Articles and Photos by David "Q." May                   All rights reserved ©2001-2021
Last cycled fully in thesummer 2001
Cycled as far as the Park of Sceaux June 2015

Completely updated with maps and roadside views in 2012

To HomePage

Francaisflag

Route 5 Coulée Verte towards the Loire châteaux

How to Bicycle Southwest from Paris

Cycle along the Coulée Verte Bike Path, heading towards the Southwest of France

 

Maps:  Paris map, south suburban map,
IGN regional map #20. 

Nature of the Ride:

This bike-route can be an amusing day drip for riders who have already tried Routes 1,2,4 and 6, but it serves also as the fastest escape from Paris for long-distance riders heading towards the Southwest — that is, towards the Loire Châteaux or the Dordogne or Bordeaux . It may also be combined into a several day loop with Route #4.

Starting from the Monparnasse railway station, you ride 15 kilometers on bike paths or shared bike/pedestrian paths, more than halfway to the southwestern edge of the constantly growing Paris agglomeration.

Cyclist enjoying the Coulée Verte.
Biker on the Coulée Verte

Much of the route is along the attractive and amusing “Coulée Verte” (greenway). The Coulée Verte lies alongside or atop the suburban tunnel for the Monparnasse TGV high-speed trains.  Rolling and curvy, with, initially,  many barriers to keep motorized vehicles out –  this section is slow going, but traffic-free and delightful.

Once the Coulée Verte ends, if you are continuing southwest, the route follows the Yvette valley on town streets and rural roads with  light and occasionally moderate traffic.  Though the terrain is rolling, this route has the great advantage of avoiding all but one of the long, steep slopes prevalent southwest of Paris.

To return to Paris, you can follow the Coulée Verte in reverse, or choose among three return routes that use bikeways, and a few streets with light or moderate traffic.  All these return routes have one long, steep climb and one long descent.  You can also return by train on the RER B, but not during rush hour (6:30 to 9:00 AM 4:30 – 7:00 PM), (or RER C if you ride as far as Dourdan, but not during the morning rush hour). The best exits (to avoid stair climbing) from RER B are Denfert Rochereau and the Gare du Nord; for RER C, any exit will do.

Destinations:

Dourdan* and Étampes*. For longer trips: Fontainebleau (loop), Chartres***, Orléans**, the Loire châteaux***, southern Brittany***and the Southwest of France***.

Map of the Coulée Verte:

http://www.af3v.org/-Fiche-VVV-.html?voie=27


Directions:

To print itinerary, select the text below, and choose print selection.

Please follow this link for an explanation of the author's traffic ratings.

Monparnasse Railway Station.
Monparnasse Railway Station

 Start in front of the Monparnasse Railway Station, facing the station.  Go left on the sidewalk of the Avenue du Maine, and turn right into the first through street, Rue du Commandant René Mouchotte (bus-bicycle lane), which in two blocks reaches the Place de Catalogne.

Place de Catalogne. Continue through archway in the middle of building.
Place de Catalogne
Sign for the Coulée Verte:
Sign for Coul

At the far side,through an "archway" in the building, take the wide pedestrian-bike path southeast on Rue Vercingétorix .  Follow the narrower bike-path south along the street and then along the train tracks for 2 km. (As the bike path crosses on a bridge over a road, you may wish to stop and observe the TGV trains passing.)

The bikepath near Monparnasse Railroad Station.
Bikepath near Monparnasse
View of TGV (Train à Grand Vitesse) from the bike path.
TGV seen from bikepath

After crossing over the Periphérique Highway, in the town of Malakoff, the bike path continues on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. When the tracks begin curving left, the bike path ends at a cross street. There is no sign here, but if you were to cotinue straight you'd find yourself in a residential neighborhood. Turn right into this street, pass under the first bridge, (the return route to paris joins here; note that you are between two rail bridges), and immediately turn left into the bike path along the west side of the tracks. Don't go under the second bridge.

