Hiking in Picos de Europa National Park in Northern Spain will leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul.

Here, in the green heart of Spain, you’ll enter a world of deep river gorges, soaring limestone peaks, mixed stratified forests, and rural mountain villages. 

Forming part of the Cantabrian mountain system, the Picos de Europa Mountains are made up of three limestone massifs – Western Massif (Cornión), Central Massif (Urrieles), and Eastern Massif (Ándara). These impressive mountains fan out across the regions of Asturias, Cantabria, and León. 

If you’re planning a trip to Northern Spain between May and October, hiking Picos de Europa ought to be your number one priority. 

During our 10-Day Picos de Europa Road Trip, we encircled the whole range and divided our time between Poncebos, Potes, and Cangas de Onis. 

Read this Picos de Europa hiking guide for trail recommendations and safety tips.

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6 Best Picos de Europa Hiking Trails

Picos de Europa Hiking Trail, Northern Spain
  • When to Hike in Picos de Europa: Mid/Late May – Late September/Early October, depending on snow conditions
  • Dogs: Dogs are allowed in most areas of the park, but they must be leashed at all times. 
  • Best Base: Poncebos (or Las Arenas), Sotres, Potes (or Camaleño Valley), and Cangas de Onís. Read: Where to Stay in Picos de Europa.
  • Wild Camping: Wild camping is not allowed. However, it’s authorized to set up a tent above 1600 meters 1 hour before sunset. You must dismantle the tent no later than 1 hour after sunrise. 
  • Recommended Itinerary: 10-Day Picos de Europa Road Trip
  • Guidebook: Cicerone: Walking in the Picos de Europa
  • Closest Airports: Santander Airport, Bilbao Airport, and Asturias Airport

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Picos de Europa Hiking Map

How to use this map | The green line signifies the Picos de Europa National Park boundary. Click on each map icon and trail to display further information.


Day Hikes in Picos de Europa 


1. Ruta de Cares Gorge Trail 

Ruta del Cares Trail, Picos de Europa, Spain

The most well-known hike in Picos de Europa is the Ruta del Cares trail (PR-PNPE 3), which runs between Poncebos, Asturias, and Caín, León. 

This trail is often declared the most beautiful hike in Spain. I would boldly state that it’s one of the best day hikes in Europe

The deep Cares river gorge separates the Western Massif (Cornión) from the Central Massif (Urrieles).

Picture massive limestone walls, spangled with holm oak, rising vertically from the Río Cares river bed. 

High above the river, the Cares Route clings to the slopes and chiseled walls of the mountains. Much of the route follows a ledge with a sheer drop on one-side. 

Though there’s no technical difficulty, this 23.6 km out-and-back hike should not be underestimated. Make sure to pack sufficient water, wear sun protection, and start early. 


Cares Route Stats

Trailhead |  Poncebos (or Caín)

Distance | 23.6 km out-and-back

Time Needed | 6:45 hours (8 hours with breaks)

Elevation Gain/Loss | 660 meters

Difficulty | Moderate

Minimum Elevation | 260 meters

Maximum Elevation | 523 meters

Where to Stay in Poncebos | Arcea Hotel Mirador de Cabrales (budget), Hostal Poncebos (budget), or Hotel Garganta del Cares.

Where to Stay in Arenas de Cabrales (Las Arenas): Hotel Picos de Europa (budget-midrange), Apartamentos El Caxigu (budget), Hotel Torrecerredo (budget), or Logis Hotel Restaurante La Casa de Juansabeli (budget).

Learn More: Cares Route Hiking Guide


2. Puertos de Áliva Hike: El Cable to Fuente Dé

Mirador del Cable to Horcadina de Covarrobles Hiking Trail, Picos de Europa, Spain

The El Cable to Fuente Dé hiking trail is an easy-moderate day hike in the central massif of Picos de Europa in Northern Spain. The official trail name is PR-PNPE-24 Puertos de Áliva. 

This hike begins with the Fuente Dé cable car ascent to the El Cable mountain station.

Fuente Dé is located at the end of the Camaleño Valley road in Liébana. The gateway to Camaleño Valley is Potes, a charming medieval village in Cantabria. 

