10 Best Alps Motorcycle Routes That Are Outta This World

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Are you ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime through the stunning landscapes of the Alps? 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you on a thrilling ride through the best Alps motorcycle routes and break down the essential steps to plan your own Alps motorcycle adventure. 

RouteCountryStart PointEnd PointFull Distance
Route des Grandes AlpesFranceThonon-les-Bains, near Lake GenevaMenton, on the French RivieraApproximately 700 kilometers (435 miles)
La Bonette LoopFranceCastellaneSame as start point (loop)Around 337 kilometers (210 miles)
Furka – Grimsel – Susten Pass LoopSwitzerlandAndermattSame as start point (loop)Roughly 140 kilometers (87 miles)
Stelvio PassItalyResia or BormioSame as start point (loop)Approximately 297 kilometers (185 miles)
Timmelsjoch Pass and the Ötztal Glacier RoadItaly/AustriaSölden (Austria) or St. Leonhard im Passeier (Italy)Same as start point (loop)Around 120 kilometers (75 miles)
Col de la MachineFranceSt Nazaire en RoyansSame as start point (loop)Around 330 kilometers (205 miles)
The St Bernards LoopFrance/Switzerland/ItalyBourg St Maurice (France) or Martigny (Switzerland)Same as start point (loop)Roughly 320 kilometers (200 miles)
Vrsic PassSloveniaKranjska GoraBovecAround 45 kilometers (28 miles)
Grossglockner High Alpine RoadAustriaZell am SeeSame as start point (loop)Approximately 370 kilometers (230 miles)
Sella RondaItalyAny of the four main villages: Corvara, Arabba, Canazei, or Selva di Val GardenaSame as start point (loop)Roughly 52 kilometers (32 miles)

Why Motorcycle in the Alps?

Best Alps Motorcycle Routes

The Alps are a vast mountain range stretching approximately 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) across eight European countries: France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, and Monaco. 

Motorcycling in the Alps offers a unique and thrilling experience for riders for several reasons. Let’s break them down.

Breathtaking Scenery

The Alps are renowned for their stunning natural beauty, characterized by towering peaks, lush valleys, crystal-clear lakes, and picturesque alpine villages. Riding through this majestic landscape offers riders unparalleled views and photo opportunities at every turn.

Iconic Mountain Passes

Best Alps Motorcycle Routes

The Alps are home to some of the most legendary and challenging mountain passes in the world. 

From the hairpin bends of the Stelvio Pass to the dizzying heights of the Col de l'Iseran, these iconic routes provide riders with an adrenaline-pumping thrill and a sense of accomplishment.

Diverse Terrain

The Alps offer a diverse range of terrain, from smooth, winding roads through rolling hills to rugged, high-altitude passes. 

Whether you prefer leisurely cruises through scenic valleys or heart-pounding ascents over mountain peaks, the Alps have something to offer riders of all skill levels and preferences.

Cultural Richness

charming alpine villages

In addition to its natural beauty, the Alps are steeped in history and culture. Along your journey, you'll have the opportunity to explore charming alpine villages, visit historic landmarks, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural traditions of the region.

Camaraderie on the Road

Best Alps Motorcycle Routes

Motorcycling in the Alps often involves connecting with fellow riders from around the world. 

Whether you're swapping stories at a roadside cafe, sharing tips and recommendations, or simply nodding in solidarity as you pass each other on the road, the camaraderie of the road adds an extra layer of enjoyment to your journey.

Personal Challenge

For many riders, tackling the mountain roads of the Alps represents a personal challenge and a test of skill and endurance. Navigating steep ascents, tight hairpin bends, and unpredictable weather conditions requires focus, concentration, and determination. 

Overcoming these challenges can be incredibly rewarding and leave you with a sense of accomplishment that stays with you long after the ride is over.

10 Best Alps Motorcycle Routes That Are Outta This World

Now, let’s a closer look at some of the most renowned motorcycle routes in the Alps, each offering its own blend of challenges and rewards.