After one kilometer, cross Avenue Pierre Brossolette at the crosswalk. The Coulée Verte continues ahead, angling and then curving to the right, and then passing by a tram stop and some modern buildings (where sometimes you must thread your way on foot between stands in a street market) and into a park between apartment buildings. Just before a traffic circle you bear right to cross Avenue Saint-Exupery, and then immediately left. In another two blocks, you bear left to Cross Rue Pierre Semard, and then immediately turn right. Soon you come to a railway bridge. Turn left, cross, and turn right.

After a while the bike path turns left onto a bridgebridge, and turn right afterwards. The tracks soon go underground and you are in the Coulée Verte proper. Despite the presumably level tracks underneath, the bikeway, often shared by pedestrians, is itself hilly and curvy.

From the bike path, a view of the walking path of the Coulée Verte.
View of Colée Verte

You will need a bit of skill to distinguish the bike path from the pedestrian path, particularly at the beginning of the Coulée Verte, though pedestrians use the bike path. Barriers against motor traffic are initially frequent, and impair your speed. Further south, they are fewer and the path is also straighter.

Bridge you will ride uphill through.
Bridge
View of Sceaux Chateaux from Colée Verte bike path.
View of Sceaux Chateau
Watch for this intersection with the Grande Voie des Vignes.
Grand Route des Vignes

Two side trips are possible at the little crossroad, without a road sign, named “La Grande Voie des Vignes.”    Before reaching this crossroad, you will (in order) have observed the Chateau of Sceaux in the distance on your left (if the weather is clear and you are watchful), have passed long buildings on the right, have observed that the park has widened and that the train tunnel has been briefly open to the air, and the walls rising by the opening will be covered with grafitti.. There's a big building with lots of buildingsyour right, amd then you come to the sign shown above, showing that the hiking itinerary turns left.  (If you come to the underpass (or the exit to the right, the Avenue de la Division Leclerc — Return Route A, you have gone too far.)

Side Trip 1: At this unsigned crossroad, if you turn left, to the east,  you ride 400 meters, downhill, to a traffic circle and the entrance gate to the beautiful Sceaux** park, worth a visit.  Toilets are on the right, just in from the gate.

View in the Sceaux Château park.
Sceaux Park
And on the left, a buvette serving snacks and drinks:
Sceaux Bouvette

Side Trip 2: If you turn right, you ride slightly uphill to the interesting church of St. Germain l’Auxerrois, and to its north, village services. From the church, or from the Coulée Verte exit at Avenue Leclerc (400 meters south of La Grande Voie des Vignes), you can make a circuit back to Paris in about 16 kilometers :  See Southwest Return Route A.

To continue southwest, follow the Coulée Verte southwest under the expressway.  The path makes a U-turn to the right to climb up a hill, before curving back to the south. Approximately 14 kilometers (8.4 mi) from  the Montparnasse railroad station and 3 km (1.8 mi) from Avenue Leclerc, the bike trail arrives at the  rotary (“rondpoint”) of the 19th Mars 1962 in the town of Massy.  It is the end of the Coulée Verte, except for the extension on the left (east) side of the circle that leads to the Massy-Verrières RER B line.  You may take your bike back into Paris on the RER B line if it is not rush hour (6:30 – 9:00 AM or 4:30 – 7:30 PM). In Paris your easiest exit points (fewer stairs) are Denfert Rochereau or the Gare du Nord.

Rondpoint de 1962. Continue straight (left) to ride south.
Roundpoint 1962
Rondpoint of 1962 (view to right). Go this way to reach Return Route B.
Roundpoint 1962

You may bike back to Paris here by the enjoyable, but in part very steep, Southwest Return Route B, in about 18 kilometers (11 mi). Another option is to return to Paris retracing your route along the Coulée Verte.

You should probably not ride further southwest, unless 1) you are starting a long distance trip; or 2) you want more exercise, and you don’t mind riding in light to moderate traffic through the streets of towns, and returning to Paris by bike, in part on dull bike lanes nearby major highways on Return Route C, or by RER or by train.  In evening rush hour, the author would not ride southwest from this point for any reason.

Continuation towards the Southwest:

To continue southwest, after the rotary of 19 Mars 1962, proceed along Avenue Des Martyrs de Soweto (elevated tracks on your left) to a traffic circle, then on Avenue Allende for two blocks (tracks still on your left), and then turn left on Rue Raymond Aron (marked on the map as D156) —tracks still on your left.  You will pass by the Massy-Palaiseau and Lozère train stations. There is a combination grocery store/sandwich to go on your right, next to a bar/restaurant with toilets (2 km after the end of the Coulée Verte).

