The Artouste train: a journey to the heights of the Pyrenees

Laruns
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The Artouste train: a ...
Vertiginous mountains touching the sky, high sunny rocky valleys, perched lakes with crystal clear waters… The Ossau Valley constitutes, massif after massif, an inexhaustible terrain of adventure. In this valley, the Artouste train, the highest small train in Europe, allows you to cross at an altitude of 2000 meters a grandiose natural environment that has remained largely wild. Immediate boarding for Lake Artouste, a splendid discovery after 10 km of train ride at the top of the mountains. An unforgettable trip and thrills!

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Artouste station

the Artouste train

Here we are in the heart of the Ossau Valley, between the plain of Pau and the border with Spain. To reach the small resort of Artouste, nothing could be simpler. From Laruns, I take the D934 which winds through superb mountain landscapes for about 40 minutes. At the foot of the resort at 1,241 m above sea level, the Fabrèges dam lake, fed by the Gave de Brousset, and a handful of chalets stretch out their arms to me. In the off season, the resort has many parking spaces to park vehicles. Head to the ticket office to pay for a ticket and take the Sagette gondola to the train station! It is advisable to book your ticket in advance in the summer season.

the Artouste train

the Artouste train   the Artouste train
The Sagette gondola

the Artouste train

The Fabrèges lake below

The Train d'Artouste, the highest in Europe

The gondola lift takes about ten minutes before reaching the Sagette departure station. The ascent offers splendid panoramas on the valley, on the Pyrenees National Park and on the Fabrèges lake which is adorned with an azure blue. At the exit of the cable car, I discover the station and the little red and yellow train originally built by the Compagnie des chemin de fer du Midi in order to transport men, equipment and fuel to build the Artouste dam between 1924 and 1932 as part of a program to build hydroelectric factories. Finally, in addition to transporting the personnel of the hydroelectric power station, the little train was opened to the public for tourist purposes in 1932.

the Artouste train

La Sagette departure station (1,934 m above sea level)

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A magical train journey on the heights of the mountain

the Artouste train   the Artouste train
The Pic du Midi d'Ossau

Before taking the little train to Lake Artouste, you should stop to admire the magnificent panorama over the Ossau valley and the emblematic summit of Pic du midi d'Ossau which rises to 2884m altitude above sea level.


the Artouste train   the Artouste train

I board the open train, made up of two to three cars, and sit on the wooden seats. The train starts with a few jerks, pulled by a locomotive. Let's go! It crosses the 315-meter long "Bear Tunnel" before continuing its path on the mountainside for 10 kilometers at a speed of 10 km/h. The trip to the Lac d'Artouste station (1989 m) lasts about 55 minutes and reveals plunging views over the Soussouéou valley.


the Artouste train

The entrance used by the personnel of the hydroelectric power station

When you arrive at the resort, a signposted path, easy to access for young and old with a drop of 90 meters, leads to Lac d'Artouste and the dam, under the curious eye of marmots basking in the tall grass and on sunny rocks. The ingredients for a memorable ascent in 10 to 15 minutes have been combined: magnificent landscapes as far as the eye can see, unspoiled nature, a great breath of fresh air and… the highlight of the day, a lake with multiple shades of blue. Lac d'Artouste is a natural lake, of glacial origin, enhanced by a slightly curved concrete dam 27 m high, commissioned in 1929. At the top, the view is spectacular! Do not forget to bring your drinks and your picnic to fully enjoy this site accessible to all. Also bring a bag to take away your waste because there is no trash on site so as not to alter the beauty nature and landscape.

the Artouste train   the Artouste train
The marked path leads to the lake under the watchful eye of the marmots

the Artouste train   the Artouste train

the Artouste train    the Artouste train

Lake Artouste (1,997 m) and the dam dominated by the summit of Lurien (2,826 m)

the Artouste train

The train leaves for La Sagette station

A walker's paradise

Advice to walking enthusiasts! Lake Artouste is the starting point for several hikes: the Vallon de Soussouéou hike (1km - 567 meters of vertical drop - 5h), the hike that goes down to Fabrèges (8.5km - 411 m of vertical drop then 1100 m of vertical drop). descent - 5h), the hike that leads to the Arrémoilit refuge (3.3km - 351m drop - 1h15) and the loop with the vertiginous passage of Orteig (8km - 550m drop - 4h). Be sure to find out about the schedules of the small return trains before embarking on such excursions. Good walk!


the Artouste train   the Artouste train
Local flora and fauna to discover on a walk

Practical info:

The Artouste train is scheduled to reopen on May 21, 2021. Due to the high number of tourists, it is strongly recommended to reserve your place in advance via the site (fr)

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Did you like this report? Consult the Guide Béarn Pyrénées Blog. Discover others by subscribing to the Facebook page of the Guide Béarn Pyrénées. We also have an Instagram page @guidebearnpyrenees.


Photos and Article prepared by Lesley Williamson for the Guide du Béarn-Pyrénées


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