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Hiking trail

Cirque du Gavarnie

Hiking trail · Midi-Pyrénées
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Macs Adventure Verified partner  Explorers Choice 
  • Pailha Refuge
    / Pailha Refuge
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • Start of walk
    / Start of walk
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • Cirque du Gavarnie
    / Cirque du Gavarnie
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • Head of the trail
    / Head of the trail
    Photo: Macs Adventure
Map / Cirque du Gavarnie
1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 m km 2 4 6 8 10 12

A walk to the gigantic natural amphitheater of Cirques du Gavarnie with an optional detour into the Pyrenees on the return route.

moderate
13 km
5:00 h
570 m
570 m

After taking the bus from Luz St Sauveur to Gavarnie, you can join this very popular walk to see the enormous glacially scooped out bowl of Cirques du Gavarnie. Here you can walk to and even pass behind one of a number of waterfalls cascading off of its high cliffs; though you will get pretty wet from the spray, even from within 50 metres of approaching the chute. On the way back, you may wish to make a detour on a narrow mountainside path to get deeper into this part of the High Pyrenees.

Author’s recommendation

For every good reason, this is an extremely popular walk. At the end of the trail, the majestic sight of the dark grey cliffs of Cirque du Gavarne, with its waterfalls cascading onto the barren rocky landscape, still bearing patches of ice sheets in mid summer, will take your breath away. Be brave and see how near you can get the waterfall at the end of the path. On the way back, you may wish to take a detour, escaping some of the crowds, by climbing a narrow mountainside path. Again, you will require a little courage as the path is narrow and a bit precipitous in places, especially where it passes alongside cliffs leaning outwards above you.

Difficulty
moderate
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
1745 m
Lowest point
1356 m
Best time of year
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Safety information

Take care over the loose rocks and shale around the head of the walk, around the waterfall. Also, if you detour on the mountainside path on the way back, take your time around the precipitous sections.

Equipment

Stout footwear and walking poles are recommended. A waterproof could prove useful to deal with summer showers.

Tips, hints and links

Cirque du Gavarnie – see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cirque_de_Gavarnie 

Bus times – There are two buses per day that leave Luz St Sauveur for Gavarnie and two that return; see timetable:    file://macsdc/UserShares/sarahh/Downloads/Maligne%20des%20Gaves%20-Tarbes%20Gavarnie%20%C3%A9t%C3%A9%202018%20(1).pdf 

Be sure to leave yourself enough time to catch the bus back to Luz St Sauveur. If you choose to walk the mountainside path on your return from the Cirque du Gavarnie, you need to allow at least three hours from the point at which you turn off onto the mountainside path.

The bus runs from the start of June until early September, outwith these times, a taxi will be required to take you to and from the start and endpoint of the hike. This could be arranged through your hotel, or please contact us if you would like assistance organising this. 

Hotel du Cirque: Built in the 19th century and still run by the family who established it. This is a popular stopping point for hikers wanting food and drink. It is still run by the family who founded it. See: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g425061-d4695914-Reviews-Hotellerie_du_Cirque-Gavarnie_Hautes_Pyrenees_Occitanie.html

There are a number of bars, cafes and restaurants in Gavarnie, at the beginning and end of the walk.

You will pass Pailla refuge (at 2027 metres above sea level) on the way back to Gavarnie, if you take the mountainside path detour. See: http://www.randozone.com/fiche/10635/cabane-de-pailla.html

 

This tour is available on the following itineraries: WFSWIPNP

 

Start

Gavarnie Tourist Office. (1365 m)
Coordinates:
Geographic
42.735100, -0.010254
UTM
30T 744742 4735734

Destination

Gavarnie Tourist Office.

Turn-by-turn directions

0.00km - With the Tourist Office front entrance behind you, BEAR LEFT towards the mountains in the distance along the road signposted ‘Chemin do Cirque’. Continue past tourist shops and cafes to reach turning to your left.

0.40km - TURN LEFT following signpost ‘Chemin du Cirque’. Carry on to three way crossing.

0.55km - Go STRAIGHT ON, following signpost ‘Chemin du Cirque’. After passing the CRS police station on your right, continue along road over bridge over river to then continue on gravel road, with river to your right. Carry on, with all the other tourists, to reach the little bridge, ‘Pont de Nadau’, to your right.

1.80km - Go STRAIGHT ON, ascending gradually, to reach Hotel du Cirque.

4.20km - Go STRAIGHT ON along path, which now becomes ever more rugged and indistinct. Continue on passing a warning sign about the natural risks of this high mountain zone. Then cross a couple of streams and make your way over the loose rock and shale to the waterfall to your left. You get wetter and wetter, from the spray, as you approach it. Get as near to it and pass behind it if you dare.

5.55km - TURN AROUND and go back the way you came, all the way back to the Hotel.

6.90km - Here you have a choice.

 - EITHER: 

Go STRAIGHT ON following the same route all the way back to Gavarnie Tourist Office

 - OR

BEAR RIGHT on narrow path, just before reaching the hotel, following signpost ‘Pailla par les Espugues 1 hr’ (this is the route detailed on the map).

If you take this detour, it will take you at least 2 hrs (possibly longer) to get back to the bus stop at Gavernie Tourist Office. Following yellow stripe markers zig zag your way along narrow path. After crossing a steam the path follows the contour of a steep mountainside, around cliffs, sometimes leaning outwards above you. For about 1 kilometer, the trail is a little precipitous. However, the mountainside then becomes less steep. Continue to pass through a wooden barrier, just beyond which you will come to a fork in the path.

9.30km - BEAR RIGHT and ascend the path to find ‘Refuge de Paiha’ (a green painted wooden building) to your right.

9.40km - Go STRAIGHT ON, passing refuge and continue over wooden bridge to reach path to your right.

9.60km - Go STRAIGHT ON following signpost ‘Gavarnie 45 mins’. Zig zag your way down this rough rugged and rocky path to eventually come to a gravel track.

11.20km - Go STRAIGHT ON along gravel track to reach T junction.

11.50km - TURN RIGHT and retrace your steps back to the bus stop outside the Tourist Office. Remember to cross the bridge, pass police station (now on your left) and TURN RIGHT at the T junction, before arriving back where you started.

13.00 ARRIVE back at the bus stop outside Gavarnie Tourist Office.

Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


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Difficulty
moderate
Distance
13 km
Duration
5:00 h
Ascent
570 m
Descent
570 m

Statistics

: h
 km
 m
 m
Highest point
 m
Lowest point
 m
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