Gravel biking is an incredible experience, but sometimes the summer heat can make tough climbs impossible. That’s why autumn is our favourite time of year for gravel rides on quiet trails and stunning views with cooler temperatures.
Here are our selection of 5 best autumn gravel bike destinations in Europe.
Head for the Hebrides on the furthest reaches of the Scottish coast and experience a truly remarkable place where the landscapes are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Less than 200km from the cycling centre of the UK in Fort William is the Isle of Skye – a top spot for amazing gravel rides.
This is where Scotland is at its most epic. Mountains meet the sea, huge peaks tower above, and the gravel trails take you to some of the most impressive lookouts imaginable. The good times don’t end when you hop off your gravel bike though, the Isle of Skye is packed full of historic castles, world-famous distilleries, and popular seafood restaurants as well.
The Isle of Skye crams so much into a small area with a wide choice of gravel trails, smooth singletrack, and quiet country laneways. This gives you so many ways to ride here, so you can choose from one of the well-known routes, or you can create your own by linking up different sections of varying terrain.
The peaceful, and often empty, autumn roads take you to some spectacular places like The Isle of Skye’s most famous landmark is the 50m tall Old Man of Storr. This enormous, jagged rock juts out of the landscape in complete contrast to the soft hills surrounding it.
On the northern reaches of the island is The Quiraing, a striking range of hills, peaks, and cliffs that’s crisscrossed by trails and dotted with lakes. On rides in the south of the Island, the Fairy Pools are a must. These stunning pools at the bottom of a waterfall are a magical place to stop off for a dip on a balmy autumn cycle.
The autumnal weather in Scotland makes this one for the more adventurous cyclists as rain is always to be expected at some point. But there are lots of advantages to riding here at this time of year. The infamous midges will be long gone by now and temperatures can be as warm as 15° which is great if you plan to wild camping thanks to Scotland’s ‘Freedom to Roam’, making it one of the best autumn cycling destinations.
In such a remote and beautiful place, it doesn’t take long to find some fun gravel routes and adventure. The Fairy Pool Loop is just 5km long, but it packs in some enjoyable stretches of rough gravel, river crossings, and challenging singletrack. It’s the perfect intro to gravel biking on the Isle of Skye that can be done on its own or added into a longer spin.
The Quiraing Loop is almost 70km long and climbs a total of 870m as it runs along quiet country roads and gravel tracks until you wheel past The Old Man of Storr. The remarkable cycling continues as you reach the coast and enter The Quiraing, before cycling through the tiny fishing village of Uig.
Girona has long been one of the best autumn road cycling destinations, but in recent years the city and region have fallen in love with gravel biking. Girona lives and breathes bikes and is surrounded by classic road climbs, intense mountain bike trails and some of the most spectacular gravel routes imaginable.
With the Pyrenees to the north and the Costa Brava to the east, Girona is packed full of long gravel roads that reach mighty heights and endless descents towards the coast. It’s a gravel biking playground that becomes one of the best autumn gravel bike destinations. And when your ride ends for the day, you’ll feast on wonderful Spanish tapas and Catalan dishes.
The variety in surfaces here is what makes Girona a special destination for gravel biking. If you’re first dipping your toes into the world of gravel biking, you can find fun routes that switch between asphalt and gravel. For the more advanced riders, there are long routes where you’ll ride mainly on gravel and experts love the technical gravel trails and tricky singletrack sections.
Cycling is part of the culture here too, with a vibrant scene of bike shops, cyclist-friendly cafés, and hotels that are well-equipped to make your stay as great as possible.
What’s long been a favourite destination for local cyclists, Girona is becoming more and more popular with riders from around the world thanks to its welcoming atmosphere and climate. Expect autumn temperatures to stay in the high 20s, which is much more manageable than the summer heatwaves – especially when you consider how steep the climbs can get here.
This tough and challenging gravel biking route in Girona is one of the best in all of Spain. Experienced cyclists love the almost 200km long route that climbs 4,200m on its way to the top of seven peaks outside the city. Pedal your way from gorgeous lookouts to quiet Catalan villages and through untouched, remote mountains.
For a more laid-back spin, the route from Girona to Banyoles and back is full of long, hard-packed gravel roads that lead you through farmlands. There are two big climbs on this 65km route and plenty of punchy ups and downs covering 1,000m of climbing. Once you’re back in Girona it’s time for a well-earned cerveza.
