hikes in French Pyrenees
The Pyrenees Mountains stretch all the way from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, creating an imposing craggy wall between France and Spain. This stunning range of mountains lies in France’s southwest corner, and offers some of the best hiking in the whole of the country. Littered with serene lakes, dramatic mountain passes, plunging waterfalls and lush forests; the Pyrenees is a hiker’s dream. Welcome to France’s wild side.
The jagged peaks of the Pyrenees rise well over 3000m, dominating the skyline for 430.0km along the border between France and Spain. Walking this epic route (known in France as the GR10) is a real hiking adventure, and usually takes over 50 days to complete. However, if you don’t have months to spare, don’t worry! The French Pyrenees is packed with hiking trails, passing from deep, lush valleys to windswept ridges, offering spectacular mountain views wherever you go.
The French Pyrenees are a haven for some of Europe’s rarest wildlife, and wherever you go, you’re likely to catch a glimpse of the griffon vulture, circling overhead, or the friendly izard (a type of mountain goat) bounding over the rocks and cliffs. These mountains also shelter some magnificent flora, unique to the region, especially in the Néouvielle Natural Reserve, the lake district of the Pyrenees. This is the place to come to immerse yourself in the great outdoors and enjoy the magic of the French mountains.
This vast mountain range is ideal for an activity holiday or a family hiking trip, with an incredible variety of scenery on offer. The landscapes, culture, and even the local languages change as you pass through the region, meaning that the French Pyrenees offers endless possibilities for adventure. Forget the Alps – why not explore France’s wildest mountains on your next hiking trip?
Top 10 Hikes In French Pyrenees
The French Pyrenees offers some truly spectacular hiking routes, with a little bit of everything to suit all visitors! If you’re travelling with a family you’ll find a plethora of fun, easy hikes, often passing by lakes and waterfalls with plenty of fun activities for children. Similarly, if you’re an inexperienced hiker looking to develop your skills and fitness, there are lots of easy and intermediate routes through some simply gorgeous scenery. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a real challenge, you’ll find everything you need in the Pyrenees. This is the site of some of France’s most epic long-distance hiking trails, rising high over craggy ridges and climbing to jaw-dropping passes and summits. You’ll need to work hard to get to some of these remote peaks, but the views along the way make all the effort worthwhile.
- Cagire Loop Hike: This wonderful ridge walk offers fantastic views over some of the tallest peaks in the French Pyrenees. It’s a little challenging, summiting four distinct peaks, but you’ll have some unforgettable views as a reward. Keep your eyes open for the red kites and griffon vultures soaring overhead, and watch the magnificent Pyrenees range unfold in front of you. This is one of our favorite challenging hikes in the French Pyrenees.
- Lacs et Pics d’Ayous Hike: This iconic Pyrenees hike will take you through some of the most incredible scenery in the range, with the dominant Pic du Midi d’Ossau an abiding presence through the trek. The route passes alongside several stunning lakes of various sizes, surrounded by towering peaks and lush meadows. Make sure you head up to the Pic d’Ayous for some incredible views, and marvel at the distinctive red sandstone that makes up the ridge.
- Lac de Gaube Hike: Looking for a family-friendly hike in the French Pyrenees that the kids are sure to love? Try this pleasant, easy stroll to the Lac de Gaube, passing along a well-maintained track littered with beautiful waterfalls. The destination is an incredibly scenic lake, with views over the Vignemale and its glittering glaciers. Without doubt, this is one of the best easy hikes in the French Pyrenees.
- Pic de Canigou Hike: If you’re craving a challenging hike through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Pyrenees, the Pic de Canigou is for you. Be prepared to work hard – this is a long hike with some very steep sections, but you’ll emerge at the summit of Catalonia’s sacred mountain, the Pic du Canigou. From here you’ll have views all the way down to the Mediterranean coast and the Crête du Barbet. This dramatic trek is one of the best hikes in the French Pyrenees.
- Cirque de Gavarnie Hike: This wonderful, relatively easy hike is incredibly popular, and with good reason! The trail passes along a tranquil riverside path, ascends through a forest and finally emerges at an expansive valley topped with the dramatic Cirque de Gavarnie. Don’t forget to check out the ‘hidden viewpoint, one of the best-kept secrets of this trail, with an incredible view of the cirque and the plunging waterfall.
- Mont Né Hike: The steep slopes of Mont Né might look like a bit of a challenge at first, but this popular route is a great way to introduce your kids to the joys of climbing a mountain. The path is well maintained and easy to follow, and the gradual elevation gain means that it’s not too strenuous. What’s more, you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent vista over the Pyrenees and the grassy ridges that stretch out to the north. This is a truly breathtaking hike and one that you’ll certainly remember.
