Articles and Photos by David "Q." May                   All rights reserved ©2001-2013
Last cycled summer 2001
Completely updated using aerial photos, roadside views, and other information in January, 2013

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Route 6: Towards Rambouillet, Dreux, Evreux, Giverny, Rouens or Le Havre

Bicycle from Paris to Versailles and beyond on low-traffic roads and bike paths

Via the Bois de Bologne bike path, the Parc de Saint-Cloud, and the Forest de Fausses-Reposes.

Maps:  Paris map, map of west Parisian suburbs,
IGN regional map #8 if continuing Northwest from Versailles, or #20 if continuing Southwest. 

Nature of the Ride:

This shady route takes you from the center of Paris to Versailles in 24 kilometers. Most of the ride is in parks and woods, using park roads with little traffic; but it also passes through towns on quiet streets. There is one short, steep hill (where you can walk your bike if desired) and one other, more moderate, climb.

Pedestrian bridge over the Seine west of the Bois de Bologne:
Passerellel over Seine to west

In Versailles, you can ride in the park of the Château (but not in the palace gardens). If you wish to tour the château or the Gardens, bring a sturdy bike lock.

The return to Paris is by retracing the route, or by train: (1) From station Versailles Rive Gauche to RER C stations, or (2) with a change at Viroflay, to the Monparnasse RR station; or (3) from station Versailles Rive Droite to the Saint-Lazare RR station, or (4) with a 13 kilometer additional ride, mainly in the forest, from the train station of Marly-le-Roi.

Destinations:

Continuations without much traffic — partly on bike paths or or traffic-free forest and country roads — are possible northwest towards the Seine Valley and Normandy; west along low to medium traffic roads; and southwest towards the outer Chevreuse Valley, Rambouillet, Brittany and the Loire along roads with moderate traffic, but often in bike lanes or on bike paths.

Directions:

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

Follow bike lanes westward from central Paris to the Bois de Boulogne.

The Rue de Rivoli is virtually empty early on a Sunday morning:
Rue de Rivoli Paris Sunday Morning

Then follow one of the smaller roads or bike paths to the southwest corner of the park: 

Specifically, if you enter the Bois from Avenue Foch (a) follow the Route de Seresnes southwest; cycle clockwise around the (lake) Lac Inférieur, and then at the south of the lake (and north of the other lake) take the cycle lane of the Route of l'Hippodrome to the West. Or (b), for a longer, looping ride,  cross north to the Port des Sablons, and follow the bike path west, then south. When this temporarily ends, turn right and walk your bike two blocks  past the traffic circle, then take the continuation bicycle path leaving to the left.

View from bike path of the Entrance to the Bagatelle Garden in the Bois de Bologne:.
Bagatelle Garden entrance
Bike Path in the Bois de Bologne:
Bike path in the Bois de Bologne

If you enter the Bois from the bike lanes of Avenue George Mandel - Avenue Henri Martin and the Porte de la Muette, you must angle to the northwest because of the one way road.  After 100 meters, either at the bike path or at the route just afterwards, turn left and at the next road turn right and continue by the lake.  At the south end of the lake (and north of the other lake), turn right and continue westward in the cycle lane of the Route de l'Hippodrome.

Cyclist in the bike lane around the Hippodrome de Longchamps:
Bikers around the Hippodrome, Bois de Bologne

In any case, at the Hippodrome de Longchamps (horse racing track) in the southwest corner of the Bois — attention, there are two racetracks in the Bois — do not take or continue south on the shaded bike path, but rather, ride south on the main road, on the ride side of  the right lane: – This lane, closed to motor traffic, is a one way, clockwise, circular bike route around the Hippodrome de Longchamp.  Stay right to protect yourself: On weekends packs of high speed cyclists come whizzing by.

Follow the bike lane as it curves west; exit left at a Y when the bike lane begins to turn north.  Exit the Bois, keeping left.

