For an overview map and details on every route I have cycled in the Pyrenées see here.
This post will just discuss Port de Boucharo, but my ride (and the map) also included the amazing Cirque de Troumouse – see post here.
I had previously thought that Col du Tourmalet (2115 metres) was the highest paved mountain pass in the French Pyrenées, but in fact it is Port de Boucharo (2270 metres).
Both of the above start in Luz-Saint-Saveur and while Tourmalet is far more famous due to its 70+ Tour de France appearances, Boucharo is at least as interesting.
The first 20 kilometres to Gavarnie are not steep but always uphill. It’s a nice stretch through a gorge but can be a little busy in summer. The tourists are all heading up to see the Cirque de Gavarnie … basically a hug mountain “ampitheatre.” Lots of restaurants, tourist shops, and little hotels here.
I used a hybrid as I wasn’t certain of the road conditions above Col des Tentes, but this route is fine on a road bike.
But don’t stop unless you are thirsty …. the good news is that 95% of the traffic stops here.
Apparently this region has been discussed as a Tour de France option, but given that Cirque de Gavarnie is a UNESCO World Heritage site, there are concerns that a 100,000 cycling fans could harm the ecology
At Gavarnie, follow the road and the signs to Boucharo or Col des Tentes. From this point on it gets more difficult. But the views, and the hairpins ….. it’s a great climb.
I saw Lots of “wild” life: I saw dozens of marmottes, there were sheep all over the road, and yes, lots of cows. Passing 2000 metres, on one of the last hairpins, I saw this beautiful herd and realized that one was in the process of giving birth. If you are really curious …. large image here:
At 2208 metres is Col des Tentes (no Col sign!). There is parking and the road beyond is closed to cars. It’s then just a fun 1.5 kilomtres ride to Port de Boucharo. It’s paved — although a couple of mini avalanches littered the road.
Port de Boucharo is the gap in top left over my shoulder.
It’s the French/Spanish border, although there is no road — but hiking trails — on the Spanish side.
For the first time I cycled in Spain !
I loved this climb. If you’re doing it in summer, perhaps get an early start to minimize traffic to Gavarnie. But don’t just rush from Aubisque to Tourmalet – climb this.
Once you get past Gavarnie, what turns out to be the highest paved road in the French Pyrenées, is just amazing.
Quiet / No Traffic