The Best Places to Mountain Bike in the Pyrenees
The Pyrenees, often overshadowed by the Alps, have in recent years come in to their own as a mountain biking destination. A huge variety of terrain coupled with top-notch holiday infrastructure provides a bounty of biking opportunities. Ride the breathtaking beauty of the Basque Country in the west, the rugged, flow-tastic trails of the backcountry Pyrenees, and the dry, dusty downhill tracks of Andorra’s bike parks in the eastern Pyrenees. Escape the crowds, ride the Pyrenees!
The Pyrenees mountains stretch for 430 km from the Atlantic in the west to the Mediterranean in the east forming a natural border between France and Spain. Some of the most spectacular peaks and mountain valleys are in and around the Parc National des Pyrénées, which is about 150 km south west of the region’s largest city, Toulouse. Pau is the transport gateway to the Vallée d’Aspe, while Lourdes, a pilgrimage city and host to the first round of the 2015 UCI Downhill World Cup, is a jumping off point to Cauterets and the Pic du Midi.
Pyrenees MTB Holidays
Guided and self-guided multi-day mountain biking trips in the French Pyrenees.
Where to go mountain biking in the Pyrenees
Pyrénées Orientales mountain biking
Where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean! The eastern Pyrenees has some exceptional mountain biking through wonderfully varied terrain. Head inland from the coast near Perpignan and you quickly hit the hills, then the high mountains. Within 100 km you go from sea level to 2800 m where mountain resorts such as Les Angles are set up in summer to offer lift assisted downhill mountain biking. Cross country riders will love the Pyrénées Catalanes area with its 690 km of waymarked trails through spectacular scenery. And family cyclists are also well catered for with a network of well-maintained ‘Voie Verte’ trails running along quiet tracks and canal banks.
1. Mountain biking in Les Angles
Les Angles is a small bikepark in a spectacular setting with a nice mix of runs suitable for beginners to expert mountain bikers. 50 km of trails weave through 500 m of vertical drop. Choose from 5 downhill tracks, including two fast flowy blue runs complete with berms and jumps, a red-graded singletrack run and a technical black trail. Les Angles also has two enduro trails, a northshore section and family cross-country trails.
Highest lift: 2150 m. Vertical drop: 500 m.
Km of trails: 50. Best for: Downhill
2. Mountain biking in the Pyrénées Catalanes
Located in the heart of the Pyrénées Catalanes regional park, the Capcir-Haut Conflent is an FFC mountain bike area with 690 km of waymarked trails. A total of 40 cross-country mtb trails from green to black take in steep valleys, a high wooded plateau, the ancient walled town of Mont-Louis, and the Font-Romeu Pyrénées 2000 ski resort. There are also 4 enduro loops, family trails and an mtb skills course.
Highest lift: N/A. Vertical drop: N/A.
Km of trails: 690. Best for: XC/Enduro
Ariège mountain biking
The department of Ariège in the Midi-Pyrénées region of south-west France borders Andorra and Spain and is one of the least populated and most unspoiled parts of France. The high mountains are easily accessible via good roads and there are hundreds of kilometres of way-marked trails which allow you to get deep into the magnificent Pyrenees backcountry. Downhill mountain bikers are well catered for with two ski resorts, Ax les Thermes and Monts d’Olmes providing lift access in the summer months.
3. Mountain biking in Ax les Thermes
Ax les Thermes is located 130 km south of Toulouse and 120 km west of Perpignan. It’s a super little bike park for a fun day’s riding. A cable car and a chairlift provide access to 1300 m of vertical drop and 7 downhill tracks from green to black. The black trail that descends through the trees from the top of the cable car back down to the village combines flowy sections with jumps and freeride features all on some very nice loamy dirt.
Lifts open: 28 Jun – 30 Aug. Highest lift: 2000 m. Vertical drop: 1300 m.
Km of trails: 55. Best for: Downhill
4. Mountain biking in Monts d’Olmes
Monts d’Olmes is a small mountain bike spot in the Midi-Pyrénées. With just 13 km of trails there’s only enough riding to keep you amused for a day or two. But with a mixture of alpine meadows and wooded terrain, the riding there is is super fun. The resort is constantly evolving and currently there are 2 black trails, a red with 2 alternate lines and a blue.
Lifts open: 28 Jun – 30 Aug. Highest lift: 1800 m. Vertical drop: 300 m.
Km of trails: 13. Best for: Downhill
Haute-Garonne mountain biking
The department of Haute-Garonne in the Midi-Pyrénées region of south-west France is named after the Garonne river which runs from its source in the Spanish Pyrenees through Toulouse and out to the Atlantic. Peak Perdiguère, at 3,222 meters is the highest point in Haute Garonne and it’s here in the Perdiguero mountain range that you’ll find the best mountain biking. Ride the cross country trails of Val d’Astau or hit the gravity runs of the Bagnéres de Luchon bikepark.
The pretty town of Luchon in the heart of the Pyrenees has a well-earned reputation as an outdoor sports Mecca. The Luchon bikepark has lots of potential but sadly a lack of maintenance means some of the tracks can be difficult to follow. The Superbagnères gondola is quick and efficient providing access to 1200 m of vertical drop. 3 downhill trails, an enduro track, plus 11 cross-country loops bring the total riding to 260 km.
Lifts open: 27 Jun – 30 Aug. Highest lift: 1829 m. Vertical drop: 1200 m.
