Between Pont-en-Royans and the Vercors plateau at Échevis.
|Guided tours:||self guided|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1844 to 1851||Grands-Goulets Road (Route Départementale RD 518) constructed.|
|2003||fatal accidents on the road.|
|2005||road closed to vehicles and pedestrians.|
Grands Goulets (Great Bottlenecks) is a gorge in the western Vercors Massif. The narrow gorge is the upper part of the Gorges de la Vernaison (Vernaison Valley). It was made accessible by the construction of the Grands-Goulets Road (Route Départementale RD 518), which was constructed between 1844 and 1851. According to legends, it was actually impossible to build the road with the technology available at that time. There is a story that the road was cut into the steepest walls by workers which climbed down a rope ladder with dynamite. Then they threw dynamite into a crevice and swung out of the way just in time to avoid being blown up. The French call such roads through vertical gorges "balcony road". The road was an important connection from the top of the Vercors plateau to the western foreland.
But during the 20th century it became increasingly popular as a tourist route, and it was frequented by tourists and weekenders. The result was, unfortunately, frequent traffic jams, tourists walking on the road, stopping their cars to take pictures and so on. There were several fatal accidents and rockfalls, especially in 2003 and 2005, and so the road was closed in 2005 after such an event. Finally, a tunnel was built to replace the narrow road with a normal two-lane road. Unfortunately, after the opening of the tunnel in 2008, the old road remained closed completely. Making it a pedestrian and bike route for tourists, probably adding a few benches and even a café would have been a nice idea. But the rocks above the road were deemed unsafe, and due to the possible rockfalls the road was closed with fences and gates. It was factually fortified, and there are lots of abashed comments on the web about the massive fortification of the gates.
Rather weird is the fact that the new tunnel needed an emergency exit, and so the old balcony road was connected to the new tunnel with a side gallery. In order to be a valid emergency route, the road is still maintained and cleared of snow in winter, even though no one is allowed to use it. Except if there is an accident in the tunnel.
But actually it is such a famous road, it is probably the most famous balcony road in France, there are always rumours that it might re-open for cyclists and hikers. We listed it because of its importance, to warn potential visitors that it is definitely closed, and in the hope that it will be reopened.