Gravel biking is all about adventure as you cycle off into the unknown far away from anyone else. But as the sport gets more and more popular, it can be difficult to fully escape from other cyclists, particularly in the warmer months. That’s why we love going gravel biking in winter – there’s hardly anyone else around, meaning you’ve got the trails all to yourself.
When the colder months come it’s time to grab the bike with the wide tyres, put on an extra layer of clothing, and ride the best winter gravel bike destinations in Europe. These are our favourites.
The Black Forest is an iconic part of the German landscape. It’s where the Brothers Grimm set many of their famous fairy tales and when you get here you’ll see why. Dense forest covers the landscape with picturesque villages dotted throughout stunning valleys – it doesn’t get more German than The Black Forest.
Gravel biking in The Black Forest is all about the landscapes. Amongst the hundreds of kilometres of trails, you’ll find Triberg Falls, Germany’s tallest waterfall, The Feldberg Mountains which tower almost 1,500m high, and Schluchsee, the largest lake in the Black Forest. Best of all, you can see them all on your gravel bike.
Plan a cycle through the traditional towns and villages in the region and you’ll get a true taste of life here. See the half-timbered houses in Schiltach, visit the home of the Brothers Grimm in Calw, and after a long day in the saddle, we love going to Baden-Baden to relax in the thermal baths.
Once you’re finished your biking for the day, there’s no better way to reward yourself than with a slice of the famous Black Forest Gateau. Just one bite and you’ll see why so many people love this part of the world.
The Black Forest has an enormous amount of trails to ride, so why not plan to see as many of them as possible on an epic six day ride through the entire region? Starting in Karlsruhe in the north, the route runs through the heart of the forest all the way towards the Swiss border 375km away.
Broken up into manageable days ranging from 50 to 70km long and climbing over 1,000m on most days, this tour through the Black Forest will see you in the saddle for about six hours a day, giving you plenty of time to relax in the evenings.
Winter is an amazing time to have the trails to yourself and you can quickly immerse yourself in the outdoors on a looped gravel ride from the city of Freiburg im Breisgau. From the city, you’ll make your way towards Kirchzarten before starting your climbs in the mountains.
As well as seeing some incredible views, you’ll also see historic buildings showing the rural way of life here. Depending on your fitness level, you can ride this 95km route in one epic day or over two easier days. It’s a brilliant way to see lesser-visited parts of The Black Forest.
Spain features on our list of the best gravel bike destinations in autumn in Europe, but when winter comes, you can’t beat the south coast. The Sierra Nevada Mountains rise above the cities of Granada and Almería. Home to incredible wildlife and remote mountain towns, the lower foothills of these mountains attract in-the-know cyclists during winter when skiers make their way to the snowy peaks.
The terrain and mild weather are what make this part of Spain incredible to ride your gravel bike in winter. With average highs of 13°C in January in the lower parts of the mountain range, this is the perfect weather for exploring the area on long gravel rides.
Whatever terrain you dream of for your gravel bike rides, you’ll find it here in The Sierra Nevada. Even though the peaks will be covered in snow during winter, there are plenty of steep and challenging climbs in the foothills. Combine these climbs with rolling hills and long flat stretches and you’ve got an incredible winter biking getaway.
Once you’ve finished for the day, you’ll be able to enjoy the unique blend of Spanish, Arabic and Berber culture in the region. From whitewashed rural villages to tasty couscous dishes and unique festivals, the Sierra Nevada is a captivating place to visit.
If you’re planning a trip to the Sierra Nevada, it’s likely you’ll base yourself in Granada where you’ll find plenty of great gravel routes that start from the edge of the city. One of our favourites is the Canales Reservoir Loop.
This 40km route gets you into the thick of the action right away as you ride alongside the Rio Genil on gravel paths. The majority of the 900m of climbing takes place on one climb that rises for almost 10km. From the peak here you’ll have unbelievable views of the city below you and snow-capped mountains above.
For a multi-day ride in the Sierra Nevada, make your way to the village of Huéneja on the northern slopes of the mountains. From here you can set off on a 115km long route that takes in a mighty climb up Puerto de la Ragua, but once you’ve summited this peak you’ll be descending for the rest of your ride.
There are so many ways to alter your routes out here as gravel roads seemingly appear around every bend, allowing you to swap out road sections for gravel paths whenever you want to. Keep an eye on the weather though as sometimes snow can fall on the foothills of these mountains.
The Italian island of Sicily packs so much into one small island that you’ll feel like you need to spend a few weeks here to experience it all. The idyllic seaside resorts draw in most of the crowds but there are some stunning mountain towns and cities like Palermo and Catania that are well worth visiting.
Thanks to its location in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily has pleasant winter temperatures that hover between 10 and 15°C, making it ideal for a winter gravel biking holiday. It’s also very dry here in winter too, so you can leave your waterproof gear at home most days.
Most of the population of Sicily lives by the coast, leaving the inland areas quite sparsely populated which is perfect for adventurous cyclists who want to get away from it all. The roads and gravel paths are also in great condition, even in the most remote places.