The entrance to the pedestrian bridge over the Seine:
Entrance to Pedestrian Bridge over the Seine

At the road along the Seine River, dismount, and at the light, cross and walk your bike up the ramp onto the footbridge over the Seine.  (The sign indicates that bicycles are only permitted if they are walked; but many French ride on the footbridge anyway.) 

View of Seine from the Passerelle (Pedestrian Bridge):

View of Seine from Passerelle

Stay on the bridge as it climbs to its end, crossing over railroad tracks.  Turn left (heading due south), and after one block bear right. Turn right on the next road, and walk or ride your bike up a very steep block-long hill.  Turn left at at the top (route Calvaire) – the railroad tracks will be on your right – and follow this minor road essentially straight south as it changes names (Latouche, Sully, Ecolles, Lilas, 1.2 km (0.7 mi).  When the road splits, keep right. The road becomes one-way with you, and finally a foot path that leads into the Park of Saint-Cloud.

Bicycle route at the beginningof the Parc de Saint-Cloud.
Bicycle Route in Parc de Saint-Cloud

In the Park, immediately branch to the right, climbing, and then immediately branch left on a flat dirt way that joins a gravelled path between flower beds.  The path becomes a dirt trail which turns right.  Push or ride your bike on the path, climbing an occasional few steps and crossing right through a gate.  Continue in the westward direction to the paved road, then turn left for 50 meters.  At the traffic half-octagon, exit to the right, westward on the paved road.  Cross straight through the next traffic circle and continue west, then southwest.

Map of bicycle route through the Parc de Saint-Cloud, Marne-la-Coquette, and the Forêt de Fausse Repose.
Bicycle route

After 2.2 kilometers you cross through a massive gate, into the quaint village of Marne-la-Coquette.  At the stop sign, near the city hall (Mairie), bear right merging on a street. In one block, this turns south (left). Its name changes to the Avenue de Versailles, and then the Route de l’Impératrice.  The Route enters the Forêt (forest) de Fausses-Reposes, turning west then southwest (light traffic).  While in the forest, stay on the road; the rough bike path is considerably slower and suitable only for mountain bikes.

At the end of the forest of Fausses-Reposes, you reach the town of Versailles.  Cross the main avenue (which runs north-south — the Boulevard de Jardy, D182 ) at the light by the traffic circle.  You now have three choices for continuations:  (A): Visit the Château de Versailles Gardens or the Château or return to Paris, or take the scenic route northwest towards the Seine valley; (B): Ride directly to the Versailles Hamlet (of Marie-Antoinette) and from the visit the palace garden or take the rapid route northwest towards the Seine valley; or (C): Continue southwest towards the Chevreuse Valley, Rambouillet and Chartres.

Continuation A: Visit the Château of Versailles Park or the Château, or return to Paris, or take the scenic route west, or northwest towards the Seine Valley: 

To reach the Château de Versailles, from the traffic circle after the forest, take the street direclly ahead , going west, and then curving to the left sharply downhill (Avenue de Villeneuve-l’Étang).  After the curves and a straight part, this road turns 45 degrees to the right and comes to a T., about 1.5 km (0.9 mi) from the forest; turn left on Rue Maréchal Foch.  One route you may choose to take (that has impressive buildings but heavy traffic) is to go south about six blocks (just past the Rive Droite train station). For the Parc, turn right on the Boulevard de la Reine and continue west until the gate into the Parc of the Chateau. For the main entrance to the Château, continue straight on Rue Maréchal Foch for two more blocks and turn left on the Avenue de Paris. In two blocks, before the Château, there is a parking area for cars on the right, and at the back of that area there are some bike stands near a guard post. Be sure to use one or two heavy locks and remove all valuable items.

If you are going to the Parc, to avoid the traffic, I recommend rather, that you weave through less busy streets by turning right after two blocks, off of the Rue du Maréchal Foch onto one-way Rue Des Missionaires, left after 4 blocks (onto Rue Mademoiselle), and then at the T, right onto Boulevard de la Reine. Continue west to the Versailles park entrance.

