Col de la Cayolle

Col de la Cayolle, a balcony road in France

Col de la Cayolle is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.326m (7,631ft) above the sea level, located at the border between the departments of Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. It’s one of the French balcony roads.

Nestled in the Alps, within the Parc National du Mercantour, the road to the summit is paved but narrow. The road leads to the red-rock Gorges de Daluis. It’s totally closed from October to June-July. The pass is traversed by the scenic Route des Grandes Alpes. The summit hosts a mountain refuge and a parking lot. It’s said to be one of the most beautiful climbs in Europe. The pass is 40.2 km (24.97 miles) long, running north-south from Uvernet-Fours (in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department) to Entraunes (in the Alpes-Maritimes department). The road was opened at the end of the nineteenth century by the army.

The climb has been featured in the Tour de France race. The road to the summit is steep, hitting a maximum gradient of 10.0% through some of the ramps. It gets a decent amount of traffic in summer. There are 3 routes to the summit. From Barcelonnette, the ascent is 29.15 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.190 meters and the average percentage is 4.1 %. From Jausiers, the ascent is 34 km long and the elevation gain is 1.105 meters with an average percentage of 3.3 %. And from Saint Martin d' Entraunes, the ascent is 20.5 km long, with an elevation gain of 1.291meters and an average percentage of 6.3 %.

A section of the road running through Gorges du Bachelard, is one of the most famous balcony roads in the country. A balcony road is a hair-raising lane cut into the sides of sheer cliffs. It’s a kind of road not for those who fear heights. There is little room for error on these roads. It’s normal for your palms to sweat looking at those photos, imagine what it must have been like before the barriers. It runs as a single track road along the mountainside for some distance with nowhere to pass another vehicle. Here one says a prayer that nobody is coming towards you until the road widens some kilometres further.

 

 

NOTICE: Due to the spread of COVID-19, many points of interest and roads are closed and travel is not recommended. Please follow all local health authority directives before venturing off, and stay safe.