On the N230 road, just south of the Vielha tunnel in the high Pyrenees. You will find a large layby on your left as you descend into the valley. The N230 main road, is busy route from France to Spain. So if you find yourself passing by and feel the need to stretch your legs. Why not try this short but strenuous walk up into a side valley of the Besiberri where you can rest for a while by a tranquil lake. The gentle murmur of the wind through the trees, the fresh clean mountain air and the exercise will soon cause you to forget about that long journey and the madding traffic going fast to somewhere else.
By clicking on the map below, you can see and follow this route on Wikiloc.
You can access the large layby mentioned above whilst travelling north or south on the N230 road. Driving north, simply look for a sign to the Refuge Conangles which has a picture of a pine tree and hut on the sign. Or look out for an overhead gantry for traffic signals or the area for putting snow chains on in winter. Coming south; it is a little easier to miss the junction. After leaving the Vielha tunnel, the road will slightly curve to the right. You will see a distance sign to Villaller and Lleida, then a electronic sign on the right. Shortly after this you will see a blue sign showing you can turnaround then a crossroads sign. Turn off right here and drive through the short layby. When you reach the main road again; you will see a large layby across the road where there is plenty of room to park.
You must use the layby on the right before crossing into the larger layby. Turning from the main road, across traffic, is forbidden in Spain. This is for safety and can at best result in a large fine if you are seen by the police. Park anywhere in this large layby, or follow the small track on the inside of the layby to another gravel car park.
There is a refuge here, for walkers making longer trans Pyrenean journeys. Yet they may sell simple snacks and drinks to passing day hikers like us. Cross the small bridge over the Noguera Ribagorzana river, shown in the photograph above. Here on the right there is a large clearing with many benches and barbecue pits for a proper Spanish picnic.
Gentle treelined lower slopes
Passing the large picnic area on your right, follow a track into the forest. This gently winds its way under the trees before turning to the left at a clearly marked signpost.
I walked this route in early October when the ground was covered with various mushrooms. Collecting mushrooms is somewhat of a local tradition and I passed many people with large wicker baskets on the hunt for these tasty fruits of the forest floor.
I had a great conversation with a Catalan couple who explained how they can travel many miles in search of edible mushrooms. They delighted in telling me how to cook them and which drink is the best accompaniment!
A short time later, you will meet a yellow signpost at a fork in the path. The right fork will take you down the valley and into Spain. So be sure to turn left and start a gentle climb up through the trees. At one point I passed the beautiful waterfall shown in the photograph below. I stopped and paused for a while to enjoy the relaxing sound of cascading water.
After the waterfall the path steepened as I walked beneath the boughs of hundreds of birch trees. With the brilliant sun illuminating the golden leaves of autumn; I felt like I was walking through a natural cathedral of light. The photo at the top of the page does not do justice to what you can see with your own eyes; so please come to be in the relaxing forests as well.
Crossing another stream called the ‘Barranc de Besiberri’ on the maps; the trees turn to pine as the path steepens to over 45 degrees in places. There are gaps in the tree cover here, so take care if walking under a hot midday sun. Take your time on this section, it is not a race. Look to each step on the uneven rock to avoid twisting an ankle and remember to stop to take on water and catch your breath. The photo below may show the gradient of this section. You gain the height of a tree within a few metres!
A place to relax
Yet all that effort is definitely worth the view of the lake. You can rest at this viewpoint or walk down to the shores of the lake if you prefer. If you have time; you can walk on past the lake and up to the small Refuge of Besiberri. For availability, go here: https://www.feec.cat/fem-muntanya/refugis/refugi/refugi-besiberri/. Beyond this you can climb the three peaks of the Besiberri massif or walk east into the Aiguestortes National Park. For more detailed routes to these higher places; look here: https://www.summitpost.org/besiberris/205873
So if you fancy walking somewhere new in the Pyrenees; on quiet routes far away from the more touristic routes. Or you are just passing by on a long car journey. Be sure to stop and stretch your legs for a walk in to the relaxing forest at least.