Please note that the descriptions below are designed only to give you a flavor of each walk. Times are approximate. This is a mountainous region: weather and conditions underfoot can change rapidly. Allow plenty of time to complete your hike in daylight hours. Carry adequate clothing and safety equipment. To undertake any of these hikes, you will need a compass and a detailed map of the area (maps are usually available in the shop in Lescun). On many routes, including the Chemin de la Mâture, vertiginous drops abound, so take great care and supervise children at all times.
There is lots of great trekking information on Andy Howell’s website, in John Foot’s guide to local hikes (copies of which are usually available in the village shop), and in Kev Reynolds’ authoritative book about the Pyrenean range.
The Belvedere Loop
Turn right outside Maison Willert and immediately join the Belvedere walk around the top of Lescun and back through the village. The five kilometre ‘Tour du Belvedere’ takes most people a couple of hours. (Trail runners will be able to complete the route in 40-50 minutes). The Belvedere walk provides spectacular vistas of the Cirque de Lescun, as well as the picturesque village. It serves as the perfect introduction to the area.
Start the Belvedere walk by passing below the kiosk viewpoint. (If you divert to the kiosk, you will find a plaque of the peaks that form the Cirque de Lescun.) The path beyond the kiosk gains height until you reach the edge of a forest. The turn-off to Vallon and the Forest of Anitch is marked with a yellow sign. Stay left to continue on the Belvedere loop.
The path climbs through the wood. The path can be poorly marked if there is a dense covering of autumn leaves. You emerge from the wood onto a ridgeline, which undulates with trees to your right and open space with lovely views to your left. After a few hundred metres the ridge peters out and the path re-enters the forest. It zip-zags uphill and eventually emerges onto open ground. A faint trail runs ahead. Ignore this and look for the small yellow plaque with an arrow pointing to the right. Follow this, keeping the treeline on your right. After about 150 metres, keep a lookout for the yellow signpost ‘Belvedere, 1222m’. In clear weather keep your camera to hand! Follow the path (marked ‘Retour Lescun’) to the village.
Lac de Lhurs and Le Plateau de Sanchèse
To walk to the car park which is the starting point for both these hikes, pass through the village of Lescun, keeping the shop and post office on your left. Walk uphill for two minutes to the crossroads. Follow the road signposted to ‘Laberouat’ and ‘Anapia-Lhurs’. After 15 minutes, the road bends to the left around a renovated ‘gîte rural’ and a private house. After another five minutes the road takes a U-bend across a river. Shortly afterwards, at a 3-way junction, follow a signpost to ‘Anapia-Lhurs’. The road continues to wind and twist for five minutes until you reach the parking sign for Napia.
On arrival at the car park, continue easily along a track wide enough for vehicles until you reach the pretty Plateau de Sanchèse. This is a popular place for a picnic in summer with walkers and drivers alike. It is possible to cross from this route to the GR10 to create a long circular walk back to Lescun, or return from Sanchèse to Lescun on a largely metalled road to save retracing your footsteps to the car park.
If you are heading to the lake, follow the yellow signpost at the car park to ‘Lac de Lhurs, 2h 25m’. The round-trip walk for most people is up to five hours. Keep an eye out for a T-junction with a yellow flash highlighting the route direction. 15-20 minutes after leaving the car park, look out for a yellow flash up and to your right pointing the way uphill.
This path is easy to follow, and much of the time it is under tree cover. After 30-40 minutes the path passes beneath Billiare’s lower ramparts. Contour along the right hand side of the gorge for 15 minutes, then look for the path continuing on the other side. In early summer you may need to cross a patch of snow. The way ahead is marked with a yellow flash on the rock, which may also be obscured by snow.
After another 10 minutes, you will reach a viewpoint which provides a spectacular vista of the village of Lescun, as well the brooding Pic du Midi d’Ossau. A final 15 minutes of hiking leads you to the lake and cabin. After relaxing by the water’s edge, follow your footsteps back to the car park.
