The Pyrenean Way (GR10)

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Hendaye to Banyuls: from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

Hendaye-Gabas > Gabas-Luchon > Luchon-Mérens > Mérens- Banyuls

walking boots, as seen on the Pyrenean Way

They won’t survive as far as Banyuls

How long is the Pyrenean Way (GR10)? Estimates vary wildly: 700km (435 miles), like walking from London to Edinburgh? Or 866km (538 miles), London to Aberdeen? A few clicks on my computer and the answer is there in black and white: the official start, the casino on the seafront in Hendaye, is 412km 959m (256.6 miles) from the town hall in Banyuls, the official end as the vulture flies. Apart from this nothing is certain. Landslides, unhelpful landowners, and even the FFRP, the French Ramblers’ Association, create diversions, for worse or for better. In addition, in some areas there are several different official routes, never mind the unofficial ones. And walkers add their own flights of fancy …

Some people walk the path in 30 days but for most it will take about 55, walking for an average of 7 hours. For those used to walking in Britain, this will seem slow progress: less than 10 miles a day for 7 hours walking! But walking the Pyrenean Way is not like walking in Britain, unless you are in the habit of climbing from the sea to the summit of Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak, and back, once a day, every day.

Signpost at the Porteille des Bésines on the Pyrenean Way

Porteille des Bésines: signpost at the highest point between Mérens and the Bésines hostel

There is only one series of guides worth taking with you on the Pyrenean Way. Published by the FFRP, the four books in the Traversée des Pyrénées series (in French) contain all the information you really need and nothing superfluous. They weigh next to nothing and, although I did meet one walker who was tearing out pages as he progressed, I think this was symbolic, rather than an attempt to lighten his load. The guides contain maps at a scale of 1:50,000, estimates of walking time, and particularly useful profiles of the path showing the gradients. Beware, however: they are not always very up-to-date, though some modifications are now noted on the FFRP site (see the catalogue of books for sale, at the bottom of the page relating to each guide).

On this site you will find short extracts from my book If you only walk long enough. For the whole story you can order a copy online from Amazon.

 

 

42 Responses to “The Pyrenean Way (GR10)”

  1. Reg Edmunds says:

    I have enjoyed reading your site, very imformative. I plan to hike the GR10 from July. I have not decided my Hendaye starting date yet. I have tried to find others to hike with but no luck, most of the people that I know cannot, or will not leavetheir homes for such a long time. The other problem is that they are not willing to give up their central heating, Sky TV or Ipads. Never mind I am still happy to hike alone. Can you recommend a French SIM card company for my unlocked smartphone?

  2. steve says:

    Hi Reg. There’s a lot to be said for hiking alone. For mobile phone coverage in the French Pyrenees the best option is Orange, but even then most of the mountainous areas are not covered. Have fun

  3. James says:

    Steve and Reg.
    I’ll be hiking beginning 8 or9 July Commencing in Henday

    I did select the Artic Blast rucksack (very lightweight) and Mobal for mobile phone service. Also carrying a ‘SPOT’ GPS tracking device. Steve, your book is a great reference!

  4. Reg Edmunds says:

    Thanks for the reply, Gosh you site must take up a lot of your time. Anyway I have committed myself to try to hike the GR10 and I start on 24th July 2015. Its also a special occasion for me, I am now 70 and was diagnosed with Prostate cancer in 2014 and had it surgically removed by the ‘da Vinci robot’ (see on You Tube, amazing machine) in April 2015. I decided to stop being a patient on June 1st and I celebrated by hiking and camping Offas Dyke Path, south to north following the border of Wales/England. A really good hike over 12 days. I have also been roped into use my GR10 walk to try to raise some money for The Rocky Appeal, our local NHS charity set up to try to keep this costly da Vinci robot to stay in our hospital. I’ve told them I will do my best! Thanks for all of the information on your site.

  5. steve says:

    Quel courage! Do you want me to put a link to your appeal?

  6. Reg Edmunds says:

    Thank you Steve, that would be wonderful. Much appreciated.

  7. Reg Edmunds says:

    My Rocky Appeal link is http://www.justgiving.com/Reg-Edmunds

  8. Nigel Harris says:

    I’m giving it a go – setting off from Hendaye on 20 July!

  9. steve says:

    Good luck Nigel!

  10. Reg Edmunds says:

    I completed the GR10 a couple of days ago. I really enjoyed it, the weather was generally hot, it rained and at times I had lots of fog. The food and wine were great and the people I met were wonderful. Unfortunately, I gave myself a ‘present! Around the 17th day I realised I had developed a hernia! I got to Lescun and then hitchiked to Oleron and bought a truss. If I had not found one I would have returned home but I was lucky. I was then able to continue to the end. Thank you for your sites information, it proved to be very helpful. Would I do it again? If I was asked yesterday I would have said NO! If asked today my answer would be maybe?

