Explore the Legendary Les Grands Goulets: a French balcony road

Built between 1844 and 1851, Les Grands Goulets is a legendary road located in the Drôme department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France. The road was closed to vehicles and pedestrians in 2005, with vertigo guaranteed. It's one of the famous French balcony roads.

Les Grands Goulets

How long is Les Grands Goulets road?

Set high in the French Alps, this iconic road (Route Départementale RD 518) is entirely paved, measuring 1.7 km (1.05 miles) from the Pont-en-Royans area to the Vercors plateau.

Why is Les Grands Goulets road famous?

Running above the Vernaison river, the road offers a breathtaking view of the Royans. It becomes magnificent with the rock just overhead, taking you under cliffs, through rock arches, and eventually through a section where only a bit of light can make it through. The road was cut into the cliff, and the sun never penetrates the narrow pass, making it mossy and wet. It gives the feeling of entering a cave.

Is Les Grands Goulets road still in operation?

Located in the southeastern part of the country, the superb road was replaced by the 1,710 meters long Tunnel des Grands-Goulets in 2008. The old road remains as the emergency exit of the tunnel, connected by galleries. As such, the road is maintained and cleared of snow in winter, despite no one using it. After leading travelers through the mountains for 156 years by this winding and narrow road, the French government permanently closed it in 2005 following fatal accidents and rockfalls in 2003 and 2005. Currently, the once-traveled path remains deserted and unused. Even cyclists or hikers are prohibited from exploring its lengthy and twisting route. Despite speculations suggesting a potential reopening for such activities, the tourism office asserts that Les Grands Goulets, along with its breathtaking vistas, is permanently closed to all and will remain so.

When was Les Grands Goulets road built?

The road was constructed between 1844 and 1851, representing a significant human and financial investment. In the early 19th century, with no passable roads for horse-drawn vehicles, the 5,000-strong residents living in Vercors felt increasingly isolated. The decision was made to build a road connecting Vercors with the south, involving a mind-boggling investment of manpower, time, and money. Without today's technology, the construction seems inconceivable, using perilous methods such as hanging down the side of the mountain on a rope ladder and throwing dynamite into the rock, swinging out of the way just in time to avoid being blown up. Ten years after construction began, the road was finally ready; a breathtaking but daredevil journey with sharp turns and blind curves.

Is Les Grands Goulets road worth it?

This road is one of the most famous balcony roads in France. It's normal for your palms to sweat looking at those photos; imagine what it must have been like before the barriers. The space between two mountains is unnerving at points, and the road is often so narrow that squeezing past an oncoming car was a dangerous and time-consuming ordeal. Often very steep and high up in the gorge, the road had no guardrails.
Pic&more information: https://www.francebleu.fr/infos/insolite/la-route-des-grands-goulets-pourrait-rouvrir-partiellement-1453836699