The Cares Route: Hiking in the Picos de Europa

The Cares Route is the perfect destination for hikers looking for a hiking route that allows them to disconnect in the middle of nature, with beautiful views of the Picos de Europa National Park, breathing the fresh mountain air and surrounded by a unique environment. The Cares Route covers the territory of two Spanish provinces: Asturias and León. A special landscape that combines rocky mountains with snow-capped peaks and green meadows with a multitude of flowers, with a river of crystal-clear water in which you can soak your feet, or take a dip if you’re not afraid of cold water. Here is everything you need to know about the Cares Route.

Vista panorámica de la Ruta del Cares
Autor: Manuel S. Calvo

What is the Cares Route?

The Cares Route is a hiking route located in the Picos de Europa National Park, situated between the provinces of Asturias and León, in Spain. The Ruta del Cares inherited the name of the route from the gorge that the Cares River formed in the terrain due to fluvial erosion. The end result is a trail located in a spectacular natural setting, at a relatively low altitude and full of pastures and green forests full of wild animals and native fauna.

The Picos de Europa National Park receives more than two million visitors a year, of whom an estimated 300,000 hikers take the Cares Route.

History of the Cares Route

Before the existence of the Cares Route, the only communication between the village of Poncebos, in the province of Asturias, and Caín de Valdeón, León, was a route of more than 100 kilometres along the mountains. Excavation work began in 1915, during the construction of a canal to supply water to feed the turbines of the Poncebos hydroelectric power station.

The construction work was greatly complicated by the harsh terrain, requiring the use of dynamite and explosives to create a passage. The dangerousness of the road and its confined space allowed passage only to personnel working on the maintenance of the canal.

In the 1940s, the Cares Route was restored with the aim of improving the route, widening the width of the path to two metres. In 2011, the collapse of a section of the cliff led to its temporary closure, until a raised walkway could be built to overcome the collapse. Just one year after the collapse, the works were successfully completed and the Cares Route path was reopened to the public.

How to get to the Cares Route?

First of all, it should be noted that the Cares Route can be done from different points of origin. The route can be started either from Poncebos, in Asturias, or from Caín, in León.

If you want to start the Cares Route from the Asturian area, you will have to travel to Poncebos, a small town 80 kilometres from Oviedo. To get to the Cares Route from Oviedo there are many transport options. You can go by car if you have your own vehicle so you can get around as you please in total comfort. You can also make the most of the extensive Asturian public transport network to reach your destination by train or bus.

The other option is to start the Cares Route in Caín de Valdeón, on the León side, located in the heart of the Picos de Europa. This small village is about 135 kilometres from the capital, León, and there are different transport options to get you to your destination. By road in just under two and a half hours you will reach Caín de Valdeón on the N-625 or the CL-626. You can also make the journey by train or bus, although the journey takes more than 4 hours.

You can get to Oviedo by road or by air. The Asturian capital has its own airport which receives daily flights from the main cities in Spain. Again, public transport is a good option if you choose to go by road, bearing in mind that it takes about 5 hours by car to get to the Cares Route from Madrid, and 9 hours if you leave from Barcelona.

Distance and difficulty of the Cares Route

The Ruta del Cares is a hiking route located at the foot of the Picos de Europa. Also known as the Divine Gorge or God’s Divine Gorge, it is one of the best known hikes in Spain. Although the route can be done in different directions and with different paths, which can affect the user’s final experience and the difficulty of the route, as depending on your point of origin you may start or finish the hike on the ascent stage. The Cares Route has a total distance of 24 kilometres (12 outward and 12 return), and is suitable for everyone due to the low gradient of the terrain, except for some short uphill and downhill sections. It is also advisable for those who want to do the Cares Route to be in good shape to fully enjoy this unique experience.

