SR du Désert

The Super Randonnée of remote hamlets, dead ends, Ends of the Earth and Middles of Nowhere !

It is located in a sparsely populated area that stretches between Drôme, Hautes-Alpes and Alpes de Haute-Provence; roughly bounded by Sisteron, Gap, Die and Nyons.

Three visited villages are among the top 10 least populated villages in France: Rochefourchat (1 inhabitant), Majastres (4 inhabitants) and Izon-la-Bruisse (9 inhabitants).

Out of a total of 610 km, the Super Randonnée du Désert includes 211 km of dirt roads, divided into 25 sections along the route (the sections are between 0.5 and 22.5 km long).

The SR uses 16 unpaved passes listed by Club des Cent Cols, and 4 mixed passes (one side is tarred, the other not), to which we can add 4 other passes, which are not listed (3 unpaved, and 1 mixed), plus the climb of Montagne de Chabre (mixed). See details in the table below. The unpaved roads are cyclable, without requiring special technical knowledge. Only two difficulties need to be overcome on foot (0.3 km at the Areste ravine, and 1.5 km after Ainac). Sometimes, the steepness of the slope can make you push the bike.

The dirt roads are mainly forest roads of medium altitude (the SR culminates modestly at Col d'Arron, at 1,445 m altitude). The nature of the ground varies (ocher, brown, black earth, more or less stony, depending on the location). The ground is mostly limestone, rather hard, although some dirt roads still get slippery and muddy when it rains. Find below two links to photos of the SRDE dirt roads.

All of these dirt roads have been carefully selected. The idea was not just to ride on a dirt road for fun, but to take you to secret and remarkable places. Villages and hamlets perched in the mountains, where the tar stops; ruins; farms; passes better known to hikers than to cycle tourists; and quite simply, the great calm of nature. Ride for miles without encountering a motor vehicle, yes, it is possible (unlike the famous dirt roads - Assietta, Parpaillon, Strada del Sale - the dirt roads of the SR du Désert are not among the highlights selected by motorized off-road vehicle drivers).

The SR du Désert lives up to its name since even the 400 km of asphalt, between the dirt roads, do not offer many refueling or sleeping opportunities (unless you deviate from the course). Autonomy and resourcefulness will be your allies in this adventure !

What time of year? The SR is passable from spring to fall. Depending on the snow conditions, the opening can take place very early in the year (the weather must be dry). March, April, May and June offer excellent time slots as long as you don't encounter much rain; in July and August, very hot weather is to be expected; September and October are excellent, although the days are getting shorter. 

Which bike to choose? The choice depends on the participant, his or her physical level, and motivations. There is no need to take a full suspension mountain bike, as there is no technical difficulty. An all-terrain randonneuse, a classic mountain bike or a gravel bike will be fine. We recommend tires at least 38mm wide, with small studs (rather than a smooth tire). A wider section (for example 42, 45, or 47 mm) seems preferable to us for more comfort. The bicycle must obviously support such tires with sufficient clearance. We also recommend small developments (MTB type). For comfort, a telescopic fork and straight handlebars may be beneficial; but once again, it all depends on your sporting profile and your desires. 

Road Information

The dirt roads are not taken into consideration by the road information sites of the departments. 

Alpes de Haute Provence (04)

Hautes-Alpes (05) 

Drôme (26)

List of rallies

Rando Quad du Verdon - to avoid absolutely! (Sunday, May 29, 2022)


Géoportail (topographic maps of France by IGN, Institut Géographique National)

Topographic maps of France by IGN can also be viewed on Openrunner (a service requiring a subscription of 13 euros per year)

Viamichelin (Michelin maps of France)

Recommended Hotels

Hôtel Restaurant Les Chênes, 300 Route de Gap, 04200 Sisteron

Hôtel Restaurant de la Place, 5 Pl. Capitaine Victor Arnoux, 04270 Mézel (located 6 km from the route)

Auberge Roman, 04097 La Javie

La Maison des Hôtes, 04250 La Motte-du-Caire

Hôtel Restaurant Le Mas d'Estello, La Plaine, 05130 Tallard

Gîte Auberge du Buëch, 05140 Aspremont

Gîte de Praboyer, 05150 Montmorin (halfway up Col des Praux)

Écologîte l'Auribelle, 26150 Montmaur-en-Diois 

Auberge de Trente Pas, Le Village, 26110 Saint-Ferréol-Trente-Pas

Hôtel Restaurant Sous l’Olivier, 170 Chemin du Menon, 26170 Buis-les-Baronnies

Auberge de la Méouge, 05014 Barret-sur-Méouge (new owner in 2023)

Water and Services

List being created

Non-exhaustive list, to be completed and corrected with your experience - for businesses, check opening days and hours. Accommodation and restaurants have been identified on an online map, but for the most part have not been tested (recommended hotels are listed above).

According to the season, water taps may be closed by the town to be safe from frost, or fountains may be dried up.

Many water points are indicated on Open Cycle Map (zoom in to see the drinking water and public toilets symbols) - access to water points and shops may require departing a little of the track.

SRDE détail des sections gravel

Main paved passes of the SR du Désert

Col du Haut Forest (845 m)

Col des Verniers (1042 m)

Col de Prémol (964 m)

Col de Tavard (557 m)

Col de la Chaudière (1047 m)

Col de la Sausse (791 m)

Col d'Ey (718 m)

Col de Mévouillon (889 m)

Col de Muse (1210 m)

Col d'Araud (893 m)