1. Route des Grandes Alpes (France)

Route des Grandes Alpes France

  • Start Point: Thonon-les-Bains, near Lake Geneva
  • End Point: Menton, on the French Riviera
  • Full Distance: Approximately 700 kilometers (435 miles)

Stretching over 700 kilometers from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean Sea, the Route des Grandes Alpes (The Great Alpine Road) is a legendary ride through the French Alps. 

Route des Grandes Alpes France

This iconic route traverses some of the highest and most scenic mountain passes in the French Alps, including the Col de l'Iseran and the Col du Galibier. Riders are treated to breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks, alpine meadows, and picturesque mountain villages along the way.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Route des Grandes Alpes is typically open from June to September, but some passes may be closed due to snowfall early in the season. So, it’s essential to check road conditions and closures before embarking on the journey.

2. La Bonette Loop (France)

La Bonette Loop France

  • Start Point: Castellane
  • End Point: Same as start point (loop)
  • Full Distance: Around 337 kilometers (210 miles)

Tucked away in the Maritime Alps, the La Bonette Loop offers an exhilarating ride with its dizzying switchbacks and panoramic views. Riders will be treated to sweeping vistas of rugged mountains and deep valleys as they navigate this challenging but rewarding route.

The highlight of the route is the Col de la Bonette, standing at 2,715 meters, and the loop around its summit, the Cime de la Bonette, which reaches an elevation of 2,802 meters. This road is not only France’s highest paved route but also the tallest non-dead-end road in Europe.

However, due to its high elevation, the Col de la Bonette may experience snow and ice even in the summer months. So, riders should exercise caution and be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions.

3. Furka – Grimsel – Susten Pass Loop (Switzerland)

Furka – Grimsel – Susten Pass Loop Switzerland

  • Start Point: Andermatt
  • End Point: Same as start point (loop)
  • Full Distance: Roughly 140 kilometers (87 miles)

Switzerland's Furka, Grimsel, and Susten Passes form a thrilling loop that winds through some of the most scenic landscapes in the Swiss Alps. 

Furka – Grimsel – Susten Pass Loop Switzerland

Every part of this popular route is extraordinary, from the dramatic cliffs of Furka to the shimmering lakes near Grimsel and the towering peaks of Susten. 

The main attraction of this route is Furka Pass, famous for its appearance in the James Bond film Goldfinger. Following this route lets you ride Furka Pass in both directions, adding to the adventure.

Furka – Grimsel – Susten Pass Loop Switzerland

You can ride it as part of a longer trip or enjoy it on its own for a relaxing day out. However, be aware of heavy tourist traffic, especially during peak summer months. Additionally, some sections of the road may be narrow and steep, requiring extra caution.

4. Stelvio Pass (Italy)

Stelvio Pass Italy

  • Start Point: Resia or Bormio
  • End Point: Same as start point (loop)
  • Full Distance: Approximately 297 kilometers (185 miles)

The Stelvio Pass is widely regarded as one of the most iconic motorcycle routes in the world, with its 48 hairpin bends and breathtaking mountain scenery.

Stelvio Pass at night in Italy
Stelvio Pass at night in Italy

This legendary pass in the Italian Alps promises an unforgettable ride but be prepared for tight turns and steep gradients as you conquer this bucket-list-worthy route.

Also, keep in mind that it's a well-known and bustling pass, so it’s often crowded with tourist traffic, particularly during the summer season. It’s best to avoid riding it on weekends and arriving before 10 am is highly recommended. 

5. Timmelsjoch Pass and the Ötztal Glacier Road (Italy/Austria)

Timmelsjoch Pass and the Ötztal Glacier Road

  • Start Point: Sölden (Austria) or St. Leonhard im Passeier (Italy)
  • End Point: Same as start point (loop)
  • Full Distance: Around 120 kilometers (75 miles)

Connecting Italy's South Tyrol region with Austria's Ötztal Valley, the Timmelsjoch Pass offers a thrilling journey through alpine landscapes with smooth roads, winding bends, and a pleasantly serene atmosphere since larger vehicles are prohibited. 

