By Maggie LaCoste
If you are planning to be near Paris or Mont St-Michel this summer, and you are looking for a challenging bike adventure, look no further than the Veloscenic, one of the newest long distance bicycle routes. The resources for the Veloscenic have improved a lot since the last time I updated the route last summer. The main benefit for those interested in the route is that the website is finally available in English, and it is full of helpful information on stages of the route and other information to help with trip planning.
This is the logo for the route, a slight change from the original name Veloscenie. The logo appears on the directional signs that have been installed on most parts of the route, letting you know that you are on the right route.
The Veloscenic has it all: some of France’s most popular attractions including the Eiffel Tower and Mont St-Michel, and in the middle, the Chartres Cathedral and the Chateau de Versailles. This 440 km route could become one of the most popular bike routes in France, but beware, this route is not totally flat. There are 22 stages along the route, 2 are rated expert, 11 intermediate and 8 family. Most of the family stages are greenways, which make these stages safe for traveling with children, as well as for recreational cyclists.
The following stages are rated suitable for families and or/recreational cyclists:
- Paris to Massey, 18.7 km, mostly along a TGV track
- Nogent-le-Routrou to Remalard, 17 km along the Huisne River
- Remalard to Mortagne-au-Perche, 21.1 km greenway which continues along the Huisne River, through the Parc Naturel Regional du Perche
- Mortagne-au-Perche to Le Mele-sur-Sarthe, 15.4 km greenway through the Parc Naturel Regional Normandie-Maine
- Le Mele-sur-Sarthe to Alencon, 23.1 km mostly greenway through the Bourse Forest along the Vesone River
- Domfront to Barenton, 17.7 km which begins with a steep hill leaving Domfront with quite a bit of traffic, then becomes a greenway through the Normandy countryside
- Barenton to Mortain, 14.4 km, all greenway except for the stretch into Mortain
- Mortain to St. Hilaire-du-Harcouet, 14.9 km, mostly greenway once you get out of Mortain, past the Cance waterfalls.
According to the latest maps, the greenway is now complete to Ducey, with the greenway continuing on the last stage to the mouth of the Selune River. From that point, there is a cycle path along a shared road which leads to Mont St-Michel.
For recreational cyclists and families that are interested in bicycling the greenways of this route from Nogent-le-Routrou, but don’t want to deal with the provisional section from Alencon to Domfront, it is possible to take a train from Alencon to either Domfront or Flers(and then bicycling to Domfront). The connection is through Le Mans, but it can be done in under 2 hours. From Domfront, it would then be possible to bicycle on to Mont St-Michel.
There are several stages of the itinerary that are considered provisional, meaning that there is still work going on developing these sections. These stages include Massey to Limours, Limours to St. Arnoult, St. Arnoult to Rambouillet, Alencon to Carrouges, Carrouges to Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, and Bagnoles-de-l’Orne to Domfront. Some of these segments do not have completed route signs, so be sure to download the road book or pick one up at the local tourism office when you are there. It is also possible to download GPS route for each segment. All that is required is to register online, then it is possible to keep all your route information in a file ready for your trip.
The maps that are available online for each stage are a wealth of information that can help with trip planning. If you use the maps in full-screen mode and do a bit of enlarging, you can easily see where train stations are, access the location of tourism offices, bike repair shops, local attractions, farmer’s markets, picnic areas and places to stay and eat. All of these resources are so much more useful now that they are in English!
With most of the Paris to Epernon stage still in development stage, you may want to consider taking the train from Paris to either the lovely town of Rambouillet or directly to Epernon. Trains to either location leave from Gare Montparnasse, and take less than 45 minutes. Both routes are local trains that accept bicycles.
Updates will be published as work on provisional routes is completed, and as new services become available along the route. In the meantime, if you have the opportunity to travel part or all of this route, please send along your comments and reviews of the route that I can share.
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