The Pica d'Estats is, for a start, the highest mountain of Catalonia (an autonomous community of Spain) and Ariège (french department). That should make it worth a visit. But that is not everything. The massif of the Pica d'Estats includes six of the three-thousanders of the Pyrenees (Rodó de Canalbona, Punta Gabarró, Pica d'Estats, Pic Verdaguer, Pic de Sotllo and Montcalm) and is placed in one of the most isolated areas you can find nowadays in the Pyrenees. The north side has to be reached by local roads in the area of Foix, and the south side is even harder to reach as getting to the only (and small!) hut in the area means driving eleven kilometers through the Vall Ferrera via a narrow forest road in a not-too-good condition. But the effort is worth it.
If, whatever the reason, you can't drive all the way up to the Vallferrera Alsina Graells is the bus company serving these valleys from Lleida or Barcelona. Line 413 goes from Barcelona to Pont de Rei and line 417 goes from Lleida to Esterri. Both of them have a stop at Llavorsí. As far as I know, there is no bus service up to Alins or Areu.
TRAIN ACCESS: From Spain, the closest major train station is placed at Lleida. That means 163 km left to go north afterwards, you will have to seek additional transport. Alsina Graells is the company serving the line from Lleida to Esterri, stopping at Llavorsí. Check the RENFE (spanish railways) web site for ideas on timetables to Lleida.
From the french side of the border, the closest SNCF stations are placed at Foix and Tarascon sur Ariège. Will keep looking for a way to get to L'Artigue from Tarascon, please call back in for further information.
CLOSER SPANISH AIRPORTS: Barcelona (262 km). Bus line Rapid Aeroport (operated by ALSA) takes you to Lleida twice a day, directly. Another option is to take the Directbus from Terminal B to the train station of Sants.
CLOSER FRENCH AIRPORTS: Toulouse (130 km), Pau (239 km)
Red TapeThe spanish (south) side of the mountain is part of the Parc Natural de l'Alt Pirineu, administrated by the regional government (Generalitat) of Catalonia. It is therefore subjected to special rules. Free camping is strictly forbidden anywhere in the Park, but tolerated if you place your tent over 2000 meters above sea level after 8 p.m. (and bring it down before 8 a.m.!)
Camping and Huts
As stated before, free camping is only tolerated in the spanish natural park under certain conditions. Official camping sites are available at the nearby villages of Alins, Areu and Llavorsí.
IF CAMPING ABOVE 2000 METERS, suitable places can be found near the lakes ("estanys") of Sotllo and Estats, and also at the Pla de la Socauba
Two huts can be found in the area: the Vallferrera hut is placed south of the Pica d'Estats (it's a small hut, only 21 people allowed, but works are going on in order to enhance its capacity), and the réfuge de Pinet is placed on the french side of the mountain.
External LinksRefuge de Pinet: French language information on the hut placed on the north side of the Pica d'Estats
Pallars Sobirá: The Pallars Sobirá is the valley of Catalonia placed at the southern access to the Vallferrera and the Pica d'Estats. This page offers complete english language information on the area. Catalan, spanish, french, german, dutch and russian versions also available.
National Park of Aigües Tortes-Sant Maurici: Not far away from the Vallferrera, you can also find the only National Park in Catalonia. This is the web page of the Park, it might give you a good excuse for some additional days in Lleida if you ever come to try the Pica d'Estats
Heaven's Gate:This is the web page about a hiking circuit that links the mountain huts in the area around Pica d'Estats. Could be useful to give you a more complete idea of the massif, or to justify some more days around the Vallferrera. It's a suggestion coming from Rafa Bartolomé.