Outdoor Activities in Midi-Pyrénées North

Information on hiking, biking, canoeing and horse riding in the hills and valleys of south west France. With contact details of regional sport and activity associations...

The climate in the Midi-Pyrénées region is ideal for a variety of adventure sports with conditions depending on the season.

In December the snow starts filling in the higher peaks and the winter sport season begins, with down-hill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and many other snow-based activities available.

As the temperatures rise in the spring time the snow melts and the rivers swell providing perfect conditions for canoeing, rafting and kayaking.

As summer approaches, the walking season begins for hikers and ramblers. The Midi-Pyrénées region offers varied walks from high-altitude mountain hikes to river and town walks. The season runs through until the late autumn when the snow arrives.

Cyclists will find excellent road riding for most of the year in the Midi-Pyrénées North area. Mountain biking and cyclocross is possible as well though many trails in shaded forests may be icy in the winter.

The region is home to a vast area of woodland open to hunters. The season begins in or around June and runs through to September but varies regionally and depends on the animal being hunted.

  • For comprehensive information on hiking, climbing, cycling, riding, skiing and watersports in the Pyrénées see ePyrenees.com

Canoeing and Kayaking

The Dordogne and Célé rivers in the north of the region provide meandering courses for canoeing and kayaking. The faster-moving rafting waterways in the more mountainous south provide for adventure kayaking.

Navigable rivers are classified into six grades: Classes I to VI. Class I being for easily navigable rivers, Class V for extremely difficult, and Class VI for rivers that present many risks and that are only navigable in certain water conditions.

  • For information on the classification of navigable rivers: Click here (in French)

There are many organisations providing training, transport and equipment for trips over one day or several. The sport is monitored by the Fédération Française de Canoë-Kayak, which provides information on appropriate rivers and expert guides, where necessary.

Contact information

  • The regional tourist office provides contact information for watersport organisations and companies: Click here

The contact details for each departmental committee:

Hiking and Walking

The Midi-Pyrénées has numerous marked routes through the historical towns and cities as well as through the mountains. The famous GR10 route crosses from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean on the French side of the border (the GR11 is the path on the Spanish side).

Be aware of seasonal restrictions to the paths and routes; for example, during the winter snow and ice can make some routes impassable.

The Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pedestre (FFRP) is the overseeing body for all marked and maintained walking routes in France. It provides information and guide-books (most in French) for walkers.

The Comité Régional de la Randonnée Pédestre en Midi-Pyrénées manages the walking and hiking routes and groups in the region. The committee is responsible for managing the 26,000 km of official routes, maintains the paths, and makes sure that the markings, guides and maps are up to date. There are 230 walking and hiking clubs affiliated with the committee.

Top 25 hiking maps issued by the Institut Géographique National (IGN) are available online, from newsagents (presse) and from bookshops.

All nationally recognised trails are categorised as follows:

  • GR (Grand Randonnée): Registered hiking trails that often run across the entire country (although a hiker can walk any small section they choose)
  • GRP (Sentiers de Grande Randonnée de Pays): Registered regional trails that will take you around a particular region for several days
  • PR (Sentiers de Promenade): Walking and hiking trails for short circuits, lasting several hours

The French route marking system shows paths by means of signs and blazes.

Contact information

Climbing and Mountaineering

The Pyrénées offer a range of climbing opportunities for novices to experts. The Tarn and Aveyron gorges also provide a venue for climbing. The ski resorts offer climbing and mountaineering in the summer months for those wishing to reach the highest peaks.

Professional guides are available and recommended in most areas. They should hold a diploma from the Ministère des Sports, and a qualification from the Mountaineering and Rock-climbing Federation, the Fédération Française de la Montagne et de l'Escalade (FFME).

Contact information

Information (in French) is available on the grade, training options and availability of guides from the FFME

Cycling and Mountain Biking

The Pyrénéan mountain range is recognised for its excellent and challenging cycling terrain, and it is often the location for stages of the Vuelta a España and the Tour de France professional cycling races. Easier cycling circuits are available in the lower-lying areas of the region. Mountain biking (VTT - Vélo Tout Terrain) is very popular in the region and there are trails for all levels.

Further information on cycling in France is available from the Fédération Française de Cyclotourisme:

The Millau Viaduct

This famous construction is the tallest traffic bridge in the world, and since its opening in 2004 it has become a major tourist attraction in the Tarn valley. The viaduct, situated in the Parc Naturel du Grands Causses, has also provided a superb venue for adventure sports. A glider or paragliding trip provides a bird's eye view while there are also climbing walls and via ferrata in the shadow of the bridge.

Contact information