From Oloron-Sainte-Marie turn west on D919 through Saint-Pée, after 3.2 km turn right, across Pont Vert after 430 m turn left, 1.9 km to the trailhead.
|Guided tours:||self guided, L=2.3 km.|
Sentier Karstique Gouffres d'Harizpé, 64400 Oloron-Sainte-Marie.
Bureau d’information d’Oloron Sainte-Marie, Allées du Comte de Tréville, 64400 Oloron Sainte-Marie, Tel: +33-559-39-98.
Agence Départementale du Tourisme 64, 2 allées des Platanes, 64100 Bayonne, Tel: +33-559-30-01-30. E-mail:
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
Sentier Karstique Gouffres d'Harizpé (Karst Trail Gouffres d'Harizpé) is located west of Oloron-Sainte-Marie on a hill which is also known as Bois de Saint-Pée. The trail seems to have no name, its just dubbed Sentier Karstique, we just completed it as Sentier Karstique Gouffres d'Harizpé with the main sight. We also read Bois De Saint-Pée - Sentier Karstique, which is neither a name but a sort of list, meaning something like "the forest of Saint-Pée with the karst trail". As we list more than a dozen karst trails in France we will stick with our first choice, just to keep them apart.
The rather short round course is actually like an 8, it is 2.3 km long, and it takes about an hour to walk the whole loop. Its main sight are gouffres or potholes, probably better called collapse dolines. There are six along the paths, as far as we understand they are just numbered and do not have names.
The rocks are Upper Cretaceous flysh, alternating layers of limestone and marl which are about 90 Ma old. The karstification develops along the cracks, which were caused by the tectonic forces during the orogeny of the Pyrenees. The water-resistant clay of the marl layers changes the flow of the water but is not preventing karstification.
The whole area is dedicated to bicycles, actually all the minor roads, trails and paths are marked as one or the other bicycle route. There are paved roads, gravel roads, dirt roads and even mountain trails which are marked for bicycles, most routes are definitely intended for mountain bikes and skilled riders. This karst trail on the other hand is intended for walking, it has staircases and wooden bridges and outlooks. Nevertheless, it is published as a stop on a much bigger bicycle tour, actually several such tours. And there is even a tour which includes the karst trail into a bicycle tour, which we do not recommend. The trailhead is located at a single lane, but paved and public road, so it's possible to drive there, just be careful with all the bikes.