Another Annecy classic, Col de la Forclaz offers one of the best lake views around. When the sun is shining, watch dozens of paragliders jump off the cliff at the top, their bright parachutes twirling up the mountains and across the lake. Also, the 2016 Tour de France will be passing over the Col de la Forclaz during the 19th Stage.
While neither ascent is easy, the northern approach is definitely less grueling. The final kilometre hits 11% average but otherwise, it’s a steady climb.
Col de la Forclaz via Menthon-St-Bernard: Coming from Annecy, I like to climb via Col de Bluffy. The village of Bluffy is a short (approximately 3 km) climb at around 4% and it gets you off the main road and climbing Forclaz sooner. Just keep following the road through Bluffy and after a short descent you’ll take a left at the T-intersection and join the main route to Forclaz.
If climbing from the other side, this is also the way I would recommend descending (i.e. take the right hand turn to Bluffy rather than waiting till Talloires, as you’ll have less time on the main road/bike path).
On the way up from Bluffy, be sure to look right for a view of the Château at Menthon-St-Bernard.
Once you make the left turn, you have another 14 km averaging 5% to look forward to. While I generally prefer the climb from the other side, this approach affords one of my favourite views of the glacier-formed mountains on the western side of the lake, particularly when they’re still snow-capped.
If you still have legs once you reach the top, take the road up to the paraglider parking lot for even more stunning views of the valley. But be warned, once you’ve passed the “authorised vehicles only” section, it really ramps up. The hundred meter, 17% section is over pretty quickly but you have to slog it out.
Col de la Forclaz via Montmin: this is the tougher side, and my personal favourite. From the bike path, it will be clearly signposted at Versonne. The climb is only 9 km,
and the first kilometre is a false flat but it soon ratchets up and you’ll be slogging up 10% and 11% grades. Once you hit the hairpins, more than half the climbing is done. Shortly afterwards, you reach the village of Montmin and the col will be visible on your left. With the end in sight, the relief of the 1.5 km flat through Montmin is short-lived before the final 1 km at 11% up to the summit.
Regardless of which way you choose to descend, always keep an eye out for cars. This is a popular place for Annecy visitors, particularly on weekends and public holidays and the roads can get busy!