Discovering the unpaved road up to Col de Sencours in the Pyrenees

Col de Sencours is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.378m (7,801ft) above the sea level, located in the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Occitan region of France.

Col de Sencours

A Raw Pathway Set High in the Mountains

Tucked away in the heart of the central Pyrenees, the scenic road to Col de Sencours is purely unpaved. Its steepness and loose surface enriched with breathtaking cliff edges and two short tunnels make the drive really challenging. This road is not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced due to the intricate blend of high altitudes and technical surfaces. Interestingly, this path was once known as the Old Toll Road, despite not being a traditional road.

Historical Remnants and Accessibility

A prominent gate stops vehicles from accessing this route, but an adjacent gate welcomes hikers and cyclists. The pass holds onto the remnants of the former l'Hôtellerie de Sencours hotel. Established in 1852, this hotel faced the wrath of an avalanche the very next year. Undeterred, it was rebuilt in 1856, though today, its ruins stand with their interiors closed to the public.

Steep Curves and Harsh Climate

Situated in the southwest part of France, it's not uncommon for the road to be snow-capped even in late June. Its slopes can be punishing, with some sections boasting a staggering gradient of 24%. Originating from Col du Tourmalet near the gift shop, the ascent spans 3.6 km (2.23 miles) and witnesses an elevation gain of 310 meters, maintaining an average gradient of 8.61%.

Breathtaking Vistas and A Nostalgic Journey

The route promises travelers mesmerizing views, offering a glimpse of what the Col du Tourmalet might have looked like before its modern sealing. From Col de Sencours, the road extends for another 1.5km, leading to the Col de Laquets (2,637m), positioned just beneath the Pic du Midi.

Pic: Raphaël Ehret