Best time to go to the French Pyrenees

The French Pyrenees are typically wetter than the Spanish side, with the happy result that the vegetation is much more verdant.
The Pyrenees are cooler, and see more rain and snow than low lying areas. And, like most mountain chains, about the most predictable thing you can say about the weather is that it tends to be unpredictable. You might encounter a string of hot summer days in late autumn, while spring can be very wet, or totally dry. The western end of the Pyrenees, especially around the Basque region, is affected by the Atlantic climate and typically sees the most rainfall. It gets drier and warmer the further east you go.

French Pyrenees Weather Chart

RAIN (mm)

The French Pyrenees, month by month

Autumn is the best time to go to the French Pyrenees. By late Septemberand October the crowds have thinned out, the foliage is gorgeous, but you can still expect long spells of warm and sunny weather. Temperatures can reach around 22°C in early spring, but as March leads into April it can still be a little on the chilly side. By May, however, it’s warm enough for the wild flowers to make a welcome appearance. Bursts of rain can be expected, and the snow is rapidly melting away, swelling rivers to make them ideal for canyoning and rafting. Summer runs from June to August, and is a very popular time for walking, mountain biking and a vast assortment of other mountain activities. It’s not unknown for the mercury to hit the high 30°Cs, and thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence, especially in the afternoons and evenings. Meadows are filled with flowers and the high, snowcapped peaks are visible. The trails are busiest during French school vacations, but this is definitely the most visually spectacular time to visit. It gets a little cooler in autumn, with daytime temperatures sinking to around 10°C by November. September and October are a grand time to hike in the mountains, if you’re prepared to take a chance on the weather. With snow in many parts of the Pyrenees from December onwards, many walking trails are off-limits, but the mountains and valleys can still be explored by snow shoeing or cross country ski touring. The area around Barèges in the central Pyrenees becomes a wintery wonderland throughout January and February, with thick virgin snow covering rooftops, frozen lakes and the branches of pine trees bending under the weight of the white stuff.
Travel Team
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Our top French Pyrenees activities

Things to do in the French Pyrenees……

Many walking and mountain biking trails criss-cross the French Pyrenees with gradients to suit all fitness levels. But there are also a handful of classic routes which need to be mentioned. First is the GR 10, which runs parallel to the border for over 950km, pretty much the length of the range, and connects the Atlantic with the Med. The Haute Pyrenees Route does the same, but at much higher elevations. Then there is the Pyrenean Cols mountain biking route, also going coast to coast, and taking you over 11 steep mountain passes via 100 hours in the saddle. The higher reaches of the French Pyrenees are snowbound by late November, but that doesn’t mean the fun needs to stop. The opposite, in fact! Strap on a pair of snow shoes, or some cross country skis, and away you go. No experience is necessary provided you have a reasonable level of fitness. Ski touring vacations meanwhile, take you on multi day expeditions traversing virgin snow, frozen lakes and forests, while overnighting in remote mountain huts. These mountains might have been carved specially for multi activity vacations. Especially in the summer months, you can enjoy an adrenaline packed week that will take you thoroughly beyond your comfort zone. This kind of trip is aimed squarely at families, with adaptable activities, but the more advanced itineraries will be more than enough of a challenge for even fit adults too, with options including white water rafting, climbing, abseiling, horse riding and even paragliding.

Things not to do in the French Pyrenees ……

Let fear hold you back. A vacation in the French Pyrenees gives you the potential to seriously up the ante. Experienced professional guides and instructors are there to bring out the best in every member of the group. With their support, and that of your fellow adventurers, you’re pretty much unstoppable. Paragliding, abseiling, canyoning and via ferratas – by the end of a week you can confidently say you’ve mastered them all. And the feeling of conquering your fears is amazing. Assume it’s unsuitable for kids. Families with children aged eight and up will find a range of thrilling experiences waiting for them in the French Pyrenees. It’s an ideal location for memorable summer vacations that will keep them busy in the fresh mountain air. Instead of worrying about their screen time, you can watch them developing new skills, taking part in character building pursuits and making instant friends with children of similar ages, as they bond over activities. Go in unprepared. Many of these trips take place at high altitude and cover pretty steep, rough terrain. Even if you’re a regular walker or cyclist it’s still a good idea to put in a few weekends of practice before you depart, and for the more demanding routes, such as the coast-to-coast mountain bike ride over the cols, the Haute Pyrenees Route, and tailormade advanced hiking trips, you’ll need to be in decent shape to manage some of the steep ascents.

French Pyrenees vacations advice

Seasonal scenery

Seasonal scenery

Emma Mason from our supplier Mountainbug on when to visit the Pyrenees:
“The Pyrenees have a long hiking season, but the trails are naturally busier during the French school vacations. Our favourite time for walking is spring, when the wild flowers are magnificent. From early June you can walk through flower filled meadows, while the high Alpines appear in late June through to mid July. With the high peaks still capped with snow, there cannot be a more spectacular time to visit the Pyrenees. September is also lovely after the August rush. The autumn colours start to appear towards the end of the month. In winter, it is again worth avoiding the school vacations for a wilderness experience on snow shoes. We recommend mid to late January for deep winter conditions, or for milder temperatures and (usually!) lots of early spring sunshine, the second half of March is glorious.”