The continuation south from the Rondpoint de 1962.
View along bike route southwest

Stay straight, following the sign for Palaiseau.You cross over/under some tracks and a highway. Where a street joins from your left (Boulevard Diderot), continue straight (slightly to the right). This becomesRue du Général Ferrié and then the one-way in your direction Rue de Paris that leads through the middle of the town of Palaiseau. After the town (about 4.4 km — 2.6 mi from the end of the Coulée Verte) youjoin the highway (D988) and ride through Villebon. As the road is narrow, and the sidewalk is smooth and continuous, I recommend you ride on the sidewalk.  Stay on this route (Avenue du Général Leclerc, then Avenue du Général De Gaulle) for 3.6 kilometers. 

Although it is possible to take a curvy bicycle path for a short distance through Orsay in the nearby woods, it is much faster to stay straight on the road, which Y's. You must take the right branch, which is one way with you (Avenue de Saint-Laurent). Continue about 2 km, passing under the superhighway.When you come to the major cross street of Avenue de Maréchal Foch (next main crossing after the superhighway, a T), you must chose whether to return to Paris by Southwest Return Route C in about 25 kilometers — if so, turn right, ride down the hill, and cross the Yvette stream.

Or, if continuing southwest, turn left on Avenue Foch. Turn right in two blocks (initially one-way, avoiding traffic) past the Orsay station (RER B station — the second to last stop on this line, and recommended for a return to Paris), and continue along the rails for about 1 km where you rejoin D988, the Route de Chartres.

Restful stopping place along the Yvette River in Orsay.
Park along Yvette River

Whichever direction you are going, you may wish to stop at a nearby park with a small lake. To go there, turn right at the Avenue Foch intersection; at the bottom of the hill, just before the Yvette stream bridge, turn left under the tracks. The park is on your right.  To continue from the park southwest, ride left (south) up the hill; the road passes under the tracks and rejoins the main route, along the tracks.  To return to Paris by Southwest Return Route C, retrace your steps to the bridge over the Yvette, and turn left – north — crossing the Yvette.)

Towards Orléans or Chartres

To leave the Paris metropolitan area, follow the Route de Chartres westward, and then towards the southwest. At the traffic circle, you must bear left, still on D988 (the Route de Chartres) which now (with the first moderate-level traffic of the route) goes up a steep, 3 km-long hill.  In the village of Gometz-le-Chatel continue straight through the traffic circle at D35, and then, in almost 1 km, turn left onto highway D40-D131 (sign Janvry).

Highway D988 after Bures: The end of the Paris Agglomeration.
Bike route southwest from Paris

If you are going towards Rambouillet or Chartres, don't turn at this intersection; turn right at the next intersection, the Rue de Gometz.   From here follow a route that you will have chosen using the IGN map mentioned at the beginning of this section or another map. The author has not ridden in this direction, but according to the topographic map he looked at, the route seems relatively flat and should be without much traffic.

To continue towards Orléans, after your left turn onto highway D40-D131, in 300 meters (0.2 mi) at the traffic circle, turn right on D131 towards Chatnte-Coq and Briis-sur-Orges. There is still a bit of traffic, but soon you will be on quiet roads. You cross the Autoroute and the Atlantic TGV train line (that was under the Coulee Verte!). (You could of course stay on D988 until just after Limours-en-Hurepois, and take D838 left until Dourdan, for a faster but more traffic-filled trip.)

At the end of D131 near Le Marais, make a right turn onto D27 and follow it for 5 km (3 mi) through le Val Germain until Saint-Cyr-sous-Dourdan..Turn left on D838, and climb moderately to Dourdan; or you may find it pleasant, as the author did, to turn left before D838 at the tiny road for les Loges, to cross the hill, and then follow D116 to the right into Dourdan*, 51 km from the start.of this route You may wish to spend the night and visit the museum.  RER C trains link Dourdan to Paris’ Austerlitz station in one hour.  Eighteen kilometers southeast of Dourdan is Étampes*, which has a main-line train station. If desired, you could ride eastward towards Fontainbleau (see Route 4). The author has ridden this route as far as Dourdan.

