Martigny: Emosson and the Petite Forclaz

Cyclist on the Emosson dam above Martigny, Switzerland




Start/Finish:  Martigny

Country:  Switzerland

CLIMBS:  Col de la Forclaz (1527m)
                      Emosson dam (1960m)
                      Vieux Emosson dam (2125m)

Route:  Out and back

A scenic ride on the roads of the Tour de France

The Martigny region in Valais, Switzerland has become a go-to cycling destination. It hosted the Tour de France in 2009 in Verbier as well as in 2016 at the Emosson dam and it should have welcomed the 2020 Road World Championships with the neighboring city of Aigle, which houses the headquarters of the UCI. But then there was COVID...

Good news: you can ride on the roads of the Tour and on the circuit of the worlds-that-never-were in a short, super scenic and tough loop from Martigny. A 4-day tour was even created to explore more climbs in the area.

You start the ride with the Petite Forclaz. This should have been the main climb of the 2020 World Championships circuit. It’s not one for the faint-hearted: as soon as you leave the city, the road narrows to pass through the village of Martigny-Croix. The slope immediately exceeds 10% to meander through the vines. As you rise above the Rhône valley you ride through several hamlets and after 4 km at 11% on average you join the main road of the Col de la Forclaz.

At the pass (1527m), change of scenery: you enter the peaceful Trient valley and discover a breathtaking view of the surrounding glaciers and peaks. You descend to the village of Trient and then reach Finhaut, a mecca for Alpine tourism at the beginning of the 20th century.

As soon as you leave Finhaut, the road is single lane and it’s one switchback after another. The slope fluctuates between 8 and 11%. Tour de France themed mileage signs and washed-out inscriptions on the road remind us that the Grande Boucle took this route in 2016. In the distance, the mighty Mont Blanc is clearly visible in good weather. You reach the summit at 1960m after a 10 km climb with little traffic: the road is a dead end.

But it’s not over: you can continue the climb to another dam, that of Vieux Emosson. The road leading to it is closed to traffic, and for good reason: it is so narrow that two way traffic is impossible and the slope exceeds 15% over more than a kilometer and a half. You stop at 2125m at the foot of the dam, next to the Vieux Emosson hut. The landscape is alpine with breathtaking views of Lac d'Emosson and the surrounding peaks.

You go back down where you came from. The ascent to the Col de la Forclaz is short and it is even possible to avoid it to reach the valley on the Mont-Blanc Express train.

The descent from the col is pure pleasure. On an excellent surface, you let yourself go at speeds that can easily exceed 80 kph between rare switchbacks. 7 km from Martigny, you join the circuit of the 2020 world championships again and this is where you realize that the fastest riders will have surely exceeded 100kph to win the rainbow jersey...

The stats: 73 km and 2900m of climbing. One for the col collectors, who can extend their stay in the region to tackle more climbs: Col du Lein, Col des Planches, Sanetsch, Croix de Coeur… and many others. In collaboration with the local tourism board, we designed a self-guided tour with hotel, GPS file and telephone assistance which allows you to tick all these passes off your list in 4 days and 3 nights from Martigny. Perfect for an extended weekend with your cycling friends... More information:




Stats and design by myCols

Average grade    10.6 %
Length                    4.0 km
Altitude start      484 m
Altitude top         909 m
Ascent                    425 m
Maximum             14 %


Average grade    8.1 %
Length                    10.9 km
Altitude start      1077 m
Altitude top         1965 m
Ascent                   888 m
Maximum             10 %

Profile of the climb to the Emosson dam

Average grade    16.8 %
Length                    1.2 km
Altitude start      1977 m
Altitude top         2187 m
Ascent                   210 m
Maximum             18 %

Profile of the climb to Cabane du Vieux Emosson

Average grade    5.8 %
Length                    6.8 km
Altitude start      1134 m
Altitude top         1528 m
Ascent                   394 m
Maximum             8 %

Profile of the Col de la Forclaz climb

Take part in the Désalpe Reichenbach to enjoy a traffic free climb to the Emosson dam.

Cyclist climbing the Petite Forclaz on the 2020 UCI World Road Championships circuit above Martigny, Switzerland

The Petite Forclaz: a tough climb for the UCI World Road Championships

Cyclist climbing to the Emosson dam with Tour de France inscriptions on the road

Local star Steve Morabito had many supporters at the 2016 Tour de France finish in Emosson

Cyclist fighting with a dinosaur at the Emosson dam

Emosson is also famous for 240 million year old dinosaur tracks that were discovered nearby

Cyclist climbing to the Vieux Emosson dam in Valais, Switzerland

Vieux Emosson: 18% for 1.5km looks like this

Cyclist climbing to the Vieux Emosson dam in Valais, Switzerland

Alpine landscape on the climb to Vieux Emosson

Interested in a guided trip?

Let us connect you to our network of guide services and tour operators. For more information about booking, contact:

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