Below is a map of major cycling climbs in the French Pyrénées.
I have cycled the purple markers (details below). The yellow markers are major climbs that I have yet to do – maybe next time. The red flags are just a few minor Cols (there are hundreds more). Feel free to suggest any other favourites climbs.
View Pyrénéen in a larger map
I have made two visits to the Pyrenées: May/June 2009 and September 2012. If the weather is good, avoiding the summer crowds is worth the effort. Below are all the loops and Cols I have done. All of them are good enough to recommend — and a couple are all time favourites.
Finally, a couple of times I wrote reviews for TdF stages, I have put these at the bootom as at least they give some details on climbs that might be of interest,
1. Col du Tourmalet – east and 2x Col d’Aspin
The 2009 Tour de France will climb this side of Tourmalet via Col d’Aspin. Details here.
2. Port de Boucharo
The highest paved pass in the French Pyrenées – details here.
3. Cirque de Troumouse and Lac des Gloriettes
Beautiful and high climb filled with hairpins and then a small extension to a lovely dam/lake – details here.
4. Pic du Midi de Bigorre via Col du Tourmalet
Perhaps the funnest ride I have ever done. To be clear, it requires a mountain bike above Tourmalet – details here.
5. Lac de Cap de Long and La Route des Lacs
If you cycle just one climb in the French Pyrenées, make it Lac de Cap de Long – details here.
6. Col d’Aubisque via Col de Spandelles and Col du Soulor (north)
A quieter and more challenging route to Col d’Aubisque – details here.
7. Piau Engaly
Deep in the quiet valley above St-Lary-Soulan, a quiet climb to a small ski station – detail here.
8. Col de Port and Col d’Agnès Loop
Both climbs will appear in 2009 Tour de France . Details here.
9. Plateau de Beille
The Alpe d’Huez of the Pyrénées? Details here.
10. Col de Menté / Col Portet d’Aspet
11. Col de Peyresourde and Superbagnères
The start town, Bagneres-de-Luchon, is surrounded by 15 peaks above 3000 metres. Views all day. Details here.
12. Col d’Aubisque and Col du Soulor via Col des Bordères
Falling cows and legendary climbs. Details here.
13. Col du Tourmalet – west side
The better side. Details here.
14. Luz Ardiden
Remember when Armstrong caught his bike in a fans Musette? That was at Luz Ardiden. Great hairpin-filled last 3 kilometres – details here.
15. Hautacam and Col de Tramassel
Another ski station with a Tour de France history – details here.
16. Hourquette d’Ancizan, Col d’Aspin, and Col d’Azet
A very scenic loop of mid-altitude cols starting from St-Lary-Soulan in the French Pyrenées – details.
17. Le Pla d’Adet and above to Col de Portet
At a minimum Le Pla d’Adet is fun to say. The ski station – details.
18. Port de Balès – Both Sides
An eerie fog and many cows accompanied me on this “new” Tour de France climb – details.
19. Col de Portillon
I figured I had time to sneak up Col de Portillon and the Spanish border before the long drive home – details.
More Climbs Reviewed:
La Hourquette d’Ancizan, Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden – Tour de France stage
Stage 12 of the 2011 Tour de France. La Hourquette makes its first appearance – a quiet, harder alternative to Col d’Aspin. Luz Ardiden is a small ski station atop some great hairpins. The climb starts near the beginning of both Tourmalet and Hautacam.
I review the route here.
Cols Marie-Blanque, Soulor, and Tourmalet – 2010 Tour de France stage
Stage 17 of the 2010 Tour de France climbed the short but steep Col de Marie Blanque, the quiet and lessor know north side of Col du Soulor, before finishing atop Col du Tourmalet.
I review the route here.
It looks as if you have already reached your target of 100 cols (69+32). Either you should stop now or else change your goal to 200. I’ll bet you’ll reach 200!
Comme je disais, il y a un nombre impressionnant de cols à faire là bas. Moi je rajouterais, dans les indispensables d’ouest en est:
Pic de Beillurti, 1093m, 6,7 kms à 12,7% de moyenne, au moins c’est direct 😆
Col Bagargi 1327m (à coté du Burdincurutcheta), Hamilton l’avait grimpé en tête.
Port de Boucharo 2270m, par le Cirque de Gavarnie, frontière avec l’Espagne.
Port de Pailhères 2001m
Le Canigou (terrible mais non goudronné parfois)
+ l’Artzamendi (Col de Mehatché), les cols autour de la Pierre St Martin, Hourquette d’Ancizan (à coté de l’Aspin), Sommet de Portel (très jolie ascension, au TDF 2008, gâchée par son placement dans l’étape),
+ Pic du Midi (à ne pas laisser passer Will! 🙂 ) 😉
Love your website and very envious of the “cycling” lifestyle. For your Pyrenees week, where would you recommend staying that is central enough.
