Photo: Along the ridge above Soulce.
A route I had been planning for a while to loop around Moutier and visit some lonely looking spots that I had noticed on the map.
This is one of the better routes I have planned when just working from the map to explore a new area (it was actually well balanced with a good flow and no 25% climb up a muddy field) and which I will be doing again in the Spring.
Route: Crémines Zoo (train station) – Vermes – Roches (BE) – Soulce – Undervelier – Moutier (train station). GPX download.
Length: 57.6 km, +1459 m, -1632 m.
Season: Early Spring to Late Autumn. Snow and ice might be a problem in Winter, but then it might also be clear and dry in January.
Arrival/Departure: Train to Crémines Zoo / Train from Moutier.
Supplies: Various villages with restaurants and shops along the route.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: There are various ways to shorten this, like going directly to Moutier from Roches.
Exposure/Hazards: Very little. The route is mostly road with bits of gravel (only 1 of which was steep and loose enough to worry me briefly). My road/gravel bike fit the route perfectly.
The route was very quiet. There were a few other cyclists, the odd pack of motorbikes (the backroads of the Jura are far less popular than the Alps, but still a touring choice for locals), but mostly it was just me and the cows. The only spot that was at all busy was the zoo at the start.
Some of these photos were taken on rides which crossed the same paths at other times of year which is why they look much greener.
Notes along the route
An initial free peek of the tigers at the Crémines Zoo then a quick fun gravel road down to Corcelles. You can just skip this part by staying on the train for another stop, but it is a nice scenic segment with zero effort required.
A small climb over the first little pass to one of my favourite views in Switzerland just beyond Paturage Derrierè. The pass also takes you over the language border briefly: passing from Paturage Derrierè, to the German speaking Bächle and Schmittli, then back to the French speaking Le Verrier via the half-half La Rossmatte.
From here the road is a gentle downhill which passes through what feels like a remote and forgotten gorge with lonely looking farms in side valleys until you reach the also rather forgotten feeling village at Vermes (lonely and forgotten looking is something of a theme for this tour).
From Vermes there is a short but sharp 15% gradient climb up before slowly dropping down towards Rebuvelier.
From Rebuvelier (which has a fountain for water) the route drops down a nice curving road into the impressive Moutier gorge. Riding through the gorge was quieter than I had expected traffic wise. The parallel and mostly hidden faster road probably takes most of the traffic away.
I turned off the main road at Roches (BE). Somewhere I had noticed before but never really got a look at it because the train from Moutier to Delemont zips past so quickly that you barely get a glance. It is a pleasant enough village in a rather nice and very quiet valley. The big climb here was constant but with a gentle gradient for the most part.
From the high point of the climb I switched onto a ridge heading north west. This is where the route changes to gravel until the descent down to Soucle. There were few brief points where the roughness of the route freaked me out a little with the gravel bike set up (especially the first short descent), but mostly it was fine. The main thing here was just being sure of which of the many gravel roads to follow.
Much of the ridge route was in forest, but then it opened up for the last few kilometers with fantastic views over the region.
Dropping down to the valley floor Soulce and then Undervelier both had a quite lonely feel but were beautiful with a very rustic French feel.
I took a quick diversion at Undervelier to see the Grotte de Sainte-Colombe. A shrine in a cave which would be much more special if it wasn’t for the roar of motorbikes going past on their Sunday tours.
Up through the Gorges du Pichoux. This was in theory quite easy with only a 200m height gain, not much but I hadn’t expected that much and found it a bit harder going than I expected. Some traffic on the road, but not anything that worried me. There is also a path through the forest to Lac Vert, a lake in the gorge which looks beautiful but I didn’t notice it at the time (though with the number of motorbikes it won’t be as peaceful as you might like).
Coming out of the gorge at Le Pichoux I left the road and followed the gravel path for the (mostly) gentle 200m climb up to the pass at Les Ecorcheresses. You could also stick with the road, but I try and avoid that as much as possible.
From the pass it is an easy descent on the road down to Moutier with some nice views back up the valley to where I started. Moutier is a strange place. The area around it is really beautiful but the town itself feels like the rest of Switzerland just wants to forget it exists. It does have a station with good connections to Basel/Biel/Grenchen and a direct train to Solothurn which is very handy for me (and the only reason I have been there as much as I have).