From El Cable (1834 m), the trail gently rises through a limestone rockscape to the Horcadina de Covarrobles pass.

From the pass, trail PR-PNPE-24 descends to Hotel Refugio Áliva and the sprawling Puertos de Áliva grasslands, a grazing area in summer. 

The descent continues through an enchanting mixed forest all the way down to the Vega del Naranco limestone cirque at Fuente Dé. 


PNPE-24 Puertos de Áliva Trail Stats

Starting Point | Fuente Dé cable car valley station

Trailhead | El Cable

Distance | 15.2 km circuit with cable car ascent

Time Needed | 5 hours

Elevation Gain | 220 meters

Elevation Loss | 980 meters

Difficulty | Easy-Moderate

Minimum Elevation | 1067 meters

Maximum Elevation | 1933 meters

Where to Stay in Potes | Villa Elena (top choice – midrange), Casa Cayo (budget), Apartamentos Casa de la Abuela (midrange), Hosteria Sierra del Oso (budget-midrange), or Apartamento El Nial de Potes (budget)

Where to Stay in Camaleño Valley | Albergue Turístico Briz (budget), Rio Cubo Apartments (budget), Apartamentos la Ventana de Mogrovejo (top choice – midrange), Hotel El Jisu (budget), La Casona De Baró (budget), or Posada Laura (luxury)

Learn More: Puertos de Áliva Hiking Guide


3. Covadonga Lakes 

Lakes of Covadonga, Picos de Europa National Park, Asturias, Spain

The Lakes of Covadonga (Lagos de Covadonga in Spanish) are two glacial lakes in the Western Massif (Cornión) of Picos de Europa. 

The access road to Covadonga Lakes is located near the Covadonga Sanctuary, near Cangas de Onis. Covadonga is a very important historical and religious site in Asturias. It’s where the first battle of the Spanish Reconquest (Reconquista) took place in 718. 

To combat overtourism, authorities have introduced traffic restrictions. During peak seasons, the Covadonga Lakes are only accessible by bus during the day. 

There are a few hikes that start at Lago Enol and Lago Ercina. The most popular hike is the PR-PNPE-2 Ruta de Los Lagos Hiking Trail, which is a 6-km circuit hike that takes 2 hours. 

Another option is the PR-PNPE-4 Vega de Ario Hiking Trail, a 14-km out-and-back hike that takes 5 hours. 

Learn more about visiting these lakes and these trails in our Lakes of Covadonga guide


PR-PNPE-4 Vega de Ario Trail Stats

Trailhead | Parking Lago de la Ercina

Distance | 14 km out-and-back

Time Needed | 5 hours

Elevation Gain/Loss | 690 meters

Difficulty | Moderate

Minimum Elevation | 1122 meters

Maximum Elevation | 1642 meters

Where to Stay in Cangas de Onis | Hotel Ecos del Sella (top choice – midrange), Apartamentos Prestin (midrange), or Hotel Mirador de la Cepada (luxury). Look for accommodation in Cangas de Onís.

Where to Stay in Covadonga | Casa Rural Priena (budget), Hotel El Repelao (budget), or Hotel La Casona de Llerices (midrange). Look for accommodation in Covadonga


Easy Walks in Picos de Europa


4. Brez – Canal de las Arredondas Circuit Trail

Brez to Canal de las Arredondas hiking trail, Cantabria, Spain

The Brez to Canal de las Arredondas hike (PR-PNPE-27) is an easy 2-hour circuit trail, located at the edge of Picos de Europa National Park in Cantabria. 

The hike starts in Brez, a small village in Camamleño Valley in Cantabria, which is a 17-minute drive away from Potes. 

Following wide, well-graded trails, this walk delivers fantastic views of the south face of Picos de Europa’s Eastern Massif. 


