With an average 7% slope and some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in the Alps, it’s no surprise that col du galibier is one of the Tour de France’s most legendary climbs. First used in 1911, it is the highest ever summit finish of any stage of the race and is renowned for bringing the best out of riders with its epic challenge.
Located in the Dauphine Alps, this mountain pass is named after the peak of Le Grand Galibier which towers over the pass. It has appeared in 57 Tour de France stages since its first appearance in 1911, the most of any hors categorie pass in the Alps but still less than several other major passes in the Pyrenees.
The road to the top is steep and narrow, offering views of glaciers, icy snow-capped peaks and alpine meadows on the ascent. The road is open from June to October each year (depending on the amount of snowfall) and is a popular route for cyclists from La Grave or St Michel de Maurienne to Briancon.
From the south, the col is reached from Lautaret (2,057m) or Bourg d’Oisans and from the north it is tackled via the Col du Telegraphe (1,566m). From either direction, the climb offers magnificent scenery as the road cuts through massive cliffs.
Once over the pass, you’ll find a monument to Henri Desgranges, the original organizer of the Tour de France and a car tunnel which marks the end of the climb. From here, it’s a long and steep descent back to the valley floor.
At the foot of the tunnel, there’s a small cafe serving drinks and snacks but it’s worth heading on a bit further to enjoy the view at the narrow summit of Galibier. This is a famous photo spot and you can also admire the huge stone sign marking the pass.
From here you’ll see the sweeping swathe of white snowy mountains that sweep down towards Valloire. You can even look out over the ice-capped massif of the Arvan-Villards and the massif des Cerces in the distance. If you’re lucky and the weather is good, you might even be able to see the Grande Massif de la Vanoise on the other side of the valley. col du galibier