Ötztal Glacier Road

It also has an extra treat; a side trip to the Ötztal Glacier road, famously featured in the James Bond film Spectre. 

Both Timmelsjoch and Ötztal require tolls, as does the Austrian motorway, which this route avoids. If your GPS suggests using the motorway, it's best to steer clear. Additionally, Austria enforces a 95dB noise limit for motorcycle exhausts.

6. Col de la Machine (France)

Col de la Machine France

  • Start Point: St Nazaire en Royans
  • End Point: Same as start point (loop)
  • Full Distance: Around 330 kilometers (205 miles)

The Vercors region is a serene gem tucked away in the French Alps, boasting towering peaks and dramatic gorges traversed by scenic balcony roads. 

These roads offer thrilling views with sheer rock on one side and a steep drop on the other, with the famous Col de la Machine being the most renowned among them. 

In addition to the balcony roads, this route briefly follows Route Napoleon before venturing into the tranquil hills via Col de Menee and the twisty Col du Rousset, reminiscent of a more relaxed version of Stelvio Pass.

Col du Rousset

Be aware that it's essential to have a Crit Air sticker for your motorcycle since this route passes near Grenoble. It's best to order one at least six weeks in advance to ensure you have it in time.

7. The St. Bernards Loop (France/Switzerland/Italy)

The St. Bernards Loop

  • Start Point: Bourg St Maurice (France) or Martigny (Switzerland)
  • End Point: Same as start point (loop)
  • Full Distance: Roughly 320 kilometers (200 miles)

Named after the famous St. Bernard dogs that once roamed these mountains, the St. Bernards Loop is undoubtedly one of the most renowned Alpine routes

It traverses three countries – France, Switzerland, and Italy – utilizing both the Grand St Bernard Pass and the Petit St Bernard Pass and offering a diverse array of landscapes and cultural experiences. From lush valleys to high mountain passes, riders will encounter charming villages, historic landmarks, and breathtaking scenery at every turn.

While the St Bernard passes aren't included in France's Route des Grandes Alpes, the section from Bourg St Maurice to Flumet, passing over the stunning Cormet Roselend, is.

Just make sure to exercise caution when entering Switzerland as the route avoids any motorways, which require an expensive vignette toll sticker.

8. Vrsic Pass (Slovenia)

Vrsic Pass Slovenia

  • Start Point: Kranjska Gora
  • End Point: Bovec
  • Full Distance: Around 45 kilometers (28 miles)

Tucked away in the Julian Alps of Slovenia, the Vrsic Pass is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by motorcycle enthusiasts. 

With its 50 hairpin bends and dramatic mountain vistas, this route offers an unforgettable ride, presenting a mix of immaculate asphalt, cobbles – including on many of the hairpin bends – and a few rough patches, so it's wise to exercise caution, especially on the cobbles if the road is wet.

9. Grossglockner High Alpine Road (Austria)

Grossglockner High Alpine Road Austria

  • Start Point: Zell am See
  • End Point: Same as start point (loop)
  • Full Distance: Approximately 370 kilometers (230 miles)

The Grossglockner High Alpine Road, also known as the Grossglocknerhochalpenstrasse, was designed to provide an exceptional driving experience, evident from its inaugural use for a race the day after its opening in 1935. 

Renowned as one of the most scenic drives in Austria, it offers a meticulously maintained flowing route, with excellent coffee stops and breathtaking scenery. Just be cautious of the cobbles on the ascent to Edelweiss-Spitze, known as Bikers' Point.

While it requires a costly toll, you can enter and exit as needed. To avoid the midday rush, aim to arrive before 10 am or after 4 pm for a quieter ride. Remember that Austria enforces a 95dB noise limit on motorcycle exhausts, so ensure your exhaust complies with this regulation. 

10. Sella Ronda (Italy)

Sella Ronda Italy

  • Start Point: Any of the four main villages: Corvara, Canazei, or Selva di Val Gardena
  • End Point: Same as start point (loop)
  • Full Distance: Roughly 52 kilometers (32 miles)

Situated in the heart of the Dolomites, the Sella Ronda is a circular route that winds through some of the most stunning landscapes in Italy's South Tyrol region. 

