Few new cycling itineraries have generated as much interest and anticipation as EuroVelo 17, especially the French section called ViaRhona. This new cycle route runs along/close to the Rhone River for 815 km in France from the shores of Lake Geneva to the beaches of the Mediterranean. The route crosses 3 regions and 12 departments, traveling through the Alps, Provence, the Cote du Rhone vineyards, the gastronomic capital of Lyon, and the breathtaking Camargue.
The ViaRhona is oozing with history, culture and things to see and do. Each stage of this itinerary is sure to provide cyclists with an opportunity to slowly experience parts of France in a way few tourists do. The route segment from Avignon south to Sete, Aigues Mortes and to Port-St-Louis-du-Rhone will open up my favorite parts of France to exploring and experiencing safely by bike.
What’s the current status of this route that is definitely at the top of my list of new itineraries to try? Based on the fact that this route was only added to the EuroVelo network just a year ago, the progress on the cycle route has been amazing. There’s still much to be done, particularly on the southern end of the route with the completion of the entire route currently predicted for 2020.
If you’re interested in cycling the ViaRhona and you don’t want to wait until it’s completely finished, here’s some current route information to help with your planning and a resource to keep you up to date on route progress.
ViaRhona By Region:
- 105 km of cycle path in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’ Azur region, approximately 15% of the route
- 140 km of cycle path in Languedoc-Roussillon, approximately 20% of the route
- 445 km of cycle path in Rhone-Alpes, approximately 65% of the route
The region with the highest amount of completed itinerary is Rhone-Alpes. About 80% of ViaRhona in this region is complete. Of the 445 km in the region, 143 km are greenways, 90 km are on shared roads and 152 km are provisional. From the Vaucluse to the Mediterranean(the area I’m most interested in) close to 45% of the route is completed, with 56% of the completed paths greenways. Work is underway installing signage along the route and according to the EuroVelo website, signage should be complete along the entire ViaRhona by the end of the year, even provisional areas. Depending on the area you travel through, there may be different types of road signs, but all will carry the very distinctive ViaRhona logo.
If you’re contemplating a cycling trip along this itinerary, I highly encourage you to bookmark and visit the ViaRhona website often. This is going to be your best resource for the latest information on specific stages of the route, information on areas under construction and/or closed and support services along the way. This website is full of helpful information to help insure you know what to expect along this route. It’s important to note that the ViaRhona itinerary changes from family to intermediate to expert stages throughout the itinerary. I’m not certain what the factors are that determine the classification for each stage, but I’m sure there’s a significant difference between family and expert rated stages. So beware and plan accordingly.
Home page of the ViaRhona website
For example, Stages 1 to 6 are rated expert, in part due to hills, in part due to provisional and/or busy roads or narrow tunnels. Stage 7 around Lyon is family-rated, but is followed by another expert stage, with a recommendation to take the train from Lyon to Givors. From Valence south, the route is rated primarily intermediate or family, with several stages to yet be determined. Bottom line, it’s wise to research stages you’re interested in to make sure you know what the challenges you may face are.
While there’s definitely a lot of challenging cycling along the ViaRhona, there also are 306 km of greenways, more than 30% of the overall route. These family-friendly, traffic free paths range from 6-33 km and are perfect for everyone including beginners. Here is a link to all of the greenway segments along ViaRhona.
Be sure to monitor the “Works and Travel” section that is located under the Cycle Route heading on the website navigation bar. This is where you will get information on sections of the route that are under construction, impassable for any reason or closed. Also under the Cycle Route heading is the link to download the GPS tracks for the ViaRhona, definitely recommended, particularly with so much of the itinerary still in a provisional state. Last but not least, under Cycle Route you can also find the link to EV 17 in Switzerland, which is called La Route du Rhone. The Swiss segment of EV is 350 km and is an enormously popular route in Switzerland, especially in the summer.
As for me, I will continue to wait for the completion of the 2 sections: Avignon to Sete and Avignon to Port-St-Louis-du-Rhone! I love these areas and cannot wait for the opportunity to explore them by bike!
Should you choose to bicycle the ViaRhona in 2017, please remember to send me a note and let me know what you think about the route. In the meantime, I will keep you up to date on the bicycle path as it edges closer to completion! Wherever you end up going, have fun planning!