Hiking the Chemin de la Mature, French Pyrenees

You can’t go wrong with any hike in the Pyrenees.  There’s just something special about small villages, the good food, and the untouched nature.  It’s all magical but the Chemin de la Mature is something extraordinary.  The Chemin de la Mature is a 4,000 foot long ledge sculpted into a sheer, massive rock face. It’s something all hiking enthusiasts must experience.  Here is our guide to hiking the Chemin and everything else you need to know about getting to the town Etsaut.

Overview of the Hike/the Beta

Distance RT: 7 miles, loop
Total elevation gain: 2,300 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Exposure: Class 3 out of 6
Starting elevation: 2,000 feet
Summit elevation: 4,300 feet
Trailhead: 42.892496, -0.561910  


Things to Know

It’s Exposed

This hike is considered a class 3 out of 6 because of the actual highlight of the hike, the Chemin.  As I explained earlier, the Chemin de la Mature is 4,000 foot long ledge carved into a sheer rock face.  Class 3 means that the exposure lies along the trial and isn’t avoidable however, it’s important to note that the ledge is plenty wide enough for 2-3 people to walk side by side.  This is one of those hikes that isn’t actually dangerous, but to those with a fear of heights, it may seem so.  Despite the exposure, I would still do this hike with kids.

Bring Bread and Cheese

Not a necessity, but French bread and cheese makes everything better.  

Hiking the Chemin de la Mature, French Pyrenees

Enjoying some French bread and brie with beautiful views at Col d’Arras

If you are coming from the north, there is an amazing fromagerie (cheese shop) about 15 minutes before you get to Etsaut.  There’s no name for the place, just keep an eye out for fromage sign on the side of the highway.  There are many different fromageries you can stop at, but the one we went to was a quaint little cottage on the right side of the road.

You’ll quickly learn when arriving in France that the bread really is that good.  Be sure to stop at one of the many Patisseries (bakeries) on the way.

Enjoy your bread and cheese at a mid hike picnic!

The Trail is Really Well Marked

You will never have to worry about getting lost on this trail.  There are trail signs every kilometer (or more).  When in doubt, follow sign to Col d’Arras, and Etsaut.


Camping + Accommodation Nearby

The closest campground to Etsaut is 4 kilometers south, Camping River Aspe. Though there aren’t designated campgrounds in Etsaut, there are plenty of options for free camping/boondocking. In fact the first parking lot at the Pont de Cebers has no restrictions for overnight parking.  There are endless free camping opportunities just remember to 1) check for signs with overnight parking restrictions and 2) if someone asks you to move, just find another place.

If you are looking for accommodation, Etsaut offers a unique experience.  This quaint little village is very quiet and is a great place to spend 1 night before of after this hike.  Use the search box below to find accommodation in the town of Etsaut/Borce or in the neighboring towns of Berat du Haut or Cette-Eygun.




Getting to the Trailhead

This hike starts just south of the small town of Etsaut, along French highway N-314/Spanish highway E-7.

  • If you are coming from the south, you will make a right just after you pass the large fortress on your right, Fort du Portalet.
  • If coming from the north, you will make a left 1.5 km after Etsaut.

Turn left/right over the Pont de Cebers, on the east side of the road, where you will see a large parking to at the base of a rock wall.   Optional: Continue past this first parking lot for a 1 minute or 2 upon which you’ll reach a switchback with another parking lot and as you’ll notice, the start of the trail. Note this hike is a loop so if you drive further up the road to the closer parking lot, you will have to walk up that road at the end of your hike.



Guide to Hiking the Chemin de la Mature, Etsaut

Part 1: Carpark to the Chemin de la Mature

Depending on which carpark you start from, the first or the second, you will start by hiking or driving along the road to get to Parking Passette.  Don’t forget to turn around and take in the already beautiful views.