Cycling in the French Pyrenees: The Bucket List Climbs and Tips

Get ready to experience the thrill of conquering legendary climbs, soaking in breathtaking views, and immersing yourself in the rich culture of the French Pyrenees—a cyclist’s paradise.

Stretching 430 kilometers from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and 120 kilometers from north to south, the French Pyrenees boast some of the world’s most iconic routes and traditional villages.

In this guide, we’ll help you navigate this vast terrain, from choosing the perfect base for your adventure to planning the ultimate cycling holiday. Whether you’re chasing adrenaline on thrilling descents or craving the satisfaction of conquering famous cols, the Pyrenees offer a blend of challenge and beauty that will leave you breathless.

When to Go

The Pyrenees, situated further south than the Alps, enjoy a milder and drier climate. However, the mountainous terrain means winters can be harsh, especially at higher altitudes. While the lower regions remain relatively temperate throughout the year, the roads leading to the peaks are often affected by winter weather.

This means that scaling the highest peaks, like the Col du Tourmalet, which reaches 2,115m, may not be feasible until June due to lingering snowfall. By July, when the Tour de France passes through, snow is usually a rare sight along the roadside.

Similar to the Alps, the best weather can be expected during the peak summer months of June, July, and August, although September also offers favorable conditions with fewer tourists.

Temperatures at the base of climbs can soar to 40 degrees Celsius in summer, but mountain riders should be prepared for sudden weather changes and significantly cooler conditions at higher elevations. The temperature contrast between the base and the 2,000m peaks can pose challenges, especially if cyclists arrive sweaty and then cool down rapidly, making descents without adequate insulation potentially uncomfortable or even dangerous.

Hautacam and Luz Ardiden

Distance: 102 km with 3910 m elevation gain

Discover the allure of Hautacam and Luz Ardiden, two of the Pyrenees’ most scenic and challenging cols. These famed climbs, favored by Tour de France riders, offer not only stunning vistas but also peaceful roads devoid of through traffic.

Begin with the exhilarating hairpin turns of Luz Ardiden, where the dramatic mountain backdrop leaves a lasting impression. Then, tackle the formidable Hautacam, known for its relentless gradients and steep sections that test even the most seasoned cyclists.

Conquer these peaks and relish the sense of achievement as you reach their summits, with breathtaking views rewarding your efforts. Experience the thrill of pushing beyond your limits and embracing the joy of cycling amidst the beauty of the Pyrenees.

The Col Collective Hautacam – Cycling Inspiration & Education

Col D’Aubisque

Distance: 88 km with 4108 m elevation gain

Embark on an 88-kilometer journey through the heart of the Pyrenees, where every pedal stroke brings you closer to fantastic scenery and cycling greatness. With over 4,000 meters of climbing and no flat terrain, this route captures the essence of the Pyrenees.

Begin your ascent through picturesque meadows and past rushing streams to Estaing village before tackling the mighty Col des Borderès, Col du Soulor, and the iconic Col d’Aubisque, featured in Stage 19 of the 2018 Tour de France. The highlight awaits as you navigate the dramatic Soulor-Aubisque route, winding around the Cirque du Litor on a narrow shelf above a ravine.

Bike the World Col d’Aubisque – the western approach from Beost (France) – Indoor Cycling Training

Col de Portet

Distance: 41 km with 2432 m elevation gain

Embark on a legendary ride through the Pyrenees, tackling the formidable Col de Portet and Pla d’Adet climbs. Despite its newcomer status in the Tour de France, the Col de Portet offers a tough 17-kilometer ascent with an average gradient of 8.3%, reaching a summit higher than the infamous Col du Tourmalet.

Starting from Saint Lary, the route immediately confronts you with steep gradients of up to 10%, commanding views of the valley below. Push through a series of 11 switchbacks, with the road surface resealed since the 2018 Tour, until you reach the summit.

Just 8 kilometers from the top, a turnoff offers the chance to conquer Pla d’Adet, another challenging climb. With most of the ascent already behind you, why not add another col to your list and push your limits even further?