Merci Bastien, I will add those climbs to the map so I remember to cycle some of them next visit.
Mark, Foix, Luchon, and Arreau all seem ok and convenient places to stay. But if you were only based in ONE location? Then I guess I would stay in the valley between Tourmalet and Aubisque. For example, Argelès-Gazost – which is a nice enough little town.
I wonder if you have ever cycled more over 6 consecutive days. I don’t think that even your Tour d’Enfer performance tips this. Very strong!
Amazing! just wanted to thank you again: your blog is an amazing resource for anyone looking to ride in Europe’s best places!
Such posts are the kind that stay on people’s bookmarks forever, contribute amazingly to the cycling community and get recommended by cyclists on bike forums all over the world – which is exactly what I am going to do now on the bike forum I usually visit.
Hope to see you on Veribier this summer…
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I added the Col de Portillon into the mix. I left from Luchon for the beautiful ride into the forest. I thought Col de Portillon (which allows you to ride into Spain) would be a nice little rest climb since I had done Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden the day before. Was I wrong! There were stretches of over half a kilometer at greater than 13%. It was a killer climb and nothing like the 6.6% average advertised at the bottom. After I returned I found a climb profile at http://www.climbbybike.com.
Mark was asking about where to stay when cycling in the Pyrenees. I go at least once a year to cycle the cols in this area and sometimes to watch the TDF during July. Friends and I have stayed a couple of times at a house in Bagneres de Bigorre, which is at the foot of the east side of the Col duTourmalet, called Villa Tamerza.
It’s a very central location; easy to get to from Toulouse, Biarritz or Pau airports (1hr 30min drive) and you can easily drive to any of the tours that Will mentions above.
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An amazing trip indeed. As a follower of Tour of France itlooks really appealing. It never occured to me that one could climb all those giants in a single week. Didn’t you need to take a car, bus or something else than your bike?
Yes, I concur, it’s inspiring. i don’t think I’ll ever do it, though, but..who knows…
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Is there a good base (town/city) on the Spanish side of the Pyrennees from which one could do a number (a week’s worth) of the Spanish Pyrenneean cols? i.e. an Argelès-Gazost or Luchon or Arreau of Spain?
I realize Girona is a great base for routes, but I am looking for something a bit more into the Pyrennees from which one could ‘bike out the door’ (not drive) to a good number of mountainous routes.
thanks for any input.
I have yet to be over the border.
What a great site Will, congrats on all the cols you’ve conquered, inspirational to the rest of us that are a number of cols behind.
When your next around in the Pyrenees it would be great to see you at Gite Belle Vie, we are centrally located between Aspin and Tourmalet and more than just a little cycle focused.
Hey, great site!
Two questions; where exactly did you stay in the pyrenees, and, do you think october is too cold to ride there?
I suppose the best place to stay in the Pyrénées is in the valley between Tourmalet and Aubisque, for example Argeles-Gazost. At the base of 7 or 8 climbs.
thank you very much for the info on biking. We did most of your climbs and the guides were very helpful. Loved staying in Arreau. We biked /hiked the Midi from Tourmalet and that was a great day. Last 3 wks of Sept. were great–not crowded, good weather.
thanks for the note. Well done, glad you had great weather during a quieter time.
Hi Will, I did the Route de Grand Alps two years ago spread over 6 days, I had a great deal of advice from you. Last year the Tour Mt Blanc over 3 days again plenty of advice from various people and yourself. This year I’m riding from the Atlantic to the med in late August maybe early September. There is an Audax route that needs to be completed in 100hours. But I was thinking of a six day ride of 100-110kms per day. Any thoughts on best routes. It will be almost completely on the French side to include all of the Tour Cols. Start in the Biarritz area and finish Cerbere or near by.
Sorry, I just don’t know enough about the Pyrénées to recommend a touring-across option.
Best of luck
No problem there are a fair few to look at on various sites I’ll cobble something together probably based on where the overnight stays will be.
Some years ago we rode in the opposite direction, a nice route:
D1: Cerbère, les Illas , col Xatard, Prades
D2: col de Jau. port de Pailheres, Ax les thermes
D3: Tarascon, col Agnès, port de la Core, Castillon-en-Couserans
D4: Portet d’Aspet, col de Menté, port de Balès, Peyresourde, St-Lary-Soulan
D5: col Aspin, Tourmalet, Luz-St-sauveur (excursion to Gavarnie)
D6: col Soulor, Aubisque, Marie-Blanque, (somme small town near Accous)
D7: col Labeys, Pierre-St-Martin, into Spain, port de Larau, St-Jean-pied-de-port
D8: col Ispeguy, to Biarritz (short day)
For details get the Michelin maps and select the smallest white roads. In total >30 cols, maybe 20K meters
Thomas many thanks for the advice some of the stop overs I have considered but I’ll have a good look. Once again many thanks.