The Grand Traverse of the Massif Central
by mountain bike, road bike or on foot
By Alan Castle
A guidebook to mountain biking, cycling or walking the 700km GTMC, Grande Traversée du Massif Central, in southern France, from Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne to Montpellier and Sête on the Mediterranean. The long-distance route is described in stages for walkers, and mountain bikers, with on road alternatives for road cyclists.
Seasonsspring and autumn recommended; summer can be very hot and the route could be very hazardous in winter conditions
CentresClermon-Ferrand, Saint-Etienne, Aurillac, Nimes, Montpellier
Difficultyone of the most challenging mountain bike routes in France, but technical sections can be avoided by pushing a short distance or taking the on-road option
Must SeeAuvergne; Puy de Sancy; Margeride; Mont Mouchet; Mont Lozère; Cévennes; Tarn Gorges; Mont Aigoual, Trèvezel Gorges
Mountain Biking – This guidebook divides the Grand Traverse of the Massif Central (GTMC) into 17 stages, each of which the average mountain biker should accomplish in a day. Those who wish to sample only a section of the GTMC can do so by making use of the railway stations en route.
Road Cycling – A traverse of the Massif Central, following the line of the GTMC very approximately, can also be made by road cyclists. This visits all the major places through which the GTMC passes, but keeps to roads – for the most part relatively quiet ones. Such a road route would probably take the average cyclist somewhere between 8 and 12 days.
Walking – The Grand Traverse of the Massif Central not only makes an excellent off-road mountain bike trail, but as such a high percentage of it is off-road, and much of that along numerous GR Trails, it also provides a first-rate long-distance walking route across the region.
The walking is generally straightforward, suitable for most reasonably fit people. A traverse of the full route on foot would typically take from 27 to 32 days. Alternatively, the railway network easily allows one-, two- or three-week walking holidays to be planned.
A Long Distance Mountain Bike Trail
A GTMC for Road Cyclists
Walking the GTMC
Climate – When to Go
Supported or Unsupported
Travelling to and from the Region
Food and Water
Public Holidays and Time
Using this Guidebook
Stage 1 Clermont-Ferrand to Laschamp
Stage 2 Laschamp to Murol
Stage 3 Murol to La Godivelle
Stage 4 La Godivelle to Allanche
Stage 5 Allanche to Saint-Flour
Stage 6 Saint-Flour to Paulhac-en-Margeride
Stage 7 Paulhac-en-Margeride to Le Giraldès
Stage 8 Le Giraldès to Bagnols-les-Bains
Stage 9 Bagnols-les-Bains to Le Pont-de-Montvert
Stage 10 Le Pont-de-Montvert to Sainte-Énimie
Stage 11 Sainte-Énimie to Cabrillac
Stage 12 Cabrillac to Dourbies
Stage 13 Dourbies to La Couvertoirade
Stage 14 La Couvertoirade to La Vacquerie et St-Martin-de-Castries
Stage 15 La Vacquerie et St-Martin-de-Castries to Saint-Jean-de-Fos
Stage 16 Saint-Jean-de-Fos to Montpellier
Stage 17 Montpellier to Sète
Appendix A Stage Maps for the Road Bike Alternative
Appendix B Route Summary Table
Appendix C Budget Accommodation along the GTMC
Appendix D Other Long Distance Trails along the GTMC
Appendix E Further Reading
Appendix F Useful Contacts
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Thanks to Elizabeth Dyson for the following updates:
The gîte d'étape at Chaumiane (Stage 3) is very basic and there is no food
available, although it does have gas rings (bring your own matches). There is
also no shop in the nearby village of Compains.
In the woods just past Le Sauvage (Stage 7) some of the signs are missing
on crucial turnings. But with very careful attention to the Chamina map it is
possible to navigate through. At the end of the stage at Le Giraldes there
is a chambre d'hôtes as well as a gîte d'étape. The chambre d'hôtes was reported to be a
lovely place to stay, with dinner provided by the hosts.
Bagnols-les-Bains (Stage 8) has a shop and a boulangerie.
Camprieu (Stage 12) has a good small supermarket.
If you have run out of supplies on Stage 14, then it is just a short detour
to Le Caylar where there are shops (including a supermarket), boulangeries,
On Stage 17 you are technically not allowed to cycle alongside the canal
from Palavas-les-Flots to Frontignan. However, most people seem to ignore this and it is rare for cyclists to be challenged.
"The Grand Traverse of the Massif Central takes you from the impenetrable accents of the Auvergne to the Occitane patois of the Mediterranean coast.
I enjoyed the planning of the trip nearly as much as the trip itself and I like this book because it gives me just what I need. It is compact and light but is stuffed with useful information. There are full descriptions of the route for mountain bikes, road bikes and walkers and all are enhanced with some terrific photos.
In fact, all you need to plan the route is Alan Castle’s excellent book, some maps and a mobile phone."
Austrian Alpine Club, Winter 2010
‘Whether you are a mountain or road cyclist, or enjoy walking, this guidebook certainly is invaluable from the beginning of the journey in Clermont to the finish by the Mediterranean in Sete. Every single village, road and footpath that you pass through on the different stages is described in depth. Tourist attractions nearby have been researched and described very well, and it is clear how useful this book would be in helping you to make the most of your journey.
The maps in the book are very clear and concise, even with keys for the inexperienced. In fact, a lot of maps that you see of this region are not a clear as the maps in this guide.’
Irish Mountain Log, Autumn 2010
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Alan Castle has trekked and cycled in over 30 countries within Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Australasia. A member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild, he has written 18 guidebooks, several on long-distance mountain routes in France. An erstwhile national secretary and long-distance path information officer of the Long Distance Walkers Association, Alan now lives at the foot of the Moffat Hills in Scotland.View Guidebooks by Alan Castle