Hiking the Pyrenees

There are many reasons to visit the Pyrenees—skiing, food, art and architecture—but hiking is one of the best ways to drink in the stunning landscape. No matter how spectacular the mountains seem from paved roads, they are exponentially more dazzling from upper hiking trails that are accessible only on foot. Day hikes or overnight two-day treks to mountain huts (refugios, or refugis in Catalan) in the Ordesa or Aigüestortes national parks, in the Alberes range, or on the hike from Col de Núria to Ulldeter reveal the full natural splendor of the Pyrenees.

Local tourist offices can provide maps and recommend day hikes, while specialized bookshops such as Barcelona's Libreria Quera (Carrer Petritxol 2) have complete Pyrenean maps as well as books with detailed hiking instructions for the entire mountain range from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne by Georges Véron (the 2007 edition is coauthored by Jérôme Bonneaux) is the classic guide across the Pyrenean crest. Other books to look for include The Pyrenees by Kev Reynolds (Cicerone Press), with practical information, maps, and photos by one of the United Kingdom's most widely used publishers of guidebooks for the outdoors, and Trekking in the Pyrenees (Trailblazer Publications). Also check out www.rural-pyrenees-guide.com for trails and information about the areas.

Hiking in the Pyrenees should always be undertaken carefully: proper footwear, headwear, water supply, and weather-forecast awareness are essential. Even in the middle of summer, a sudden snowstorm can turn a day hike to tragedy.

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