Port de Boucharo


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).

Port de Boucharo

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 huge 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.

Port de Boucharo

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:

Col des Tentes

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.

Fun Road linking Col des Tentes and Port de Boucharo

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 ! 🙂

Cycling 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.

8.8 Excellent

Once you get past Gavarnie, what turns out to be the highest paved road in the French Pyrenées, is just amazing.

  • View 9
  • Difficulty 8
  • Quiet / No Traffic 8.5
  • Fun Factor 9.5
  • User Ratings (5 Votes) 7.9

About Author

Happiest while cycling uphill.


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  4. I cycled this yesterday (August 13th 2014) – although only to the parking area at the col des tentes. Beyond here, the road (that appears in great shape in your picture) isn’t there. There is a thin ribbon of Tarmac for 750m then a pile of rocks, and after that it is jagged rocks, mountain bike only. I guess they must be repairing the road, although there were no signs of this.

    Fabulous climb though, really worth doing. Wish I’d had time to do the Troumouse climb too…
    Thanks for the website, a fabulous resource for planning rides!

    • Hi James, I went up this road just a few weeks before you, on July 19th, and was disappointed to find the road from Col de Tentes to the Port de Boucharo impassable on a road bike. Unfortunately, it appears that they are not repairing the road. To the contrary, they have deliberately destroyed it! According to one source I found, the local authority decided that the delicate environment of this national park area was threatened by the existence of pavement, even though it had already been rendered impassable to cars by placing large rocks at the end of the Tentes parking area. The road was destroyed last year, leaving the thin strip of pavement you describe, supposedly for wheelchair access. I thought about trying to see how far I could get on this, but the weather was getting nasty and a couple of hikers I talked to said it ended quickly enough and was blocked by numerous landslides.

      In French: http://www.pyrenees-pireneus.com/Montagne/Cols-Passages-Ports/COL-65-Boucharo.htm. Scroll down to Histoire
      Also, http://www.ecovars.fr/actualites/15-auto-genere-a-partir-du-titre

  5. So an update on the trail to Port de Boucharo. I cycled up to the summit of Col des Tentes in October just before the first snow of the season. I was on a road bike with 28mm tyres. Whilst the path is no longer as good as it was, it was fairly ridable even on 28mm. I didn’t make it the whole way, but I would say this route is easily achievable on slightly wider and grippier tyres – probably 32mm would do. Bear in mind that as it’s in the National Park, there is a sign at the start of the trail that says no cycling – it’s up to you whether you want to flout the rules!

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