The Col de Grimone (1318m) is undoubtedly a classic col. It is one of the two cols (the other being the Col de Menée) that cut off the corner from the road east from Die to the road up to Grenoble, and though both shorten the route in terms of miles, the mountainous nature of the roads mean that they save little time for car drivers, and so are relatively quiet.
The delights of the Col de Grimone (named after the village near the western side of the col) are different depending on which way you do it: from the eastern end, and the D1075-E712 main road, you have just a short climb (about 250m over 4km) to the top, then a truly magnificent descent – not at all in the Col de Rousset sense (speed and views) but because of the length and variation within it – if you haven’t got a smile on your face by the time you reach the end of the Gorges des Gâts, you might as well sell the bike.
From the western end, as I did it on this day, you get the pleasure of having time to appreciate the very unstable geology of the Gorges (at the time of writing, the big rockfall where the road is diverted down the bank, is still very much in evidence,having swept away the work that they had been doing up on the rockface at Easter this year) and the long, mostly gentle ascent through the little tunnels and the village of Glandage and Grimone. (The km markers only tell you how far you are from the col after Grimone, so you’ll have to do mental arithmetic if you want to pace yourself to the top.) You then get the breathtaking first view of the proper high Alps and fertile valley just as you start the short descent to the main road.
I love this col whichever way I do it. If you’re not keen on the busy-ish D1075, a there-and-back ride over the col would be very satisfying, but I’ve done around trip from Die over the Col de Menée, over to Mens, then rejoining the main road at Lalley, then back over the Col de Grimone,and the other way round, but missing out the Mens part, and just using the main road between the two cols. On both those days them ain road was fine, but this time (admittedly on a Sunday in the French school holidays) the road south from the Col de Grimone was not great, because of the amount of traffic.
Two other bits of advice: it would probably be wise to take lights for the admittedly short tunnels (be especially careful descending at any speed of cars coming in the other direction); and take plenty of water, especially on hot days,as I can’t recall having seen water fountains anywhere other than Châtillon-en-Diois,which must have about one fountain per two members of the population there. It’s a place that’s worth visiting in its own right anyway.
For the story-in-photographs, I’ve started at Glandage, as I’ve previously covered the Gorges in my Mad French Roads post.