Les Ecouges Road

Les Ecouges is a balcony road in France

Les Ecouges is the name of a very defiant drive located in the Isère department of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, in France. With provocative verticality and derisory barriers, the balcony section is as hair-raising as it is short and narrow. It’s one of the French balcony roads.

How long is Les Ecouges?

Tucked away in the southeastern part of the country, the road is totally paved. It’s called D35. It’s 20.4km (12.67 miles) long, running north-south from Rovon to Rencurel. The road, known as Route des Ecouges, carries on via the lonely valley des Ecouges, then go through an impressive tunnel dug in the rock at Pont Chabert. The 500m long tunnel leads to a road hanging above a waterfall before going down vertiginously to the Isere Valley. The tunnel left in its natural state offers similar slabs on the ceiling. The Vercors Massif is filled will great natural rock bridges and fabulous galleries cut into cliffs, but the Tunnel des Ecouges (below Col de Romeyère) was a terrifying spider hole. The old road, prior to the construction of the tunnel was fenced off, like the Grands Goulets, due to the risk of rock fall.

When was Les Ecouges built?

Built in 1833, this windy wild road of Les Ecouges zigzags up to the village of Rencurel, before crossing mountain pastures until the Col de Romeyère. This is not a road for people that fear heights. Of all the routes into Le Vercors, Les Ecouges is the most vertiginous and the most stunning. The builders naturally sculpted the existing lines. The road's roof is like a smooth slab with a right angle giving a geometrical effect. In addition to the magical location, the road's architecture is unique, with the slope copying that of the limestone layers. The opening of the road was bound to economic motives, to facilitate the wooden descent of Coulmes towards the valley to a foundry of cannon which was situated in St Gervais. The road was discussed throughout the 19th century to supply wood to the cannon foundry in St Gervais. But it was finally the inhabitants of Rencurel and St Gervais that built it to promote trade with the markets in the plain. It was finished in 1883 by J Serratrice, a Rencurel entrepreneur. It improved the access used by men since Mesolithic times, followed by the Chartreuse monks of Ecouge and Italian charcoal burners.

Is Les Ecouges challenging?

This is not a road for people that fear heights. This road was not made to go quickly. It is there to visit the massif of Ecouges by meandering in side of mountain then on the Vercors. If you appreciate the small snaky roads which climb, the small roads sometimes covered by trees, sometimes encircled with meadows where graze gentle horned animals, then, this road is for you. Les Ecouges is one of the most challenging and dramatic roads in France.

Is Les Ecouges open?

Located to the west of Grenoble, it is usually closed in winters. The road is open to all kinds of vehicles except for the biggest ones like lorries and trucks. The authorities project to repair the road besides the tunnel which is nowadays closed. It is to become a two ways road (in a more or less near future). So, as for today, the tunnel is open but the old road that bypasses is closed.
Road suggested by: Benjamin Hué (info updated July 2018)