  11. steve says:

    Congratulations Reg. I hope the hernia is easy to fix

  12. Michael says:

    I did the HRP route in 2014 and linked up with both the GR10 and GR11 on several occasions. I tried to follow Joostens route, but it was quite error prone primarily due to translation I think. Instead I wandered mostly via the Veron route which is well mapped on openhiking.net.
    I had read quite a lot about the Pyrenees beforehand, but Steve’s book was by far the best book for cultural information and sheer enjoyment. Take it with you!

  13. steve says:

    Thanks Michael. It is so nice to have positive feedback. I have a new book coming out in May, this time based on walking the Spanish GR11: “Footsteps on the mountains”. By the way, I’m hoping to do the HRP this year so I’ve been studying your blog.
    Steve

  14. Steven Watson says:

    Hi

    I walked the GR5 in July 2015 . I know the GR 10 is longer than the GR 5 , can you let me know if the degree of difficulty is similar. Plus the GR 5 is very well marked , with refuges / gites along the entire route. Is the GR 10 as well organised in terms of accommodation? Can you also recommend the best guide book. Thanks

    Ps I plan to walk the Coast to coast and Pennine Way this year .

  15. steve says:

    Hello Steven
    I haven’t walked the GR5 but my walking club did it over two years so I can use what they have told me to make a comparison. The GR10 is less technical and (mostly) less exposed than the GR5 and in that sense easier. The accommodation is reasonably well organised though in Ariège you will have to sleep in huts a couple of times unless you walk very long days. You don’t need a tent though this will save money. For my mind the four FFRP guides in French are the best but the Cicerone quide comes a close second.
    Good luck on the Coast to coast and Pennine Way.
    Steve

  16. John & Tony says:

    Steve, on September 23rd 2017, god and knees willing, Tony and I will paddle in the med at the end of our 5 year gr10 trek. We have seen some fantastic sights along the way and met some terrific people. Your website has proved an invaluable resource and for that I should like to say a sincere thank you. John Bell & Tony Stanley

  17. steve says:

    And thanks to you John and Tony. It’s nice to have positive feedback. Steve

  18. Nick H says:

    Hi – I am thinking of hiking up GR10 from Med up to somewhere in the Puigcerda area then to cross over to return to Med on GR11.
    Start date??
    Any comments on an early/mid June start? Is earlier poss?

    Weather?
    Will this be late enough to miss worst snows here (if a normal year)
    The plan is to walk as far as I want then turn.
    Thanks

  19. steve says:

    Hi Nick
    Start date: normally I would say mid-June but you can always take the risk. Certainly no earlier than 1 June. It is a good circuit, but the best bits are the highest and most likely to have some residual snow. If you are stuck you can go around Canigou, either to the North or to the South (Batère – Reguge gardé de St Guillhem – Mariailles) and then on the GR11 you can go from Núria to the Coma de Vaca refuge via the cami des Ingenieros and then on to Ulldeter rather than going up along the frontier ridge if you need to.
    You are unlikely to get snow storms, the problem is residual icy snow on a slope, or an avalanche.
    One way of crossing from the GR10 to the GR11 is to take the Petit Train Jaune from Bolquère to Bourg-Madame and then walk over to Puigcerda (3km). Another is to walk to Eyne and then up the Eyne Valley (should be in flower) over to Nuria.
    Please report on snow conditions as this will be of great interest at that time of year.
    have fun
    Steve

  20. Nick H says:

    Cheers Steve

  21. Ralph Glas says:

    Hello Steve,
    I want to make the complete traverse of pyrenees by ski. Do you know somebody who can organize this?
    Best wishes
    Ralph

  22. steve says:

    Hi Ralph

    That would be quite an exploit if you mean E-W! Even though the two ends won’t have snow you would still have 400km to do. If you mean N-S it would be easier. You could try the Bureau de Guides in Luchon or Benasque in Spain. Good luck

  23. […] Any experience hiking in the Pyrenees initially depends on the physical geography of the land. The Pyrenees rise sharply from the Mediterranean in the east and then run some 412 km to the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Here they gradually run out of steam and soften into the green, mediaeval Basque landscapes of northern Navarre – and in particular the Baztan and Bidasoa valleys. Those with enough time, stamina and grit can spend 7 weeks hiking in the Pyrenees along the GR10 which stretches up and down some 866 km or so from Hendaye in the west to Banyuls in the east. The whole walk is beautifully described and rigorously documented by Steve Cracknell in his book: The Pyrenean Way. […]

  24. Jemma says:

    Hi Steve, I am planning a hiking holiday based in gavarnie in August. Would there be enough day hikes accessible from there for about 5 days? I walked from luchon to benasque last year and met my cousin who walked the whole gr11. We walked together from benasque to vielha and now I plan to take my Mum to the Pyrenees. She wont want to hike point to point carrying kit hence the plan to stay based in one place and do day hikes.

