A guide to cycling the climbs of Cauterets, Cambasque and Pont d’Espagne
This ride offers up three separate climbs and depending on how you feel on the day you can choose to ride just one or all three.
From Argeles Gazost you will ride in the direction of Pierreffite-Nestalas. From here you will take a right turn and start the climb up the valley road to the small spa town of Cauterets. The climb itself whilst just over 10kms long is a steady and gentle gradient of between 4 and 5%. The scenery along the valley is stunning as the road winds its way along by the Gave de Cauterets river. In 2013 a huge Summer storm created a landslide which washed away a section of the Cauterets road. This resulted in the building of a new section of steep switchbacks to negotiate two-thirds of the way up the climb. If you look towards the right of the switchbacks you can see where the original road used to be.
Cycling to Cauterets
The town of Cauterets dates back to the early middle ages and functions now both as a winter ski resort and spa town. The ornate buildings in the town centre are well worth a visit in their own right. In fact, during longer trips in the Pyrenees, we have often chosen to use a short ride to Cauterets as a recovery ride. The Tour de France even hosted a stage finish in Cautarets in 2015. Of course, for the more adventurous rider, cycling to Cauterets is just the starting point for two further climbs.
The Pont d’Espagne climb
Once at Cauterets, take a left turn and you will begin the climb to Pont d’Espagne. Don’t be fooled by the short climbing distance as the steep gradients provide quite a challenge. Along the road, you will hear the loud roar of water cascading down large rock gorges. It makes for an impressive sight and we recommend you stop either on the way up or down to fully appreciate the natural beauty. Pont d’Espagne is a very popular tourist site in France so be mindful that in the Summer months the road will also be quite busy with motor vehicle traffic. The end of the climb is a bit anti-climatic as you finish in a large car park.
Cycling the Cambasque climb
The climb to Cambasque has featured not only in the Tour de France but also the Vuelta a Espagne. This provides a good reminder of just how close this section of the Pyrenees is to Spain. From Cauterets take a right-hand turn and you will begin the short punchy climb to the summit. The first three kilometres are quite steep – double-digit gradient steep in fact. Cauterets is a ski resort and the road you are riding on traverses under the ski lifts take winter sports enthusiasts to the top. In summer downhill MTB riders also use these lifts for a much easier way to the top. The final two kilometres of the climb provide some respite from the gradient as the road opens up towards the summit. The end of the climb is also at the base of a small waterfall which is very scenic.
Suggested cycling route
Distance: 59.3km / 36.8mi
Start elevation: 470m / 1,542ft
Max elevation: 1,460m / 4,790ft
Metres climbed: 1,662m / 5,451ft
Metres descended: 1,662m / 5,451ft
Categorised climbs: 2
From the spa town of Cauterets, you can see the summit of the climb to Cambasque.
Food and water
The village of Cauterets has numerous places to replenish food and water supplies. Every budget is catered for and we highly recommend you take the opportunity to stop here and have lunch.
You will also be able to purchase food and water from Pierreffite-Nestalis which is at the very base of the climb.
- The spa town of Cauterets is a destination in it’s own right. Marvel at the magnificent Art Deco buildings and the history of this unique spa town.
- The Pont d’Espagne climb will have you pedalling to the summit with the sound of waterfalls cascading along the roadside. Truly something to behold.
- Cambasque will take you high above the chair lifts at the ski station, to pristine mountain vistas, green meadows and streams.
Cauterets has many ornate buildings which line the streets.
Length: 5.49km / 3.41mi
Average gradient: 6.7%
Start point: Cauterets
Elevation at top: 1,367m / 4,485ft
Length: 6.89km / 4.28mi
Average gradient: 6.89%
Start point: Cauterets
Elevation at top: 1,460m / 4,790ft
Cascading mountain stream at the summit of the Cambasque climb.
Waterfalls line the road as you climb the Pont d’Espagne
The new section of switchbacks on the climb to Cauterets.
The summit of Cambasque is surrounded by green meadows and lofty, high peaks.
Discover our comprehensive guide to Cycling in the Pyrenees
The ride to Cauterets, Cambasque and Pont d’Espagne are just some of many great cycling routes in this region of the Hautes Pyrenees which you can enjoy. This area of the Pyrenees is very popular with cyclists who are keen to ride some of the famous climbs of the Tour de France for themselves.
If you are not familiar with this region then, our comprehensive guide will help you plan everything you need for your cycling holiday. The guide includes information such as:
- a map of the French Pyrenees with climbs and towns marked
- where to base yourself whist on your cycling holiday
- cycling hotels and lodges
- bike hire outlets
- getting to and from the Pyrenees
- non-cycling attractions and activities in the region
Click here to see a list of cycling routes available in the Pyrenees. We have mapped out 39 rides across five regions within the Pyrenees mountain range for you to explore.