Maps: Paris map, northeast suburban Map,
IGN regional map #9.
Nature of the Ride:
In the northeast corner of Paris, starting
across from the Geode in the Villette Park, on the south
side of the Canal de l’Ourcq , a popular bike path follows the Ourcq
for 25 kilometers, to Souilly in the countryside. You will ride through industrial zones, dense suburbs, and finally through woods. Although the route travels through some of Paris' Northeast suburbs, the author has always felt perfectly safe.
Only a few hundred meters of the path are
open to vehicles. It is unlikely that you will encounter any traffic once along the Ourcq. Most riders will commence their trip in Paris. From the Bastille, in Paris you will ride in bike lanes with medium traffic nearby.
Bikers on the bike path range from slow to speedy, from
young children to racers. “Rollers” use the path as well. Walkers
do frequent a few sections, but generally they walk on the nearby
barge towpaths that are reserved for them explicitly. Thus, after
10:00 am on weekends, in some sections, you might have to slow down
to avoid other users.
It is worth it to stop here and there: Graffiti "artists" have painted the large support walls of bridges and elsewhere (near Paris). Further along, you can watch the functioning of the locks, even though traffic on the Ourcq is rare these days.
Although the ride is very pleasant, and
normally rapid, for pure scenery the Marne River route (ride #2),
described below, cannot be beat. The Marne River route can be combined
with a return by this route for a very enjoyable loop. The loop
is described under ride #2.
The Ourcq route is the fastest and best bike
access to towns north and east of Paris, such as Meaux, Pierrefonds**, Chantilly***,
Senlis** or Compiègne***, and from these, you can continue towards England or Belgium.
The author is grateful to Peter Wedd for supplying four of the photos on the left.
To print itinerary, select
the text below, and choose print selection.
Please follow this
link for an explanation of the author's traffic ratings.
Place de la Bastille
From the Bastille, cycle northward, taking the bike lane along the east side of Boulevard
Richard Lenoir. In about 2 km (1.2 mi) , the Saint Martin Canal emerges from
its tunnel. Be very careful to watch for obstructions, or careless pedestrians stepping into the lane.
A canal tour on the Saint Martin Canal, near the
Where the St. Martin canal goes underground at an elevated Metro line, you will need to cross several streets to continue along the canal, now called the basin de la Vilette.. See the aerial photo below:
A mural along the Villette Basin:
If you need to purchase food or drink, consider doing so here or before reaching the Vilette Park. There are no services on or near the route until Villeparisis. The bike lanes, still on the east side of the
water, are from now on separate from the city streets. You jog to the left and right. You enter
the beautiful Villette Park**, opposite the Geode**.
The Geode, in front of the Science Museum, in the
Continue northeast along the canal, with the water to your left.
At the end of the Vilette park you cross under a bridge and leave Paris. The bicycle path turns right, then left twice, and again right to go around thecement plant that blocks the way.. Henceforth, with only two signed detours, the bike path follows
along the canal.
Looking ahead, Patin.
Immediately, in the town of Patin, there
are some deliberately bumpy areas. For the sake of your bike, you may wish to walk it
over the cobblestones. Most of the path,
however, is very smooth. You cross the canal from the south bank
to the north bank, and shortly you turn left, away from the canal, and follow along the side of a freight yard for 1 kilometer, before coming badck to waterside.
Graffiti artist at work.
Watch signs to avoid pedestrian-only paths. (Remember, a blue
sign with a bicycle means you "must" go that way, whereas
a red circle with a diagonal line means you are barred from going
that way.) In a couple of spots, where you briefly merge into
pedestrian paths, you are supposed to dismount (“pied à
terre). Be careful to go slowly on some short but steep
slopes, with bumps near the bottom.
Canal and bike path, Aulnay-sous-Bois.
Locks on the Ourcq.
Thirteen kilometers (8 mi) from the Géode, in
the town of Sevran, the bike path turns right and enters the forest.
In the forest take the first left and continue parallel to the Ourcq
canal until 100 meters before the road's end (sign) , a left turn allows you to regain the water’s edge.
The Sevran forest.
In Villeparisis, you cross a bridge to the north side of
the Ourcq canal. At this bridge, before crossing, to your right (south) on Sunday
mornings, a large and colorful market takes place. To continue, cross the bridge over the Ourcq, then take the bicycle trail on the other side.
Tow path straight ahead, bike path on left, after Villelparisis.
The bike path turns right and ends in Claye-Souilly, at highway D212. Bikes are prohibited from going on the haulage path that continues along the canal. Turning left takes you into the center of town you may purchase food.
Keep in mind that in France, most food stores close by 1:00 PM on
Sundays, and remain closed on Mondays.
Return or Prolongation:
Retrace your route; or take the train (RER Line B) back to Paris; the stations are found on the north side of the canal at Sevran, Villeparisis, and Mitry-Mory. Or, head to
any number of interesting towns within 70 or even 90 kilometers
To go North or to the train (RER) station from the end of the cycle route, turn right, and take D212 to the north. Just after crossing the canal, veer right onto a road-street that leads to Gressy. For the RER B, turn left on highway D139 towards Mitry-Mory, and just before the elevated rail bridge, turn right to reach the station.
To visit interesting towns to the North, turn right in Gressy and follow D139 to Messy (for Chantilly or Senlis) or Charny (for Compiégne or Pierrefonds or Meaux).Then follow a course that you
will have plotted ahead of time on IGN map #9, along any of the
minor roads in the area. In one long day, you can attain the quite
interesting, (Michelin) two and three star tourist towns of Chantilly,
Pierrefonds, Senlis, and even Compiègne. Hotel Reservations in these towns can be essential.
Spend a night or two or three in this region, and return to Paris
by train or bike. You might also consider linking up to Anvers-sur-Oise to return to Paris in the reverse sense of Itenerary #7on this Site.
The Ourcq Canal Back
When riding the Ourcq
bicycle path in the westerly direction, ride slowly down the
steeper inclines. Once you have crossed to the south bank, when on alongside the canal always
choose to ride to the left, up on the hill; the pedestrian path
(tow path) goes straight ahead by the canal. At the junctions on the hill, ride to the right back to the tow path.
At the point where the path appears to make a complete U-turn to
the left, you should turn moderately left into the forest. At the
end of the forest entrance path, you turn right, parallel to the
canal, and at the end of this you turn right again to regain the
You eventually cross to the right (north) side of the canal. The path veers right away from the canal, and follows beside a
rail yard for a kilomèter, before swinging left back to
waterside. Close to Paris, you cross back to the left (south) bank, pass under the highway and enter the
In Paris, after passing the Géode ball, in the Villette Park, stay
close to the water, keeping straight, along the canal. Follow the bike
path, beside the street (with one jog), until it ends, at complicated
multi-street intersection with an elevated metro line. See the following aerial photo:
Here you will be picking up the separated bike lane along the street on the west (right) side of the Canal Saint Martin; it is located more or less directly opposite (lower-left of photo). To do so you will have to walk or ride your bike across three or four intersections, as per the dots. (Several other bike routes branch out from this intersectin.)
The Canal St. Martin bike lane, first on the right, then on the left, leads to
the Bastille. Be very careful in this lane of obstructions and careless pedestrians. Near the Bastille, on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, an outdoor market takes place on Saturday, until 7:30 PM and on Sunday until 3 PM. The street is clogged, so you will either need to walk your bicycle, or make a detour through back streets.