The 5 Best Hikes in the Lakes of Ayous


Last Updated on 10/01/2023 by Alfred

Among the most beautiful natural areas of the Pyrenees, the Lakes of Ayous are particularly popular with walkers. Around its emblematic summit, the Pic du Midi d’Ossau, hikes around the Lakes of Ayous to enjoy an exceptional mountain setting.

A set of six lakes of glacial origin make up the Lakes of Ayous, in the Ossau Valley: Lake Castérau, Lake Miey, Lake Gentau, Lake Bersau, Lake Paradis, and Lake Roumassot. It is a high place for hiking in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, with the passage of the GR10, a mythical long-distance hiking trail linking the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the refuge of Ayous, emblematic of the area, and the inevitable Pic du Midi d’Ossau, isolated vestige of a very old volcano that still dominates the valley and the whole of Béarn.

The hikes of the Lakes of Ayous take place in a mountain universe, on trails often demanding both in terms of distance and positive elevation gains: good shoes, walking poles, and hiking equipment; prepare accordingly! Fortunately, the diversity of trails and the geography of the Lacs d’Ayous make it possible to adapt long routes to shorter and accessible walks.

Remember that in the field of the mountains, the risk always exists: prefer the spring or summer season to offer you the most beautiful hikes of the Lakes of Ayous.

1. Hiking the Lakes of Ayous

  • Duration: about 6h30
  • Distance: 15.4 km
  • Height difference: 829 m
  • Difficulty: Difficult

This is THE hike of the Lakes of Ayous not to be missed, a great classic on which we meet many hikers. This route lives up to its name as you will pass successively next to the six lakes of Ayous, without missing a single one!

Always in the background, the impressive Pic du Midi d’Ossau, with its characteristic silhouette accompanies you, in a grandiose setting. The views follow one another, as well as the pleasant breaks by the lakes. On sunny days, it is useful to take your bathing things with you!

Trail of more than 15 km accumulating a good elevation gain, the hike of the Lakes of Ayous is not a trivial outing: bring good shoes and poles and enough to carry water and food. The loop is of course, feasible during the day: leave early in the morning, just in case.

Some do not hesitate to take full advantage of their passage to the Lakes of Ayous to bivouac a night on the way: ideal to take your time and enjoy the landscapes for a long time.

2. The Tour du Pic du Midi d’Ossau

  • Duration: about 7 hours
  • Distance: 17.2 km
  • Height difference: 1,016 m
  • Difficulty: Difficult

If the hike of the Lakes of Ayous takes a rather sporty turn, let us specify from the outset that the Tour du Pic du Midi d’Ossau is only for experienced hikers who have it under the sole. A long walk in a number of kilometers, technical in places, requiring a big physical effort in terms of elevation, do not embark on the adventure blindly!

For experienced walkers, on the other hand, the Tour du Pic du Midi d’Ossau is a must-see classic of the Lacs d’Ayous. Like many hikes in the area, the start is at lake Bious-Artigues, easily accessible. The purpose of the itinerary is, therefore to go all around the Pic du Midi d’Ossau, a sumptuous loop in the heart of extraordinary mountain landscapes.

This peak, 2,884 m high, recognizable among all, takes on dark hues due to the very ancient volcanic rocks that compose it, and stands alone in the middle of the Ossau valley. The locals nicknamed him Jean-Pierre!

Sport hike, plan all day to complete the loop and return to your starting point. Possibility to spend the night at the refuge of Pombie if necessary. A variant, even more difficult, is to go directly through the summit of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau… For the real hiking pros!

3. The refuge of Ayous

  • Duration: about 4h30
  • Distance: 11.7 km
  • Height difference: 692 m
  • Difficulty: Difficult

The GR10 is one of those mythical hiking trails that make all hikers salivate. Here, we keep only one section, magnificent, which allows you to hike to the Lakes of Ayous through the emblematic refuge of the area: the refuge of Ayous.

The route, to be done by the round trip, connects Gabas to the refuge through several lakes, that of Bious-Artigues, Lake Roumassot and Lake Gentau. Swimming is possible (and recommended) when the sun shines over the Pyrenees and temperatures rise.

As such, the refuge of Ayous is perfect if you plan to spend the night around the Lakes of Ayous, enjoying the sunset, the declining colors, and the evening … You will also be at the heart of the subject in the early morning!

4. The Hot Water Caves

  • Duration: about 2 hours
  • Distance: 6.9 km
  • Height difference: 458 m
  • Difficulty: Medium

Even if it means hiking in the Lakes of Ayous, do not hesitate to stop by the village of Eaux-Chaude, a stone’s throw from Laruns. It will be an opportunity for an easy walk accessible to all, still accumulating 500 m of elevation gain, to discover the two caves in Eaux-Chaudes.

Equipped with a flashlight, you can explore these magnificent cavities without difficulty, although the water is actually rather cold… An outing to be planned over half a day, with a return to the starting point.

5. The peak of Er via the lake

  • Duration: about 3h30
  • Distance: 8.5 km
  • Height difference: 1,259 m
  • Difficulty: Difficult

On the road to Gabas, you will find the starting point of another beautiful hike of the Lakes of Ayous, also quite sporty: the idea is to climb by the path to the peak of Er, around 2,170 m of altitude, which brings us to a positive altitude difference of 880 m to climb, but also to go down!

Essential sticks for the knees… The climb is quite steep in places, but you will always have the choice to stop at Lake Er and return if the peak seems too difficult. An outing to do in summer, when snow and ice have disappeared.

Alfred

Alfred is the author behind the Travelvibe travel blog and is always searching for the quieter, less-visited corners of the world.

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