Ride along the mountainsideImagine rocky cliffs in full sun, their peaks piercing an indigo sky. It is a quite delicious experience of heights that the Little Train of Artouste has to offer. Climbing the peaks up to 2000 m altitude, it is one of the highest trains in Europe ! A unique chance to reach the summits, to discover the Artouste lake and coming across the sheep as they move pastures in transhumance... and all this without getting tired !
Originally, the Little Train of Artouste was created to transport the men and materials necessary for the construction of the Artouste lake dam (in 1920). It was only 12 years later that it began to be used for tourism purposes. It is almost 100 years old !To find out more about this great adventure, go to the museum which is to be found at the start of the train ride, in Fabrèges. The entry is included in your ticket.
This area has been named M3 (pronounced metres cubed) with reference to the millions of cubic meters of water stored behind the Artouste dam. With 24 million cubic meters and a depth of 120 meters, Artouste lake is the largest reservoir in the Pyrénées Atlantiques. This source of hydroelectricity constitutes part of the economy of the Ossau valley.
So, how does one access this little wonder of the heights?
We go to Fabrèges Lake (1,240 m above sea level), from where we take the cable cars (little eggs!) To the mythical Little Train of Artouste. It travels at 10 km across the mountainside for a ride of 50 minutes to the summit. Exciting!
Hiking to the summit
On arrival (La Sagette station), a short fifteen minute walk is enough to reach the Artouste Lake and its impressive dam. It is the point of departure for several hikes, from the gentlest to the most demanding. One can for example approach the mountain by walking to the Arrémoulit hut or push on to the Pic de Lurien (allow 1h30 of tough going). Then, return on board the Little Train of Artouste to the valley.
There are several types of tickets available: Hiking, Discovery, Camper, depending on whether you only want to spend the day or sleep up there. You can spend the night at the Arrémoulit hut or pitch your tent... and gaze at the stars. They are so bright in the mountains !