France provides for some of the best mountain biking in the world, hands down. So, its hard to pick out the cream of the crop. In this article, we’ll focus only on gravity-oriented bike parks with lift access, that every downhill, freeride or enduro rider should visit at least once in their life.
Pretty much all spots are found in the southwest part of France in the Alpine and the Pyrenee mountain ranges. With close proximity to Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Andorra and Italy the french MTB destinations are popular for road trips.
What’s special in France is the scale. Some of the best mountain biking zones in the world are often right next to each other, able to be connected by bike for an unforgettable ultimate bike trip.
As with most European parks located in the mountains, the summer season is short due to low temperatures and snowfall. The window of opportunity can only be three months long in most places.
Quite a lot of french downhill parks have been host to Downhill World Cup races over the years. No matter which one, France always provides steep and technical tracks for some classic races. But on top of the list are 3 parks, that are known for their quality and scope first, and racing second.
Portes Du Soleil MTB Area
The world-famous Portes Du Soleil area (french for “doors of the sun”) is right on the French border to Switzerland in the east. Also known as “PDS”, this is the place to ride mountain bikes in France with no less than 12 resorts and 4 amazing bike parks in close proximity to each other: Châtel, Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz.
So close in fact, that shuttling from one to the other is encouraged with the Portes du Soleil Pass, which allows the use of all four different bike parks. That pass is available as a (multi-)day pass – which is highly recommended as one-day trips won’t do here – as well as a season pass.
Located in France’s east, in the northern Alps, there are an absolutely insane 650 km of trails waiting to be unlocked.
Bike Park Châtel is arguable the best place to ride in the Portes Du Soleil and in Europe in general for that matter. Recently it got some additional attention with the opening of freerider Niko Vink’s huge jump line. That alone is a track worth experiencing.
Even if you’re not quite ready to hit the difficult pro lines, you’ll be challenged to see all of what Châtel has to offer. There are a number of trails for any one difficulty: green, blue, red and black. And unlike some other spots, the green ones are shaped nicely, instead of being just boring gravel fire roads.
For enduro riders, the red Vorachatak and Komatrautrail singletrails are a favourite. On the more shaped freeride lines are the big hit gap jumps, huge drops and fast berms. It’s also easy to work yourself up to the bigger features with option lines. Every drop or jump is marked with little flags, and the signs and maps are everywhere so you always know where you’re going, making it also a safe park even if you only ride every trail once.
With the lift 6km from the town center, it’s recommended to stay near Pre-La-Joux to avoid uphill pedals.
Right along with Whistler, in Canada, Morzine is a name that gets thrown around similarly as often. With the huge network of interlinked chairlifts and tracks, it’s no wonder why. Block off a week if you want to see all of it.
Bike Park Morzine stretches over two, opposing mountains: Le Pléney and Super Morzine, which has access to the rest of Portes Du Soleil. It’s thanks to the number of quality, varying trails and the infrastructure that make Morzine stand tall among the world’s mountain bike destinations.
Les Gets’ bike park tracks are also twisting around two chairlifts, which invites all-day riding with little downtime. And just like Super Morzine, access to the rest of the Portes Du Soleil is a given.
It’s probably got the oldest history of the three and hosted Downhill World Cup races in the early 2000s and a number of current events for the racers in love with natural, off-camber tech. For riders looking to go uphill, the cross-country circuit is open for anyone willing to attack it. Just like the jump park area, a 4X track, freeride and North Shore areas and beginner skills areas for the little shredders.
A name famous for the annual Megavalanche event stands for incredibly long descents of 2600m altitude difference. If you’ve ever seen a video from this race, you know Alpe d’Huez bike park has lots of varied terrain. High above the tree line, rocks dominate the trails while the forests below provide the typical alpine terrain.
Also one of Europe’s biggest bike parks with over 250 km of mountain biking trails, the view from the peaks is just stunning all the way down. No less than 9 lifts take you to over 35 trails, so have fun picking and choosing your personal favorite mix for a session. There’s something for every skill and taste.
Located in the MTB area Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys) are the bike parks Méribel, Courchevel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens. Arguably the best-known out of them is Méribel, which has been in the center of international downhill racing, providing for rough, steep action.
