Ruta Del Cares is a hiking route located in Picos de Europa in Northern Spain. It runs through a beautiful gorge, with the trail built high above the river right into the the side of the mountains. The trail is not paved and often has a steep drop off with no guard rails or fences. However, it is an easy trail to follow, and very hard to get lost. It is filled with wild mountain goats, amazing views, and a walking trail you’ll never forget. I honestly had no idea this mountain range existed before I was in the area, and it was one of the coolest trails I’ve walked to date.
Location: The trail begins in 1 of 2 places. Either from Poncebos or Cain. We started from Poncebos, which is located about 1 hour inland (south) of Spain’s north coast beaches. The trail is not a loop. It begins/ends in the tiny towns of Poncebos or Cain.. you must walk from one place to the other, and then walk back where you came from. OR you can take a bus, taxi, etc. back to your starting point… but a taxi ride is not cheap and not close since there are no roads through the gorge, you will have to drive around the mountain.
Parking: You are able to park all along the road next to the trail head in Poncebos if you get there early enough in the morning (pictured below). This is where the road turns from pavement to dirt, but you are allowed to park there. By lunch time, it will be full of cars so you will have to park in the parking lot just before this road, across the Poncebos Bridge by the Bulnes Funicular (not far). Either way, the parking is free. However, you are NOT allowed to park overnight in either of these places.
*Overnight parking– If you are in a camper van or RV or looking to spend the night there before your hike, you must park just outside the official National Park lines. There is a parking lot on the left hand side of the road before you reach the funicular lot in the National Park. There are not a lot of flat spots, but it is the closest overnight spot to ensure an early start for the hike. Here is a Google maps link to the lot you can sleep in: https://goo.gl/maps/J3UhoWULb622
*I recommend starting hike early. We started right at sunrise and had the trail to ourselves with a lot of goats on the way there. On the way back, the trail was filled with people*.
Length: It took us 3 hours and 15 minutes to go from Poncebos to Cain, but then only took us 2 hours and 30 minutes to go back to Poncebos from Cain. This is because on the way there we stopped a lot for photo opportunities, to take in the landscape around us, and to eat a snack. The way back we walked pretty quickly without stopping. The trail head signs say it takes 3 hours and 20 minutes each way, so it slightly varies per hiker. Depending where exactly you start and end, each way is between 10 and 12 km. Meaning, if you walk there and back you will walk an average of about 22km total (13.6 miles).
Hike details & Pictures: This will be describing the trail starting from Poncebos and ending in Cain. The first part of the trail is probably the most difficult. That is solely because it is mainly uphill. You will pass by a few abandoned buildings and signs explaining the history of them. When you will reach the highest point of your incline, and you will see the best part of the trail ahead of you. It is where you walk along the trail built into the side of the mountain with a steep drop-off. But good news is that is all flat from here, so smooth sailing. Once you begin to get close to Cain, you will cross a couple of bridges that cross over the river in the gorge. You know you are almost at Cain when you walk through a series of caves and reach a small but powerful dam in the river. There are restaurants and hostels to grab a bite to eat at in Cain before you begin your trek back to Poncebos.
As you can see from the photos above, the trail is SO unique. It has some crazy landscape, amazing views, wildlife, and will be a hike you’ll never forget. If you have any specific questions, please dont hesitate to email me at KellyNicoleTravel@gmail.com or send me a message on Instagram @KellyNicoleTravel ! Happy hiking! 🙂