Summer hikes in the Basque Country and Béarn
In summer, there is nothing better than escaping to the Pyrenees with family or friends to reconnect with nature, discover wildlife, enjoy panoramic landscapes, exercise and taste the local gastronomy.
The department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques is located at the southern tip of Aquitaine (France). It borders Spain to the south (Basque Country, Navarre and Aragon), the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Hautes-Pyrénées to the east. The department of Pyrénées Atlantiques is divided into four main areas, each with its own characteristics: the Basque coast in the west; the Basque Country in the central-western part, the Béarn in the north-eastern half (which is semi-mountainous) and the Pyrenees of Béarn in the south-east, where mountain lovers can enjoy such heavenly sites as the lakes of Ayous and Montagnon.
We have listed several hikes around the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, leading to lakes, peaks and unusual mountainous places to best meet your wandering desires.
Not all hikes in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques can be improvised. Some of them need to be prepared upstream according to the altitudes and the distances. In addition, you must have the right equipment. It should be light, practical and comfortable so as not to interfere with your movements.
Here are our best advices on where to go in the Pyrenees and what to carry with you.
Choose your hike according to your tastes
- Pyrenean Lakes
- Lac d’Ibardin (330m): This small lake offers a moment of escape in the heart of the Basque Country. It is perfect for a family walk as it presents no difficulties.
- Lacs d’Ayous: You have certainly already heard of them, the inevitable Ayous Lakes at the end of the Ossau valley, which overlook a magnificent view of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau. During this hike, you will cross 3 lakes, such as Lake Roumassot (1845m), Lake Miey (1914m) and Lake Gentau (1947m). This hike is ideal for families.
- Lac du Montagnon (2003m): This is one of the most photogenic lakes in the Ossau valley! The singularity of this lake lies in its heart shape, but also in its isolation in the heart of the Pyrenees. This hike is of medium intensity and is more for regular hikers.
- At the top of the peaks
- Pic du Mondarrain (749m): This walk allows you to admire the Basque Country all along the way and to contemplate a 360° view of the entire coast. An ideal walk for sunrise and sunset lovers. This walk is accessible to families.
- Mont Baïgura (897m): The Baigourra is one of the most visible peaks of the Basque mountains. Due to its position, the summit is swept by ocean winds and it is common to come across paragliders and vultures. This mountain walk is for regular hikers.
- La Rhune (905m): At 905m altitude, La Rhune is the most iconic peak of the Basque Country. It is the pride of the Basque people. On foot or by a little train, it allows hikers and families to wander there with ease.
- Mont d’Artzamendi (926m): With a radar that forms a white sphere on its top, this mountain stands out from the others. It offers a spectacular view of the Atlantic and Spanish Pyrenees. This hike is for regular hikers.
- Pic d'Iparla (1044m): On a clear day, the Pic d'Iparla offers an immense panorama of the Basque Country at the Pic du Midi de Bigorre and, on the other side, the ocean as far as the Landes coast. A stronghold of vultures, this hike is recommended for regular hikers.
- Pic d’Orhy (2017m): This peak is the summit of the Basque Country. This mountain offers either a dizzying passage through the Alupegha ridge or an easy walk from the Col du Port de Larrau. Depending on the hike chosen, it can be within the reach of hikers and families.
- Pic d’Anie (2504m): The pic d'Anie is the highest peak in the Lescun cirque. It is the first summit that exceeds 2500m since the Atlantic Ocean. From up there, you can admire a 360° panorama which is simply extraordinary! This hike is for regular hikers.
- Unusual walks
- La corniche Basque: by following the Atlantic Ocean, you will discover at each moment, a different face of the landscape that borders the Basque cliffs.
- Le petit train d'Artouste: Located in the Ossau Valley, this tourist railway, the highest in Europe, allows a visit of the valley at more than 2000m of altitude.
- La passerelle d'Holzarté: Suspended 140m above the void, the Holzarté footbridge is the most spectacular in the Pyrenees! This footbridge jumps over the Olhadubi canyon to reach the other bank. The panorama is breathtaking.
- Les gorges de Kakuetta: A specially designed route allows you to admire the beauty of the gorges. In the middle of a luxuriant vegetation, along a twisting river, this varied course will delight young and old alike.
As for the equipment needed, here are our recommendations.
Prepare your equipment (bag, bivouac and technical clothing)
- What equipment do you take in your bag?
- Water: Water is the most important element, no matter the distance, it should not be forgotten. Tip: For one day, plan at least 2L of water per person.
- An IGN map: It is very important to leave with an IGN map when hiking, it is an important security. It will not only allow you to recognize a path but also to find it if you get lost.
- A telephone and an external battery: For information, even without a network, you can call for help. Your mobile phone can be useful as a compass or flashlight if your headlamp has run out of battery.
- A headlamp: It will allow you to read a map at nightfall, and to attract the attention of the emergency services if you ever need it.
- A compass: It will be useful to show you the North and to orientate your map so that you don't get lost.
- Decontamination tablets: Since water is the most precious thing, it is important to have decontamination tablets to be able to decontaminate non-drinking water that you find on site (waterfall, lake, pond).
- A whistle: If you have to call for help, the whistle can make it easier for them to arrive. Reminder of the universal signal: whistle three times and wait 10 seconds. Repeat several times until you get an answer.
- A knife: It can be useful in several cases, for example to eat and during a bivouac.
- Food for the day: depending on the length of your hike or bivouac, we advise you to provide food that is easily transportable and not bulky. Always plan two extra meals.
- A protective jacket: depending on the season, always provide warm and light clothing to carry. In winter, a compressible down jacket, for example, and in summer, a windbreaker or waterproof jacket to protect you from wind and rain.
- A poncho: That's the bonus that could come in handy! It is the best option to protect yourself and your backpack from heavy rain.
- A camera: to capture beautiful landscapes!
We recommend that you distribute the weight evenly in the bag. Store items of the same weight symmetrically to avoid pain.
- How to prepare a bivouac?
In addition to the above, here is our complementary list.
- A tent: The size of the tent is very important according to your height. Tip: The tent should be larger than you are when you are lying down so as not to take moisture from the extremities of your body.
- A mattress: To avoid sleeping on the ground and getting wet, we recommend that you bring a mattress, preferably an air mattress.
- A spleeping bag*: There is nothing better than a warm duvet that is resistant to low outside temperatures.
*When trekking, choosing the right down filling for your sleeping bag is not an easy task. To sleep peacefully in the mountains, you will have to take into account several criteria such as comfort temperature, temperature limit, weight, filling, closing system, size, compressed volume, shape and the possibility that it can be paired with another one. Here is our guide to help you choose the ideal sleeping bag. Pyrenex sleeping bags are available in several models, with different types of natural down fillings. The collection covers a range of use from -15°C to 10°C, ideal for all types of conditions, in summer camping, in mid-season bivouacs or even during more extreme expeditions in winter.
When planning a bivouac, bear in mind that your bag will be much heavier. Make sure you bring light equipment and don't overload yourself.
- How to get dressed when you go to the mountains?
Here are our tips to help you choose your technical clothing for hiking and bivouac.
The mountain is a very capricious playground. The weather is very unpredictable, so you must always plan for rain, wind, cool weather or heat.
- In summer:
You might think it's easy to dress up in the summer when going to the mountains, but in reality, it's not that simple. You will have to take into account several criteria such as the weight of the backpack, the weather forecast, the trek type, your current physical shape…
We advise you to favour light, comfortable and technical clothing (such as sportswear, hiking or trail clothing) in the summer for the tops (long sleeves and T-shirts) and bottoms (pants and shorts).
As seasonal jackets, a light down jacket, a hybrid jacket or a water-repellent windbreaker to cope with the changing weather are perfect. Pyrenex lightweight down jackets and hybrid jackets bring you warmth and lightness to face mild temperatures. Breathable and water-repellent, Pyrenex windbreakers are perfect for summer mountain outings.
In the summer, always take with you an underlayer. See our "Pyrenex Insulation Guide" for more advice. As for accessories, bring light mountain socks, a cap and sunscreen.
- During the between seasons and in winter:
Winter equipment rules follow the same logic as in summer, the main difference being the need of warmer garments, which will have an impact of your backpack weight.
Here is our "Pyrenex insulation guide" to help you find your perfect gear to explore the mountain in winter.
Source of inspiration: Book " Haize : guide de randonnée " by Adrien Ballanger.