France is well known for its road cycling holidays and famous climbs in The Alps, but in the west of the country, deep in the Loire Valley is Angers. This inviting city goes under the radar of most casual cyclists, but that’s part of what makes it such a good gravel biking destination.
With autumn temperatures averaging from 10 to 17° expect some misty mornings and warmer afternoons – perfect weather for a gravel cycle. When your rides end, Angers is a fantastic place to recover and unwind with classic French food, famous local wines, and fascinating history.
The terrain in Angers is more relaxed than others on our list, with the flat trails in the Loire Valley bringing gravel bikers on long, picturesque, riverside rides. But that doesn’t mean the riding here is boring, the landscape changes dramatically as you pedal from the riverside trails in the city and into the famous Saumur vineyards.
This 300km route is a mighty race that runs every summer but is much more manageable in Autumn thanks to the lower temperatures. Starting in the city, the route starts off quite flat for the first 100km, before getting into the hills in the Normandie-Maine Regional Natural Park, and finishing with some short, punchy climbs until you reach the beaches at Normandy.
Gravel50 is a beginner-friendly gravel biking route that runs exclusively on gravel roads for 50km. Cycle through forests as the leaves change colour in autumn and push yourself up some hills as you leave the Loire Valley, before looping back to the start point.
The idyllic Greek islands have been a favourite destination for people for many years now. White sandy beaches, clear blue water, and the freshest food imaginable bring in a steady stream of tourists but it’s quickly making a name for itself as an autumn cycling destination thanks to Zakynthos.
In the peak of summer, daily temperatures can regularly hit 35° with high levels of humidity making cycling very hard work. However, in autumn, these temperatures drop to around 25° with much lower levels of humidity – ideal for long cycles in fantastic surroundings.
Zakynthos is an island of two distinct halves. The south has low-lying hills that burst with colour as olive groves, vineyards, and orchards cover the land. The north is where the mountains rise and the gravel roads beckon cyclists to climb to outstanding viewpoints and rarely visited parts of the island. One thing remains constant throughout though – spectacular beaches are around every corner.
This 80km route starts and ends in Laganas in the south of the island and reaches as far north as Varvara. While the route is very popular with road cyclists, gravel riders have plenty of opportunities to turn away from the paved roads and onto something a little rougher for extended sections. Climbing just shy of 1,300m, you’ll see the best of the low-lying and mountainous parts of the island.
Sticking to the south of the island, the Planos Loop crosses from the east coast to the west and out to Keri on a quiet headland. The roads here can be in poor condition, so a gravel bike is definitely the right tool for the job. It’s 60km long and you’ll do the vast majority of the 970m of elevation in two big climbs.
Tuscany’s unpaved strade bianche (white roads) run throughout the region of Tuscany which makes it one of the best autumn gravel biking destinations for experienced riders looking to test themselves on expert terrain and surfaces.
Because of the difficult nature of the rides here, autumn is a brilliant time to visit as the temperatures drop from highs of 35° in summer to 25°. The days are still bright with roughly 10 hours of daylight, giving you plenty of time to ride long routes.
Tuscany lives and breathes cycling. The region of Italy hosted the first-ever recorded bike race and quickly became a popular training ground for professional riders. Mountain bikers soon followed to ride the steep XC and enduro trails making it one of the best mountain bike autumn destinations. Now it’s a hotspot for gravel riders who are looking to push themselves.
This is the essential strade bianche ride in Tuscany. Starting in the medieval, hillside town of Siena the 140km long Strade Bianche Gran Fondo is a mix of roads and sections of strade bianche. These sections are rough and are best ridden with wide tyres and don’t forget to pack some spare tubes. With over 1,800m of climbing, this route is a day long epic that may be one of the best you’ll ever ride.
This 65km route through North Tuscany is a shorter, but still very challenging ride, through stunning farmland and hilltop vineyards. Climbing 1,500m, you’ll ride from the town of Sambuca towards Greve in Chianti and back over towards Monte Petri for a lap of the mountain.
Autumn is an amazing time of year to hop on your gravel bike and plan some unbelievable adventures. The weather is warm but not too hot, the tourists have all gone home, and you can easily rent a gravel bike once you arrive.