Brez Circuit Hike

Trailhead | Brez Village

Distance | 5.4 km circuit

Time Needed | 2 hours

Elevation Gain/Loss | 250 meters

Difficulty | Easy

Minimum Elevation | 740 meters

Maximum Elevation | 948 meters

Where to Stay in Potes | Villa Elena (top choice – midrange), Casa Cayo (budget), Apartamentos Casa de la Abuela (midrange), Hosteria Sierra del Oso (budget-midrange), or Apartamento El Nial de Potes (budget)

Where to Stay in Camaleño Valley | Albergue Turístico Briz (budget), Rio Cubo Apartments (budget), Apartamentos la Ventana de Mogrovejo (top choice – midrange), Hotel El Jisu (budget), La Casona De Baró (budget), or Posada Laura (luxury)

Learn More: Brez to Canal de las Arredondas Trail Guide


5. Duje Valley Trail: Sotres – Refugio Áliva 

Duje Valley, Sotres, Picos de Europa National Park, Spain

The Duje River Valley divides the Central Massif (Urrieles) from the Eastern Massif (Ándara).

There’s a wide gravel track that runs through the valley, linking Sotres in Asturias with Hotel Refugio Áliva, Fuente Dé, and Espinama in Cantabria 

Note: a lot of multi-day treks in Picos de Europa, including the Ruta de la Reconquista, follow this trail. 

Our original plan was to hike from Sotres to Hotel Refugio Áliva out-and-back, but we only hiked to Las Vegas del Toro. The main reason we shortened our hike was because of the weather (incoming thunderstorm) and needing to rest before the 2-Day Refugio Jou de los Cabrones hike. 

From the trailhead near Sotres, the Duje Valley track leads south, passing a few deserted mountain settlements and mountain pastures along the way including Invernales del Texu and Las Vegas del Toro. 


Sotres to Las Vegas del Toro Trail Stats

Trailhead | Sotres 

Distance | 6.5 km out-and-back

Time Needed | 2:10 hours

Elevation Gain/Loss | 206 meters

Difficulty | Easy 

Minimum Elevation | 895 meters

Maximum Elevation | 1067 meters

Where to Stay in Sotres | La Cabaña de Bernardina (midrange), Casa Rural La Ardina (midrange), Treselcorral (budget), or Hotel Rural Peña Castil (budget)

Where to Stay in Poncebos | Arcea Hotel Mirador de Cabrales (budget), Hostal Poncebos (budget), or Hotel Garganta del Cares.


Multi-Day Treks in Picos de Europa 


6. Refugio Jou de los Cabrones 2-Day Hike 

Refugio Jou de los Cabrones, Picos de Europa Mountains, Spain

There are nine managed mountain huts in Picos de Europa. The highest mountain refuge is Refugio Jou de los Cabrones, situated at an elevation of 2034 meters in the Central Massif in Asturias. 

Kati and I love hut to hut hiking and so we were eager to experience “hut life” in Northern Spain. Though far more rustic than other huts we’ve stayed in, our experience was very positive: great dinner, great host, and gorgeous scenery. 

The most compelling reason to stay overnight in Refugio Jou de los Cabrones is to get access to a remote and epic high-alpine environment – an area that is largely inaccessible to day hikers.

This demanding 2-day hike is a circular route that starts and ends in Bulnes village, accessible by funicular from Poncebos. 

You’ll first ascend to the Llanos del Tornu plain and then up the steep Canal de Amuesa to the Amuesa mountain pasture, grazed in summer. The hike continues up the  La Cuesta del Trave slope and across an undulating karst rockscape to reach the hut. 

Refugio Jou de los Cabrone is located in a depression, completely encircled by peaks.

The next day, the trail leads through a limestone rock jungle to Refugio de Urriellu, the hut located beneath the conspicuous Naranjo de Bulnes peak. 

From this managed refuge, the trail descends with greater ease to Refugio de la Terenosa and the sprawling pastures around Collado de Pandébano. The final stretch leads back to Bulnes. 

Read our in-depth Refugio Jou de los Cabrones trekking guide for all the details: booking the hut, hut amenities, trail description, etc…


2-Day Picos de Europa Trek Stats

Starting Point | Poncebos 

Trailhead | Bulnes Funicular Mountain Station 

Distance | 20.6 km circuit

Time Needed | 2 Days

Elevation Gain/ Loss | 1955 meters 

Difficulty | Difficult 

Minimum Elevation | 623 meters

Maximum Elevation | 2274 meters

Learn More: Refugio Jou de los Cabrones Trek


Weather in Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa, Covadonga Lakes Road, Asturias, Spain

The Picos de Europa mountains are located 19-km inland from the Northern Coast of Spain. This close proximity to the ocean causes clouds and fog to gather in the mountains. It also means that the weather can change quite rapidly. 

