Colle della Maddalena (Piedmont, Italy), mountain landscape at summer, winding roadColle della Maddalena (Piedmont, Italy), mountain landscape at summer, winding road
©Colle della Maddalena (Piedmont, Italy), mountain landscape at summer, winding road|Claudio Colombo -
Larche Pass (Col de Larche)

Larche Pass – Col de Larche

The Col de Larche, in the Alps, is on the border between France and Italy. Linking the valley of Larche, to the upper part of the Ubayette, which is the main tributary of the river Ubaye, and the valley of the Stura di Demonte, it culminates at 1,991 meters of altitude, in the department of Alpes de Haute Provence in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. The pass of Larche is part of the passes of the Ubaye massif just like the Parpaillon pass or the Pontis pass.

The Col de Larche, also called Colle della Madellena, is open all year round except during heavy snowfalls. The pass is appreciated by motorists, cyclists and motorcyclists for the beauty of the landscapes it offers. It is also a starting point for various hikes. You can go to the rifugio della Gardetta, to the Chambeyron refuge at the Lauzanier lake or to the lake of Derrière la Croix. On the way, you will have the opportunity to appreciate the Valonnet pass, the Valonnet lakes, the Orrenaye lake, the col du Ruburent…

The Col de Larche by bike

The ascent of the pass by bike can be done by the west side from Jausiers, or lower from Barcelonnette for the most daring. The route is more than 23 kilometers long with 775 meters of difference in altitude and an average slope of 3.5%, for maximums of 5.5%. However, the first 5 kilometers are forbidden to pedestrians, tractors and bicycles because of the risk of landslides.

On the other side, from the eastern slope to Vinadio, there are more than 31 kilometers with a difference in height of 1,087 meters and an average slope of 3.5% with a maximum of 7%. This slope is totally authorized for bicycles.

The road that leads to the Col de Larche is relatively accessible but has difficult passages on each side. Once at the top, on the Italian side, you will be able to reach the lake of the Madeleine, but also to observe the stele which celebrates the victory of Fausto Coppi during the Giro of 1949.

Because of its dangerous nature, the Col de Larche has never been climbed by the Tour de France. On the other hand, it was a stage of the Tour of Italy, during the 1949 edition, on the 17th stage Cuneo – Pignerol. It was the Italian Fausto Coppi who won the stage.

A bit of History…

The Col de Larche is located between the Chambeyron massif in the northeast and the Mercantour Argentera massif in the southwest.

Because of its strategic position, due to its low altitude in relation to the other alpine passes as well as its proximity to the Vars pass, the Col de Larche was used several times to invade the territory. This was notably the case between 569 and 575 with the Saxons and the Lombards.

In 1515, the vanguard of the army of François I, then commanded by Marshal Jacques II de Chabannes de La Palice, passed through the pass to go towards his Italian conquests. They built a passable road to surprise their Italian and Swiss enemies. The meeting of the troops took place in Marignan.

The pass also had a defensive role during the War of the Austrian Succession and during the Revolution. In the XIXth century, the fort of Tournoux was built to block the Italian army that could come through the pass. In the XXth century, the same device was set up at Saint Ours, in the valley of Larche.

The pass of Larche was also a fighting zone between the French dragons against a battalion of the Italian division and German troops at the end of the Second World War.

Today, the Col de Larche proudly stands with the village of Larche at its feet, which enjoys a high mountain environment. In winter, Larche is transformed into a cross-country ski resort and constitutes with Meyronnes the Val d’Oronaye, a preserved area. In summer, hiking, cycling and climbing are the most popular activities.

Events and competitions

The Grande Traversée VTT “L’Alpes-Provence” is a mountain bike race that starts at the French-Italian border, at the Col de Larche. In a wild nature, you ride through the valley, the mountain pastures and the military works. You may even have the opportunity to see marmots, vultures and chamois. The start of the race is located at the Col de Larche and the arrival point at Meyronnes. The distance to be covered is 19 kilometers with a positive elevation gain of 440 meters and a negative elevation gain of 900 meters at an altitude of between 1,531 and 2,355 meters.

Selection of mountain passes in Région Sud