  25. steve says:

    Hi Jemma
    There’s lots you can do from Gavarnie, and even more if you have a car available (if you don’t there are taxis). You will certainly be able to walk to the Cirque with its waterfall though this is only a half-day trek.There is also the hike up to the Refuge des Espuguettes and back, or if you want to push further continue up the Pimené, with one of the best views of the Pyrenees (because it is set a bit back from the main peaks). You can climb to the Brèche de Roland (best to go as far as you can in a car as the first bit isn’t all that spectacular). Or follow the GR10 towards Vignemale. So many possibilities!
    Go for it.
    Steve

  26. Emil Bodin says:

    Hey Steve. Been lurking on your amazing website for a while now. Having decided to hike the entirety of the trail this season and a place like this have been invaluable.

    As a seasoned backpacker my plan is to wild camp as much as possible. Of course I want my backpack as light as possible and are looking for info about the mosquito situation?

  27. steve says:

    Hi Emil

    Great to hear that you are going for it! Mosquitos are not a problem: I’ve never been affected. You may get chased by horse flies in Ariège but there’s not much you can do about that except walk faster.

    Have fun

  28. stephen walford says:

    Hi Steve
    We live in center of france (Limousin) and are moving near to Luchon this year to be nearer the mountains !!
    Passion for snowbaording last 20 years . Alps, pyreneese, and local massive cental. now as age aproaches have been doing some long hikes.

    Read your book, followed up all the info and we are hooked.
    Have walked many small GR routes.
    What is your choice for a section of GR10 near Luchon,twp three day hikes and leave a car at finish to return home.

    cheers steve

  29. steve says:

    Hi Steve

    Probably the best circuit for your purposes is Cauterets – Baysselance – Gavarnie – Luz St Sauveur – Cauterets. But I’m not sure exactly what you want to do with the car… The ‘problem’ with the GR10 is that it is linear and having just one car doesn’t get over this.

  30. stephen walford says:

    Hi Steve
    Thanks for the route idea, have checked it out and looks OK for returning to start point, as you know difficult with public transport to return to start after 3 day hike.with out retracing your steps, Or you need to take car and leave at your finish point to return ..

    Cheers steve

  31. Yulia says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for your exceptionally helpful site. My partner and I are wanting to do a 3-4 day hike on the GR10 mid-next week. Are there any stretches where it would possible to get back to the starting point by public transport? (And, even better, get to the starting point by public transport, so we don’t need to hire a car?)

    Thanks,
    Yulia

  32. steve says:

    Hi Yulia

    Some suggestions:

    • Hendaye to Bidarray, both on railway.
    • Banyuls (train) to Arles (bus to Perpignan)
    • Arles (bus) to Mariailles and then walk down to Villefranche-de-Conflent (train)

    but NOT Cauterets – Oulettes de Gaube – Gavarnie – Luz St Sauveur loop because too much snow, nor Planes to Mérens for the same reason.

    I hope this helps. Steve

  33. Alan says:

    Hi Steve
    I am enjoying reading your GR10 book, which offers good insight and I aim to walk it in 2019. (have done the SDW, TMW and Glyndwrs Way camping recently, about a week each). I am thinking mid Aug – end Sept 6 weeks, does this sound sensible?
    In terms of the FFR guides, are they available there or do I need to buy and lug them all with me? Should I expect lots of midges or mozzies?
    Thanks, Alan

  34. steve says:

    Hi Alan

    I’m glad you are enjoying my book. Yes mid-Aug to end of September sounds fine but six weeks is fast and doesn’t allow much time for resting or bad weather. I believe you can get the FFRP guides in Hendaye, though I would recommend buying them before and studying them. You will be able to buy the last two in Luchon. No midges or mozzies to worry about. (By the way, you don’t need a tent: there are hostels and free huts at reasonable intervals – though of course a tent has certain advantages)

