Cirque de Gavarnie is described as a gigantic, phenomenal rock formation. In 1997 it is added to the UNESCO world heritage site and you can only reach the cirque by foot or per horse. The great Pyrenean limestone circles owe their existence to the work of huge glaciers that have long since disappeared. With it’s 1700 metres high wall and 14 kilometers in circumference, Cirque de Gavarnie is absolutely breathtaking. You are surrounded by giants like Taillon (3144m), Marbore Peak (3284m) and Mont Perdu (3352). And on top of that at Cirque de Gavarnie is also Europe’s greatest waterfall with a drop of 413 meters. Do you still need to be convinced to visit the center of Pyrenees National Park?
Hike: Cirque de Gavarnie, Pyrenees, France
Distance: 10,9 kilometers
Elevation: Around 210 meters (the hotel is at 1570 m)
Parking: Office de Tourisme de Gavarnie, Le Village, 65120 Gavarnie-Gèdre, Frankrijk
GPS: Not available
Water refill supply: Yes, at the beginning and by the hotel on top
Difficulty: Easy (there many routes from easy to hard)
THE START OF THE HIKE TO CIRQUE DE GAVARNIE
As mentioned in the introduction, Cirque de Gavarnie is a breath taking natural amphi theater. It is a must visit when you are in the area, which a lot of tourist know as well. Start early, so you won’t have to share the trail with lots of other tourist. To be honest, the trail is and the views are definitely worth it to share.
When you park your car at the Office of Tourisme in the city of Gavarnie, you will walk past a number of shops and restaurants before you enter the trailhead. From the beginning of the trail you will have a beautiful view on the amazing and gigantic rock formations of Cirque de Gavarnie.
SECRET TRAIL WITH NO TOURISTS
You will share the main gravel road to the Cirque with lots of other tourists, but there is a different trail. This trail is a little hard to find if you are not sure where to look. Keep searching, because the adventure and the views are worth it.
In the beginning you will follow a gravel road which follows the river. Make sure you are on the right side of the river, so do not cross the bridge and keep following the main trail. You turn right before a stone bridge into a small dirt path hidden behind some trees. This small path winds through bushes, but suddenly you will see a beautiful wide valley. There are little yellow flowers, blue butterflies and small crystal clear creeks everywhere. It looks straight out of a fairytale. You can wander freely through this meadow.
VIEW ON CIRQUE DE GAVARNIE
Wandering around the valley, you will find a small hill which you can climb on top of. Here you will have a spectacular view on the beautiful rock wall without sharing it. You will have an amazing view on the waterfall of Gavarnie.
Back in the meadow the trees are giants and the path is all blue from the little butterflies. The butterflies are all gathered up in the mud along side the creek. Let the beauty of nature soak in and have a break along the banks of the creek. The water can be freezing cold, but a welcoming gift for your hot feet from hiking.
GOING TOWARDS THE GIANTS
You will cross bridges and walk through a dense forest with tall trees, until you reach the main road again to climb to the end of the first section of the hike: The viewing plateau. This viewing point is at 1570 meters with the highest peaks in front of you! From this viewing point you have an amazing view on the gigantic rock formations. It’s absolutely a recommendation to just sit here and soak in all the beauty of Mother Nature.
At this viewing point there is a hotel called Hotellerie du Cirque where you can order drinks and food and most importantly refill your water. From here you have the option to hike further up close to the high walls of limestone with tons of waterfalls. This additional hike will add up around 3kilometers in distance and 150 meters ascent to your hike. You can walk to the foot of the biggest waterfall, which is 422 meters high: one of the biggest waterfalls in Europe!
THE WAY BACK TO GAVARNIE PARKING
Because there are multiple trails towards the rockformation of Gavarnie, you have multiple options to hike back. Around this touristy highlight there are a lot of signs which will lead you back.