It encompasses four key passes: Gardena, Campolongo, Sella, and Pordoi (the highest pass in the Dolomites, featuring the most hairpin turns). With its winding mountain roads, charming alpine villages, and towering limestone peaks, this route offers riders a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Keep in mind that the Dolomites experience heavy traffic during peak summer months, so it's advisable to visit in mid-September or early October to avoid the crowds. Additionally, speeding in villages is strictly enforced, with numerous speed cameras in place.

Planning Your Alps Motorcycle Adventure

Alps motorcycle adventure riders

Planning an Alps motorcycle adventure requires careful consideration of various factors to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and memorable journey. 

Here's a detailed guide on how to plan your own two-wheeled adventure through the majestic Alps:

Choose the Right Time to Visit

First, you need to consider the season. Late spring to early fall, is generally the best time to go. This period offers milder weather and ensures most mountain passes are open.

Before setting out, make sure to research the status of mountain passes and any road closures due to weather conditions or maintenance.

Select the Best Starting Point

Next, you need to determine your preferred route. Research the different motorcycle routes in the Alps and choose one that aligns with your interests, skill level, and desired duration of travel.

Make sure your starting starting point offers convenient access to major highways or airports, so it’s easier to begin and end your journey.

Plan Your Route

Alps Plan Your Route

Once you’ve determined your route, you gotta study maps, guidebooks, and online resources to familiarize yourself with it. Plan your itinerary to include regular rest stops, scenic viewpoints, and overnight accommodations along the route.

It’s also advisable to consider alternative routes or detours in case of unexpected road closures or adverse weather conditions.

Prepare Paperwork and Permits

Riding a motorcycle in the Alps typically requires some paperwork and permits to ensure you're legally allowed to ride in the region. 

Here's a simplified breakdown:

  • Passport and Identification: Before traveling to the Alps, ensure that you have a valid passport and any necessary identification documents. This includes driver's licenses, which should be international if your home license is not recognized in the countries you'll be visiting.
  • Vehicle Documentation: Carry all relevant documentation for your motorcycle, including registration papers, insurance documents, and a valid motor vehicle inspection certificate (if required by law in your country).
  • Travel Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance that includes coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and motorcycle-related incidents. Verify that your policy extends to motorcycle riding and covers activities such as off-road riding if applicable.
  • International Driving Permit (IDP): In some countries, including those in the Alps region, an International Driving Permit (IDP) may be required in addition to your regular driver's license. Check the specific requirements of each country you'll be visiting and obtain an IDP if necessary.
  • Motorcycle Vignettes: Some countries in the Alps, such as Austria and Switzerland, require motorcyclists to purchase and display a vignette (toll sticker) to use certain roads, including motorways and highways. Ensure that you have the appropriate vignettes for the countries you'll be traveling through.
  • Environmental Stickers:  Some regions in the Alps, such as certain areas in France and Germany, have designated environmental zones where access is restricted based on vehicle emissions. Vehicles, including motorcycles, may be required to display an environmental sticker (Crit'Air in France, Umweltplakette in Germany). Check if your destination has any such requirements and obtain the necessary stickers in advance.
  • Permits for National Parks and Protected Areas: If your route includes traveling through national parks or protected natural areas, check if permits or passes are required for motorcyclists. These permits may have specific regulations, such as designated routes or restricted access areas.
  • Toll Road Payment: Depending on the route you take, you may encounter toll roads in the Alps. Make sure you have the necessary funds or electronic toll payment devices to cover these costs.
  • Customs Documentation: If you're traveling between countries in the Alps, such as France, Switzerland, Italy, or Austria, be aware of any customs requirements for crossing borders. This may include having your passport and vehicle registration documents on hand.

Understand Local Traffic Rules

Motorcycle riders in the Alps

Before embarking on a motorcycle trip in the Alps, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the traffic laws, speed limits, and helmet requirements of the countries you'll be traveling through. 