But besides a full-on downhill line, there are over 25 other tracks available. And that’s only Méribel alone. If you can still hold on to your handlebars, there’s still more in the Les Trois Vallées. Compared to the busy Portes Du Soleil, this valley is calmer and laid back with not as much nightlife or partying.
Les Deux Alpes
“Les 2 Alpes” Bike Park is one of the few in the world with enough altitude (of 3.200m to be exact) to provide a unique experience: Start on a glacier and finish in the valley 2.480m below.
Not unique enough? Here’s another banger: the lift hours. The Diable gondola is open until 18:00 while the Venosc gondola takes you back up until 20:00! So strap in for some overtime from 9 am to 8 pm.
With high altitude come some side effects from short breath, headaches or altitude sickness. So let your body adapt for a day or two before going all out.
Technically a green trail, the Cretes trail is something you shouldn’t miss here. After a ride down the ridge-line, it takes you to right at the edge of the cliff, where you can see the Les Deux Alpes valley hundreds of meters below for an unforgettable experience.
Finally an area, that is more like a traditional bike park with one lift and a couple of tracks down from the top station. Straightforward, manageable and more than you need, if you need technical tracks.
Lac Blanc Bike Park is located near the border to Germany, making it an attractive destination for riders on both sides of the border. With one of the earliest openings, it’s also a popular early-season spot to get your feet wet and shake off the cobwebs.
The balanced selection of trails helps you with that, so any rider can set the challenge individually. Gaps, tables, doubles and plenty of wooden structures provide busy rides down while chicken lines are always there for a more mellow descent. A highlight is definitely the “La Nuts” downhill line, featuring some gnarly rock sections.
Even besides riding yourself, this place is a regular host of multiple events throughout the season. But beware, the cable car operates on weekends and public holidays! A pre-trip check is in order before you’re on the way to Lac Blanc.
If you’re going, find a nearby parking location here.
Val d’Isere may be a familiar name again, as it’s been hosting UCI DH World Cup races and world championships. A lesser-known fact is, that it’s also part of a larger network of trails and tracks. Tignes and Val d’Isere together make up the big Tignes-Val d’Isere Bike Park with hundreds if kilometers of trails.
Singletracks, flow trails, steep downhills and everything in between, all with a great panorama.
And what could be better than that? Wait until you see the prices! A 6-day pass is about as much as a 1-day pass in some of the other European parks.
With this one, I’m willing to bend the rules a little bit, as it’s not technically in France, but in neighboring Andorra, between France and Spain. There’s no way I would leave out the world-renowned Vallnord bike park out of this list!
No matter which edition of the World Cup events here you watch, it’s always a classic on one of the steepest, roughest, full-on race tracks on the calendar. But don’t be mistaken, Vallnord Bike Park is for all types of riders, especially junior beginners.
It’s a park that invites families thanks to dedicated kids trails, safe shaping and family-friendly pricing. Same with our female riders. Vallnord is all-around a great park working on growing the sport of mountain biking!
Even with a well-known name, epic views and some of the best trails, it’s still somewhat of an underdog. Definitely less overrun than some of the alpine parks.
Pierron Bike Park (Invite Only)
Does that name sound familiar? For any Downhill World Cup fan, it will be due to no less than three Pierron brothers (Amaury, Antoine and Baptiste) regularly landing towards the front with the best in the world on live race broadcasts.
This is a place every good rider should visit, but not all of us will be able to, as this private park operates on an invite-only basis. It is after all a private bike park on private property. Message Baptiste Pierron for trail access at [email protected]
Stride Indoor-Bikepark Strasbourg
Definitely out of the ordinary and a perfect escape during the cold winter months or in the final, long weeks before the regular parks finally open. There are not many of its kind around, so if you got the chance, you may just as well jump for a unique experience in a giant building.
The Stride Indoor Bike Park in Strasbourg is the polar opposite to every other one on this list: in a city, wooden and concrete features only, no dirt, air conditioning and not even on a mountain. But one important thing is in common: Pure riding fun.
But don’t take my word for it, take a look yourself: