A Guide to Cycling Luz Ardiden
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Cycling Luz Ardiden needs to be on your bucket list! The first time I saw a photo of the road taken from the top of Luz Ardiden I wanted to go and ride it. After doing a little bit of research to find out exactly where it was, it was added to our list of climbs for our first trip to the Pyrenees in 2013. Standing at the top for the first time myself didn’t disappoint and I still marvel at the road winding its way across the mountain side every time I reach the top. I can’t tell you how many photos I now have of this climb on my phone.
While you only see the hairpins of the last 4 km from the top, hairpins are a feature of the entire climb. From Luz Saint Sauveur you will cycle around no less than 30 hairpin bends as you head to the top. That’s 9 more than the famous Alpe d’Huez! I always love seeing how much altitude you have gained in seemingly little distance over the first few kilometres of the climb, where you get glimpses of Luz Saint Sauveur between the trees.
Something that I also love about the climb is that the road is relatively quiet compared to some of the others in the area. Unlike cols where the road passes over the mountain and down the other side, the road to Luz Ardiden is a dead end leading to a ski station. The road was resurfaced prior to the 2021 Tour de France stage and is beautifully smooth along the entire length.
The Seek Travel Ride website has 40 cycling routes in the Pyrenees for you to choose from. We have created these based on our experience and knowledge of visiting and cycling in the Pyrenees over the past 10 years.
Cycling Luz Ardiden
While Luz Ardiden has only been used in the Tour de France a handful of times I highly recommend including it on your itinerary if you are planning to visit the Pyrenees on a cycling holiday. It will definitely test the legs and the ever-changing gradient saps the energy as you ascend. A highlight of the climb is looking back down at the road you have just ridden up as it snakes its way up the mountainside. If you are looking for an extra challenge it is close proximity to Col du Tourmalet and the two can be linked in a single ride.
I recall the first time I rode this climb back in 2013. It was a very hot day and it was the first time I had climbed big mountains like this. On the lower slopes of the climb the trees provided some relief from the direct sun but it was still hot. I also remember that the gradient rarely stay constant which made it difficult to get into a steady rythm. With just over 4 km to go I left the trees behind and started wondering where the top was. All I could see was a wall of mountain peak. Counting down the road markers I eventually worked out where the top was, rounded the last bend and took in that magic view with my own eyes.
As of 2023 I have now climbed Luz Ardiden 5 times and it’s one of my favourite climbs and the view never gets old. It’s one of those climbs that is tough, but there is always little reprive when you need it. I don’t notice the changing gradient as much as I did that first time I did it but it’s always nice getting to the top and having it completed.
Even though there is a ski station at the top, everything is closed in summer so make sure you have enough to eat. There is a tap on the wall on the left of the building to fill the water bottles if you need it. The best view of the road is at the end of the carpark behind the main building. About 1.5 km from the top you will come across an intersection that may confuse you as it did me the first time. Follow the sign to Aulian to get to the ski station. The other road just leads to a smaller carpark and not much else.
Luz Ardiden Climb Statistics
- Length: 13km / 8.1mi
- Average gradient: 7.6%
- Start point: 722m / 2,369ft
- Elevation at top: 1,715m / 5,627
- Category: Hors Category (HC)
- Tour de France appearances: 9
- First Tour de France appearance: 1985
- Last used in Tour de France: 2021
- Vuelta a España appearances: 2
- Last used in Vuelta a España: 1992
- Nearest town: Luz Saint Sauveur
- Facilities at top: See below
- When to ride: May to October
- Road condition: Great
- Nearest climb: Col du Tourmalet
- Number of approaches: 2
- Through road at top: No
- Closest bike hire: Luz Saint Sauveur
Where to stay to ride Luz Ardiden
If you are planning to cycle Luz Ardiden we would recommend staying in either Luz Saint Sauveur, Argeles Gazost, Lourdes or Bagneres de Bigorre. These are all bigger towns with all the facilities you need for a great cycling holiday and give you access to a range of other climbs as well.
If you are not familiar with the Pyrenees, our comprehensive guide will help you plan everything you need for your cycling holiday. The guide includes information such as:
- a map of the Pyrenees with climbs and towns marked
- where to base yourself depending on which mountains you would like to ride
- cycling hotels and lodges
- bike hire outlets in the Pyrenees
- getting to and from the Pyrenees
- non-cycling attractions and activities in the region
Our cycling route suggestions start in Argeles Gazost as we know from experience the majority of people visiting the area will stay in, or close to the town. From here it is also possible to include other climbs in addition to Luz Ardiden if you want a bigger ride.
Cycling Luz Ardiden from Argeles Gazost
Click on the link here to see the route in full or download it to your device.
Starting from Argeles Gazost you will make your way along the valley, through the beautiful Gorge de Luz before getting to the base of the climb. The first 18kms ascend gradually and are a good warm-up before you begin the climb proper. It doesn’t take long before you start tackling those hairpin bends with steady gradients of between 7 – 9 percent for the duration. The climb through the forest section lasts almost 8 km and on a hot day brings with it welcome shelter from the sun. With just over 4 kilometres from the top, you will leave the forest behind and you can see the ski station at the summit. Be sure you stick to the left when you reach an intersection with just 1.5 kilometres to go.
From here the summit is in reach and you can begin to really appreciate the height you have gained. From the top, you will have commanding views of the great Pyrenean giants including the Col du Tourmalet and Hautacam, but it will be that iconic view of those hairpin bends which will bring the biggest smile. It is a one-way road to the top so you also have an exhilarating descent to look forward to all the way back to Argeles Gazost.
Nearby climbs to Luz Ardiden
If you are looking for a longer ride or to include other climbs in addition to Luz Ardiden then there are plenty of options to choose from. From Argeles Gazost the valley runs for nearly 40km to the UNESCO-listed Gavarnie. The base of Luz Ardiden is located about halfway along the valley making it easy to add on more kilometres. The climbs listed all start in the main valley. You can click on the climb name to see the corresponding page for that climb.
Col du Tourmalet
The base of the Col du Tourmalet is located only a few kilometres from the base of Luz Ardiden and is the closest climb. Including it would add approximately 40km and 1,400m in elevation. You could climb either first depending on your preference and how your legs feel as you will have a nice warm-up before you get to the base of either climb. Col du Tourmalet is the longer of the two.
Hautacam is located on the outskirts of Argeles Gazost at the start of the ride and is another option to consider if you are after a bigger ride. It will add about 30km and 1,200m of climbing. We would recommend climbing Hautacam after Luz Ardiden as you will have a much bigger warm-up before the first climb.
The two climbs from Cauterets, Cambasque, and Pont d’Espagne are all options as well or simply the ride to Cauterets if the legs are not quite up to it. The turn-off to Cauterets is located about 6km from the start of the ride and 12km from the base of Luz Ardiden. Depending on what you choose to do you could add anywhere from 20km to 45km in distance and 410m to 1,400m in elevation gain. You could add these on either before or after climbing Luz Ardiden depending on your preference.
From the base of the Luz Ardiden, you can ride further up the valley to the town of Gavarnie which also gives you the options of the Cirque de Troumouse and Col de Tentes climbs. This will add from between 40km and 90km in distance and 720m and 2,500m in elevation depending on the route you select. The order in which you do these is up to you, there is no reason to complete any particular climb first over the others.
If you need any more information about cycling Luz Ardiden please leave your questions in the comments below or send me an email at [email protected] and will happily answer your questions.