Located in the north you’ll find one of Spains most unknown (and underrated) national parks; picos de Europa. This National Park is spread out over three provinces and is host to rugged mountainpeaks, lush valleys and countless breathtaking trails. One of the most famous hikes of this national park is the Ruta del Cares; a stunning trail that has been repeatedly mentioned as one of Spains most beautiful hikes. So of course we went to check it out and decide for ourselves!
The ruta del Cares meanders alogside the impressive Rio del Cares; a powerful river surrounded by impressive limestone massifs. The trail is often referred to as ‘The divine gorge’ and is considered one of Spains most beautifule sites. The trail will take you over rugged peaks, breathtaking caves and nervewrecking drop-offs. The trail is mostly carved out of the rocks and makes for a spectacular hike.
The trail is mostly flat and is therefor a family friendly experience. Even though the hike isn’t all too difficult, the distance still makes for a challenge. It took me almost 7 hours to complete the entire 30km trail. So make sure you are up for the challenge and dressed for the occasion.
Where to start
You’ll find this famous trail in the north of the national park, running between two little alpine villages; Cain and Poncebos. You can access the hike from either one, depending on your preferences. However, there are some advantages to starting the hike in Cain. Because even though the trail isn’t too difficult, it is fairly long. So if you are looking for a shorter hike and want to make sure you don’t miss out on the most beautiful part you should definitely start the trail in Cain. This part of the trail is without a doubt the most beautiful and adventurous.
I started my hike from Poncebos, so keep in mind that if you decide to start from Cain that the description is the other way around. The first 4km of the trail are rather steep; you ascend about 600m in those first kilometers so it’s a nice warmup to say the least. You can rest assured though because the rest of the trail is mostly flat. I found those first kilometers to be the least interesting ones too; the trail takes you mostly over the limestone rockformations and the landscape is a little barren. However, you can constantly hear the roaring sound of the Rio del Cares beneath you and the experience of the mountains slowly closing in on you was pretty epic! The true highlight of the trail came later though; because after 6km or so you’ll notice that you are slowly entering the gorge. The walls start to close in on you and the path turns into a muletrack carved out of the limestone rocks. You’ll find several tunnels and coves along the way and the mountain scenery is just handdown spectacular. The majectic walls with their steep drop off into the Rio del Cares against the backdrop of snowcapped mountains was truly breathtaking. The last section of the trail was defintely the most beautiful; this is where the gorge will get the smallest and nature the most powerful. You’ll cross the river several times and be met with mindblowing waterfalls and stunning vistas.
Obviously I took Nova with me on this epic trail. And even though it was very possible there are some things that might be relevant to know up front! We left pretty early to avoid the heat but still suffered from the warmth. The forecast was about 22 degrees that day but since the trail barely offers any shade and the limestone gets pretty hot, the temperature rose well above 30 degrees in the afternoon. There is not a whole lot of water for your dog to cool off in. We found two little waterfalls along the way but mostly had to use our own watersupply to stay hydrated. Another thing you should take into account is the hundreds of mountaingoats you’ll meet along the way. They were litteraly everywhere and since the trail isn’t very wide there isn’t any space to dodge them most of the time. So make sure your dog is cool with wildlife!
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