Tackle the Freedom Trail across the wild Pyrenees mountains on horseback
| Night in Toulouse 3* hotel B&B
5 days guided horse riding
Bag transfer between overnights
|Transfers from Toulouse
All food and drink
6 nights accommodation on the trek
A challenging and thought-provoking 5 day guided horse trekking adventure following one of the Freedom Trail routes taken by WW2 escapees across the Pyrenees mountains
The Freedom Trail trek on horseback – an overview
Many adventurers have heard of the Pyrenean escape routes or Freedom Trails that were used by those escaping persecution in WW2.
But few people know that just a handful of these routes are also open to experienced horse riders who are looking for their next big horse riding adventure in the company of an expert local guide.
This challenging and varied 5 day horse trekking adventure starts in the wild and rugged mountains of the Ariege Pyrenees and heads up and over a spectacular high mountain col to the stunningly beautiful landscape of the Catalunyan Pyrenees.
In the course of your adventure, you will ride through a wild and sometimes intimidating mountain environment, using often indistinct paths, through hidden valleys, up over high mountain cols, through mystical forests and across beautiful rivers, discovering along the way tiny hamlets that have remained unchanged for centuries.
Your mount will be the native Merens breed of horse, a wonderfully good natured and sure-footed beast, perfectly adapted to this rugged mountain terrain. The horses are bred by your expert guide, Govan, who has a deep and profound love and appreciation for these wonderful horses.
You can read more about the Merens breed in this blog post.
Horse riding level
This horse riding trekking adventure is for fit and experienced riders only.
You can expect to be in the saddle for up to 6 hours each day so riding fitness and endurance are essential. You will also need to be a technically competent rider as sections of the trek are steep and rough underfoot.
On some sections, you will be required to dismount and lead your horse for their and your safety.
If you’d like some ideas for preparing for your horse riding holiday in the Pyrenees, we’ve given you some top tips in this blog post.
Horse riding holiday accommodation
You’ll spend the first night of your adventure in a comfortable 3* hotel in the beautiful city of Toulouse.
After a transfer next day from Toulouse, you’ll head to Govan’s farm where you’ll stay on a full board basis in basic, dormitory style rooms,
In the course of your trek you’ll stay mainly in basic hostel type accommodation in shared bunk-style rooms. In most, hot showers are available but in the mountain refuge, the biggest luxury is the WCs!
The food at all of the overnights is good home-cooked fayre using locally sourced seasonal and often organic produce.
Enjoy a free morning exploring Toulouse before being collected mid afternoon and transferred to Govan’s farm above the village of Biert in the Ariege Pyrenees.
There, you’ll meet those wonderful Merens horses for the first time before a hearty evening meal
After breakfast, it’s time to head out on your adventure.
You’ll initially head west on old mule paths that have been used for centuries to transport goods throughout the high valleys. They’ll lead you to the Col de la Crouzette and then on to Moncaut at 1500m alt from where the riding will initially be on forest tracks.
Throughout the day you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the high mountains bordering Spain.
You’ll pass through charming little mountain villages until you reach Ardichen where you’ll spend the night at 800m alt. You’re sure to appreciate the swimming pool after a long day in the saddle and the home-cooked dinner will fill your hungry tummy.
Absorb the authentic feel of the tiny farming communities that you’ll pass through as you descend down to the river Arac in the valley below.
From there, you’ll ride on small paths up to the Serre de Rapheu where you’ll follow the ridgeline to reach the Salat valley from where you have great views towards Mont Valier, the highest peak in the Ariege Pyrenees.
You’ll pass through the pastoral village of Haurac to reach the Col de l’Artigue from where a track takes you to la Riole et Escalirous.
A final push down to the Esbintz valley and a path through pretty shaded woodland to reach your overnight in the hamlet of Aunac.
Tonights accommodation is in a dormitory with 7 individual beds. Food is traditional, hearty, home-cooked fayre using organic vegetables from the owner’s potager.
Today you head into the mountains proper, reaching an altitude of 2000m by the end of the day
But first you’ll pass through ancient woodland and the Mont Valier nature reserve, an unspoilt environment with some unique flora and fauna. Keep your eyes peeled for vultures and eagles as well as chamois and marmots along the way.
You’ll ride alongside a beautiful river and eventually reach the Arcouzan waterfall with its 60m high torrent of water.
Then it’s on up to the high mountain pastures where you’ll encounter herds of horses, sheep and Gascon cattle.
It’s in this wild environment that you’ll have a night under canvas to look forward to, with all tents and food provided by the support crew. It’s sure to be a proper mountain adventure!
Your route will initially follow a track that passes through the high mountain pastures to reach the Port d’Aula at 2260m alt.
You are now on the south-facing side of the Pyrenees mountain chain and will descend in the direction of the Noguera Pallersa valley.
Time for a break and some lunch alongside the river. In the afternoon you’ll head in a westerly direction on a track which passes through forests before eerging to pick up indistinct paths trodden by livestock.
After several small river crossings you’ll arrive at the historic Montgarri refuge in the NE corner of the beautiful Aran valley where you’ll spend the night
Accommodation is in shared rooms with bunk beds and hot showers are available. You’ll appreciate the superb home-cooked evening meal and a drink in the bar with your fellow riders afterwards.
After your brief foray into the Spanish Pyrenees it’s time to return back to the French side of the mountains via the Port d’Orle at 2320m alt.
A superb panoramic view awaits you here, right through to the Aigues Tortes Natural Park and the 3000m peaks, so make sure your phone or camera batteries are fully charged!
There follows a fairly lengthy, tricky rocky section where you’ll need to lead your horse on foot before you reach more pastures and eventually the end point of your trek.
Here, you’ll be met by the horsebox in which your trusty steeds will be taken back to Biert whilst you enjoy a more comfortable ride back to the gite in the landrover!
After a well deserved hot shower and good meal it will be time to retire to bed before your departure in the morning.
After breakfast you’ll be transferred back to Toulouse for your onward journeys. Safe travels!