GR10 to the Cabane du Cap de la Baitch and Pic D’Anie
Leave Lescun by following the signs for the GR10 towards the Refuge de L’Abérouat. At certain times of year, the GR10 can be very muddy, and some walkers prefer to walk up the road to the refuge. It takes 10 minutes to drive or 90 minutes to walk to the refuge, which is a substantial building. Walk past the refuge and follow the obvious path into a small wood. After emerging on the north-west side of the wood, the path crosses a clearing before entering a larger wood called the Bois du Brace d’Azuns. In summer, the multitudinous silver birch create a cool microclimate.
An hour or so after leaving the refuge you will emerge onto open ground. The Cabane d’Ardinet will swing into view up and to your left. In clear weather you will be able to see the GR10 continuing up the valley to the Cabane du Cap de la Baitch. After another 20 or so minutes of easy hiking you will arrive at this cabin. From here you can retrace your steps to Lescun. Alternatively, experienced mountain walkers can continue on towards the Pic d’Anie. Note that this is a high mountain route across rough terrain that demands respect. Even in summer, steep snow slopes can linger and the weather can change with little or no warning.
Le Lac d’Anasbere
The Masousa parking area is above the Parking at Anapia and is the best place to start this walk if you have a car. The path from here takes you across a meadow and through a wood to the Cabanes d’Anasbere which is used in the summer by shepherds. Watch out for the white sheep dog which can attack if you go anywhere near the flock. Continue climbing up a massive scree field to a high plateau. After a short while you will reach the lunar landscape of Col de Peterageme, Lac d’Anasbere and the Spanish border. From the Masousa parking area, the walk to the lake is about a 5-6 hour round trip. You can make this longer by climbing above the Lac d’Anasbere and dropping into Spain to see the Lac de la Chourique.
Chemin de la Mâture
Located three kilometres south of Etsaut, this 18th century trail has a fascinating history. It was originally hacked out of the sheer flank of the Sescoué ravine to allow gargantuan trees to be harvested for the French navy, who required stout timber for masts. This is a truly spectacular walk.
The round trip described here is about nine kilometres and takes up to five hours. You can park at Pont de Cebers or another 740 metres further south. It is only 15 minutes or so to the start of the Chemin de la Mâture from the second car park. It is a further 45 minute hike to Grange de Perry where many people turn around. Water bottles can sometimes be filled up here. 15-20 minutes after Perry, there is a left turn off the GR10 onto a yellow-blazed path that climbs towards the Col d’Arras at 1300 metres. (If you proceed just a few metros further along the GR10 then you reach the pretty bridge of Trungas.) Further up the trail and another hairpin turn to the left is also signposted to the col.
The Col d’Arras is a grassy hillside pasture with sweeping views. Water is usually available here. From the col, the trail drops sharply through beech woods. Shortly after the col, another sign points to the Pont de Cebers and the car park at the start of the Chemin. Continue on down through the woods and finally emerge on a minor side road near some farms from where it is an easy walk to the car parks. During the descent, ignore the junction to the right which would take you through the ‘Bois de Bieus’ and into Etsaut via the Col de Redo.
This short film about the Chemin de la Mâture describes its history and portrays some of the spectacular scenery that you will experience if you choose to hike along it.
One of the chair lifts at Astún continues to operate in the summer to shuttle hikers up to one of several lakes on either side of the border. From the top point at La Raca, you have fantastic views northeast to the Pic du Midi and west beyond Candanchú.
Lescun to Borce and Etsaut along the GR10
The GR10 leaves Lescun and heads west, through forest and over the Col de Barrancq to descend to the lovely medieval village of Borce and its nearby wildlife centre. The walk to Borce and the neighbouring settlement of Etsaut is about 14 kilometres. Allow up to nine hours to complete this hike. You will need to make arrangements to return to Lescun.
This is a relatively easy walk that crosses the Spanish border (no passport required). The round trip takes up to three and a half hours with a height gain of just over 500 metres. The walk starts from the Sansanet parking area which is situated at a hairpin bend on route 134 in the direction of the Col du Somport. If you reach the Somport cross-country ski centre you have driven too far.
