Izoard Pass

Welcome to the Moon

If you never turn on the radio or TV in July, this pass may mean absolutely nothing to you. Between the Queyras and the Briançonnais, the Izoard Pass is a true “Tour de France” legend. But this jewel is much more than a cycling myth… And we’ll explain why.

Single ticket to the Moon

Meet the legend

Ain’t got any money for a rocket ride? Have no regrets, the Arvieux valley offers you a trip with your feet firmly on the ground. Emerging from the zigzags of the Brunissard pine forest, the Casse Déserte reveals itself. This “7th wonder of the Dauphiné” is a dolomitic desert bristling with cargneous needles. And here, perched at over 2,000 meters, whether you’re a cyclist or not, you’ll understand why champions like Coppi, Bobet and Merckx have written their legend here: 34 Tour de France crossings and a summit finish in 2017!

Linking the Queyras to Briançon, within Italy’s range, the originally military Izoard route was born of strategic requirements in the 1890s. In winter, it is covered with snow on both sides, making it an enchanting trail for sledging, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or fat-biking, with the avalanche bulletin studied before setting off. By visiting this place of touristic jubilations, we’re taking part in a pleasant historical stir that deserves a pilgrimage!


This rocks !

The wild and atypical beauty of the Casse Déserte is due to a rare combination of dolomitic limestone on the east side of the pass and gypsum on the west side. When all is dissolved (rain, snow), it produces sulphated water, which in turn attacks the limestone through differential erosion, producing these fascinating towers made of holes like Swiss cheese. Geologists call this phenomenon “cargneulisation”. The striking impression left by these towers is reinforced by the immense whitish screes that serve as their backdrop. Uncultivated screes are known locally as “casses” and have been protected from development and degradation since they were classified in 1937. Now you know (almost) everything, but there is no substitute to an intimate visit. By taking the road, of course, which has been used as settings for numerous films, including the final scene of Bertrand Blier’s movie “Les Valseuses” (1974). But also by stretching your legs on the horizontal balcony path starting below the pass stele, which takes you in 20 minutes to the very heart of the Casse Déserte arches.

A mythical Tour de France's mountain pass

50 km of asphalt to write a legend

The 2,362 m Izoard Pass legend is so crazy that entire books have been written about it! So we’ll keep it short and get to the point. The northern mountainside from Briançon is a challenge for any pedal king. But it’s via the south from Guillestre that the myth takes shape.

All the aera is, as it should be, managed, signposted, marked and transcribed in an app… It’s hardly surprising that this essential section of the “Grande Route des Alpes” has charmed “Grand Tour” organizers since the 1930s. Back then, it was still a dirt road, a “strada bianca” as the Italians call it, they didn’t hesitate to borrow it for the Giro: 10 times. Gods and devils have fought over it: Bartali, Anquetil, Poulidor, Hinault, Voeckler, Barguil, Armstrong… And even Coppi and Bobet, who well deserve their stele in the heart of the Casse Déserte. In short, a cycling mecca to put under your pedals!

Altitude: 2,362 metres

Departing from Guillestre
  • Length: 32 km
  • Total ascent: +1438 metres
  • average % from Estéyère (foot of Arvieux): 7.3%
  • maximum %: 12
Departing from Briançon
  • Length: 2 km
  • Ascent: +1200 metres
  • Average % from Estéyère (foot of Arvieux): 5.7%
  • maximum %: 9%.

Hikes departing from La Casse déserte

The Izoard Pass is not just a place to pass by, it’s also a place to start from! Here’s a list of many lovely hikes :

Izoard Pass

Throughout the seasons

Dedicated mountain passes for summer

The phenomenal Izoard Pass road is the object of all desire. Bikes, motorcycles and camper vans cross it in the summer. It’s best to find out if it’s open during events such as the “Dauphiné Libéré” or the “Embrun Man” in addition to the “Giro” and the “Tour de France”, well, events where (tri)athletes like to sweat. Every summer, on a July or August morning, the engines fall silent… Between 9 a.m. and 12 a.m., from the hamlets of Brunissard (Queyras) to Laus (Cervières), the Passes are reserved for those who want to put their muscles to the test; the guarantee and pleasure of not coming across a single motorized vehicle.

And in winter?

In winter, the pass is decked out in snow, making it a popular spot for snow and snow sports. Groomed regularly by the Nordic ski service, the “mountain” itinerary is freely accessible, provided that other users and safety rules are respected. For example, half a lane is reserved for skating, which requires impeccable grooming, and the other half is available for snowshoeing, sledging and fat-biking.

Travel Guide

for the Izoard Pass

How do I get there?

Via the D902 road, but not in winter

The Pass is on the D902 road. It is closed in winter and forms the border between the Queyras and the Briançonnais.

  • From Briançon, head for Cervières and Arvieux.
  • From Guillestre, after crossing the gorges, head up to the Arvieux valley from the Estéyère intersection.