    Happy planning
    Steve

  35. Alan Trevarton says:

    Hello Steve
    I am on the 2nd reading of ‘If you only…’, very well written and informative, as is this site, thank you.
    I plan to walk the GR10 W end to E end if possible, starting around 12 August this year, after the Beacons Way in May and CtoC in June. (I walked TMB and Grindelwald circuit + others years ago, and Hadrians Wall, SDW, TMW and Glyndwrs Way over the last 2 years, since retiring). I love wild camping so will mostly do this. I have a few questions not seen above so any advice will be greatly appreciated please.
    Although bear sightings are rare, do precautions of keeping food away from the tent etc apply (also boars)?
    Am I likely to find a midge net useful?
    I use a Sawyer mini filter to minimise water carrying, so am I likely to need tablets too?
    I have all the 1:50k map extracts from my FFR guides, a gps with gpx file and open topo maps, plus latest Cicerone guide, but am I likely to benefit from the extra weight FFR guides too?
    My fully loaded pack weight is looking like 13-14kg with 1.5l water and 2-3 days food (I need extra to avoid gluten).
    I aim to finish around end Sept, but no major deadline.
    Many thanks
    Alan

  36. steve says:

    Hello Alan

    • Bears: There are a total of about 50 bears in the Pyrenees. None near the coasts; many in Ariège. There are more boars, but mostly lower than the GR10. It is just about possible that a bear may find your camp and be interested, but I haven’t heard of this happening. If you are feeling nervous, you can keep your food elsewhere but remember that you will smell and a campfire also! You might like to check out the free huts listed on Pyrenees refuges and huts
    • Don’t bother with a midge net
    • A microfilter will do
    • In this case don’t bother taking the FFRP guides, you have enough kit. You might like to look at the free TopoPirineos maps for your GPS. The graphics are better than OpenStreetMap.
    • If you can set off up to two weeks earlier it would be better as weather can deteriorate towards the end September

    Happy planning!

  37. Alan Trevarton says:

    Hi Steve
    Sorry, just realised you answered my November questions. My tent is a plexamid so weighs about 650g.
    Cheers
    Alan

  38. Alan Trevarton says:

    Hi Steve
    Thanks for that excellent advice. I will look at the maps and starting earlier – and read the FFR guides before I go.
    Kind regards
    Alan

  39. steve says:

    Reginald Edmunds writes:
    I walked the GR10 from Hendaye to Banyuls Sure Mere in 2015 when I was 70.

    If I can help? I started on 17th July and for the most part had glorious weather. I wild camped a lot and only had one problem. I camped in heavy rain and fog on top of a grassy dome mountain, at dawn I was surrounded by 5 domesticated sows, who all tried to get in my tent with me. No real
    problem but it took me 30 minutes of swearing, shouting and waving my hiking stick at them before they left. I never saw any wild boar or a bear but I was bothered at one pint by a large white sheep dog. I got too close to his flock of sheep and he came at me barking, snarling and slobbering, I just took a few steps backwards and he stopped and wandered back to do his job. I waited for about 20 mins, the flock moved
    away from me and so I just strolled on.

    I took a small water filter tube with me, no tablets, worked a treat, I
    had no problems at all.

    My boots were Brasher Superlights they were fine!

    My hike took me 50 days, I stayed in one hotel, 3 refuges, a few sites
    and wild camped as well. I didn’t need a midge net.

    I used the SityTrail app on my phone. Brilliant! Didn’t take a paper map
    at all!

    If you want any other information about camp sites or anything else just
    let me know.

    I’m seriously thinking of doing the GR10 again myself this year but time
    from Banyuls to Hendaye. I too did Glndyrs Way last year, enjoyed it but
    didn’t see one other hiker for 9 days. I’ve too have hiked the TMB, loved it!

    Do you go on http://www.walkingforum.co.uk? loads of information there for
    free, I’m on there as ‘gunwharfman’

  40. Alan Trevarton says:

    Hello Reginald
    Thanks for your helpful reply. Rather than bung up Steve’s site I will contact you on the forum.
    Cheers
    Alan

  41. Ellen McCormack says:

    Hola, just found you very helpful site. THank you. Can you advise if walking from Hendaye to SJPP starting April 15th can be done with little snow load? Would i still need crampons? Are the huts open, amenaties available at this time or would i need a tent, all my backpacking gear? I am an experienced hiker (AT thru hiker, 3 caminos, Kili, +) but as i am going solo, first time in France, I am just checking on my preparation needs. I want to hike in the Pyrenees but as its the last 2 weeks of April i can’t get too high up in the mountains. I’d take any suggestions. gracias

  42. steve says:

    Hello Ellen

    In principle you won’t need snow kit for Heydaye to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. If there is snow on the last leg you can stay down in the valley. You should be able to find a combination of refuges, gites, airbnb so that you don’t need to take a tent.

    have fun

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