The Ariège, at the foot of the Pyrenees, is a relatively unknown French department. Unknown' is therefore not unloved, but certainly unspoiled! Once you have visited the region, you can't get enough of its beautiful unspoiled nature, historic towns, castles, mountain rivers, peaks and lakes.

Ariège is located in a triangle between Toulouse, Carcassonne and Andorra. It is without doubt one of the quietest departments in France, but also one of the most interesting in terms of cycling opportunities! In the south, the department borders Andorra, Spain and the high Pyrenees. To the east, you are not far from the famous medieval fortified city of Carcassonne. The mythical Tour town of Pau is nearby and even the Mediterranean is never far away, so a day at the beach and enjoying fresh seafood is also a possibility! And the special history of Ariège can be seen everywhere in the many (Cathar) castles, fortresses and ruins.

"Not to be missed are the waterfall at Roquefort-les-Cascades and the caves of Niaux and Mas d'Azil."

Mountains, waterfalls, caves

Nature in Ariège is overwhelmingly beautiful. The rolling hills almost make you think you are in Tuscany while in the background you see the high peaks of the Pyrenees. It is full of fast-flowing mountain streams, unusual caves and beautiful reservoirs Lac de Montbel. Not to be missed are the waterfall at Roquefort-les-Cascades and the caves of Niaux and Mas d’Azil.

Cycling challenges galore

The Pyrenees, with their mythical peaks of the Tourmalet, Aubisque, Peyresourde, Aspin, Hautacam and so many others, have a huge appeal to the practiced road cyclist. By road bike, they are all up for grabs from the Ariège region. But to really taste, feel, smell and sniff nature, we took to the MTB.

Mountain biking in the Ariège Pyrenees

The Ariège has a pack of MTB circuits from the easiest to the most challenging, ranging from family rides to the really demanding and spectacular trails. In total, there are no less than 460 km of mountain bike trails. Having fun on the bike will not be lacking, let the adrenaline flow!

For a nice challenge, there is the Grande Traversée VTT (FFC label): from Lacave to Ax-les-Thermes, this 223 km route in the heart of the Pyrenees allows you to combine both technical and challenging stages with enjoyable quieter rides in a beautiful, picturesque and varied environment.

This superb mountain bike tour in a few words:

  • Total mileage: 223 km
  • Number of stages: 12 stages with about twenty kilometers per stage, variable elevation changes depending on the stage.
    FFC-specific markings and signage red markings
  • What audience: Trained and/or semi-advanced mountain bikers.
  • What period: June to the end of September

This Grande Traverséé Ariège Pyrenees, takes you over three historic trails and through three different MTB areas; The Ariege Pyrenees MTB Site, Cathar Pyrenees, Couserans Volvestre and Pyrénées. Along the way you can sleep in hotels where the facilities are optimal for cyclists? The hosts/women really specialize in welcoming mountain bikers.

Highly recommended!

Another must are the two great greenways, or equipped bike paths of more than 80km. Great routes to explore the destination back and forth, north to south and east to west. No cars here! Only hikers, equestrians, skaters and cyclists share the unpaved greenways, each at their own pace to explore the region

Along the railroad line

The Chemin des Filatiers is the story of a railroad … which became an unpaved road. Here you will find a 38 km car-free path between Lavelanet and Mirepoix, then connected to the Aude. You will discover the most beautiful remains of the Middle Ages with the castle of Lagarde and the town of Mirepoix.

It should be clear: We are heading for the Pyrenees and our destination will be … the Ariège. And what are we taking with us? Our road bike, our MTB and our gravel bike or will we take an E-bike too?

Long live the two-wheeler in Ariège!

Fotos: © Anne Dubndidu / © S. Meurisse 

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