The fog can be so thick that you lose complete visibility. The best thing to do is wait it out. Usually the fog moves in waves, so you can continue your hike when it’s clear.

When we hiked in Picos de Europa in late May-early June, we experienced very sunny and stable weather in the mornings. 


Signage and Waymarking in Picos de Europa

White-yellow waymark, Picos de Europa hiking, Northern Spain

Trails are blazed with different colors. Colors signify tour length, not difficulty. So, white-yellow routes are “small distance” routes and red-white routes are “long distance” routes. 

White-red-yellow waymarks mean both long and short trails. 

When we hiked from Refugio Jou de los Cabrones to Refugio de Urriellu, the trail was marked with haphazardly blue and green painted waymarks. There were also cairns along the route. 

Signage and waymarking isn’t consistent throughout Picos de Europa National Park. 

From our experience, the signage and waymarking is very good (frequent) at lower elevations and along busy, well-trafficked routes. 

The signage and waymarking was sporadic in the remote, higher alpine areas of the park. 

It’s imperative to carry a paper trail map and to also download offline maps on a trail app. 


Spanish Words to Know for Hiking in Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa National Park hiking, Northern Spain

Mirador – viewpoint 

Cerrado – closed 

Canal – a steep and narrow channel, formed by flowing water. The eroding area between mountains. 

Majada – mountain pasture settlement 

Vega – meadow, usually grazed in summer 

Prohibido Perros Sueltos – no loose dogs 

Alojamiento – accommodation 

Fuente – fountain

Collado – hill, or mountain pass 

Horcada – mountain pass, saddle 

Refugio – managed mountain hut 

Bosque – forest 

Río – river

Lago – lake 

Torre – tower, peak 

Peña – rock, crag, cliff 

Pico – peak 


Safety

Hiking Picos de Europa Mountains, Northern Spain

We felt very safe hiking in Picos de Europa National Park. Before our trip, we were concerned about wildlife (e.g. bears and wolves). But, it’s very uncommon to see bears and wolves in the park.  

In these rural regions of Northern Spain, there are working dogs. Spanish mastiffs guard and protect livestock from wolf attacks. We didn’t have any negative experiences. 

We expounded on this topic in our Picos de Europa National Park travel guide



Picos de Europa Trip Planning Essentials

Picos de Europa National Park stretches across three regions in Northern Spain: Asturias, Cantabria, and León (Castile and León). 

It comprises the majestic Picos de Europa Mountains, a limestone mountain range composed of three massifs.


How to Get to Picos de Europa

The closest airports to Picos de Europa are Santander Airport in Cantabria, the Asturias Airport (aka Oviedo-Ranón, OVD) in Asturias, and the Bilbao Airport in Basque Country. 

We recommend renting a car from the airport and driving directly to Picos de Europa National Park. Follow our 10-day Picos de Europa road trip itinerary for inspiration.

Use the intuitive Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.

Check car rental rates here


Where to Stay in Picos de Europa

We recommend dividing your time between Northern Picos de Europa and Eastern Picos de Europa. If you have more time, extend your visit to Southern Picos de Europa and Northwestern Picos de Europa.

Northern Picos de Europa: Poncebos, Arenas de Cabrales (Las Arenas), Sotres, or Tielve in Asturias

Eastern Picos de Europa: Potes, or Camaleño Valley in Cantabria 

Southern Picos de Europa: Valdeón Valley, or Caín in León

Northwestern Picos de Europa: Cangas de Onís, Soto de Cangas, Llerices, or Covadonga in Asturias

Find out where to base yourself in the national park in Where to Stay in Picos de Europa.


Picos de Europa Packing List

Hiking Gear

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Best Hikes in Picos de Europa National Park, Northern Spain

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