberon and Les Alpilles in the Bouches-du-Rhône.
29. Mountain biking in Les Alpilles
Les Alpilles is a Regional Natural Parc roughly 25 kms by 10 kms in the heart of the Bouches-du-Rhône and made up of forested limestone pinnacles criss-crossed with an extensive network of mountain bike trails. Real mountains and outstanding cross-country riding half way between the Alps and the Pyrenees.
30. Mountain biking in Garlaban
Located in the heart of Provence between Marseille, Aubagne and Allauch, the Garlaban range is renowned for its association with Marcel Pagnol and attracts mountain bikers who enjoy the picturesque escarpments, dry, rocky trails and challenging climbs.
31. Mountain Biking in Le Grand Site Sainte-Victoire
Located between the Vallée de la Durance to the north and the Vallée de l’Arc to the south, Le Grand Site Sainte-Victoire covers 34,000 hectares east of Aix-en-Provence. You can pick up way-marked mountain bike loops from Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde and Vauvenargues. With 24 graded trails, all levels are catered for but there’s an abundance of technical rocky descents and fast singletrack.
32. Mountain Biking in the Colorado Provencal
At Rustrel, north-east of the town of Apt in the Luberon there’s a stunning and unique landscape of red-ochre rock known as the Colorado Provençal. This, the birthplace of freeriding in France, is famous for its dry dusty trails peppered with jumps, drop-offs and berms. Ride through mini canyons complete with weird towering rock formations and fast, technical forested runs.
Drôme mountain biking
Drôme is the region where Provence meets the Alps. Home to some of the best all-mountain/enduro riding in France you’ve got dry, rocky trails, huge vertical drop and epic multi-day itineraries including the part of the renowned Chemins du Soleil.
The Pays Diois in the Drôme Provençale is without doubt one of the top locations in southern France for enduro mountain biking. Epic pre-Alp terrain harbours superb dry and rocky singletrack that can be ridden year-round. With 29 FFC waymarked trails graded from green to black, Le Pays Diois has a total of 686 km riding. The Diois is also home to the Clairette de Die (a refreshing sparkling wine), perfect after a long day’s riding in the sun.
Mountain Biking in the French Alps
If you like fast trails, endless lifts and high-altitude technical terrain, it’s hard to beat the Alps of Haute-Savoie, Isère and Savoie. Make sure you check out resorts like Les Deux Alpes, Chamonix, Morzine and Les Gets:
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur weather and trail conditions
You’re pretty much guaranteed blue skies and sunshine during the summer months in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of the south of France, and a good number of trail centers at lower altitude are open for mountain biking right through the year. Good weather means dry, dusty trails and the trails in this part of France tend to be much quieter than in the big resorts further north meaning smaller queues for lifts and less braking bumps. The gradients in resorts like Les Orres and Val d’Allos aren’t too steep and just right for picking up some good speed without having to go hard on the brakes.