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Hiking trail

Cable car to Cirque du Lys. Walk to Cauterets via Lac d’Iheou.

Hiking trail · Midi-Pyrénées
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  • Start of walk
    / Start of walk
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • / Mountainside path
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • / Lac d'Ilheou
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • / Detour path to waterfall
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • / GR 10 path
    Photo: Macs Adventure
m 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 10 8 6 4 2 km Lac D’Ilheou

After a cable car and chairlift ascent to Cirque du Lys, an almost exclusively downhill walk, via Lac d’Ilheou, takes you from mountain peaks pastureland and forests all the way back to Cauterets.  If you are travelling outside the dates that the cable car runs—approx. 2nd week of July to 1st of September, then please refer to Cauterets Loop Walk. 

11.9 km
5:00 h
0 m
1300 m

Once off of the chairlift to Le Cirque du Lys, you follow the path to ‘Lac et Refuge D’Ilheou’. The path meanders around a little before winding around a steep mountainside to then descend to Lac d’Ilheou (a mountain lake 1976 metres above sea level). After possibly taking a paddle in the lake and a snack at the lakeside refuge café, you now follow a narrow track into a wide valley. Just before a bridge crossing, you turn off of the track to take the Grande Randonnee (GR) 10 path through pastureland and forests that lead you all the way back to Cauterets

Author’s recommendation

The view from the endpoint of the chairlift, at Cirque du Lys is breathtaking; with mountain peaks in all directions and, quite possibly, with clouds beneath you. Lac D’Iheou has a cool serenity about it. As you walk into the valley below you can view of the waterfall behind you and possibly get sight of vultures and other birds of prey circling above you.

Highest point
2337 m
Lowest point
935 m
Best time of year

Safety information

Take care getting on and off of chairlift, following the insructions of the assitants. Some care is needed along the narrow path around the mountainside, just before reaching Lac D'Ilheou, as the mountainside is rather steep here.


Sturdy footwear, walking poles and a rain jacket are all advisable; summer showers can be heavy and there is little shelter en route.

Tips, hints and links

Today's walk largely follows the Grande Randenne (GR) 10 trail. For more details about the GR 10 trail, see: and


En route you can purchase snacks at the cafe at the end of the cable car, before journeying onward on the chairlift. There is also a cafe at the refuge beside Lac D'Ilheou.   


This tour is available on the following itineraries: WFSWIPNP



Cirque du Lys (2301 m)
42.880585, -0.171783
30T 730976 4751434


Cauterets Tourist Office (Office du Tourisme).

Turn-by-turn directions

0.00km - After getting off of the chairlift, TURN RIGHT onto the gravel road in front of you, following signpost for ‘Lac et Refuge D’Ilheou’ and make your way uphill a little way to find a footpath on your left.

0.10km - TURN LEFT off of road onto footpath, following signpost for ‘Lac d’Ilheou 40 mins’. Continue gradually downhill to reach a fork in the path.

0.65km - BEAR LEFT and continue downhill to reach cairn.

0.85km - BEAR LEFT at the cairn, passing huts on your right following white and red Grande Randonnee (GR) markers on stones to then reach a second cairn.

1.70km - Go STRAIGHT ON, following signpost ‘Ilheou’. Cross stream and carry on a little uphill and then around a moderately steep mountainside. You will then descend to reach a wooden bridge with Lac D’Ilheou to your right.

2.90km - Go STRAIGHT ON over bridge, through a gate to reach a refuge in front of you. Continue along path/track on the right side of the refuge to then come to a three way crossing.

3.10km - TURN LEFT, following signpost ‘Cauterets 3 hrs’, on narrow gravel track winding downhill past a small lake, to your left, to then reach another refuge.

4.00km - Go STRAIGHT ON, crossing stream, along a track winding into a valley. Look out for a path turning to your left, on a hairpin bend, where you can make a little detour to get a near view of a waterfall (see photo). Now carry on to reach a bridge over the river ahead of you.

6.90km - DO NOT cross the bridge, but instead TURN RIGHT off of road onto the GR path. Follow white and red GR markers along a narrow rocky path alongside the river to your left. The path then turns away from the river a little and becomes less rugged, following the contour of the mountain. The path passes through pastureland, with the river, road and cable car all away to your left. Continue to fork in path.

8.30km - BEAR LEFT, following white and red GR markers, and continue on path with low stone wall to your left until you come to a turning to your left.

9.10km - Go STRAIGHT ON (don’t take turning downhill to your left). The GR markers are missing here but you will see them again shortly. Continue along a path flanked by low stone walls and a few trees to reach house to your right, beyond which you will then come to a road.

9.60km - TURN LEFT onto road and walk a little way to find a grassy path on your right.

9.70km - TURN RIGHT to descend a path, with white and red GR marker on a rock. Continue to a three way crossing with cable car above you.

9.90km - TURN RIGHT and continue on gravel track to barrier in front of you.

10.00km - Go STRAIGHT ON, closing the barrier behind you, and continue to path turning on your left.

10.10km - TURN LEFT onto path, following signpost ‘Cautertets’ and zig zag your way through the forest on a path to reach a road, with a bridge to your left and hairpin bend to your right.

10.55km - TURN RIGHT and walk to the hairpin bend, where you then need to BEAR LEFT and continue on road downhill. Carry on until you come to a path on your left, just as the road turns right.

10.90km - TURN LEFT off of road and follow path winding through forest to reach a path T junction.

11.10km - TURN LEFT at path T junction and continue downhill through forest, with stone water course to your left. Follow the path to the river, where the path turns right. Then continue along path, with river and bridge to your left. Carry on down to a road. Now walk along road to reach T junction.

11.45km - TURN RIGHT on road towards the center of Cauterets. Carry on to T junction, with a Carousel in front of you.

11.80km TURN LEFT and carry on towards the Tourist Office.

11.90km ARRIVE at Cauterets Tourist Office, on your left, just past the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall).


all notes on protected areas

Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

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11.9 km
0 m
1300 m


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