After parking, exit the bottom of the car park and at the first bridge turn right. Follow the track around the hairpin to the left. Follow the yellow sign to the right over a second, smaller, bridge. Then follow the sign to the left. Begin zigzagging up through the trees. After 15 to 20 minutes you will join an established vehicular track. Turn right along it for a couple of minutes until it heads off to a cabin that sometimes sells cheese. Follow the yellow signpost uphill to the lake.
The path winds up across open ground for another 20 minutes or so, whereupon it passes through two small and attractive copses that provide welcome shade on a hot and sunny day. The path re-emerges onto exposed ground. Pass by a yellow sign discouraging motorcyclists. (Remember this sign for the return journey.) Sheep can often be seen and heard on these slopes. Steer clear of the flock and the attendant sheepdog. Another few minutes will bring you to a lovely tarn where you can cool off.
Continue contouring gently uphill for another 20-25 minutes until the delightful lake falls into view. This pastoral land is often dotted with fine-looking mountain ponies.
Le Tour de Soudious, Pouey and Vallon
Le Tour de Soudios is a 90 minute, five kilometre circular walk or (quicker) bike ride. It begins at the Place de L’Eglise in Bedous. Start by following the pilgrimage route to Compostelle. Pass behind the church and take the path to the right leading to the Moulin (Mill) of Orcun. You pass through the village of Orcun which has an interesting Roman chapel. Continue along the route to Compostelle (GR65/3, a variant of the classic GR65) through the village of Jouers. This has a second chapel that you can visit. Leave the GR65.3 at Poey to return by a path immediately to your left. This path leads to the Borde de Soudious. Rejoin your initial route at the Pont d’Orcun.
You can extend this walk by continuing along GR65/3 to the village of Accous. Contour around Le Poey, a rock formation created by the movement of the Spanish and European continental plate, which generated molten rock in the form of ophite. Head back towards Jouers, linking up once more with the GR65/3. Alternatively, continue through Accous along the GR65/3 as far as Pont D’Esquit. Turn right in front of the electric power station to join the route to Bedous via Lees, Athas and Osse-en-Aspe. This final alternative takes about three hours, or half that time on a bicycle.
Les Chemin des Jaupins (Bedous to Aydius)
This hike from Bedous to Aydius is about nine kilometres and takes roughly three hours. The route starts by following the Chemin de Saint Jacque as far as the Mill (Moulin) at Orcun. From here, initially follow the Chemin des Ardoisieres. Then continue towards the granges of Nouqueret. The walk enters Aydius along the Chemin des Jaupins. The route can be cycled from Aydius to Bedous but it is a technical ride.
Chemin de Saint-Jacque: from Escot to Sarrance
Departing from the center of the village of Escot, this is a two hour, seven kilometre round-trip that traces part of the historic Arles to Compostelle pilgrim route. The path crosses and then follows the River d’Aspe from Escot to Sarrance.
Tour du Pic du Midi
There are some excellent walks in the Vallée d’Ossau, the neighboring valley to Vallée d’Aspe. These include the classic, anticlockwise Tour du Pic du Midi which takes up to seven hours to complete. About one kilometre beyond the southern tip of the lake (approximately an hour from the car park) the trail divides; take the left hand path, crossing the Pont de Bious and entering the Pyrenees National Park. Continue upstream across flat, wet terrain until a sign reading ‘Pombie par Peyreget’ directs you left. It’s a steepish, zig-zagging climb along a section of the Haute Randonnée Pyrénnée to the tiny Lac de Peyreget (three hours). Next, slip over the Col de Peyreget between Pic Peyreget and the southern spur of Pic du Midi and then down past the Lac de Pombie to the Refuge de Pombie. From the refuge, you return to Bious Artigues within two hours or so via the onward trail north through the Col de Suzon and Col de Moundelhs. Bear west for the final descent over the Col Long de Magnabaigt.