You enter the park of the Château of Versailles (open 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM from May through September and from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM from October through March). Continue straight ahead (angling slightly right) for almost a kilometer to an intersection, 24 kilometers from Notre Dame. From here you have a choice of several destinations: (1) Turn left here to reach the Grand Canal. There is an entrance by the Grand Canal to the Chateau Gardens and from there the Chateau, as well as a circuit around the Grand Canal. There are also restaurants and food stands at the Grand Canal (near the east end only). (2) Continue straight for another 400 meters to reach the Grand Trianion. (3) Angle right to reach the Petit Trianon. (4) Turn right ride about 900 meters, turn left and ride about 300 meters to visit the Le Hameau (the hamlet) of Marie Antoinette.

To visit the Trianons, the Hamlet, the gardens, or the Château, I recommend that you lock you bike somewhere in the park, perhaps in front of the Grand Trianon, and proceed on foot. Be sure to use one or two sturdy locks and to remove all valuable items. The opening hours of the various attractions vary considerably, so consider informing yourself before you leave Paris. Bikes are not permitted into the gardens near the Palace .

A building in Marie Antoinette's Hamlet in the Versaille Château Park near the Porte Antoine
.

Marie Antoinettes Hamlet

You can also enter the Versailles Park from the North entrance, near Marie Antoinette's Hamlet, by following the directions in Continuation (B) below.

Return from Versailles to Paris:

You can return to Paris by retracing your steps. In this case, after having exited the park of Saint-Cloud, in order to avoid the one way streets against you, when necessary descend to the right, then continue northward, until reaching the foot bridge.

Or, take the train from the Versailles Rive Droite railway station off Rue Maréchal Foch (to the Saint-Lazare station), or a C line RER train from Versailles Rive Gauche station, which is 8 blocks further south to any of several Paris stations – but not during evening rush hour. At the Viroflay RER stop, you can transfer to trains for the Monparnasse RR station. Or, finally, you can continue your ride for 13 km to the Marly-le-Roi railroad station (see the text in red below).

Continue to the West or Northwest via the Scenic Route(probably preferable):

This route west or northwest is longer than the route in Continuation B below by about 2.5 kilometers, but it visits the Grand Canal of the Château of Versailles park, and avoids sometimes confusing bike paths and lanes beside busy highways. The routes join in Bailly. I personally have not ridden part of this route, but have traced it on recent aerial maps and roadside views; it is also shown, more or less accurately as the green line on this map put out by the SNCF. (By continuing as shown on that map one can enjoy the forest of Marly-le-Roi and return to Paris by train to Gare Saint-Lazare. The loop adds 13 km to the route from Paris describedabove; hence your ride will be about 29 km. See the text in red below for directions to ride that extension, which can also be joined from Continuation B below.)

There is, however, a possible snag. Sometimes the gate out of the Parc is not open. Perhaps it is due to forgetfulness or understaffing. If the gate is locked, you will have to ride back to the Grand Trianon and exit to the north, joining Continuation B. This will add about 5-6 kilometers to your trip. Personally, given the beauty of the ride, I wouldn't hesitate to try this alternative, hoping the gate is open as it is supposed to be.

At the intersection in the park of the Château of Versailles referenced above, stay straight, and proceed about 400 meters to the parking area for the Grand Trianon. From here, follow the road which angles to the left. This comes to the northern leg of the Grand Canal. Ride counter-clockwise around the canal, heading west for a short distance, then south, then west again, along the north side of the Grand Canal . At the far end, to the west, in line with the canal, is a gate leading to Rue du Docteur Vaillant. Aerial views and roadside views are inconsistent. Most likely the aerial view shown below is more recent.

The end of the Grand Canal furthest from the Chateau (Google Map):
End of Versailles Grand Canal

So, exit from the Grand Canal loop when the road starts curving to the left, and ride northwest, passing around the north side of the small loop, and continuing in the same direction on Etoile Royale, which comes to the gate. (Previously, apparently, one exited on the lower part of the loop and took the SE to NW slanted road.) After passing through the gate, turn right on Rue du Docteur Vaillant (D7). This becomes Route de Saint-Cyr, which has wide paved shoulders and not much traffic.

