Hiking in the Picos de Europa mountains
Lake Enol (Covadonga lakes)
Picos de Europa mountains
It's not just difficult to find words to describe the landscape in the Picos de Europa National Park, it's almost impossible! Everything in this setting in northern Spain is spectacular: the rocky crests, the gorges, the valleys, the vast glacial lakes, the leafy forests… and the best way to get to know them is on foot. You can rest assured that you'll be absolutely amazed at everything you see.
The protected surroundings of the Picos de Europa mountains lie across three provinces in northern Spain: Cantabria, Asturias and León. This was the first National Park to be declared in Spain and there is no doubt that its natural richness and outstanding scenery make it a truly unique place. Hiking is the ideal way to explore all its attractions, as there is a network of clearly signposted routes throughout the park which will enable you to discover all its most emblematic sites. When you gaze upon the lakes of Covadonga, the views of the Naranjo de Bulnes or the spectacular Cares gorge, you're bound to feel glad that you set out on your walk.
Preparing for your hike The best idea is to choose a point as your 'centre of operations' from which to set out on your excursions. This could be any one of the places in the area around the National Park, where you'll also find a variety of accommodation options. You can reach the area by bus or by taxi from the towns and villages nearby, or else in your own car. Inside the park there is parking available in the villages and in the zones near the most popular routes. Spring and autumn are the times which are particularly recommended for walking in the Picos de Europa mountains, thanks to the mild temperatures, the longer hours of daylight, and because the scenery is exceptionally lovely in both these seasons. Make sure your rucksack includes water, food, sunscreen, a cagoule and a warm sweater or sweatshirt. And of course, hiking boots are absolutely essential. Where to get information? In order to plan your stay, the best thing is to go to one of the information centres in the park or visit the tourist office. In summer and in exceptionally busy periods, there are also special information points set up at the main gates. What's more, in July, August and September, the National Park offers a free programme of guided visits which are an excellent way of exploring the various natural areas in the Picos de Europa. In Asturias you'll find information points in the towns of Cangas de Onís, Cabrales, Amieva and Peñamellera Baja. You'll also find them in León, Posada de Valdeón and Oseja de Sajambre; and in Fuente Dé (near Camaleño) in Cantabria.
Paths for everyone The network of paths includes 27 short routes (PR), two long routes (GR) and four high mountain routes, with varying degrees of difficulty. The low- and medium-level itineraries have a moderate difference in height and length; whereas the high-level itineraries require experience in mountain walking and a high degree of physical fitness. The park also has various mountain shelters, which if you are planning a long hike or comprising various stages, should be reserved in advance. The best-known routes are usually simple, very well signposted and take between approximately three and six hours. Some of the most beautiful itineraries are the Cares Route, the Covadonga lakes, the Ordiales viewing point, the Vega de Ario plain. and the ascent to the Fuente Dé cable car. These walks afford astounding views of the mountains. Other routes which are well worth exploring, particularly to discover the more forested landscapes in the park, are the Horcados Rojos, the Puertos de Áliva, the Hayedo de las Ilces and the Brez-Canal in Arredondas. How to get to the Picos de Europa From Oviedo and Santander there are regular bus routes to the towns and villages near the Picos de Europa such as Infiesto, Arriondas, Cangas de Onís, Onís, Cabrales, Panes, Ribadesella, Llanes and Colombres. You can also take the narrow-gauge railway (FEVE) which links both cities, with stops in Infiesto, Arriondas, Ribadesella, Posada de Llanes and Llanes. There are buses from all these towns towards the interior of the National Park. More information: Picos de Europa National Park http://reddeparquesnacionales.mma.es/en/parques/picos/index.htm