Choose from basing yourself in a popular town like Cefalù where you’ll enjoy plenty of restaurants and bars in the evening time, or try a rural stay in Enna – no matter where you base yourself, you’re never too far from great gravel biking.
What better way to see Sicily than cycling across the entire island? The Sicily Divide runs from Trapani in the north to Catania in the south through the much lesser visited central parts of the island. You’ll see shepherds herding sheep, cycle past Mt. Etna, and refuel on Sicilian pizza.
The route takes six days to ride and all of them are challenging, but once you get into the rhythm of climbing and descending you’ll soon find yourself breezing through the 460km long route. Expect remote roads where you might not see another soul for hours on end and gravel tracks that you’ll share with sheep and cows.
As one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, Mt. Etna is a legendary part of Sicily. It dominates the landscape in the south of the island and can be seen while walking the streets of Catania. But if you ask us, the best way to experience it is by cycling around it.
Give yourself three days to complete the 180km loop where you’ll find empty gravel trails and truly testing climbs into the middle of nowhere. Keep an eye on the weather though as rain is more common here in winter than in other parts of the island.
Montpellier’s location in the south of France makes it one of the best winter cycling destinations as it combines warm winter temperatures, gorgeous art and architecture, and of course the world-famous French cuisine.
During winter, a lot of places in Europe are covered in snow as temperatures plummet, but in Montpellier, the mercury rarely drops below 15°C. How to dress for cycling in winter can be tricky thanks to the changeable weather, but on the south coast of France, it’s very dependable and consistent.
Montpellier is also a cycling city. The Tour de France has raced through the city many times now as riders make their way into the relentless climbs in the Pyrenees. While the peloton takes over the roads in summer the winter gravel roads around the city are empty, letting you explore them in complete peace.
There’s also so much to do off the bike in Montpellier as well. After the summer tourists have gone home, you’ll be able to visit the city’s most impressive sights without the crowds. Château de Montpellier is a must while you’re here and art lovers must visit the Musée d’Art Contemporain.
What better way to enjoy your gravel bike in winter than exploring the coast of France on a stunning multi-day ride from Montpellier to Marseille? This gravel route is also known as MTP – MRS and you’ll ride alongside the sea and pedal through nature reserves on wintery gravel roads before making your way back to the coast and into Marseille.
This is the perfect route for those looking to try their first multi-day trip as each day is quite manageable. The route is 250km long in total and climbs 1,700m over four days, letting you focus on the gravel roads ahead and not worry about any punishing climbs.
One of the best things that we love about Montpellier is that you can find some gravel routes without leaving the city. Montpellier has a large amount of parks and pockets of nature that allow you to escape the hustle and bustle for a few hours.
Starting on the banks of the Le Lez River, this route runs for 38km through the city’s urban parks and links up with the Le Salaison River east of the city. A series of parks and riverside trails bring you back into the city. It might be one of the shortest routes on our list, but manages to cram in so much in – it’s a must when you’re in Montpellier.
The Netherlands is known around the world for having some of the best cycling infrastructure imaginable, so it’s no surprise that it’s home to some great gravel biking as well. But instead of going to Amsterdam, we think Castricum on the coast is one of the best winter gravel bike destinations in Europe.
The Dutch coast is incredibly underrated. In summer, day trippers make the journey from Amsterdam to Castricum, but in winter it transforms into a gorgeous windswept seascape where you’ll have the place almost entirely to yourself.
Most of our picks in this article are best suited to intermediate or advanced gravel bikers, but if you’re just starting out then a trip to Castricum makes a lot of sense. Not only is there a massive network of trails, but the landscape is very flat with no steep hills to climb.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a gravel bike either, there are plenty of bikes to rent in Castricum, so all you have to do is plan your route and we’ll take care of everything else.
This part of the world is best experienced on a bike as the region has been developed with cyclists in mind. So that means there are plenty of trails available to create a route that perfectly suits you.
On a gravel ride from Castricum to Zuid Kennemerland National Park and back you’ll ride through a mix of urban and rural settings on a leisurely 65km cycle. You’ll see some of The Netherland’s famous canals and you’ll even cross a number of bridges at the mouth to the North Sea.
Cycling along the coast on a gravel trail during winter is such an incredible experience. Feel the wind on your face as waves crash into the shore beside you on an unforgettable 55km cycle from Castricum to Alkmaar and back.
As you leave the town and reach the coast you’ll find yourself on an unpaved singletrack trail in no time. From here you’ll head north for 15km until you turn inland towards Alkmaar and ride a mix of bike lanes, winter gravel roads, and cobblestones back into Castricum.
Riding your gravel bike in winter is a brilliant way to see parts of the world when there are fewer crowds and the temperatures are more manageable. From urban gravel biking escapes to epic rides in the mountains, there are so many great options out there.
All that’s left for you to do is plan your route and get ready for some world-class gravel biking.
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