The ascent to the Pic du Grand Jer is a very accessible hike on an obvious and well-maintained path, offering an exceptional panorama of the Pyrenean chain and its 3000m peaks, including the Vignemale. The ascent is popular, especially in summer, and the summit even more so, as the funicular, dating back to 1900, enables everyone to get there. On the other hand, the loop via the eastern slope and the Mail de Castillon is less obvious, with steeper slopes, a steeper path and a need for a sense of direction to return to the Col des Trois Croix.
■ Type of route: mid-mountain loop hike
■ Distance: 8.7 km
■ Cumulative elevation gain: +560 m
■ Cumulative negative altitude gain: -560 m
■ Estimated total time: 2h30 to 3h30
■ Min and max altitude: 420 m / 950 m
■ S ignposting: GR 78 in part, PR Yellow but not always clearly visible, yellow signposts on the way up.
■ Equipment in place: none
■ Equipment required: none
Difficulties: none for the ascent along the prepared trail. A finer, steeper path for the second part via the Mail de Castillon, and a little orientation.
Access to the place
Map & topo
Part 1: from the lower funicular station to the Pic du Grand Jer (1h30 to 2h)
Take the small road up behind the station and continue on the forest path that follows. We're on the GR. It climbs steadily upwards through the undergrowth, until you reach the Col des Trois Croix at 660m (apparently wrong location on the base map). At this point, leave the GR (we'll be coming back this way) and turn right onto the track, which twists and turns quite a bit, climbing steadily until you reach the upper funicular station.
After the funicular installations, take the concrete path that winds its way up to the summit where you'll find the large cross, with the option at the end of taking the "Baronnie des Angles" panoramic path. At the summit, panoramic views of the Pyrenees to the south and east. Le Vignemale, 3298m, the highest peak in the French Pyrenees, is in the background with its summit forming 2 small peaks (see zoomed-in photo).
Part 2: from the Pic du Grand Jer to the lower funicular station via the Mail de Castillon (1h30 to 2h)
Pass the large cross and continue on the narrow ridge path heading south. Eventually, we switch to the east-facing slope with a yellow (PR) signposted path. Follow this path for a few long hairpin bends on the east-facing slope, then a long traverse northwards over the Mail de Castillon (unremarkable prominence), then down into a fern field (pay close attention as the path is not very visible, see GPS track). Further down, you come across a better-marked path: the GR 78. Follow it to the left and head due north, skirting the topography slightly uphill before descending and crossing a track coming up from below. Follow the track to the left upwards to return to the Col des Trois Croix.
All that remains is to descend the uphill path in the opposite direction to the parking lot below the lower funicular station.