Cayolle Pass – Col de la Cayolle

The Col de la Cayolle is located in the Southern Alps, between the departments of Alpes Maritimes and Alpes de Haute Provence, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. It culminates at 2,326 meters of altitude.

Open half of the year, it connects the Ubaye valley in the north to the Bachelard valley and the Var valley in the south. In winter, it is closed to traffic because of its snow cover. Many activities are possible at the Col de la Cayolle: cycling, hiking…

The road to the Col de la Cayolle offers a diversity of landscapes. It winds between green meadows, forests, waterfalls, bridges and picturesque hamlets. The Col de la Cayolle attracts many visitors every year for the beauty of the landscapes it offers. It crosses the Mercantour National Park with an abundant fauna and diverse flora. During your passage to the col de la Cayolle, perhaps you will have the opportunity to meet one or several marmots.

The col de la Cayolle allows you to get away from the Ubaye valley, just like the passes of Vars, Larche, Bonnette and Allos. The ascent to the summit, in the area of the Mercantour National Park, is exceptional. The road then descends into the Val d’Entraune. On the way, you can stop to admire the Bachelard gorges, the road’s engineering structures dating back to 1910, the Cascade bridge or the Estenc and the Var spring.

The Cayolle Pass by bike

The Col de la Cayolle was a stage in the Tour de France on three occasions and was crossed in 1950 by the French Jean Robic, in 1955 by Charly Gaul, from Luxembourg and finally in 1973 by the Spanish Vicente Lopez Carril.

From the city of Barcelonnette, you can climb the Col de la Cayolle. You will have to cover more than 29 kilometers, with a difference in altitude of 1,190 meters, an average slope of 4.09% for a maximum of 8.2%.

Starting from the south side, from Saint Martin d’Entraunes, at 1,035 meters of altitude, an ascent of more than 20 kilometers awaits you. This route is more difficult than the one on the northern slope (Barcelonnette) with 1,291 meters of difference in height at 6.5% of average slope. You will enjoy the magnificent landscapes of the Mercantour National Park.

At the top, you will get a breathtaking view, to the north on the inn-refuge of the Mercantour National Park and on the high valley of the Bachelard, to the south on the village of Entraunes, the intermittent lake of La Cayolle and the valley of Entraunes. A total of 124 kilometers are needed to complete this loop.

Experienced cyclists will be able to take advantage of their vacations to ride the flagship bike circuit of the Ubaye Valley, the one that is more commonly called the “Three passes” event (Trois cols): col de la Cayolle, col des Champs and col d’Allos.

On the road to La Cayolle, in Uvernet Fours, you can stop at the Cayolle hut for lunch and/or the night. Located in the Mercantour massif, in the hinterland of Nice, the refuge is the starting point of many hikes to the high valley of the Var, the valley of the Tinée, the Ubaye and the high Verdon. A place of information and reception has also been set up for visitors, hikers, cyclists, motorcyclists…

A bit of History…

The decision to build the road through the Col de la Cayolle was taken in 1894 to link Nice and the Ubaye valley via Entraunes to the Col de la Cayolle. The construction was undertaken for military reasons. The section between Entraunes and the Col de la Cayolle was completed in 1914.

The road of the Cayolle goes up the course of the Bachelard, between the gorges of the torrent. The ascent is made by stages until Bayasse before seriously attacking the mountain. The road then twists and turns before reaching the summit.

The pass is dominated by 4 summits: the Trou de l’Aigle which reaches 2,961 meters of altitude, the Garetts summit at 2,822 meters, the perched syncline of Roche Grande at 2,752 meters high and the Tête de la Gypière at 2,626 meters.

From the Col de la Cayolle, various hiking trails are available. For example, you can go to Mount Pelât, at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters. This itinerary will allow you to enjoy a magnificent view of Lake Allos and for nature lovers, you can look for the chamois and marmots that inhabit the territory.

The Cayolle pass is also appreciated in winter. Indeed, the Pra Loup ski resort is located nearby, at the crossroads of the Cayolle, Allos and Restefond la Bonnette passes. You can go skiing or ski touring there!

Selection of mountain passes in Région Sud