Lac de Cap de Long and La Route des Lacs


For an overview map and details on every route I have cycled in the Pyrenées see here.

Above: Lac de Cap de Long

Top-to-bottom, the best road-bike climb that I have done in the French Pyrenées.

I am a huge fan of cycling up to huge and high alpine dams/lakes – see here for a bunch of “dam” great rides – so I was excited to explore the road up to the Pyrenéen barrage at Lac de Cap de Long.

Please note, this post is for the second and main part on the map above. Details on the first climb, Piau Engaly, is here.

At 2160 metres, the route to the lake is one of the highest paved roads in the French Pyrenées – higher than Col du Tourmalet. And it’s just a beautiful place to cycle.

Starting from St-Lary-Soulan, it’s roughly 10 kms on a main (but quiet and scenic) road until the turn-off at Fabian. It’s uphill but never steep, so a nice warm up.

Often even the greatest climbs have less interesting lower stretches – going through busy towns or whatever. But this road turns off onto 14 fantastic, undeveloped kilometres.

The first half of the climb is up through a gorge accompanied throughout by the ambient river beside. A couple of good hairpin stretches are even named. Lacets des Ecureuil (hairpins of the squirrels), and several in a row called les Lacets d’Edelweiss. Fantastic.

La Route des Lacs: In total I would pass four large lakes and the route starts to get exciting as it approached the first: Lac d’Orédon. In the far distance, surrounded by huge mountains, I could see the dam for Lac de Cap de Long. It’s an astounding view that just keeps getting better.

Dam high in far distance:

As the cliff road circles around towards the dam, the final stretch climbs some really fun hairpins:

The lake itself is stunning. There are a couple of little restaurants and of course I stopped for some photos and a beer:

Next I descended back down 4 kilometres and took the turn off below the first lake. This leads to a 5 kilometres climb to two more lakes. It’s a toll road and virtually everyone parks and thus the road is empty except for a couple of regular shuttle buses. Cool.

Two more nice lakes. First, Lac d’Aumar at 2191 metres:

And finally, the end of the road, slightly lower at 2154 metres, Lac d’Aubert where I jumped onto a tiny “island”:

I think I had some fairly good photos of this ride, but they don’t even remotely convey the beauty of this truly awesome location. If you do one climb in the French Pyrenées, make it Lac de Cap de Long.

9.4 Awesome

Top-to-bottom, the best road-bike climb that I have done in the French Pyrenées.

  • Views 9.5
  • Difficulty 9
  • Quiet / No Traffic 9
  • Fun Factor 10
  • User Ratings (35 Votes) 6.2

Happiest while cycling uphill.


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  5. I wish you can climb up to Lac des Bouillouses (66) : the road is closed to cars in summer and the lake is very nice

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  7. Hello,
    what do you think is the best to combine with this climb? You combined it with Piau Engaly, I considered also Col d´Azet from both sides or Hourquette d´Ancizan + Col d´Aspin or Col de Portet (I will have a mountain bike). Which do you think is the best?
    Thank you very much.

    • All those ideas sounds good. I enjoyed Col de Portet. But I wouldn’t approach Route des Lacs from there as you’d miss much of that climb. But I could see you climbing the route des lacs and after reaching Lac cap de Long returning via Portet.

      But I enjoyed all the climbs you listed. Piau Engaly is sort of the off-in-a-corner climb. Very quiet.

  8. Did Piau Engaly and Cap de Lac de Long today on your recommendation. The ride up to the Lac and the views from it – stunning! Thank you! PS – the last segment up to the Lac, I’m right next to you on time. Strange coincidence!

  9. Great blog Will. Thanks for doing it. You say if you do one climb in the Pyrenees, do this one. I might just do that. Just fixing my back wheel, then I’ll be off! Thanks.

  10. Just a note to say thanks for posting the info about the Cap de Lac Long. It’s an incredible spin. Would not have known about it if you hadn’t. We combined it with some of the better known TDF climbs over a couple of days and it was the highlight. Cheers!

  11. Thanks so much for your great information!

    Can you tell me if the climb to the lakes from Luz-Saint-Sauveur is just as good and worthwhile?

    Thanks in advance.

  12. Thanks for the blog. My wife and I popped up the hill and had a superb day. Your route info was really useful in affirming that it would be a worthwhile peddle

  13. Hi Will,

    I have used your blogs for a few mountain trips now and have unashamedly stolen some of your routes!! Always great reviews and good way to ensure that you don’t miss the best bits of an area.
    I have visited this area of the French Pyrenees twice now, staying just outside Lourdes and both times the Lac de Cap de Long has been the highlight, beautiful scenery and off the beaten track. Last year we had a seasoned cyclist with us who has ridden many times in the Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomites. His words at the top “ that is right up there with the best climbs I have ever ridden, possibly the best. Amazing”.
    Be prepared though as this is a tough climb and both times for me it has been seriously hot as this valley seems to hold the heat and not get any breeze. Plus I don’t recall any opportunity for water until the top. But as you have said Will, this is one climb not to be missed in the French Pyrenees.


  14. Hello Will,

    I love this blog and finally got the chance to cycle up this amazing climb last month on the 10th September. Absolutely glorious, and so happy to tick it off as it was originally planned in for 2020 before you know what, and then for various reasons it’s taken us this long to finally get back to the mountains!

    A truly spectacular ride and I have to say thanks to you as the reason why we cycled up was your comment…”If you do one climb in the French Pyrenées, make it Lac de Cap de Long”. You’ve done so many climbs that if you say that, we have to listen!

    We’d done the Col d’Aspin, the Col du Tourmalet, and the Hourquette D’Ancizan the day before so this was the easier day of the two…although I had a bad stomach so was struggling when we did this climb. It was a shame I felt poorly and at one point I nearly turned back…but I battled on and got to the top. So glad I pushed on, worth all the pain and suffering (and there was a lot…I could only cycle thanks to tablets which blocked my system up!!).

    Time to plan next year’s trip, and as ever I’ll be checking your blogs whilst researching climbs.

    Thanks again


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