Here's a detailed overview:

  • Speed Limits: Speed limits vary by country and road type in the Alps. As a general guideline:
    • In Austria, the default speed limit for motorcycles on rural roads is 100 km/h (62 mph), and 130 km/h (81 mph) on motorways.
    • In Switzerland, the speed limit for motorcycles on rural roads is typically 80 km/h (50 mph), and 120 km/h (75 mph) on motorways.
    • In Italy, the speed limit is 90km/h (55mph) on A roads, 50km/h (30mph) in town, 110km/h (68mph) on dual cabbageways and 130km/h (80mph) on motorways.
    • Speed limits may be lower in urban areas, construction zones, and adverse weather conditions.
  • Helmet Requirements: Helmet requirements for motorcycles in the Alps vary by country but generally adhere to strict safety standards. All motorcycle riders and passengers must wear helmets when riding on public roads, and the helmets must comply with European safety standards (ECE 22.05) and be securely fastened at all times while riding.
  • Lane Splitting and Filtering: Lane splitting (riding between lanes of slow-moving or stopped traffic) and filtering (moving between lanes of slow-moving traffic) are illegal in most Alpine countries, including Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. However, some countries, such as France, allow filtering under certain conditions.
  • Alcohol Limits: The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for motorcycle riders varies by country:
    • In Austria, the legal BAC limit for motorcycle riders is 0.05%.
    • In Switzerland and Italy, the legal BAC limit for motorcycle riders is 0.05%.
    • It's important to note that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited and can result in severe penalties, including fines, license suspension, and imprisonment.
  • Motorcycle Equipment Requirements: In addition to helmets, motorcyclists in the Alps must ensure their bikes meet certain equipment requirements:
    • Ensure your motorcycle is equipped with functioning headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and mirrors.
    • In some countries, such as Switzerland, it's mandatory to carry a warning triangle or reflective vest for roadside emergencies.
  • General Traffic Regulations: Familiarize yourself with general traffic regulations, such as right-of-way rules, traffic signal meanings, and parking regulations. Ignorance of these rules is not an excuse for violating them.

Prepare Your Motorcycle

Another important step is making sure your motorcycle is in good working condition by conducting thorough maintenance checks, including oil and fluid levels, tire pressure, brakes, and lights. 

As for your luggage, it’s best to choose lightweight and weather-resistant options, such as saddlebags or a tank bag, to carry your items without weighing down your motorcycle. 

In addition to personal items, you need to pack essential gear such as a tool kit, a tire repair kit, a first-aid kit, and any other emergency supplies you think you might need. 

I also recommend bringing a reliable GPS device or smartphone with navigation apps to help you navigate unfamiliar roads and find your way to your destination.

Dress and Pack Appropriately for Your Trip

When it comes to what to wear, it’s essential to wear appropriate motorcycle gear, including a helmet, riding jacket, pants, gloves, and boots, to ensure your safety and comfort on the road.

You also need to pack layers of clothing to stay comfortable in varying weather conditions, including waterproof and insulated options for colder temperatures or rain.

Be Prepared to Adapt Your Plans

Stay flexible and open-minded in case of unexpected changes or challenges, such as adverse weather, road closures, or mechanical issues.

Remember that the essence of motorcycling in the Alps lies in the adventure itself, so embrace the journey and enjoy the ride, wherever it may take you.

Ensuring a safe ride in the Alps is paramount to enjoying the stunning scenery and thrilling roads the region has to offer. 

So, here are some tips you can follow:

