Like many hikers who visit the Pyrenees, fall is my favorite season to admire the colorful forests, the sky laden with cottony clouds and the mountainsides as far as the eye can see. Passing through Arreau and looking for wide open spaces, we follow the advice of the locals who recommend us to go and discover the nearby Payolle lake , nestled at the bottom of the Payolle cirque at the foot of the Col d'Aspin and the Hourquette d 'Ancizan, perched at an altitude of 1140 m. Renowned for its admirable landscapes , it is indeed an essential site of the natural heritage of the central Pyrenees, appreciated by families, young people, athletes and nature lovers of all generations!
Accessible by car and popular with locals as well as vacationing tourists, this 10-hectare artificial lake is discovered through a circular walk of about an hour. Located in the center of one of the most beautiful fir forests in the Pyrenees punctuated by large grazed plateaus, this exceptional site is rightly nicknamed "the little Canada of the Pyrenees". Its lake is fed by the Sarraoute and Morère streams which give the place a bucolic atmosphere.
On arriving at Payolle lake, the large parking lot that welcomes visitors is the starting point for many marked hiking trails (towards Plo del Naou or Lake Arrou) and mountain biking trails . The short hike on the trail around the lake runs alongside forests and meadows where dairy cows graze in perfect freedom. According to tastes and seasons, this walk in the middle of nature can be done on foot, by bike, on horseback , in dog sleds , cross-country skiing or snowshoeing . The terrain, suitable for everyone, allows families with small children to use a stroller to fully enjoy a moment of relaxation. This route invites us to several breaks to admire the majestic peaks of the mountains that face us.
On the shores of the lake, tourist residences blend into the landscape, offering grandiose panoramas over the Arbizon massif , the Arcouade and the Pic du Midi .
In summer, the nautical base just in front of these small chalets offers various activities on the water: rental of canoes , pedal boats , stand-up-paddle boards and kayaks to discover the richness of its flora and fauna while respecting the particular environment of this medium altitude forest pond.
The lake is part of the tourist fishing route and the equipped pontoons allow accessibility to all. During the trip, it is common to meet fishermen trying to catch local species of fish such as the plunging prick , the Pyrenean desman or the brown trout . To tease these fish, it is necessary to pay for a day ticket to fish on this course, at the price of 8 €. Seasoned fishermen or beginners, you can get this compulsory card in the various points of sale of the AAPPMA de Campan (in Grand Tarbes, Lourdes, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Gerde, Campan, La Séoube or even in Payolle).
As you walk around the Payolle plateau, you will find signs of intense pastoral activity , a tradition that takes advantage of the environment and animals while showing them immense respect. Even though cows grant themselves the privilege of lounging in children's play areas, getting too close to animals is still dangerous. Be vigilant and be careful not to annoy them!
Lunch at the Marmottes de Payolle restaurant
In Payolle, The Toulouse Pyrenees Guide recommends these two restaurants: