Shorter Treks in the Pyrenees
7 great one and two week circular treks
Guidebook detailing seven circular treks of 4-12 days in the beautiful Pyrenees. The varied routes cover both sides of the French-Spanish border and include both the High Pyrenees and the lower, more gentle mountains of the Basque Country and Catalonia. Variants are suggested for those wishing to shorten or extend the treks.
SeasonsJuly to September for the treks in the High Pyrenees, April to October for the trek in the Basque Country and May to October for the trek in Eastern Catalonia.
CentresBasque Country, Catalonia, Parc National des Pyrénées, Gavarnie, Ordesa
DifficultyThe treks are on mountain paths, mostly well-waymarked. On several of the treks there is boulderfield to cross and some easy scrambling when crossing high alpine passes. In June experience of mountain walking in snow/ice conditions would be needed for the five treks in the High Pyrenees.
Must SeeBasque Country, Pic du Midi d'Ossau, Vignemale, Ordesa Canyon, Cirque de Gavarnie, Réserve Naturelle de Néouvielle, Carros de Foc, Ariège, Cerdagne, Puigmal and Canigou.
A guidebook to seven circular treks exploring the Pyrenees of France and Spain. Seven 1 or 2 week routes in dramatic mountain scenery, including the Pic du Midi d'Ossau, Vignemale, Ordesa Canyon, Gavernie, Puigmal and Canigou. Using mostly waymarked mountain paths, with some boulderfield or easy scrambling, the treks are designed with accommodation in mountain refuges or mountain villages at the end of each stage, though there are plenty of options to camp for those who prefer to backpack.
Detailed descriptions for each stage of the route are accompanied by sketch maps and elevation profiles, and there are notes on planning, equipment and access.
Route 1: Tour of the Basque Country - This route takes you over the steep rolling hills (in both France and Spain) at the western end of the Pyrenees. Accommodation is mainly in Basque villages with steep climbs leading to long walks along easy grassy ridges.
Route 2: Pic du Midi d’Ossau - This route takes in the magnificent limestone scenery at the western end of the High Pyrenees by combining the popular Tour du Pic du Midi d’Ossau, in France, with the best sections of the quieter La Senda de Camille on the Spanish side of the border.
Route 3: Tour de Vignemale and La Alta Ruta de Los Perdidos - This is the most demanding trek in the guide with easy scrambling over steep passes. The magnificent trek through the alpine terrain around Vignemale and Monte Perdido includes six of the honeypots of the Pyrenees; Cauterets, Vignemale, Gavarnie, Pineta, Ordesa and the Picos del Infierno.
Route 4: Reserve Naturelle de Neouvielle - The shortest trek in this guide takes you through the popular Reserve Naturelle de Neouvielle and the surrounding mountains in the French Parc National des Pyrenees. It visits many lakes and tarns in magnificent granite scenery and there is the opportunity to climb several peaks, including Pic du Midi de Bigorre and Pic de Bastan. The trek is based around the GR10 and one of its variations, the GR10C.
Route 5: Carros de Foc - The Carros de Foc is an understandably popular trek in the magnificent Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici, in the Spanish part of Catalonia. This is another granite massif dotted with hundreds of lakes and tarns. The huts are close together so there is a great deal of flexibility in planning, with most walkers taking 5–7 days for the trek.
Route 6: Tour des Montagnes d’Ax and the Tour des Perics - The Ariege is a relatively unknown area at the eastern end of the High Pyrenees. This tour combines the magnificent alpine mountains of the Tour des Montagnes d’Ax on either flank of the Vallee de l’Ariege with the Tour des Perics in the gentler scenic mountains of the Cerdagne in the French part of Catalonia.
Route 7: The icons of Catalonia: Puigmal and Canigou - Our final tour goes through both the Spanish and French parts of Catalonia at the eastern end of the Pyrenees, taking in ascents of the two most climbed peaks in the Pyrenees; Puigmal and Canigou. Despite rising to almost 3000m the mountain ridges are gentler than in the High Pyrenees, more reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, although the valleys still have an alpine feel. Much of the time is spent on spectacular high-level traverses of steep mountain slopes.
The Pyrenees stretch 400km from Atlantic to Mediterranean, forming a barrier rising to over 3000m between France and Spain. The steep rolling hills of the Basque Country give way to the spectacular alpine peaks and passes of the High Pyrenees and the gentler mountains of eastern Catalonia. With variants and options for shortening the route, or adding the ascent of nearby peaks, the treks featured in this guidebook are a perfect base for discovering this magnificient and varied mountain range.