Follow D7 northward, passing under autoroute A12, and then curving left and right to pass over Route D307. Turn left at the light onto the attractive Rue de Maule (light to moderate traffic). Continue towards Noisy-le-Roi, following the directions about six paragraphs below in Continuation West or Northwest for either route choice from Versailles.

Directions to entend your ride to Marly-le-Roi by the route described in the SNCF(Transillien) brochure: Don't turn left onto the Rue de Maule, but rather continue straight on D7. The road changes name to the Route de Marly and then back to the Route de Saint-Cyr, heading due north. You ride mainly through the forest. The road curves to the northeast, then again to the east-northeast, enters Marly-le-Roi, and then curves sharply right to the southeast. At the church on the right at this last curve, you could turn left and continue in the same direction for a block to the Grande Rue before the street becomes one-way against you; then turning right, ride through town until you come back to D7 at a T, where you should turn left. Or stay on D7, which curves more to the right and then back to the left. In either case, you now come to a large "pond" on your right called L'Abreuveoir. Opposite the middle of the pond turn left on Avenue Jean Béranger, and at the traffic circle turn right (still Ave. Jean Béranger (bike lanes). Pass a football (soccer) field on the right. The road curves left and comes to a traffic circle. Continue straight ahead one block to the train station.

Continuation B: Ride directly to the Versailles Hamlet of Marie Antoinette and Northwest from Versailles on the fast route:

From the traffic circle at the boulevard at the end of the forest (Forêt de Fausses Reposes), take the street on the left, which goes straight, very steeply, down the hill (Boulevard de la Porte Verte – one block north of the street mentioned under the Versailles option).  Continue straight through two traffic circles (cycle lane) on the Avenue du Maréchal Franchet d'Esperey, which curves to the left, and arrives at another, large traffic circle with many streets leading off.  Continue straight (slightly left) through this into Rue du Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny (bike lane), which then curves left (south).  In four blocks, at the light (sign "Le Chesnay, Église St-Antoine"), turn right on Avenue Debasseux (into the town of Le Chesnay), and in four blocks at the light turn left onto Avenue de General Leclerc. 

Roundabout with war monument in Versailles:
War Monument

At the circle with the war monument you are going to exit to the right 90 degrees, but only after you have walked your bicycle across the main part of the street, into the “counter-allée” of the Boulevard Saint Antoine.  This is the parking alley that runs along the south (your left as you ride west) side of the main road; the traffic on this alley goes in the direction opposite to that of the main road lane adjacent, unlike almost all other alleys.  Always continue straight ahead until you reach the parking area for the Porte (gate) Saint-Antoine.

Children riding their ponies into the Parc du Château de Versailles through the Saint-Antoine Porte:
Children ride their ponies into the Park of Versailles    

You can enter on the left the Versailles Château parc at the port Saint Antoine, near Marie Antoinette's hamlet. For a visit to the hamlet,turn right and procede about 300 meters. Lock your bike. The park is open 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM from May through September and from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM from October through March.

Continuing to the Northwest via the rapid route:

To continue to the Northwest, on bike paths near traffic, follow the bike path (sign for bicycles: "Boucle de Versailles, Bailly") which leaves the parking area of the Saint Antoine gate, northward along the left of the highway (Route de Saint-Germain, N186).

Bike path beside N186, heading north from Port Saint-Antoine:
Bikepath

  After 1.1 kilometers, the bike path crosses a street at a light, goes under the highway by a tunnel, the runs beside the highway on the east side. You have to walk your bike several times to go through some other tunnels, then you return to the west side of the highway (always following the signs for "Bailly").  You descend a ramp to the left and join the bike path to the west along the north side of highway D307.  In about 2 kilometers, exit for Bailly and Noisy-le-Roi.  You are continuing slightly to the right while the highway curves to the left. When the bike path ends continue straight ahead on the attractive Rue de Maule (light – moderate traffic).  If at the traffic light where the bicycle path ends you turn right on the Route de Marly, you joint the Marly-le-Roi itinerary described above.

