Hiking in the Picos de Europa

Ruta del Cares

is one of the most popular day hiking trails in Spain.

Situated in the central massif of the Picos de Europa,

it can be accessed from either Poncebos in the north

or Cordines in the south.

From Poncebos to Cain the walk is 23km return,

a path that winds through the Garganta del Cares,

a gorge with the river distant below.


Not for the faint hearted,

the edge is abrupt, on the brink

disarmingly quiet, unexpected

yet easy enough on a sufficient rocky path (barely)

shared with confident goats

whose instinct it seems tells them

the more frightening walkers,

dog owners with long tangling leads,

families with straying kids,

are to be wary of,

knowing that they (the people)

fail to see  how desperate a plunge it would be.


Ignoring that,

it’s a massively spectacular place,

pockets of green,

dwarfing karst pillars,

a path cut into, and occasionally through,

the immense mass of limestone.


When you reach Cain, after coming down to the river

 you can soak your feet,

get a cold beer

and, if you’re so inclined, a bus back to Arenas,

though it’s just as fast to walk,

and far more rewarding

taking in the return view, a different light,

magic stillness once the hordes have disappeared,

even the goats are relaxed,

the height feels greater,

like a plunge without limit,

 an endless fall.

And the cider back in Poncebos tastes all the better for it.






Covadonga is a quaint little town, perched on a hill on the road up to the Lakes of Covadonga, an access point to the northwest of the Picos de Europa, in the western massif of the park.

To get your car up to the carpark at the lakes, you have to be early, otherwise you are obliged to take the bus.

The park shuts at night and after 9am in the morning cars are not allowed past Covadonga, still well below the Lakes of Enol and Ercina.




the hike to the Mirador de Ordiales starts at the Pan de Carmen carpark.

It’s a short drive from the Lakes of Covadonga but is well sign posted.

It’s possible to walk from the Lakes, but adds 15.4km to the round trip that goes up the Vega Canraso, a rocky track that climbs 700 metres to the Mirador at 1830m, via Refugio Vegarredonda.





Our map listed it as a 5h 20 min round trip, from the carpark, a long day walking in high mountains (alt montaña),

Well known as a high risk zone, the weather can blow in anytime and the clouds shifted and swirled around us all morning till finally late afternoon a heavy mist descended; but then, fortunately, we were on the way back down, the track not totally obvious, goat and cow trails everywhere.

A good map is essential, the park information at the carpark in the lakes offers very little and assumes you are well equiped and that you know everything about the walk. F

But it’s away from the crowds of day trippers to the lakes, the stone shelters for cow herders sprinkled along the way, the grazing high mountain cattle calm as if they know they’re in a better situation than us as the storm blows in.






Horcados Rojos


Taking the teleferico from Fuente de, 30km from Potes in the east of Picos de Europa, should be straight forward enough. Should be. The queue is long, then you realise you have to get your ticket inside, and the ticket has a number stamp that is then called out to you. It’s time for a coffee, the wait can be hours. The alternative to getting up to the start of the hike to Horcados Rojos, which can actually extend to Refugio Uriellu through the Central Massif of the Picos, emerging in the north at Poncebos, is daunting. The cable car goes up steeply and there apparently really isn’t a track, which we discovered when we realised we had a two hour wait to get back down, late that evening.

It’s a popular place, not without reason.





The morning cloud was only just lifting, wandering amongst a lunar landscape, hanging red rocks, probably more mars scape, well above the treeline here, dogs miniding the sheep at the lower levels, after that it’s all rock and we get up above the clouds, the sun beats down, the track winds on, rocky and tough on the feet, it’s climbing country here, alt montaña, tough going, but that pales when we look down into the valley Jou de los Boches and across at the Naranja de Bulnes (Pico Urriellu). The climb down into the jou,  along pins and lines, (for us another day) is treacherous, tentative hikers, inching down, refugio Urriellu a few hours away further on.



We go back the way we came, after a long pause for lunch, the only way to walk, taking in the scenery over the Central Macizo of the Picos de Europa.

Getting back to Fuente de on the teleferico is a two hour wait but there is no short way down, the Puertos de Aliva is 3-4 hours and by now it’s getting late.


~ by Drifting, Rambling on October 20, 2016.

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