The Chemins du Soleil, a name that fills with meaning since in a north-south direction, this route actually leads you towards the Mediterranean sun. Labeled by the French Cycling Federation, this course extends over more than 1000 km. And even more than 1,200 km from Thonon-les-Bains. It crosses the French Pre-Alps and offers two routes which meet at Digne; Valence-Gap-Digne-Nice and Thonon-Chambery-Grenoble-Sisteron-Digne-Nice.
The Chemins du Soleil and the Alpes de Haute Provence
In this article, we have chosen to focus more particularly on the section that crosses the department of Alpes de Haute Provence, 04. That is 270 km from Sisteron to Castellane for a positive elevation of 6740 m and a negative elevation of 5480 m. A journey that allows you to discover typical landscapes but also protected areas. A portion dotted with “trail” trails and very well marked.
The Chemins du Soleil still remains a route aimed at experienced cyclists in possession of high-performance and well-revised bikes.
You will easily find suitable accommodation that will allow you to make stopovers à la carte.
Finally, be aware that there are organized stays with luggage transport, return shuttle … Between Digne and Nice but also Sisteron and Fréjus.
Stages of the Chemins du Soleil in Haute Provence
No less than 12 stages to allow you to cross the Alpes de Haute Provence. Stages of 2h-2h30 maximum that the bravest can easily group together.
0 Ribiers – Sisteron
Departure from Ribiers in the Hautes Alpes (05). Attached to Val-Buëch-Méouge since 2016, Ribiers and the Ribiers will celebrate your departure for the Chemins du Soleil. The arrival of this first stage is in Sisteron after a course of 11 km which can be done in 1h30. The elevation gain is 200 m and the negative elevation is 215 m. Once the citadel of Sisteron is in sight, the Alpes de Haute Provence will welcome you in turn for this exceptional journey that will take you to the Mediterranean.
1 Sisteron – Aubignosc
Departing from Sisteron, you reach Aubignosc on a 12 km long course. 500 m positive and negative elevation.
A fairly easy and very varied route that takes you into the Val de Durance. The mountain influence is still there, but the Provençal climate is also beginning to be felt.
2 Aubignosc – Col des Penitents
Allow around 2h30 to cover the 23 km separating Aubignosc from the Col des Penitents. This course has a positive elevation of 550 m and a negative elevation of 310 m. From the Val de Durance, you cross different landscapes and several villages in the Alpes de Haute Provence. Do not miss the reed bed of Lac de l’Escale. As well as the Pourchères belvedere near the Cole des Pénitents.
3 Col des Penitents – Le Chaffaut
A very rolling route since it presents 170 m of positive elevation for 390 m of negative elevation. We start by crossing pastures downhill to find the Bléone valley. After Malmoisson and Le Chaffaut, we are gradually entering the Dignois.
4 The Chemins du Soleil; Le Chaffaut – Digne les Bains
About 11 km for this route which takes you from the Bléone valley to Digne-les-Bains. A very easy route of 45-50 minutes with a positive elevation of 110 m for 50 m of negative elevation.
5 Digne les Bains – Les Dourbes
A slightly more sporty course which will occupy you a good half day. Allow around 3h30 for this 24 km route. 970 m of positive elevation for 500 m of negative elevation, it goes up! After Digne, it’s a sporty climb that awaits you until the Pas d´Entrages. Then begins a very beautiful rather technical descent which crosses an exceptional landscape.
6 Les Dourbes – Draix
We lower the intensity a little with this more leisurely 12 km course which is normally done in 1h30. About 380 m of positive elevation and 550 m of negative elevation. After having crossed the national forest of Haute Bléone, you will reach Draix by a nice descent once again.
7 Draix – Tartonne
Departing from Draix, count 1h30 to connect the 15 km that separate you from Tartonne’s village. A positive drop of 650 m for a negative drop of 550 m. Well, it will be a 650m climb to reach the Col de la Cine (1.505m). The will begin a rather technical descent on very pretty “trails”. We arrive in the Clue of the Penalty. An arch that was carved into the cliff.
8 The Chemins du Soleil; Tartonne – Thorame Basse
On leaving Tartonne, you encounter a series of climbs and descents. 19 km to reach Thorame Basse or about 2 hours by bike. 740 m of positive elevation and 500 m of negative elevation. Two passes are on the program, the Séoune pass and the Défens pass. Finally, you will enjoy the descent on the Batie.
9 Thorame Basse – Montagne de Maurel
Departing from Thorame Basse, you set off for 16 km during which you will have to climb 870 m. Only 240 m of descent. You are gradually entering the Verdon Regional Natural Park, allow about an hour and a half for this section.
10 Maurel mountain – Courchons
It is left for the descent! Indeed, it is not less than 950 m of negative elevation that you will offer yourself on this course. 16 km long in 2 short hours. Nevertheless, it will still be necessary to climb a little over 600 m. After this superb descent to Saint-André les Alpes, we go back to the shores of Lake Castillon to finish in Courchons. A hamlet today abandoned, don’t expect to find a cold beer there.
11 Courchons – Castellane
13 km of descent (190 m of positive elevation for 840 of negative elevation!). The Couchons-Castellane section is common to the fabulous Transverdon route and is easily done in 1h30. From La Baume, the route becomes quite busy. Particularly from the pass in this 100% pebble balcony single!
12 The Chemins du Soleil; Castellane -Vauplane
From Castellane to Vauplane, it will sting the calves! It will take you 2h30 to reach the end. Only 16 km but 1000 m of elevation gain! It will be cool on arrival. Indeed, Vauplane is an old ski resort today neglected for lack of snow.
If you have to do this route in the height of summer, we recommend that you leave with the first light of day.
Happy cycling everyone!