- Pique Route de Bassiès Hike: Looking for a challenging hike in the French Pyrenees? Look no further than this epic route to the Pique Rouge de Bassiès. Traversing some of the most remote, inaccessible and beautiful parts of the Ariège region, this wild ridge offers thrilling views along the entire length of the hike. This route can easily be extended over several days by staying at the lakeside Refuge de Bassiès, allowing time to explore more of this beautiful region.
- Lac d’Oô Hike: The famous Lac d’Oô is possibly one of the prettiest lakes in the Pyrenees, with steep-sloped mountains rising up from the water, and a beautiful waterfall that tumbles gently down the gorge. It’s a relatively easy hike and suitable for older children (although not strollers) and the route through the forest is a wonderful place to spend the afternoon. Bring a picnic, or enjoy a hearty meal at the refuge before you descend.
- Oredon – Aubert – Aumar Hike: This incredible hike will take you deep into the heart of the wildest part of the Pyrenees, the Néouvielle Natural Reserve. This beautiful region is packed with hundreds of small lakes, rare animal and bird species and unusual, beautiful flowering plants. This route takes you through the heart of the park, past a series of stunning lakes with gorgeous views over the surrounding mountains.
- Lac de Loudenvielle Hike: If you’re looking for a great family hike in the French Pyrenees, suitable for very young kids, look no further than this marvelous trail around the Lac de Loudenvielle. The lake itself is packed with activities that kids will adore, from horse riding to canoeing and paragliding, as well and plenty of playgrounds where older children can burn off some excess energy. Surrounded by tall, dramatic mountains, this lake is a wonderful place for a family day out.
When Is The Best Time To Hike In French Pyrenees?
The main hiking season in the Pyrenees is from June to October. Although many lower-elevation trails will open up earlier in the year, the majority of refuges close at the end of September, and the risk of snow or poor weather conditions means that most of the major hiking trails are inaccessible outside of this time. On the highest peaks, you may find significant ice and snow up until mid-July. In July and August the mountains are prone to thunderstorms in the late afternoon, so try to time your hike to avoid these! Whatever time of year you visit, the weather can be unpredictable, so make sure to take local advice and come well equipped for your hike. In winter, although most of the major hiking trails will be closed, you can still find pleasant lower-elevation hikes, especially in the Ariège region. What’s more, once the snow begins to fall, the Pyrenees is a wonderful destination for winter sports, including snowshoeing!
Other Outdoor Activities In French Pyrenees
Looking for other outdoor activities in the French Pyrenees? In the summer months, the Pyrenees emerges as one of the best outdoor adventure sites in France. In addition to hiking and camping, you’ll be able to try your hand at canyoning, caving, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, horse riding and rock climbing! For those seeking an extra adrenaline kick, there’s even the chance to go paragliding, soaring high above the dazzling peaks. Once winter kicks in, the Pyrenees are a fantastic destination for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, meaning that there’s something here for adventurers in all seasons.
How To Plan A Trip To French Pyrenees
If these routes have got you reaching for your hiking boots, make sure you check out our guide to planning a trip to the French Pyrenees. We’ve gathered together insider tips, advice on where to stay and where to eat, and plenty of practical information to make sure that your trip runs smoothly. Start dreaming of your French hiking adventure today!
Frequently-Asked-Questions About French Pyrenees
How long does it take to walk the GR10?
The GR10 is a hiking route in France that runs for the entire length of the Pyrenees. The total distance of the route is 538 miles, and it is thought that it usually takes around 52 days for hikers who are in good shape and used to trekking in the mountains. This epic route is a bucket list adventure for keen walkers, and is best undertaken in late spring and early summer.
Are there bears in the Pyrenees?
The Pyrenees is home to a small population of brown bears, numbering approximately 40-50. Bears were reintroduced by the French government over the last two decades, and their small numbers means that they are rarely encountered by hikers.
How high are the Pyrenees?
The Pyrenees reach a height of 3404m above sea level, culminating in the peak of Aneto, which is located in the province of Huesca in Spain.
Where do the Pyrenees start?
The Pyrenees run all the way from the Bay of Biscay at the Atlantic Ocean in the west, to the Mediterranean in the east.
The best hikes in French Pyrenees
Are we missing your favourite hike?
Tell us! If you've got photos, a GPS track and know the hike, we'd love to share your favourite hike with the rest of the 10Adventures community.