Cauterets, Cambasque and Pont d’Espagne

Distance: 59 km with 2716 m elevation gain

Start your journey in Argeles Gazost, then head towards Pierrefitte-Nestalas for a gentle warm-up before the climb. Once you reach Pierrefitte, turn right and begin the picturesque ascent along the Gave de Cauterets.

Enjoy stunning scenery as you tackle the steady 10-kilometer climb, with the toughest part at the hairpin bends. Reach the charming village of Cauterets, known for its historic center and ski resort.

From Cauterets, choose between two additional climbs: Pont d’Espagne, with steep gradients and impressive waterfalls, or Cambasque, a short but challenging ascent with scenic views.

Mils Kruger Tour de Pyrenees Day 1: Cauterets – Pont d’Espagne – Cambasque

Argeles Gazost Valley Loop

Distance: 46 km with 720 m elevation gain

Embark on a leisurely ride around the picturesque Argeles Gazost Valley, meandering through quiet country roads and charming villages. Perfect for days when you crave a gentler ride amidst the towering mountains, this loop offers a mix of rolling terrain without any steep climbs.

Start anywhere along the route and pedal at your own pace through the heart of Lourdes, where you can take a break at one of the many cafes for a coffee and croissant.

This route is particularly enjoyable for its relaxed vibe and scenic views. It usually takes around 2 hours to complete, with undulating roads that keep the ride interesting without being too demanding.

A helpful tip for riding this loop is to start on the Argeles Gazost side of the valley on cold but sunny mornings, as it gets sunlight earlier, providing a warmer start to your ride.

Route Des Lacs

Distance: 59 km with 2546 m elevation gain

Begin your climb from Saint-Lary Soulon to Fabian, then ascend through alpine forests and past cascading waterfalls, with steep gradients adding to the challenge and beauty of the ride.

Look out for landmarks like Lacet des Écureuils, Lacet des Myrtilles, and Lacet des Edelweiss as you progress towards Lac de Cap de Long, offering stunning views and the largest reservoir in the Pyrenees.

At Lac d’Oredon, continue to Lac de Cap de Long or explore Aubert and Aumar. Experience the breathtaking scenery of pristine lakes surrounded by towering peaks.

Climb to the highest point at Lac d’Aumar before enjoying the thrilling descent back to Saint-Lary Soulon. Be prepared for technical sections on rough roads, adding an extra dimension to your unforgettable Pyrenees cycling adventure.

Places to Stay

Le Miramont: 44, avenue des Pyrénées 65400 Argelès-Gazost link instagram

Hôtel les Cimes: 1 Pl. d’Ourout, 65400 Argelès-Gazost link

La Boule de Neige: 220 chemin Des Bolus-Vercland, 74340 Samoëns link

Arrieulat: 28 Avenue Des Pyrenees, Argeles-Gazost link instagram

Coffee Stops

Patisserie Vignau Jean: 10 Pl. de la République, 65400 Argelès-Gazost link instagram

Restaurant Bar du Col D’Aubisque: Col d’aubisque, 64440 Béost link

Le Cafe St. Germais: Le Village, 65170 Vignec link

La Ferme Basque – Restaurant à Cauterets: Ferme Basque, Rte de Cambasque, 65110 Cauterets link instagram

Boulangerie Montauban: 40 Av. Jean Moulin, Pierrefitte-Nestalas, Occitanie link

Le Relais De Piau Engaly: L’Usine, 65170 Aragnouet link

Bike Rentals

Tourmalet Bikes: 11 place du 8 mai 65120 Luz St Sauveur link instagram

Bike&Py: 16, Esplanade du Paradis 65100 Lourdes link instagram

L’etape Des Pyrenees: 12 avenue des Pyrénées 65400 Argelès-Gazost link

Cycles Arbes: 10 Avenue François Abadie – 65100 Lourdes link instagram

Luz Bikes: Bureau de Luz Aventure, 6 Rue de Barèges, 65120 Luz-Saint-Sauveur link instagram

With MapMagic route planner, you can craft your one-of-a-kind adventure with friends, add segments and multiple routes on one map, and use 70+ maps and layers to fully prepare for navigating unknown terrain. Join here

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