Spain’s La Ruta del Cares (The Cares Route) is reported to be one of the most spectacular hikes in all of Spain. The Cares gorge and the river it is named after, separate two ranges of the Spanish Picos de Europa mountains.
Inaccessible until the 1920’s when a hydroelectric company built a water canal high up on the cliff side, Ruta del Cares now attracts thousands to Spain.
Our Spanish cycling guide told us small children could do the famous Spanish hike and women with high heels were sometimes seen on the breath taking trail. Sounded like an easy rest day after cycling the steep climbs of the Spanish Picos.
Should you travel to Europe from North America and do anything more active than drink wine and eat fabulous food, take this warning. The European definition of flat in no way resembles the meaning we North Americans understand.
Perhaps as toddlers they all learned to take their first steps going uphill and were forever skewed in the meaning. A popular guide book states ‘ the walk presents no difficulty although those who suffer from vertigo may find it a little stressful due to the proximity of the gorge.’
The Cares Route in Spain also known as La Garganta Divina (The Divine Gorge) is spectacular and there ‘is no difficulty’ for the goats on the cliffs to walk it that is certain. Near the 2-3 foot wide path, with little protection to the 500 foot drop below, occasional signs instruct hikers not to wander off the trail. Definitely not without a parachute I would suggest!
Where is Ruta del Cares?
Found in Picos de Europa National Park of Spain the original 21km (one way) trekking starts in Posada de Valdeón (León), crosses through Caín (León) ending in Poncebos (Asturias). A more popular option of 11km (one way) starts in Caín and ends in Poncebos. A map can be accessed here.
When is the best time of year to do the Cares Route?
Spring and fall in Spain are typically the best times to comfortably experience the ‘Divine Gorge’. Summer can be very crowded and navigating the narrow trails of the Cares Route becomes challenging while jostling around hikers at the edge of immense drop offs.
There is very little shade so the heat of the summer sun can be excruciating, at least for this Canadian not accustomed to the blazing heat.
What do I need to bring to bring along?
Our best advice is good hiking footwear and definitely NOT high heels. Bring plenty of water and food with you especially during hot temperatures. The weather can be changeable so a waterproof jacket is never a bad idea. Bring a fully charged mobile phone although be aware you may not get coverage in all areas of the hike.
Special considerations for La Ruta del Cares
Watch your step and do not get too close to the edge on the narrow passes. In many areas there is no protection from the drop off. There are goats in the area. Be respectful of nature and do not go too close to them. Leave no trace and pack all trash out with you.
What hike or walk would you suggest as one of the best you have done?