For Orleans (130 km from the start) one possible route from Dourdan follows D5, D17, D118, D19 and D102 to arrive at the village of Gidy, whence a road leads into central Orleans.  A bicycle path crosses the Loire River in Orleans, near the rail tracks, on the St. Jean bridge.)

Southwest Return Route A – 16 kilometers, total circuit 26 kilometers

From the church St.-Germain L’Auxerrois (which is a few blocks off the CouléeVerte — see above), follow Rue Lavoir south one block, then turn right on Rue Des Vallées. Shortly, pick up the bike path along Avenue de la Division Leclerc.  (The bike path on Avenue de la Division Leclerc can also be joined directly from the Coulée Verte, by bearing right before the underpass that is just south of the “Grand Voie Des Vignes” , and turning right at the street.) Just after the end of the steeply uphill bike path (2.7 km from the church, 2.9 km from the Coulée Verte) at the double traffic circle of the Carrefour du 11 Novembre, turn right (but don't bear right again) join the bicycle path along Avenue Langevin (sign: D2), and continue as indicated in the section Continuation for All Return Routes.

Southwest Return Route B – 18 kilometers, total circuit 32 kilometers

From the rotary (rond-point) of 19 Mars 1962, leave by the second right (sign: Igny) onto the bike path along the Bièvre stream, heading west.  The bike path crosses to the left side of the road at a traffic signal and runs beside two ponds.  Shortly thereafter, you come to a crosswalk (zebra crossing). Cross the road and enter the Rue de Paris (sign: "Ablainvillier").  Bear right (east) at the fork, riding uphill.  At the fork with the traffic signal, you must bear left, uphill. At the oblong roundabout you must continue slightly to the right on the road named Rue d'Estienne d'Orves. Pass by the one-way streets, Taking the first permissible left turn, and ride uphill to the end.  Turn left again, now heading back westward, on Rue de la Boulie.  At the next intersection, turn very sharply right on Rue d’Amblainvillers, now heading northeastwards (sign: "Gymnase)".

When you arrive at the first four-way intersection (small traffic circle), turn left.The Rue Des Gatines climbs steeply uphill, bears left, and continues very steeply uphill, into the forest.  Stay left at the Y onto a redish-collered road ,passing some huge new buildings on the left, then turn right in one block, at the top, and follow the Route de Verrières northwest through the forest to the Carrefour de l’Obelisque (now a rotary). Bear north on Route de Plessis Picquet (the third exit from the rotary), and take the first right on the Route Verte - Route de la Mare-a-Chalot (which loops over the highway and around to the left), and then turn right again onto the Route de Plessis Picquet (which was interrupted by the highway).  When you arrive at the double traffic circle at the Carrefour du 11 Novembre 1918 (8.4 km — 5 mi from the Coulée Verte), continue in the same direction (not bering to the right at the second circle).  Thus you will need to cross three streets to arrive at the bicycle path on the east side of Avenue Langevin (sign: D2).  Follow the directions in the Continuation for All Return Routes.

Southwest Return Route C – 25 kilometers, total circuit 49 kilometers

Ride downhill on Avenue Foch, crossing the bridge over the Yvette stream. Then ride steeply uphill in the town of La Guichet.  Branch right at the Y onto Rue Rascine (small traffic circle), and then turn immediately left or Rue Louise Weiss. Ignore the bike sign on the left; the bike lane starts up on the right shortly. At the traffic circle, continue straight across  into the Rue de Versailles (sign: Saclay).  The long, steep climb out of the Yvette valley continues; a bike path (bike lane at times) re-starts in 100 meters.  At the end of the bike lane, do not bear right into the little road that goes under the highway, as it dead ends.  Continue riding steeply uphill on the main road (light traffic).  At the traffic circle, on top of the hill, take the bike path exit (second possible exit, sign Saclay).

