Route des Lacs

The Route de Lacs will take you past four lakes nestled high up in the Pyrenees National Park. Due to their location in a pristine area of the park, the Tour de France is not permitted to hold a stage here. Don’t let this put you off as personally we believe this is one of the best rides you can do in the Pyrenees. Whilst the average gradient on the climb hovers around 8%, you will have long sections which are well into double digits. Allow your surroundings to distract you from the unrelenting steep slopes of the climb.

Cyclist riding across the dam wall at the top of Lac de Cap de Long. A lesser known climb in the French Pyrenees

Steady climb

From the start you will leave Saint-Lary Soulon and head towards Fabian a small village only 9km further up the valley. The start of the ride climbs gently, with the road always heading in an upwards direction. This being the case, make sure you save your legs as you will have a lot of climbing ahead of you. Once you reach Fabian turn right and follow the signs for the Route des Lacs. Here you will begin the climb in earnest. The road immediately becomes quite narrow and you just know you are in for a real treat ahead. Outside of the summer months the road is very quiet and you will have it mainly to yourself.

Alpine forest and cascading waterfalls

This part of the National Park is known for its natural beauty and it is all around you as you continue on the climb. You will be in the thick of an alpine forest but also have great views along the way of cascading waterfalls. The gradient is steep so your surroundings will provide a good distraction as you keep pedalling on ever higher, gaining elevation.

Switchbacks on the climb

Unlike some of the more famous climbs in the Pyrenees, the Route de Lacs does not offer up road signs every km to help you track your progress. There are some other landmarks on the climb though which you can look to ‘tick off’. These come in the form of three sets of switchbacks which are named. The first set is the Lacet des Écureuils. Once past this you have roughly a further 6kms before you reach the peak at Lac de Cap de Long. Soon after you will pass the Lacet des Myrtilles and then finally, the Lacet des Edelweiss.

Fork in the Road

As Lac d’Oredon begins to come into view, you will reach a point in the road where you can choose to stay straight on, or turn right. The right turn will take you to explore two lakes being the Aubert and Aumar. We recommend doing this on your return and instead continuing straight on to Lac de Cap de Long first. As you continue on climbing the scenery somehow keeps getting more spectacular.

Lac de Cap de Long

A few kilometres from the top your legs are given a slight reprieve with a down hill section. This is quickly followed by a stunning set of switchbacks which lead you closer to the top. This section of road is often over 10% in gradient and the views as you keep on climbing are simply out of this word. If you don’t stop here on the way up, be sure to do so on the way back down so you can really appreciate the landscape around you.

Once past the switchbacks, the top of the climb is upon you. The end of the road will take you across the dam wall of Lac de Cap de Long. This is the largest water reservoir in the Pyrenees and makes for a stunning sight. In the summer months there is a cafe at the top from where you can replenish food and water supplies.

Lac d’Aumar and Lac d’Aubert

On the way back, taking the turn off on the road will take you past Lac d’Oredon. From there the road climbs very steeply onwards with gradients hovering around 15 in some sections. It is well worth the short 5.5km climb to add on to your ride though – after all it isn’t often you get to ride past 4 lakes in one day! Both the Aumar and Aubert offer up stunning views of pristine lakes surrounded by the high peaks of this part of the Pyrenean Massif.

Lac d’Aumar is the highest elevation point on the ride topping out at 2192m in elevation – higher than the Tourmalet! Once you have taken in the scenery you can finally look to enjoy the long descent back to your starting point. Be mindful the road is rough which makes for a more technical descent.


Views of the hairpin bends on the road to Lac de Cap de Long in the French Pyrenees

Quick Stats

Distance: 60km / 37.2mi

Start elevation: 816m / 2,677ft

Max elevation: 2,206m / ft

Metres climbed: 1,973m / 6,474ft

Metres descended: 1,973m / 6,474ft

Categorised climbs: 2

Cyclists riding by a river on the route de lacs route. A lesser known climb of the French Pyrenees.

The beginning of the climb winds gently along the valley with mountain streams running alongside.

Food and water

We recommend you stock up with food and water in Saint-Laury Soulon at the start of this route.

There is also a cafe at the summit of Cap de Lac de Long where you can top up your supplies.

Highlights

  • Seeing no less than 4 lakes over the course of 1 ride.

  • The view from the final set of switchbacks on Lac de Cap de Long are out of this world.

  • Hearing and seeing the waterfalls cascading down the mountains.
Bianchi Bike resting at Lac de Cap de Long. A lesser known climb of the French Pyrenees

The stunning waters of Lac de Cap de Long.

Lac de Cap de Long

Length: 23.1km / 14.35mi

Average gradient: 5.9%

Start point: Saint Lary Soulan

Elevation at top: 2,172m / 7,126ft

Lac d’Aubert

Length: 5.5km / 3.42mi

Average gradient: 6.56%

Start point: Refuge d’Orédon

Elevation at top: 2210m / 7,251

Cycling the Route de Lacs

The views from Lac de Cap de Long, looking back on the road you have just climbed up.

Series of switchbacks and hairpins on the route de lac cycling route. A lesser known climb in the French Pyrenees.

The steep switchbacks on the climb will sting the legs, but the road is magnificent.

Two cyclists sitting by the shore of Lac d'aumar on the route de lacs cycling climb in the French Pyrenees.

With four lakes to ride past, be sure to stop and enjoy your surroundings.

Male bike rider on the road of the route de lacs in the French Pyrenees.

The vistas on this ride are hard to beat.

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Looking down a layer of cloud in the valley from the summit of Col du Tourmalet

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