In the peak summer months the Pyrénées make for the most idyllic walking imaginable.
Rocky crags and mountain tops combine with sleepy villages and river valleys to make a terrain that is pure delight. The weather is excellent in the summer months and this, combined with a multitude of other attractions in the area, provides the perfect destination for a family walking holiday.
Depending on the age, capability and experience of your children you will find there is a broad scope of walks with different degrees of difficulty and distance.
We have provided details of our favourite Pyrénées walking routes below, however there are so many options we have only scratched the surface. For more information, check out the specialists websites listed below.
Our favourite Pyrénées walking routes
Description: The Cirque d’Estaube is the little sister to the larger Cirques of Gavarnie and Troumouse, between which it sits. It’s more inaccessible but can be reached along the Gave d’Estaube. It will take you a few hours to walk to the cirque.
Our recommendation: If you are staying in the area and love mountain scenery then this is worth a visit. But if you are travelling from a distance then the other cirques are the ones to visit. For this walk you should ensure you a good map and adequate clothing in case of inclement weather.
For the children: Will only appeal to enthusiastic walkers!
Cirque de Gavarnie
Description: The Cirque de Gavarnie is a majestic galacial amphitheatre rising to over 3000m at the back of which falls the 400m Grande Cascade waterfall (see right). It is only accessible on foot from the village of Gavarnie. The round trip takes around 2 hours.
Our recommendation: For a short walk follow the path on the right hand side of the valley which starts from the church and offers excellent views of the cirque and the waterfall. To reach the foot of the cirque follow the path along the valley bottom. Experienced walkers may like to follow one of the mountain passes to the border.
For the children: It’s possible to hire a horse or mule in the village so they will be more appreciative of the walk! Also the kids will enjoy the annual festival of Gavarnie, a musical spectacular which is usually held in the second half of July. Check with the tourist office for up to date info. On the way back down the valley there is a hydro electric power station you can visit at Pragnères.
Cirque de Lys
Description: The cable car will take you from below 1000m to nearly 2000m. From the top it is possible to take a further chair lift to the Grand Barbat summit for some of the best views and walks in the area.
Our recommendation: There are many high level walks possible from here. Make sure you have a good map and are well equipped for possible changes in the weather. Don’t forget the picnic if it’s a sunny day in high season!
For the children: They will enjoy the ride to the summit the most. This trip is not ideal for toddlers, but the rest of the family will enjoy it if they are the outdoor type.
Cirque de Troumouse
Description: The Cirque de Troumouse is an imposing curved wall of rock,10 km long and 1000m high! . In the summer you will have not only the pleasure of beautiful mountain scenery, but also that of rare species of flora that thrive in the Pyrénées.
Our recommendation: The Cirque de Gavarnie is the more popular, the Cirque de Troumouse is full of peace and beauty.
For the children: Take a visit to the power station of Pragnères, about 10km south of Luz-Saint-Sauveur on the D921. Admission is free.
Description: A dramatic mountain pass takes you over the Col at a height of just under 1500m. There are great views of the Pic du Midi du Bigorre from here.
Our recommendation: This is a great picnic spot and there are several walking trails departing from the Col, both at the same level and also climbing into the surrounding hills. On the drive up the Col take great care as the route is frequented by cyclists and on the downhill stretch they can be travelling at high speed!
For the children: Be careful with the wild horses and livestock that frequent this Col. They seemed very tame when we were there but nevertheless, they are still wild animals. If the children want more entertainment, drive to La Mongie and take a ride in the Pic du Midi du Bigorre cable car.
Lac du Bouillouses
Description: If you love mountain scenery this area has it in abundance. You can walk a short or long distance…limited maps available from the ski lift stations.
Website: http://www.font-romeu.fr/fr (font Romeu office du tourisme website).
Our recommendation: Take cagoules in case of inclement weather even if it is a nice day. It is surprising how quickly the weather can change and how cold it can get when the sun goes in! Also be aware that in bad weather the chair lifts will stop operating.
For the children: Our children preferred to travel by the chairlifts, starting with the short one from Calme Sud to Roc de la Calme, followed by a longer chairlift down into the valley. It’s then a gentle 30 minute climb to the lake. At Les Airelles ski station there is a lot of child friendly entertainment (mini quads etc.).
Lac de Gaube
Description: The Lac de Gaube is delightfully located underneath the Vignemale, the highest mountain in the French Pyrénées, with a dramatic glacier as a backdrop even in the middle of the summer.
Our recommendation: There is a cable car/chair lift that will speed you on your way to the lake and if you are fit you will then have time to walk on to the far side of the lake and beyond for great views of the glacier (3 hours round trip). The cable car/chair lift costs around €35 return for a family of six.
For the children: The far end of the lake (20 minutes walk each way) has a series of small streams running into the lake which are great for building dams on a sunny day, as well as providing a lovely picnic location.
External websites with information on walking in the Pyrénées
- Balades en Famille – an excellent website (French only) with walking trails and suggestions throughout France, especially aimed at the Family. http://baladeenfamille.free.fr/
- Balades Pyrénées – website about walking in the Pyrénées, focusing on the famous GR10 route. http://www.balades-pyrenees.com/
Websites on cycling in the Pyrénées (only for real roughnecks!):
Here’s more information to make the most of your visit to the Pyrenees: