Running Away In the Pyrenees

Set your mind free by exploring the Pyrenees on foot.

Written by
Jake Baggaley
min read
In this preview:
No items found.


It’s 0600 hours somewhere high in the mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees. I was halfway through packing my tent in the pre-dawn light when I heard a disconcertingly close growl from the trees behind my camp. I froze. A dog barked in the distance across the gravel track, followed by another growl in the trees. I strained to see the source of the sound but couldn't make out the animal.

I realize I’m in a vulnerable position. I'm standing in my sleeping bag folded in half from my waist, and I still need to pack my items onto my motorcycle. A quick getaway does not look promising. I stood still. After a few moments of silence, I packed up my things and left swiftly, reminding myself to Google, ‘Are there wolves in the Pyrenees?’ as soon as I found a signal.



It was the third night into my ten-day off-road motorcycle tour in the Pyrenees, during which I made stops at running trails and stayed overnight in the high mountains between each run. 

Running has always been the best form of therapy for me. It gives me the time and space to clear my mind, and with that comes the clarity needed to face any problems life throws at me. When feeling particularly down or stressed by any element of life or work, my first instinct is to book myself a solo adventure somewhere in the mountains to decompress.

I’d only driven through the Pyrenees once and at the time, I didn’t have enough time to stop and explore on foot, which has always been on my bucket list. So when life started to get a bit too much in September of 2022, I packed up my fastpacking kit and a motorcycle helmet and headed to the Pyrenees to combine two of my loves: off-road trail riding and trail running in the mountains.



After my tense encounter with the wild dogs—or wolves, which Google later suggested were probably Great Pyrenees mountain dogs, guardians of livestock in remote areas—I reached the charming mountain town of Queralbs. This town marks the beginning of what became the highlight trail for me, showcasing the finest of the Pyrenees terrain and mountain environments. If you have time for just one run in the Spanish Pyrenees, make it this one!

I opted to skip a chunk of the 1,900M climb by taking the Vall de Núria Rack Railway. This historic train has been running since the 1930s and is the only means of connecting Queralbs to the incredible Núria Valley. The train station is the furthest point that can be reached by road but it’s the start of the breathtaking 12K train ride climb to the final destination. 

As I ascended above the tree line, following a river that cascaded in a series of waterfalls down the valley, I could see the trail I would take to descend back to Queralbs after the route I had planned above the clouds along the ridgeline. The Núria valley is truly stunning and stepping off the train into the imposing valley at 1,900M - but surrounded by peaks just under 3,000M - I couldn't wait to start running.

The air was noticeably cooler up here, which was the perfect running temperature. I pulled my light windproof sleeves down, unclipped my poles, and settled into the slow steady climb, with a distance of 22K and almost 2,000M of elevation gain. This was only the initial trek. I had the choice of catching the train again to reach the ridgeline but decided to keep running. Seventy percent of this new route involved a 2,700M climb, and I was prepared for it to be a bit of a slog. I quickly encountered a long, steep climb up some icy scree, which turned into a fast hike. I'd already been running for a few days and wanted to make sure I had enough energy to run the rest of the beautiful ridgeline.

But here comes another favorite part of my run: I could see the ridgeline in the distance I’d been treading for the last few hours, which always amazes me. 

The perfect running temperature I felt earlier soon turned colder than ideal near the scree-covered summit of Puigmal, the highest point of my run with its iconic steel cross. I persevered and when I reached the shoulder of the mountain, I was immediately greeted by a view that revealed itself as one of my all-time favourites. 

Atop the summit, I was fully immersed in clouds as far as the eye could see, an effect of the valley’s warm air colliding with the summit’s icy cold air—you can say I was literally running on cloud nine! I continued on the trail, eventually leading to the ridge where one side was covered with voluminous, fluffy white clouds and the other clear blue skies. 

As I ran on the ridge—or what I call a "trail rollercoaster"—my mind felt free. I found a great rhythm with short, challenging climbs followed by long, non-technical descents—it’s what I consider a dream run. The grassy hills splayed across the horizon, with gravelly trails winding up and down, and the ridges were sometimes only a few inches wider than the single-track path I was running on. 

I stopped to check the map at a wide junction and decided to make the most of the incredible opportunity I had by adding another two summits to my run. I flowed along the winding trails while yearning for the day I could race here because these are the trails that dreams are made of! 

"Running has always been the best form of therapy for me."

The run back to town through the Núria Valley was a more technical rocky trail that followed a river down the valley intersecting the train line at a few points. This type of running required more concentration due to the wet roots and slimy rocks dislodged by the cascading water above. My tired legs resulted in a few ankle tweaks, stopping just short of causing any damage.

But, tragically, I had one slip on a small slippery rock that shattered my small camera into pieces, rendering it into a piece of unusable object. Thankfully, I had managed to capture a good portion of my run before the camera broke. 

When I finally made it back into town and to my motorcycle, my legs were spent but I had the biggest smile on my face. With my newly acquired knowledge that I wouldn't be eaten by wolves, I loaded up the bike, picked up some gazpacho and bread, which were one of the few options for vegans in the more rural areas of the Spanish Pyrenees, and headed off into the wilderness to set up camp in another spot and do it all over again.














No items found.
From this story:

Author Bio

Jake Baggaley

Jake Baggaley is a professional commercial outdoor adventure photographer based in the south of the UK, he is also a keen trail runner, mountaineer and surfer and has travelled the world on running adventures. Find him on Instagram or see more of his photography here.

Related stories


For news, event updates, stories and more.

Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later..
Like what you read?
Get more inspiring content right in your inbox!
Signing up means getting our weekly newsletter and occasional promotional content delivered straight to your inbox.
I'm not interested
Thank you!
We hope you enjoy the content.
Oops! Something went wrong!
We apologise for the inconvenience. Please try again later.