Continuation West or Northwest for either route choice from Versailles:

After either choice, continue west on the Rue de Maule into Noisy-le-Roi (1.6 km). 

To go West (suggested itinerary from aerial and roadside views): Continue through Noisy-le-Roi to a stoplight and turn left onto D161, sign "Villepreux". In Villepreux this becomes D97 to Chesenay. At the traffic circle turn left (south) on D98. At the next traffic circle turn right on a new highway which becomes or is D109 (bike lane). When this turns north, at the next roundabout turn left (west) on D119. Plot the best way to your destination from this point.

To go Northwest: After coming up a hill in Noisy-le-Roi, turn right onto the rue Henri Regnault (sign:  Porte Des Gondi). Going straight ahead at this turn would lead into the center of town with a bucher shop, a bakery, and a deli (traiteur) . If you visit the shops, ride back and turn left toward the Porte Des Gondi.

In Noisy-le-Roi, approaching the Forest of Marly:
Noisy-le-Roi Route

Ride up the hill. The road bears and turns to the left. After two blocks, angle right into the Rue de la Forêt, which you follow west, north and west to the traffic circle "Rond-Point Des Chênes". Turn right (onto D161) , and enter the forest of Marly.

A cyclist seen on the Route Forestière Royale in the Marly forest:
Bike Route in Marly Froest

After passing under the super highway, turn left at the first paved road (barrier for automobiles), which shortly joins into the Route Forestière Royale, which you follow through the forest to the intersection with Highway D98 ( 2.5 km - 1.5 mi).  Turn left on D98, cross the Autoroute, then turn right on the next paved road, the Route des Joncs.  After 1.9 km (1.2 mi), the paved road turns to the left heading west and is now named the Route Neuve du Roi. Continue west for another 2.1 km (1.3 mi) where the Route Neuve du Roi bears left.  At the next intersection, in 400 meters, turn right, now out of the forest and in the commune of Sainte Gemme, and turn right again at the next street (heading north).  Cross D30 at the traffic circle, exiting in the same direction onto the Route Royale (an acient military road).  Follow this for 5.6 km (3.4 mi) among fields to the village of Alluets-les-Roi.

Road before Allets-les-Roi:
Before Alunets

Turn left here onto highway D45 (towards Maule), and follow it through the village.  Note that the countryside ahead of you becomes hilly, with plateaus cut by river valleys!  Soon the highway turns gently right and enters a woods while descending.  When the highway arrives at a complex intersection (where D45 turns sharply left — about 50 or 51 km from Notre Dame), you can either stay on the south bank of the Seine, towards Mantes or Evreux, or rather to cross the Seine to its north bank towards Giverny.

South Bank (Rive Gauche) of the Seine:

Follow D45 downhill into Maule. Continue in any of several directions, for example to Jumeauville, Goussonville, Arnouville, then perhaps Mante-Ville (railroad station) ou Septeuil, etc.; or to Thoiry, Garancières, etc.

The countryside becomes hilly after Maule:
After Maule

North Bank (Rive Droite) of the Seine:

(The author followed this route from Paris one Saturday in June, 2001, as far as Giverny and Vernon without experiencing much traffic.)  From D45 at the complex intersection, turn slightly right and cross through Bazemont, then take D191 in descent to highway D113 in Aubergenville near the Seine.  Turn left, and ride in the breakdown lane as far as Épône.  Turn right and cross the Seine.  Immediately turn left on D146, and follow this until within Limay.  Pick up D147 towards Vetheuil (passing through Dennemont to avoid one steep hill).