Farmland above the Yvette River, seen from bike route C.
Farmland
Bike path along the Bièvre Highway, Return Route C.
bike path along the Bievre highway

The bike path passes under two highway access roads, and then runs along the west side of the highway, which is named the Route de Bièvres – N118. It turns around a service area, and then branches left to a road near a traffic circle. Do not cross the road. Rather, turn right, and ride around the roundabout to the second exit, the street between the buildings. After 100 meters, a bike path begins on the left, and again follows N118, now running northeast. The highway turns east, and the bike path veers northeast to a traffic circle and ends.

Continue after the roundabout in the same northeasterlyly direction onto the Rue de Petit Bièvres, which curves left, and descend into the village.  At its end at a traffic circle, turn right, and  climb northeast out of the village of Bièvres on D533 until you reach the highway underpass on your right.  Pass under N118 here, turn left, and take the bicycle path that starts up north with the highway on your left.  Just before the carrefour (intersection) at le Petit Clamart, there is a 200 meter stretch where the bicycle path does not exist (nor is there a sidewalk), and one must ride in traffic on the right lane of the busy highway. Fortunately, the traffic is forced to slow down for an intersection.

Pass over, and then under the superhighway ahead. The bike lane runs along the north side of the highway you just went under, so at the intersection after the highway go to the right (east).  In one kilometer, you will arrive at the double (!) traffic circle of the Carrefour du 11 November 1918. Before the traffic circle cross the road in the pedestrian crossings northward, then after 50 meters cross the Avenue Langevin to the right in other pedestrian crossings.  Follow Avenue Langevin (sign: D2) north, on the bike path using the directions in the Continuation for All Return Routes.

Continuation for All Return Routes

Carrefour du 11 November 1918, visited by all return routes. This is a view from Return Route C. The return route is to the far left.
Carrefour Novembre

Follow Avenue Langevin (sign:D2) north on the bike path.After several rotaries (traffic circles) and intersections, at a clearly marked crosswalk, cross to the left side of the road and continue northward on the excelent cycle path.

Turn left here

When D2 is about to descend to go under an underpass (D906), bear left just before a little park (see photo above) and ride about 180 meters to D906. Cross at the light. Now follow to the right the wide bike path along D906 next to the tram for about 500 meters to a stop light where the first street you encounter bears off to the left just after a parking lot. Follow this street, D130, Ave. Jean Babtiste Clément.

After about 150 meters at a small traffic circle D130 turns to the right (signs: "Centre Ville, Hotel de Ville, Commissariat", etc. There is no bike lane, but the street is wide, and provides a nice, curvy, downhill ride. Do not ride at high speeds, as the second curve is tight. After two stoplights, you arrive at a traffic circle. Take the first exit onto Rue Pierre Corby (sign: D68-A, "Gymnase du Fort", etc. This wide, quiet street, after three or four blocks, angles into Rue de Châtillon (traffic lights) and very soon, at the corner, you turn left into Rue des Roissys (sign: "Chatillon, Ville Fleuri"). This street normally has very little traffic and an excellent panorama over Paris. You descend steeply.

At the second traffic light you reach D72, the Boulevard de Colonel Fabien. Cross, and take the little lane just to your right for one block by the park (more or less in the direction you have been riding), then jog left and continue uphill on the Rue Jean Guesede (bike lane). This angles into another street just before a large roundabout (bike lane). Take the third exit onto Rue Avaulée, almost opposite where you enter the roundabout. Rue Avaulée runs to the right of a white building (sign: "Malakoff-Centre").

At the end of this quiet street, turn left, and ride on Rue Paul Vaillant Couturier to the railroad tracks.  Turn right on Avenue Arblade, and ride two blocks.  At this point you are between two railroad bridges; you were here before!  Pass under the bridge on the right, and turn left.  You are on the bike path leading along the tracks to the Monparnasse railway station!  Follow this back to your starting point.

Thanks to Matthew Belmonte for sending in info regarding this itinerary.  A route description - including photos - of Belmonte's trip from Paris to Nantes in the western Loire Valley, beginning with this itinerary, can be found at : http://www.mattababy.org/~belmonte/Home/Bicycle/Loire/.)

Particular thanks are owed to Pierre Baldensperger, who convinced me to change the Continuation for All Return Routes to a safer and more enjoyable route, and described it in great detail. Much of his description is quoted or paraphrased above.

To HomePage