It is impossible to decide which of the three famous Haute Pyrénées cirques, the Cirque de Gavarnie with its unbeliveable high cliffs and rock faces, the more remote Cirque d´Estaubé or vast and gigantic Cirque de Troumouse with its beautiful meadows below the cliffs of Pic de la Munia, is the most beautiful. Each one has its own specialities to be explored at will.
This high alpine cirque is situated at the end of the valley of Gave de Gavarnie (Luz-St. Sauveur, Gèdre). A narrow road climbs up to the little village of Héas, the trailhead of our little route, where the public road ends and a toll road offers a possibility to get high up and into the cirque without great effort. The only good thing about this road: the parking area and the road itself are well hidden behind some hills at the western limitation of the cirque
The cirque is limited by some well known > 3000 m peaks of the Pyrénées, above all Pic de la Munia.
You can combine this route with the northern ascent route to Pic de la Munia. But most mountaineers will start for this summit from the end of the toll road, thus sparing the additional 600 meters of altitude difference from Héas.
The unexperienced stroller normally takes a short walk from the parking area at the end of the toll road.
Thus you will be rather alone on this route.
From the direction of Tarbes, Pau and Lourdes take the D 821 to Pierrefitte-Nestalas by circumnavigating Argelès-Gazost. Follow the D 921 to Luz-Saint-Sauveur. At the central place, take again the D 921 on the right hand side to Gèdre.
At the road junction above Gèdre take the left hand road D 922 to Héas and Cirque de Troumouse. Go straight on at the next road junction with the road to Lac des Gloriettes.
After Héas and the Chapelle de Héas, about 150 m in front of the toll station, is a parking area left and right of the road. This is the trailhead.
The trail starts left of the road. There are many signposts, follow this one to the not guarded Cabane des Aires. After 150 m a trail branches off to the left (signposts to the likewise not guarded Cabane de l´Aguila and Hourquette de Héas), go straight on. Our trail traverses the western slopes of Pic de la Sède, passes by some steep creeks and enters the little valley of Gave des Louveres above the top of the Héas valley. There is the limitation of the Parc National des Pyrénées, too.
The trail follows up this valley alongside the creek which comes down from the Lacs des Aires, showing an impressive waterfall. You will hear or see many marmots and you will no longer see the toll road (which is even better).
Near the end of the valley the trail begins to zigzag up the western slopes below Pic de la Sède and Pic de Gerbats thus overcoming the steep slopes below the meadows of the cirque. As the many sheeps, too, know the advantages of a good trail on a steep slope this part of the route is “paved” and heavily scented with sheep droppings.
But don´t worry, where the trail has to overcome some easy rocks the “pavement” vanishes and you are back on solid pyrenean soil.
After about 14 switchbacks the trail starts a long traverse to the south. Soon after the last switchback a trail branches off to the left, leading up to the little Cabane des Aires. This is a short and nice detour.
The main trail follows the lower parts of the Cirque de Troumouse meadows to the south until it reaches the Lacs des Aires. Those lakes are mainly feeded by the melting snow and rain so they will be nearly dried out in late summer and autumn.
The trail goes now straight west, crosses some scree fans coming down from Pic de la Munia and goes over some ridges west of the Lacs des Aires. There are wonderful meadows for lying lazily in the sun or having a good bite. There are some little lakes, too, forming a very nice surrounding (point 2159 m on the IGN 1 : 25.000 map).
After these ridges the trail turns into northwestern direction and soon reaches the parking area.
As a parking area is not a very nice apex for such a nice route just go straight on instead of ending up between cars and busses and follow the trail in northern direction to a statue of the holy virgin which stand upon a stone pillar. This place normally is crowded as the statue is a logical aim for all those amblers coming from the parking area.
If you want to stay alone leave the trail at the above mentioned ridges and search for your peaceful strip of meadow.
Use the same trail to go back to your car. I did this route as a relaxing half days hike between two days with more demanding hikes and for that purpose it fitted in very well.
Cirque de Troumouse and the main part of this route are within the “Parc National des Pyrénées”. This huge national park covers about 2060 km² and has many restrictions.
Camping is generally forbidden in the national park and in a zone half an hour from outside the park borders. Near the mountain club huts special zones are reserved for overnight camping.
There are no fees to enter the park. The parking area at Héas requires no fees, too (2009).
AccommodationsYou find all kinds of accomodations in the surrounding villages:
Nearby villages are:
Easy and not very strenuous half days hike. Bring a lightweight backpack, some food and drinks, sunglasses, shorts and enough sun lotion. Enjoy some relaxed hours lying in the meadows.
IGN Carte de Randonnée
scale 1 : 25.000
number 1748 OT
Gavarnie – Luz St Sauveur – Parc National des Pyrénées