Hiking and wild camping in the Pyrenees

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

The Pyrenees offers a diverse landscape with walks suitable for all. From short walks for all the family with marmots on the path side, to the summit of magnificent Mount Valier that dominates much of the Ariege scenery, there is something to delight and challenge walkers of all ages & abilities. This post offers you an insight into some of our favourite walks and who they are suitable for.

Ariege Pyrenees Refuges & Wild Camping

There are many refuges to choose from in the Ariege-Pyrenees, ranging from a small shepherd's shelter to the equivalent of a 1*hotel.  These refuges provide vital shelter throughout the year.  Some have 'guardiens' during the summer months.  Most have some form of bed & mattress plus proximity to running water.  Wild camping in the French Pyrenees is a good option.  That said, it is sensible to pitch near or next to some form of refuge and water supply, particularly in late July and August.  Heat is a continuous issue in this period particularly; you need a regular supply of water & shelter from storms.  Thunderstorms develop by mid-afternoon each day so you need to plan your day accordingly (plan to be off summits & near shelter by 3pm).  When camping remember that at night, a close-by refuge can offer a welcome alternative if high winds or a storm develop.  Conditions can deteriorate rapidly. 

Routes & timings should always be flexible; don't be too over-ambitious in the distances you plan to cover.  Heat & steep ascents are tiring.  Long, steep descents can also take more time than planned.  Be wise about how much weight you carry.  Drinking water is readily available throughout most routes except the summits/HRP. 

'Unmanned' Refuges

There is no booking system for unmanned (without 'gardien') refuges  Most have bunks, mattresses and a fire place.  If the weather is bad, do use such a refuge.  There is generally space & it is an accepted principle that fellow walkers will help you find space!  Please just remember to take your rubbish with you, to leave as you find (or better!).

'Manned' Refuges

These can have shepherds (berger) living in part of the building who maintain & monitor the refuge but do not provide any food or drink. Ariege Refuges, such as the Estagnous on route to Mt Valier and the transfrontier GR10 route provide hot evening meals, breakfast, packed lunches and beer/wine.  The manned refuges providing meals always require booking in advance to enable food ordering/transport/preparation.  An evening meal, wine, bed and breakfast will cost around 50 Euros per person

Pitching a Tent

As a general rule camping is permitted well away from access roads, pitching late afternoon/early evening, breaking camp the following morning.  Camping next to a manned refuge may cost 3 to 5 Euros per tent.  Again, take all your rubbish with you, use a pre-determined toilet area or common sense well away from tents and any water source.

Walk with us

We can advise on routes that suite your personal requirements. For those seeking the bigger challenges, support for long distance treks including the GR10 can be arranged with professional guides. Discover old smuggler routes, passes used by Napoleon's armies and secret paths used by those escaping occupied Europe.

Parts of the Ariege are a real wilderness. There are European Brown Bears (80% herbivore & very timid), though rarely seen. The terrain & weather can be harsh & treacherous at any time of the year. But with care, thought and advice, a wonderful landscape rich in history and wildlife can be unfold before you.