As you know, in Alsace we like to cross borders to visit our neighbors! I propose you here a cycling loop in the south of Alsace, in the Pays de Saint-Louis, allowing to pass by 3 countries: France, Germany and Switzerland. It is about the BL 979 – Small loop of the 3 countries of Alsace by bike. It’s about 40km long and easy: it’s flat and goes mostly through bike paths!
Discovery of the Little Camargue of Alsace
The “official” start of the loop is in Rosenau, but you can of course start from wherever you want. I left from Saint-Louis to be able to come by train: from the Saint-Louis train station, you can reach the course in only a few minutes, it’s very practical!
We begin by going along the Canal de Huningue on a very pleasant cycle track. On the way, don’t miss the observatories of the Petite Camargue alsacienne nature reserve, located in the old Rhine bed and which we follow: these are directly accessible from the bike path, which allows you to make nice stops. The Petite Camargue alsacienne is indeed home to a rich biodiversity, and you may be able to observe several species… remember to bring binoculars if you have them!
The Rhine Island, between nature reserve and industrial heritage
We then leave the Canal de Huningue to cross the Grand Canal d’Alsace and go towards the Rhine island, which we will then follow on a straight road which looks more like a bicycle path: except for the service vehicles, nobody passes there! At the entrance and exit of the Rhine island, you will discover elements of the region’s industrial heritage: the EDF hydroelectric power plant in Kembs, the first to be built on the Rhine in 1932, but also the EDF dam and the huge locks.
But the Rhine Island is also home to a nature reserve, which is a sort of annex of the Petite Camargue of Alsace. In 2014, EDF and the Petite Camargue Alsacienne association committed to the renaturation of the site (formerly entirely agricultural) to bring back biodiversity. Observatories also allow to admire the landscape of the island: a river has been dug to allow a return to the landscape of alluvial plains such as they could exist before the canalization of the Rhine.
If you have done the loop from a different point than mine and it is already time for lunch, you should know that the Brasserie Le Chalet Rhin et Découverte, at the entrance of the Rhine island (between the power plant and the locks) is a good address.
On the bike paths of Germany
Then, we cross the border by passing on the EDF dam, and we are in Germany! Numerous cycle tracks are waiting for us, it is very easy. One alternates between bucolic passages by the countryside and crossing of small cities, it is at once rather disorienting and it is globally pleasant. Nothing really special to report on this part of the course but it’s quite nice.
Visit to Basel, Switzerland
It is time to cross another border… To go to Switzerland this time! You arrive in Basel via the port of Kleinhüningen, which is not the most famous part but which I find fascinating: it is a huge industrial port .
I advise you to make a small detour at this point to go to the Dreiländereck, the tripoint of the three countries, i.e. the exact place where France, Germany and Switzerland touch. A monument marks the place, it’s fun to go there for the symbol… But it is also where you will find the café-restaurant Sandoase where I advise you to take a break! Change of atmosphere, you will find yourself in the middle of palm trees, feet in the sand, with a view on the Rhine. Very nice!
The loop then takes you on a nice tour of Basel. If you don’t know the city, I strongly invite you to put down the bikes and plan some time to visit it, it is very beautiful! Even if you don’t plan to stop there, the route allows you to get a nice overview of it as it follows the Rhine river (allowing beautiful views of the city) and passes through the city center, with its cathedral and beautiful houses. And if you are there in summer, when the Basel inhabitants are swimming in the Rhine and the (many) terraces are out… You will be seduced!
Return to France
Then, we just have to follow the Rhine to go back to France, where we find the Canal de Huningue (with its nice Parc des Eaux Vives) which will bring us back to the starting point after this very beautiful cross-border route!
If you want to do a longer cycling tour in the area, don’t hesitate to read on my other blog my article on 3 days cycling in the south of Alsace (only in French).
- Move to 3 different countries
- Lots of bike paths
- All flat
- Little Alsatian Camargue
- Visit Basel
I liked a little less
My photos of the 3 Countries Loop
Departure and arrival
- Distance: 40km
- Difference in altitude: about 130m
- Duration: about 3 hours (without breaks)
St. Louis is located in:
- 35km from Mulhouse (about 30 minutes)
- 60km from Colmar (about 45 minutes)
- 135km from Strasbourg (about 1h25)
By public transport
It is easy to get to the St. Louis train station. You can calculate your route on Fluo Grand Est.