  • Wear Protective Gear: Always wear appropriate protective gear, including a DOT-approved helmet, riding jacket, pants, gloves, and boots. Protective gear can help minimize injuries in the event of a crash or fall.
  • Ride Within Your Limits: Stay within your skill level and comfort zone. Mountain passes often feature steep inclines, tight hairpin turns, and narrow roads, so it’s okay to take your time and ride at a pace that feels safe for you.
  • Navigate cautiously: Exercise caution when navigating steep mountain roads, tight curves, and unpredictable weather conditions, especially in alpine terrain.
  • Maintain a safe distance: Keep a safe distance from other vehicles and watch out for hazards such as gravel, debris, or wildlife on the road.
  • Stay visible: Use headlights, reflective gear, and hand signals to communicate with other road users and increase your visibility, especially in low-light or foggy conditions.
  • Know emergency contacts: Make a note of emergency contact numbers for roadside assistance, local authorities, medical services, and your embassy or consulate in case of emergencies.
  • Stay Hydrated and Rested: Long rides in the mountains can be physically demanding. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and taking regular breaks to rest and stretch your muscles.
  • Watch Out for Wildlife: Be cautious of wildlife, especially in rural and mountainous areas. Stay alert and watch for signs warning of animal crossings.

Savoring the Alpine Experience

Savoring your travel experience on a motorcycle trip is about immersing yourself in the stunning beauty, exhilarating roads, and rich cultural heritage of the region. 

Here's how you can make the most of your journey:

Scenic Stops and Photo Opportunities:

  • Take advantage of scenic viewpoints along your route to soak in panoramic vistas of snow-capped peaks, verdant valleys, and shimmering lakes.
  • Stop frequently to capture photos of the stunning landscapes and create lasting memories of your alpine adventure.
  • Discover quaint alpine villages nestled amidst the mountains, each offering its own unique charm, history, and cultural heritage. Wander through narrow cobblestone streets, admire traditional architecture, and interact with friendly locals to gain insight into local life in the Alps.
  • Explore iconic landmarks, historic sites, and natural attractions dotted throughout the Alps, from ancient castles and monasteries to scenic waterfalls and alpine meadows. 
  • Take guided tours, participate in outdoor activities such as hiking or biking, or simply wander at your own pace to discover hidden gems off the beaten path.

Sampling Local Cuisine Along the Way

  • Treat your taste buds to the rich and hearty cuisine of the Alps, featuring dishes made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. 
  • Sample regional specialties such as fondue, raclette, hearty stews, alpine cheeses, and freshly baked bread, paired with local wines or spirits.
  • Seek out cozy mountain restaurants, rustic chalets, and charming cafes along your route, offering delicious meals and warm hospitality.
  • Enjoy al fresco dining on sunny terraces or cozy up by a roaring fire with a hearty meal after a day of riding through the mountains.

Interacting with Fellow Riders and Locals

  • Strike up conversations with fellow motorcyclists at rest stops, viewpoints, or motorcycle-friendly accommodations along your route.
  • Share stories, tips, and recommendations for future rides, fostering camaraderie and friendship within the motorcycling community.
  • Interact with locals in alpine villages and towns, whether it's chatting with shopkeepers, artisans, or farmers, or joining in on local festivities or events.
  • Learn about traditional crafts, cultural traditions, and regional customs from the people who call the Alps home, gaining a deeper appreciation for the region's heritage.

There you have it! By savoring the Alpine experience on your motorcycle trip, you'll create lasting memories and forge a deep connection with one of the world's most awe-inspiring regions. You gotta soak in the beauty, embrace the adventure, and enjoy every moment of your journey through the Alps.

Conclusion

Riding through the Alps isn't just about conquering challenging routes or ticking off bucket list destinations; it's about forging connections, embracing spontaneity, and reveling in the sheer joy of exploration.

Whether you're new to riding or a pro, the Alps have it all—beauty and excitement waiting to be explored. So, when you feel the urge to hit the road, go for it! From high mountain passes to peaceful valleys, the best motorcycle routes in the Alps are calling your name.

Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government, educational, corporate, and nonprofit organizations:

Ni/Ni

Picture of About the Author:

About the Author:

Michael Parrotte started his career in the motorcycle industry by importing AGV Helmets into the North American market. He was then appointed the Vice President of AGV Helmets America. In total, he worked with AGV Helmets for 25 years. He has also served as a consultant for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, and Sparx Helmets.

In 1985, he founded AGV Sports Group, Inc. with AGV Helmets in Valenza, Italy. For over 38 years now, the company has quietly delivered some of the best protective gear for motorcyclists in the world.

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