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‘Into the wild’ or almost — hike the heart of the Pyrenees National Park

Cynewulf (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

‘Into the wild’ or almost — hike the heart of the Pyrenees National Park

Hiking Collection by Luc Gesell

3

Tours

17:07 h

26.2 mi

8,100 ft

This Collection takes you to the heart of France’s Pyrenees National Park. The route is designed to help you discover its diversity and its incredible protected environments.

On these Tours, you walk up the Lutour valley to the Estom lake; hike on the verge of the high mountains surrounded by numerous lakes; spend a night in the highest refuge in the Pyrenees; and finally come back down through the Gaube valley to follow the Gave, a series of streams fed by the Vignemale glacier, whose waters accumulate and accelerate as they flow down the valley. It is these waters that go on to form the Gave de Cauterets, then the Gave de Pau.

The itinerary includes lakes, a glacier, waterfalls, a mountain pass, meadows, and islands of Scots pine and fir trees emerging from the moraines that cover the sides of the valleys. The fauna is also part of the scenery: brown bears, ibexes, and isards (Pyrenean goat-antelope) while Egyptian vultures and bearded vultures are the great totems of the park. If you sit still for a while, you might see birds such as dippers, robins and woodpeckers, as well as lizards, marmots, squirrels and brightly coloured butterflies.

These three days of walking will immerse you in wilderness and give you a sense of adventure. You won't break any distance records on this trek, but you’ll connect with this extraordinary environment. The distances also take into account the elevation gain of each stage.

I don’t recommend this trek in winter. You could possibly consider going to the Lac de Gaube for a day trip, but not much more. In this off-season, the refuges are closed and the access conditions are much more difficult or even impossible in some places, especially the access to the mountain at the bottom of the Lutour and Gaube valleys.

As for accommodation, there are three refuges located at strategic points on this walk. It is highly recommended to book your night and your meal in advance if you like good mountain restaurants. The food is hearty and comforting.

If you’re more of a wild camping person, the refuges allow you to pitch your tent nearby. This is very convenient for filling your water bottles and taking advantage of the facilities. The refuges also allow you to book a meal with no need to stay the night – the perfect balance if you like the charm and freedom of wild camping but also the comfort of a meal in a refuge.

In our Collection, the route starts from the centre of Cauterets, but you can also take the bus to the Pont d'Espagne and come back down the same way. This can be useful if you are a bit short on timing.

To get to the Pont d'Espagne, take line 965 from Cauterets. You can find all the information here: lio.laregion.fr/Cauterets-Pont-d-Espagne (in French)

Your arrival in Cauterets before starting this hike can be done in different ways. Whether you arrive by bus, train or car, you can find all the necessary information here: cauterets.com/venir-a-cauterets/?to_lang=en

On The Map

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Trois jours au coeur du Parc National des Pyrénées

24.9 mi

7,500 ft

7,500 ft

Last updated: July 6, 2022

Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Cauterets to Lake Estom — hiking in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park

    Intermediate
    04:13
    7.01 mi
    1.7 mph
    2,825 ft
    150 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Your hike starts on the GR 10, in the streets of Cauterets. Almost at the intersection of Allée du Parc and Avenue du Docteur Domer, you will find a junction of the GR 10. At this point, take a sharp right. The left will take you towards Gavarnie, the Néouvielle and a multitude of other nature monuments

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    by Luc Gesell

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  • Difficult
    05:14
    5.88 mi
    1.1 mph
    4,025 ft
    1,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    From the lake of Estom, it is recommended not to follow the path which skirts the level lake. Indeed, from the refuge of Estom, take the path on the right which goes up towards the scree of Araillé. There, it will go up a little hard, in a series of switchbacks. Follow them until the next crossing where

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    by Luc Gesell

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  • Difficult
    07:40
    13.3 mi
    1.7 mph
    1,275 ft
    6,725 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Departing from the Baysselance refuge, I suggest a final climb before descending into the Gaube valley, parallel to the Lutour valley. This warm-up will take you to the top of the Petit Vignemale. If you are very early in the morning, the sunrise up there promises you an extraordinary spectacle. Especially

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    by Luc Gesell

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    3
  • Distance
    26.2 mi
  • Duration
    17:07 h
  • Elevation
    8,100 ft

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