Here’s a hike that I have wanted to do for a long time: the Boucle du Lac d’Aude’ in the Pyrénées-Orientales department. It has everything I hope for in a hike- from dramatic mountain vistas to reflections of the surroundings in the crystal clear water of the Lac des Bouillouses. Walking around the lake, you will cross the river Têt and from there the path will bring you to the ‘Estany d’Auda’.
A few years ago, my family and I had already tried to walk around the Lac des Bouillouses. At the time, the kids were still small and we only made it round a quarter of the trail. This time, I was more prepared. I even bought a walking guide at the Tourism Office in Font-Romeu for 5 euros (well-worth the money!). Therefore, I already knew that during the high season, there are three options to get to Lac des Bouillouses. First, you can walk from Font-Romeu to the dam (2.5 hours one way and excluding the time you hike around the lake). If the weather is good, you can also take the ski lift La Calme Nord from Font Romeu. From the drop-off point, it is another 30 minutes to the dam. Or you can drive up to Mont-Louis and take the (paid) shuttle bus.
Sound of Music
As the weather was kind of unpredictable that day, with a thunderstorm expected in the afternoon, we hesitated about going. But when the navette dropped us off, the sky was perfectly blue and we hit the 10.5 kilometre trail in good spirits. We followed the yellow and red/white signs with the boys leading the way. The first part of the hike followed the shore of the Lac des Bouillouses. It gave stunning views over the lake and its crystalline water with green and blue hues. Leaving the forest behind us, we moved through rocky landscapes and open plains. It was a very ‘Sound of Music’ kind of scenery. The sound of jingling cowbells that accompanied us along the way topped it off.
By this time the signs had changed into yellow and red/yellow marks. Now and then we came across a yellow signpost clearly indicating the Boucle du Lac d’Aude, so no worries. We continued on our way, absorbing nature’s best and crossed the bridge over the river Têt. This river rises at the Pic Carlit at 2,400 meters altitude, feeds the Lac des Bouillouses at 2,000 meters altitude, to eventually flow through Perpignan and end in the Mediterranean sea. Distracted by some friendly cows we encountered on our way, we followed the boys obliviously. And that’s how we got lost for a little while… Luckily Chéri had paid attention and realised that he hadn’t seen any signs for a moment (I was too busy taking pictures). So, returning the way we came, we finally noticed the yellow signpost that brought us back on track.
After a quick lunch, the clouds started to roll in and we wanted to accelerate our pace to finish our hike before the storm. Walking through a fairytale landscape with soft, green grass, we jumped over babbling brooks to reach the Lac d’Aude. This lake, Estany d’Auda in Catalan, is a natural lake and the birth-giver of the river Aude. From here, it was only a 40 minute walk to the shuttle bus stop or 1h20 to the dam. As the final bit was rather challenging- descending via a very rocky path- the kids (and us) were happy to see the bus arrive after just a little wait. And now we can proudly say that we have walked around the Lac des Bouillouses!