Cyclist in Haute-Ile on the North Bank of the Seine:
Haute-Ile

Then pass through the very interesting towns of Vetheuil, Haute-Ile, and la Roche-Guyon, continuing to Gasny.  From here, either visit the Garden of the painter Claude Monet at Giverny (90 km from Notre Dame) and the ride another 5 kilometers to the Vernon railway station to return to Paris; or riding via the Andelys, a very interesting town, continue to Rouen or Le Havre.

Cyclists at monument in La Roche-Guyon:
Cyclists at La Roche-Guyon

Chateau view, La Roche-Guyon

Chateau view La Roche-Guyon

Claude Monet house and gardens, Giverny:
Monet House Giverny

Continuation C: Ride Southwest from Versailles towards the Chevreuse Valley, Rambouillet and Chartres:

From the traffic circle end of the Fôret Des Fausses Repose, continue at first following the directions above for the Versailles Château: that is, take the street to the left before you, the Avenue of Villeneuve-l'Étang which goes west, curving to the left, and then right, sharply downhill , and when this road ends after 1.5 km (0.9 mi) at a little triangle turn left on Rue Maréchal Foch.

Stay on Rue du Marechal Foch (substantial traffic, sidewalks available), and continue south (eventually in a bike lane) past both Versailles railway stations.  One block before the end of the road, turn right onto Rue Henri de Régnier; at the T turn left onto highway D91 (moderate traffic) (bicycle itinerary sign GUYANCOURT).  A wide sidewalk is available. In two blocks this curves to the right. Ride on the sidewalk-bike path. In 150 meters turn left (blue bicycle sign immediately after turn). Do not stay straight on D91 as the lanes are very narrow here as the road climbs, and you will block traffic.

This soon curves south, passes under Autoroute A12, and come to a T at the entrance to a military base (sign QUATIER MONCEY). Turn left (east) on Avenue du Général Ebié. In one block, turn right (south) on Rue des Docks. Ride about 500 meters to a major intersection with a four-lane divided highway road, and turn sharply right (Boulevard du Maréchal Soult —sign for the Autoroute and QUATIER MONCEY). Follow this for about 1 kilometer to a traffic circle — back at D91. Turn left, that is, take the third exit, south, (bicycle lane). The road descends, curving to the right and the left.

At the bottom of the hill (sign Étangs de La Minière), consider exiting to the right. The exit turns to the right (west), and if you continue straight you immediately come to the first of two small lakes. It is worth it, in my opinion, take a break by walking your bike around, or partly around the lakes, which are full of water fowl and quite pretty. I used to take the RER out from Paris specifically to walk among nature here, as it was the closest "wild" place to Paris, continuing on foot eastward in woodlands and along the Bièvre stream.

The Etang de La Ninière in Autumn (Internet photo from Vituatu):
Etang Miniere

  Continue south on hilly, busy D91, almost always in cycle lanes or on cycle paths. After Guyancourt, at the major intersection (traffic circle) with D36, you have a choice. If you turn right on D36, the Route de Trappes, and ride for one kilometer, and then turn south on the continuation of D91, you can always be on cycle paths. If, on the other hand, you stay straight on Rue Boucher and then take Rue de Port Royale, you will ride on narrow town streets of Voisins-les-Bretonnieux (light traffic), saving about a kilometer in distance, enjoying the abience of the town, and perhaps stopping for a beverage. To exit the town, follow the signs for Dampierre. Towards the end of town you pick up a bike path, and at a traffic circle you rejoin D91 heading southwest. At last you are in the countryside, 11 kilometers from the center of Versailles. The bikepath ends. As far as I can determine, there is no good alternative to biking, as I did, along relatively narrow D91. Other nearby highways are more urban. The nearby forests have few roads that are paved, and the possible forest routes you might take with a mountain bike would be substantially out of the way.

From where the bikepath ends, it is 9 km to Dampierre-en-Yvelines, and a total of 21 kilometers to Rambouillet. After Rambouillet you are in farmland, and you have a good choice of low-traffic minor roads. Your next port of call could be Dreux or Chartres, and after those, Brittany or the Châteaux of the Loire.

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