French

Hiking and Wildlife in the Hautes-Pyrénées

Walking and Hiking in French Hautes-Pyrenees

The Hautes-Pyrénées offer almost endless  walking possibilities, from scenic footpaths suitable for families, to day hikes on waymarked trails and trekking on the long distance Grand Randonnées (GRs) and  Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne (HRP). 

Outlined below are some of the highlights, with  driving times  to sites in bold given at the foot of the page.

Pyrenean Villages

In the foothills walkers will find tiny perched hamlets, stone shepherd's huts and animals grazing steep pastures.  There are enchanting networks of paths to explore in the nearby Castelloubon valley, above the spa towns of Bagneres-de-Bigorre and Cauterets,  and in the forests around the Lac de Lourdes

Lac Gaube, at the foot of the Vignemale

Lakes and Rivers

The Pyrenees are  characterised by waterfalls, gaves (rivers) and lakes.   Popular day trips include touring the Lac de Payolle, the steep climb to Lac Bleu  above the Lesponne valley, the beautiful descent to Lac d'Isaby from Hautacam, and Lac de Gaube via the Pont d'Espagne waterfall.

Trekking Peaks

Pic du Montaigu (2,339 m) dominates the view south from the house, and is the ideal first peak for the Pyrenean hiker.  Nearby is the famous Pic du Midi du Bigorre (2,877 m) - with its prominent summit observatory - which can be accessed relatively easily on the Porters' Trail from the Col du Tourmalet.

Those in search of more challenging climbs can choose from many peaks over 3,000 m, such as  La Grande Fache (3,005 m) and the mighty Balaïtous (3,114 m). 

Pyrenees National Park

The high altitude Parc National des Pyrénées (PNP)  adjoins the Spanish border and features some of Europe's finest scenery.  Highlights include the great cirques of Gavarnie (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Troumouse,  the Brèche de Roland, overlooking the Ordesa canyon, and the Vignemale.   At  3,298 metres, the Vignemale is the tallest peak in the French Pyrenees and should only be attempted by experienced and well-equipped hikers.

Nature Reserves

The nearby Massif du Pibeste enjoys a Mediterranean micro-climate on its chalk cliffs, and vultures use these thermals to rise above the Lourdes valley.  The Mouflon de Corse (see panel) also thrives in the warmer conditions.

On the plains to the north-east  lies the Lac de Puydarrieux, selected as a Natura 2000 site for the observation of migratory birds such as Common Cranes and Great White Egrets.  Winter visitors can witness  the spectacle of 600-800 Cranes returning to Rest stop at Lac d'Orédonthe lake at dusk.

Back in the mountains, the large Réserve Naturelle de Néouvielle (RNR) was France's first protected area, dating from 1935.  The landscape is notable for its lakes and pine forest, and for trekkers a comfortable overnight stay is possible in the refuge near Lac d'Orédon.

 

PYRENEAN WILDLIFE 


LAMMERGEIER

Known as "the bone-breaker", the Lammergeier drops bones from height to get to the  bone marrow.  There  are good chances to see this rare and spectacular bird in the National Park.

GRIFFON VULTURE

This large vulture (below) is a common sight at the local cliffs, where it soars on the thermals in loose flocks.

Birdlife

RED / BLACK KITE

Red Kites are year round visitors to Cami de Bidale, and entertain guests with close approaches.

In summer, Black Kites are also in the valley, and from time to time literally hundreds stream overhead towards the peaks.

MOUFLON

This emblematic mammal resembles a very large ram.  It thrives on the Massif de Pibeste where several hundred have been recorded.

MARMOT

The marmot can be seen, and more frequently heard, at high altitude (around 2,000 m).  Their inquisitive appearance endears them to visitors.

BUTTERFLIES

There is an abundance of butterflies in the Pyrenees, including the orange-tipped (a garden visitor), and the graceful Swallowtail.

Hiking and Wildlife with Pyrenees Pursuits

We offer a range of support for hiking and naturalist groups, depending on your requirements.  For self-guided walks we provide route advice and laminated maps, as well as picnic lunches and drinks.  We will drive you to the departure point, and also facilitate A-to-B walks by picking you up from a different valley.

For groups requiring guiding, we can arrange walks with local accompagnateurs and reserve visits with park wardens. 

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DISTANCES TO SITES OF INTEREST

Site  

 Departure Point

Driving Time from
Cami de Bidale

Castelloubon valley

Juncalas

15 mins

Pic du Montaigu

Germs sur l'Oussouet 

15 mins

Massif du Pibeste

Agos Vidalos

15 mins

Lac de Lourdes

 Lac de Lourdes

15 mins

Bagneres-de-Bigorre

Town centre

15 mins

Cauterets

 Town centre

35 mins

Lac d'Isaby

Hautacam

35 mins

Lac de Payolle

Payolle 

35 mins

Lac Bleu

Le Chiroulet

35 mins

Lac de Gaube, La Grand Fache & Vignemale

Pont d'Espagne

50 mins

Lac de Puydarrieux

 Puydarrieux

50 mins

Pic du Midi du Bigorre

Col du Tourmalet

50 mins

Lac d'Orédon

 Superbaréges

50 mins

Balaïtous

Barrage du Tech

50 mins

Cirque de Troumouse

 Héas

1 hour

Cirque de Gavarnie, Bréche de Rolande & Vignemale

Gavarnie 

1 hour

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