Km of trails: 260. Best for: XC/Downhill
Hautes-Pyrénées mountain biking
The Hautes-Pyrénées are famous among cyclists for having some of the toughest climbs on the Tour de France including the formidable Col du Tourmalet. Mountain bikers too have a lot to take pleasure in. The slopes of the legendary Pic du Midi offers a high mountain freeride adventure, whilst the mountain resorts of Cauterets and Saint Lary cater for downhill mountain bikers with their fast and technical tracks. Non-biking mountain enthusiasts will enjoy attractions such as the Cirque de Gavarnie and the Pont d’Espagne in the Pyrenees National Park.
Cauterets is an attractive mountain town located in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park about 1 hour 20 minutes from Pau. The Cauterets bikepark is serviced by a gondola and a chairlift providing 1500 m of vertical drop. Blue, red and black trails snake down under the lifts from the top of the Cirque du Lys. Ride singletrack intermingled with berms and freeride features. Link up the FFC XC track to complete the descent through the forest back down to town.
Lifts open: 09 Jul – 04 Sep. Highest lift: 2400 m. Vertical drop: 1500 m.
Km of trails: Unknown. Best for: Downhill
7. Mountain biking the Pic du Midi
Ride the legendary Pic du Midi! A huge 1800 m of vertical drop and 11 km of continuous enduro style descending awaits the adventurous biker. This is backcountry Pyrenees at its most dramatic. The top section is like a lunar landscape with boulders and loose scree to negotiate. The rest of the descent isn’t exactly manicured either, but the splendour of the high mountain scenery more than makes up for it. Access the cable car from La Mongie.
Lifts open: 01 Jun – 30 Sep. Highest lift: 2877 m. Vertical drop: 1800 m.
Km of trails: 11. Best for: Enduro
Access 11 downhill runs from the chairlift at Saint Lary 1700. Warm up on the blue Easy Rider which blends fast flowy singletrack with fireroad and more engaging forest trail with jumps and berms. Then hit the red Full Mountain, a real treat for intermediate riders with decent air time, sneaky gaps and a fantastic high-walled switchback section. Expert riders can get their fill on the black Razorback which runs through a boulder strewn forest.
Lifts open: 04 Jul – 30 Aug. Highest lift: 2051 m. Vertical drop: 411 m.
(+800 m down to the village) Km of trails: 16. Best for: Downhill
Pyrénées-Atlantiques mountain biking
Where the Atlantic meets the Pyrenees, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques cover the French Basque Country and the Viscounty of Béarn. The Pyrenees mountains, the Basque culture, and the stunning coastline combine to make this region a fantastic holiday destination. The mountain biking is very varied, from big mountain trails in the Pyrenees to stunning singletrack along the Basque coast. After an exhilarating day on the bike enjoy the Basque hospitality and delicious belly-filling cuisine.
9. Mountain biking in Artouste
Artouste is located 1 hour 10 minutes south of Pau in the beautiful Vallée d’Ossau in the Pyrenees National Park. The Artouste bikepark is serviced by a cable car providing access to 6 downhill tracks covering 700 m of vertical drop. Module Sport rents downhill bikes near the lift station. Cross country riders have their pick of 14 waymarked trails graded from green to black that get you deep into the Vallée d’Ossau.
Lifts open: 07 Jun – 06 Oct. Highest lift: 2100 m. Vertical drop: 700 m.
Km of trails: Unknown. Best for: Downhill/XC
10. Mountain biking in Gourette
Gourette is located 1 hour 20 minutes south of Pau in the beautiful Vallée d’Ossau in the Pyrenees National Park. Access to the mountain biking is via a chairlift and rather than purpose built trails, you just ride down the ski runs. With 600 m of vertical drop, it’s fun for an afternoon. Nearby Siala, 4 km from Eaux-Bonnes on the D918, is a better set up for mountain biking with decent tracks complete with northshore features, skinnies and jumps.
Lifts open: Closed summer 2015. Highest lift: 2200 m. Vertical drop: 600 m.
Km of trails: Unknown. Best for: Downhill/XC
Andorra mountain biking
The principality of Andorra is a small country nestled between France and Spain with the Pyrenees mountains providing a stunning landscape. It is prosperous due both to its status as a tax haven and the increase in tourism in recent years. Andorra is a European hotspot for mountain biking having played host to the 2013 UCI World Cup, and this tiny country has more than its fair share of great riding. With Grandvalira and Vallnord within a short drive of each other there are trails to suit most riders whether you’re into downhill, enduro or cross-country.
11. Mountain biking in Vallnord
The town La Massana is your base for riding Vallnord. It’s Andorra’s most popular and best positioned summer town, located in amongst the majestic Pyrenees mountains and directly at the foot of Vallnord Bike Park. As a testament to the quality of the trails, Vallnord has hosted several international races including the 2013 UCI Downhill World Cup. Vallnord is a great place to ride XC too with several waymarked trails and some lung busting routes.
Lifts open: Jun 20 – Sep 13. Highest lift: 2358 m. Vertical drop: 1058 m.
Km of trails: Unknown. Best for: Downhill/XC
12. Mountain biking in Grandvalira – Soldeu
The Soldeu Bikepark in Grandvalira is the largest mountain bike park in the Pyrenees. Combined with Vallnord just 20 km away there’s plenty of great riding to keep you busy for a week. The downhill biking blends fast and dusty pisted runs with steeper, technical tracks through the woods. Expert riders will enjoy the legendary Avet track with its drops and high-walled berms. For cross country riders there’s 75 km of lung-busting trails. Ease the climbs by using the lifts.
Lifts open: Jun 28 – Sep 28. Highest lift: 2250 m. Vertical drop: 750 m.
Km of trails: 75. Best for: Downhill/Enduro