Emma Mason from our supplier Mountainbug on the joys of snow shoeing:
“Snow shoeing is a great way for non-skiers to see the mountains in the winter. It’s about intermediate hiking level in terms of difficulty, but not technical and doesn’t require any pre-experience. In the Pyrenees it is easy to get away from the hustle of the ski resorts and quickly find yourself in the wilderness. On a ‘bluebird’ day, with wide open skies and fresh snow, the landscape is almost unreal: sculpted ridges and hollows, twisted pine trees weighed down with snow, and sparkling ice crystals glinting against a deep blue horizon. Our routes are chosen carefully, so that we stick to open, rolling ground wherever possible - ideal terrain for snowshoeing. There are, however, some quite big ascents, which can be fairly strenuous, particularly in new snow; any extra effort is worthwhile, of course, as walking through fresh powder in absolute silence is magical.”
Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing

Chloe Knott from our supplier Exodus on what to expect from cross country skiing in the French Pyrenees:
“Having a guide on a cross country ski trip allows you to relax and enjoy the scenery without having to worry about where to go next or figure out where the best lunch spot will be, your guide takes care of this. Our guides all carry international mountain qualifications and know the landscapes inside and out so that they can take you to the best areas with the best skiing conditions on a given day.”
Small group cycling

Small group cycling

Chloe Knott from Exodus on the advantages of small group cycling on the GR 10:
“You need to bring your own cycle helmet on this trip and you may also like to bring your own pedals and a gel saddle cover to fit to the hire bike, as we want you to feel as comfortable as possible! The advantages of a small group tour is that you have a support vehicle accompanying you, so should you have any technical issues with your bike or simply need a bit of break you can jump in the van. You are also taken on the best roads and stop at the most suitable points to rest – this is a tough cycling trip so it is important to pace yourself correctly. Also there is nothing like a bit of group encouragement to get you up those steep hills!”

French Pyrenees tips from our vacation reviews

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful French Pyrenees walking vacation tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
the reward was a fantastic sense of achievement and glorious views that I couldn't have seen if I stayed in my comfort zone.
– Maggie Felton
“You need to make sure you are comfortable with the demands of the level you choose in terms of the hours walking, terrain and the ascents, and be aware that you will be walking at a higher altitude for some of the time.” – Jenny Lunn
“Appreciated the benefits of being based in one place and having a guide who could tailor our walks to the weather conditions and give us the best opportunities... Was well looked after – important as a solo traveler.” – Rosemary Ruddell
“Do some hilly walks in preparation; take clothes for cool and wet, or hot and humid, or in-between weather; then just go for it, and enjoy the experience.” – H. M. Gill
“Be prepared to challenge yourself during your walking expeditions: some of the walks we did really pushed me, but the reward was a fantastic sense of achievement and glorious views that I couldn't have seen if I stayed in my comfort zone.” – Maggie Felton
when ski touring try to put a group of at least four together and pay a little extra so that you can have a guide just for your party as we did
– Steve Jackson-Turner
“You need to be really fit for the coast-to-coast Pyrenees ride. Train beforehand as much as possible. Some climbs are very long and arduous. I did not cope with the unseasonably hot temperatures (over 40C, according to my Garmin).” – Dave Hutton
“If you can, when ski touring try to put a group of at least four together and pay a little extra so that you can have a guide just for your party as we did. We asked for a guide who spoke good English as our French is limited and I think this was wise as our guide was excellent. When enjoying the luxury of the chalet be prepared for the huts which can be cold and not especially relaxing (e.g. benches and bunks) but that is part of the experience.” – Steve Jackson-Turner
“Be prepared to get wet, muddy, a little bit scared, but have a great time and meet great like-minded people.” – Sally Preece (French Pyrenees activity vacations)
“Join in and have fun. A bit of questioning before each day's activity might be worthwhile to make sure you're properly equipped. The activities were well organised and well led, go with the flow, listen to the guides and when they say you'll love it, believe them, you will. A bit of a stretch at times for our 12 year old, but the instructors were excellent in judging what she could do and managing her round what she couldn't.” – Alison Cousland
“I think the main advantage of a vacation like this is to be able to try out all sorts of different activities, with expert help and support, and to take you to places that it would be hard to access or discover on your own.” – Trisha Cochrane
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: arenysam] [best time to go: Vincent Guth] [Things to do/not do: Kitty Terwolbeck] [Seasonal scenery: Kitty Terwolbeck] [Snowshoeing: Basotxerri] [Guided hiking: Kitty Terwolbeck] [Cross country skiing: Pierre-Selim Huard] [Smal group cycling: Cat Burston] [Tips intro: Elazar Yifrach] [tip extract 1: Julien Poussard] [tip extract 2: Jerome Bon]