Roads of the Cares Route

As we have mentioned in the previous point, there are different ways to do the Cares Route:

From Poncebos to Cain

The route starts in the Asturian town of Poncebos in the direction of Caín, in León. If you do the route in this direction you should bear in mind that this is the “more complicated” option because you will start the route with a marked ascent of about 3 kilometres, until you reach the Los Collados area. As you leave the Cares River behind you, you will reach the highest point of the route, where you can enjoy spectacular views of the Picos de Europa. At this point the descent begins, along a path that is barely more than two metres wide. Further on we pass the Martínez footbridge, which was built to overcome the landslide suffered in 2011. In the final part of the section, we cross a 100-metre tunnel with open windows in the wall to reach the Caín dam, the last point to reach the town of Caín de Valdeón. In Caín you can rest in one of its bars, restaurants or rest areas and regain your strength to face the return stretch to Poncebos.

From Cain to Poncebos

The route from Caín to Poncebos takes us from the León side to the Asturian side via the Cares Route, in the opposite direction to the option described above. This route is easier in its initial stretch, as we leave the part of the ascent to Los Collados for the end.

From Poncebos to Bulnes

The ascent to the village of Bulnes takes you to the heart of the Picos de Europa with Poncebos as the starting point. This route is a little more complicated than the two previous options, due to its stony terrain with a gradient of over 450 metres. The total distance of the route is about 8 kilometres (4 outward and 4 return). From Bulnes you will have a spectacular view of the Tejo river gorge. The climb to Bulnes takes just under two hours, where you can also rest and enjoy the local gastronomy, the tranquillity and the beauty of this natural setting.

Tips for the Cares Route

  • Check the weather forecast before starting the route.
  • In winter, especially during the snowy season, access to the Cares Route can be more complicated than usual.
  • Do the route in the low season to avoid any kind of crowds.
  • In many sections of the road there is no telephone coverage.
  • Avoid rocks and stones falling onto other trails where other hikers are walking.
  • Make sure you are fit enough to do the 24 kilometre route, otherwise opt to do the route in one direction only.
  • Kids under 8 years old are not recommended.
  • Use caution on steep slopes and trails no wider than two metres.
  • The tour is not recommended for people suffering from vertigo.
  • It is not possible to do the Cares route either by bike or running
  • You will be able to bathe in the areas without current of the river Cares.

Basic equipment to do the Cares Route

To complete the Cares Route successfully, we recommend that you wear comfortable shoes. If possible opt for shoes suitable for hiking, with good grip and good traction on uneven terrain. Avoid shoes with a flat sole that are prone to slipping. As far as clothing is concerned, the best option will be equipment that allows you total freedom of movement, allowing you to move without restriction on all sections of the trail.

In the colder months of the year select thermal garments that retain body heat and add an extra layer of protection with a windbreaker jacket that doesn’t add excessive weight to your kit.

Pack some food in your backpack, such as fruit, chocolate, energy bars or nuts. You can also take a sandwich if you plan to have breakfast. In the narrower sections, there are no spaces set aside for getting ready to eat. Due to the size of the pass, which is no more than two metres long, it is not possible to make a stop that would interrupt the flow of the visit. Don’t forget to take sun cream with you.

If you need to buy basic equipment to do the Cares Route you can access the Deporvillage website.

Where to eat and sleep on the Cares Route?

Our recommendation is that, if you plan to do the Cares Route, you should make the most of your trip and stay a few days longer to make the most of its spectacular surroundings in the Picos de Europa National Park. Here are some different accommodation options, restaurants where you can try the local gastronomy and some activities in the same area to guarantee you a unique experience.

Whether you start the route in the Asturian part or in the León area, there is a wide range of accommodation available where you can stay and rest in the days to come and after your excursion on the Cares Route. Rural tourism in the heart of nature, in cosy rural houses surrounded by a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere. To discover all the available options you can consult the following link.

To discover the local gastronomy of the area, La Casa de Juansabeli is committed to a cuisine that combines tradition and modernity to offer an innovative proposal with top quality local products. If you prefer traditional cuisine, the Casa Xico restaurant is another very good option to consider.

For more information you can visit the official website of the Cares Route.

The Cares Route: Hiking in the Picos de Europa
The Cares Route: Hiking in the Picos de Europa The Cares Route: Hiking in the Picos de EuropaWhat is the Cares Route?History of the Cares RouteHow to get to the Cares Route?Distance and difficulty of the Cares RouteRoads of the Cares Ro …
Publisher's name
Logo del Publisher
The Cares Route: Hiking in the Picos de Europa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *