Pyrenees National Parc, Hautes-Pyrenees: visitors guide
Visit Pyrenees National Parc, France
The Pyrenees National Park is located within the French departments of the Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France. The parc encompasses a large part of the central Pyrenees mountain region along the border with Spain and is one of the eight national parks in France.
It is a region with many scenic natural highlights including high mountains, lakes and waterfalls, forests and dramatic cliffs. While it is possible to enjoy some of the scenery from your car, typically by crossing the high mountain passes, the greatest enjoyment comes from walking or cycling in the region.
Places in Pyrenees National Park
Laruns is a town towards the west of the Parc, Cauterets and Luz-Saint-Sauveur are in the centre and Gedre, Bareges, Aragnoet and Arreau are to the east while several smaller towns and many quiet villages also fall within the parc boundaries.
Gavarnie, Cauterets and Gabas are among the popular places to begin exploring the region. The architecture of the towns and villages is not always exceptional but the scenery is ample compensation!
The Pyrenees National Parc has many highlights, and one of the most popular is the Cirque de Gavarnie, an immense circular wall of cliff that gazes imposingly at the valley below. The Cirque de Gavarnie also has the advantage that it can be reached by an easy walk from Gavarnie. Even more remote (though still accessible by road), bigger and perhaps even more dramatic, is the Cirque de Troumouse.
The most dramatic scenery is closer to the border with Spain at the southern edge of the Pyrenees National Parc. If you are adventurous, and well equipped, the region around Mont Perdu, now a World Heritage site within the parc, is particularly noteworthy and stands behind the Cirque de Gavarnie.
Walking and cycling
There are of course many shorter trails in the mountains of the Pyrenees National Park including some along valleys that are less demanding and suitable for the inexperienced. Ask at the visitor centre nearest you for information when you arrive.
One popular trail with visitors goes from Gabas to the mountain peak at Pic du Midi d'Ossau, which is exceptionally scenic (just noth of Laruns).
Perhaps the toughest, and most impressive, path through the Pyrenees National Park is the Haute Randonée Pyrénee, which traverses the range from one side to the other and crosses much of the wildest terrain, eventually finishing at the Atlantic Ocean. There is also a Grand Randonnée that passes from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic via the Pyrenees - slightly easier and less dramatic, but still challenging!
Likewise, we can hardly list every cycle route through the Pyrénées, but be assured there are plenty to meet the needs of the most demanding cyclist including the famous mountain passes at Col d'Aspin and Col du Tourmalet among many others.
If you are not inclined to walk but still hope to see the mountain splendour, head for the Lac de Fabrèges just outside Gabas and take the cable-car up to the Pic de la Sagette, followed by the little train that runs for 10 kilometres through the mountains (summertime only, takes 4 hours).
It is beyond the scope of this site (and my knowledge) to write at length about the many mountain plants and animals that you might come across but we do suggest that bringing a guide book is an excellent way to better appreciate the flora and fauna.
One of the least likely animals to come across if you head away from the crowds is the renowned Brown Bear, recently released in the region to much local objection (see Brown Bears in France). Unlikely though! Take a look at our guide to wildlife in France for some of the more common mammals in the Pyrenees National Park.
Common sense prevails! Of course any trip to the mountains requires common sense so if you are going anywhere off the beaten track be sure to take water, food and appropriate equipment in case you find yourself lost or in difficulties, and always tell someone where you are going and when you should be back.
Map of Pyrenees National Parc and places nearby
Visit near Pyrenees National Parc with France This Way reviews
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Cirque du Marcadau: site of natural beauty (11 km)
- Cirque du Litor: site of natural beauty (14 km)
- Cirque du Lys: site of natural beauty (16 km)
- Pont d'Espagne: site of natural beauty (16 km)
- Col d'Aubisque: site of natural beauty (16 km)
- Vallée d'Ossau: site of natural beauty (18 km)
- Vallée d'Aspe: site of natural beauty (25 km)
- Gavarnie église St Jean Baptiste (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (29 km)
- Brèche de Roland: site of natural beauty (29 km)
- Cirque de Gavarnie: grand site of france (31 km)
- Cascade de Gavarnie: site of natural beauty (31 km)
- Grottes de Betharram: site of natural beauty (32 km)
The French version of this page is at Pyrenees National Parc (Francais)