Overview of the treks
Weather and when to go
Culture and language
Using this guide
Route 1 Tour of the Basque Country
Stage 1 St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry
Stage 2 Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry to Bidarray
Stage 3 Bidarray to Ainhoa
Stage 4 Ainhoa to Sare
Stage 5 Sare to Bera (Vera de Bidasoa)
Stage 6 Bera to Elizondo
Stage 7 Elizondo to Aldudes
Stage 8 Aldudes to Burguete (Auritz)
Stage 9 Burguete to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Route 2 Pic du Midi d’Ossau and the limestone peaks of the western Pyrenees
Stage 1 Etsaut to Camping du Lauzart (Lescun)
Stage 2 Camping du Lauzart (Lescun) to Refugio de Linza
Stage 3 Refugio de Linza to Refugio de Gabardito
Stage 4 Refugio de Gabardito to Refugio de Lizara
Stage 5 Refugio de Lizara to Col du Somport
Stage 6 Col du Somport to Refuge de Pombie
Stage 7 Refuge de Pombie to Refuge d’Ayous
Stage 8 Refuge d’Ayous to Etsaut
Route 3 Tour de Vignemale and La Alta Ruta de Los Perdidos
Stage 1 Cauterets to Refuge des Oulettes de Gaube
Stage 2 Refuge des Oulettes de Gaube to Refuge des Granges de Holle (Gavarnie)
Stage 3 Refuge des Granges de Holle to Refuge des Éspuguettes
Stage 4 Refuge des Éspuguettes to Refugio de Pineta
Stage 5 Refugio de Pineta to Refugio de Góriz
Stage 6 Refugio de Góriz to Refuge de la Brèche de Roland
Stage 7 Refuge de la Brèche de Roland to Refugio de Bujaruelo
Stage 8 Refugio de Bujaruelo to Baños de Panticosa
Stage 9 Baños de Panticosa to Refugio de Respomuso
Stage 10 Refugio de Respomuso to Refuge Wallon
Stage 11 Refuge Wallon to Cauterets
Route 4 Réserve Naturelle de Néouvielle
Stage 1 Barèges to Artigues
Stage 2 Artigues to Refuge de Campana de Cloutou
Stage 3 Refuge de Campana de Cloutou to Lac d’Orédon
Stage 4 Lac d’Orédon to Barèges
Route 5 Carros de Foc
Stage 1 Refugi dera Restanca to Refugi Joan Ventosa i Calvell
Stage 2 Refugi Joan Ventosa i Calvell to Refugi d’Estany Llong
Stage 3 Refugi d’Estany Llong to Refugi de la Colomina
Stage 4 Refugi de la Colomina to Refugi JM Blanc
Stage 5 Refugi JM Blanc to Refugi Sant Maurici Ernest Mallafré
Stage 6 Refugi Sant Maurici Ernest Mallafré to Refugi de Saboredo (via Refugi d’Amitges)
Stage 7 Refugi de Saboredo to Refugi dera Restanca (via Refugi de Colomèrs)
Route 6 Tour des Montagnes d’Ax and the Tour des Pérics
Stage 1 Ax-les-Thermes to Orlu
Stage 2 Orlu to Refuge d’en Beys
Stage 3 Refuge d’en Beys to Refuge de Camporells
Stage 4 Refuge de Camporells to Refuge des Bouillouses
Stage 5 Refuge des Bouillouses to Refuge des Bésines
Stage 6 Refuge des Bésines to Auberge du Nabre (Mérens-les-Vals)
Stage 7 Auberge du Nabre (Mérens-les-Vals) to Refuge de Rulhe
Stage 8 Refuge de Rulhe to Ax-les-Thermes
Route 7 The icons of Catalonia: Puigmal and Canigou
Stage 1 Eyne to Núria
Stage 2 Traverse of Puigmal
Stage 3 Núria to Refugi de Ull de Ter (via Refugi de Coma de Vaca)
Stage 4 Refugi de Ull de Ter to Chalet de las Conques
Stage 5 Chalet de las Conques to Refuge de Saint-Guillem
Stage 6 Refuge de Saint-Guillem to Refuge de Batère
Stage 7 Refuge de Batère to Refuge des Cortalets
Stage 8 Traverse of Canigou
Stage 9 Refuge des Cortalets to Refuge de Marailles
Stage 10 Refuge de Marailles to Mantet
Stage 11 Mantet to Refuge du Ras de la Carança
Stage 12 Refuge du Ras de la Carança to Eyne
Appendix A Route summary tables
Appendix B Sources of information
Appendix C Bibliography
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Since taking early retirement from his career as a physics and sports teacher, Brian Johnson has found time for three thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2700-mile round-Britain walk, three hikes across the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean as well as a single summer compleation of the Munros and has climbed all the Corbetts in Scotland. He has also completed a 2200-mile cycle tour of Spain and France and done multi-week canoe tours in Sweden, France, Spain and Portugal. A keen climber and hiker, he has led school groups in Britain, the Alps, the Pyrenees and California and has completed ten traverses from Atlantic to Mediterranean on the Pyrenean High-Level Route, GR11 or GR10. As a fanatical sportsman and games player, he has competed to a high standard at cricket, hockey, bridge and chess. His crowning achievement was winning the 1995/96 World Amateur Chess Championships.View Articles and Books by Brian Johnson