National Parks of France # 4: The Pyrenees National Park

Between sea and ocean, the Pyrenees National Park is a gem of the south of France. A magnificent setting rich in a diversity of landscapes, natural and cultural sites, but also preserved biodiversity.

Ebetween Occitania and New Aquitaine, the Pyrenees National Park stretches over a hundred kilometers, straddling the departments of Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées Atlantiques. Created in 1967 under the leadership of Pierre Chimitz, the Park manages the Néouvielle and Ossau valley nature reserves. It also communicates with its Spanish counterpart the Ordesa and Mont Perdu National Park. More than 200 hectares are thus preserved by the communities, the inhabitants and all the partners.

Emblematic natural sites

The entire heart of the national park is located at altitudes of 1 to 067 meters. It therefore offers visitors mountainous landscapes limestone, granite, caves, lakes, meadows, forests and wooded valleys. For several decades, development projects such as high-voltage lines or ski areas have been ruled out. This effort thus enabled the valleys of Aspe, Ossau, Azun, Cauterets, Luz Gavarnie and Aure, keep their authenticity.

Pic du midi d'Ossau
Pic du midi d'Ossau

Among the most visited sites, the upper Aspe valley, the Pic du Midi d'Ossau reserve, the Balaïtous peak, the Vignemale massif ... But also the cirques of Gavarnie, Estaubé and Troumouse. The Barroude wall is also a delight for hikers and lovers of wild nature. The site “Pyrenees Mont Perdu, cirques et canyons” was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. It was recognized for its natural and cultural heritage preserved since the Middle Ages.

An intact cultural testimony

In the Pyrenees Park, archaeologists have found traces of human occupation from all eras. Some even date back to the Paleolithic. Historically and until today, the inhabitants of the area have raised animals to ensure their subsistence. In the heart of the Park, walkers reconnect with the past. They discover the authenticity of ancestral pastoral and forestry activities.

Family transhumance in the Pyrenees National Park
Family transhumance in the Pyrenees

Transhumance continues today in the same way as several centuries ago. The man-made landscapes, pastures, meadows, paths and villages are an untouched testimony of the mountain society of yesteryear. This pastoralism has crossed the centuries. It is based on the seasonal migration of men and beasts.

An exceptional biodiversity

More than 40% of French plant diversity is present in this small territory! No less than 2 plant species inhabit this preserved biosphere. Among them, 500 endemic species, such as the ciliated Androsace, Hélianthème of the Pyrenees, the Silver Vetch are visible on the beds. In terms of fauna, the Park lists 4 different species, including 000 species of vertebrates. Bearded vultures, golden eagles, marmots, chamois, genets, lynx… And of course brown bears, reintroduced in the 90s, are the stars of the Park.

Pyrenean isard, Rupicapra pyrenaica
Pyrenean isard, Rupicapra pyrenaica

Visit the Park

In the Park, priority is given to sustainable development, the protection of heritage, environmental excellence and public awareness. The Pyrenees National Park is accessible from the cities of Pau, Oloron, Tarbes or Lannemezan. It is particularly suitable for hiking and exploring the environment. Labeled accommodation "National Park Spirit", just like mountain huts welcome athletes for one or more nights. It is also possible to set up a bivouac between 19 p.m. and 9 a.m., but only more than an hour's walk from the access roads. Hikers are, however, requested to respect the Park's regulations, so that this place remains intact and that future generations can continue to appreciate it.

Bivouac in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park