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HIKE THE PHENOMENAL ORDESA TRAIL 

By Julia Van Peer
"The Refugio de Góriz is far beyond the reach of the modern world (and there is certainly no cell phone reception), which makes it even more ideal to completely surrender to inner peace"

Being one of the first environmentally protected areas in Europe, the Ordesa Valley is the beating heart of the Pyrenees. It is even acknowledged as a World Heritage UNESCO site and is a true wealth of fauna and flora. Consisting of four valleys in total (Añisclo, Escueta, Ordesa and Picuaín) and various impressive peaks, the National Park oozes with incredible panoramas. In fact the Monte Perdido is the third highest mountain in the Pyrenees with its 3 355 meters. It got the epithet ‘Lost Mountain’ because it couldn’t be seen from the French side of the mountain range. 


 

Ordesa is a unique landscape made up of dramatic limestone canyons and high-level plateaus, where the high arid cliffs of the upper areas contrast with the green valleys below. Ordesa’s most famous features are the impressive carved out limestone layers, formed some fifty million years ago. The described trail, section 16 of the GR11, takes you through these magnificent cliffs and canyon. 

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View from Mirador de Calcilarruego.

The start of the hike is located 12 kilometres from Broto, a popular base, and can be reached via a poorly maintained road. The size of the reachedparking lot already gives an idea of how popular the hike is (or at least during weekends and holidays). I was here at the beginning of June, and unknowingly on a public holiday, but all in all it was not that crowded. Especially since I had chosen the least trodden side to embark – I highly recommend this side!

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The famous limestone layers create a unique sight.

Set off on your hike at the right side of the valley. Although it covers the most altimeters in the shortest time and distance you will be very happy with this choice afterwards, trust me. During the first week of June this side is often still referred to as 'not recommended, but also not forbidden', seeing here and there there ice and loose stones can still make an appearance, sometimes causing dangerous shifts.

TIP

 

Although a decayed sign can be discerned here and there, and the trail is very self-explanatory, I still recommend keeping a hiking app by hand, just in case.

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Fantastic views from Mirador de Calcilarruego.

The climb itself takes about an hour to ascend 600 meters, but once at the top the path remains fairly flat – in other words if you persevere in the beginning you can enjoy all the more afterwards. And from the moment you reach Mirador de Calcilarruego you know you made it, mainly because of the breathtaking reward that awaits you. The first real view over the Valley of Ordesa is already one of the most dazzling ones of the whole trail. No place better to catch your breath before moving on.

Thereupon the path will start to play with the treeline, at times rising above, at other times disappearing into the trees once again. Nevertheless the views of the valley to your left are stunning. (In comparison: if you would have chosen to set off on the other side of the valley, you wouldn't have had such great views, seeing you would follow the river through the wooded valley the whole way.) 

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Hour after hour views like this in Ordesa Valley.

Arriving at the end of the valley you will be treated to a magical sight – the ultimate view on Ordesa. From this point you can look down to the winding path along the river, arising from the thundering waterfall, where herds of cows often gather to graze. On this spot you have the choice to either descend to the valley and return to the parking lot, or to continue climbing upwards to reach the Refugio de Góriz, deep in the mountains. The lodge is perfect for distancing yourself from the rest of the world, and completely relax. 

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The famous Ordesa Valley.

The section to the Refugio requires some energy, since it is still 400 meters uphill. But the views you’ll behold are some of the best I've seen in all of the Pyrenees. 1 hour and several gasps and puffs later you reach your final destination of the day. The Refugio de Góriz is far beyond the reach of the modern world (and there is certainly no cell phone reception), which makes it even more ideal to completely surrender to inner peace. Among the handful of other hikers, you really feel like you've accomplished something. Furthermore spending the night at the lodge (or in a tent next to it) is a real unique experience. 

NOTE

 

For the more experienced hikers among you, there is the option of conquering Monte Perdido from here. The crown of the National Park stands at 3 355 meters high and is a real challenge.

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On the way to Refugio de Goriz.

The hike the following day is finished in only a couple of hours, giving you the opportunity to take a break once in a while and enjoy the view. Return via the same path you came up and this time you’ll descend all the way down to the valley. From here a well-trodden path along the river will guide you back to the starting point. While the way to the Refugio is one of endless views, the way back is one of waterfall after waterfall. 


 

This was one of the most memorable hikes I did in the Pyrenees – enjoy every second of the trail. 

NOTE

 

Without exaggerating, this is by far one of the best-known hikes in the Pyrenees. If you follow the same trail as me, you will experience the least of the big crowds. Also keep in mind that on weekends, public holidays, and days with excellent weather the parking lot (and therefore also the path) will be full of people.

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Waking up with a view like this next to Refugio de Goriz.

FACTS OF THE HIKE:

  • Length of the trail: 40 km 

  • Duration (loop): 2 days

  • Elevation gain: 3 400 metres

  • Highest point: 2 384 metres

  • Starting point: Selva de Oza (Free Parking)

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Optimal period: (May) June – October

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Hi there!

I'm Julia, a Belgian native who loves to travel and explore off the beaten places all over the world. Discover more on how to fill your travels with adventure, warmth, and colour. Learn more about me here.

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