hiking Picos de Europa, Spain – day 1

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Kraig Adams video

Trip ReportPicos de Europa Circuit – by site editor Rick McCharles
map picos europa (Custom)

An unforgettable (91.5km) route covering the … most extaordinary limestone landscapes – river gorges, alpine lakes, depressions, dense beech woods, narrow canals, cliff hanging trails and peaks with breathtaking views


Urriellu - photo by Edu-im
Urriellu – photo by Edu-im

The rain in Spain
falls mainly
… in the NORTH.


Green Spain, it’s called, home to a wealth of flora and fauna. Including, perhaps, 90 bears.

The weather in Picos de Europa is very atypical for Spain. Happily, September is normally the best month.

Cangas de Onís is the busiest and most easily accessed of the gateway towns. … and can supply all last-minute needs.

Roman Bridge - Cangas de Onís
Roman Bridge – Cangas de Onís

Frequent buses deliver you from Cangas to Covadonga, an impressive tourist attraction.

… In 722 AD, Iberian Christians won the battle over the Moors in Covadonga. This was the first significant Christian victory over the occupying Moors; as such, it is often considered to be the start of the Reconquista, the 770-year effort to expel the Moors from Iberia. …

Dom Pelayo
Dom Pelayo
Covadonga Cathedral
Covadonga Cathedral

During the summer you can bus all the way from Cangas to the trailhead at Ercina Lake. Unfortunately I arrived the day after those buses stopped running for the season. I hitched the last 12km or so from Covadonga. The Spanish couple who picked me up were also hiking a variation of the circuit staying in refugios, alpine huts providing beds and meals.

Lago Ercina - Browserd
Lago Ercina in good weather – Browserd

Here’s how the lakeside looked to me.


I’d arrived into the frequent, infamous Picos mist. A thick fog bank that often clouds the valleys and lower elvations of this micro climate.

After wandering around blind for 3hrs … I finally set up my tent right at the trailhead. A rotten start to the adventure.

Later I learned the couple that had driven me to the trailhead walked directly to the refugio using GPS.

Note to self: Get me a GPS.

See the rest of my photos from day 1.

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Kraig Adams video

11 Replies to “hiking Picos de Europa, Spain – day 1”

  1. Great stuff Rick!

    And yes, get a GPS. I can definitely recommend the Garmin eTrex Venture HC for around $100, unless you want more bells & whistles and want to pay more. You won’t regret it, especially since the snow’s coming down now and hiding the trails.

  2. Hi there – I wondered if you might be able to help as I’ve done lots of research but am having trouble coming to any conclusions! My family of 5 (2 adults, 3 teenagers 15, 17 and 19) are coming to the Picos in the summer en route to Portugal. Ideally we’d like to go to a hotel/pension where we can stay one night, leave our baggage and car and start a circular walk the next morning that will last about 4 days – staying each night at a different mountain refuge and returning after the 3rd night to the hotel to pick up our kit, stay one final night and depart south. We’re all fairly fit and up for decent walks although don’t want to experience the cable I’ve read about (‘a fall could be fatal’) on the Central Picos circuit!! (am hoping there must be an alternative to this steep section?) Do you have any suggestion of where we should base ourselves (hotel/town), which part of the Picos we should concentrate on and any specific routes/refuges that would fit this brief? Many thanks

  3. The Picos is a fantastic area with lots of great trails for hikers of all levels. It’s a fairly compact area but very wild in the higher areas – don’t get caught out by fog which can make navigation quite difficult.
    The village of Arenas de Cabrales in the north any of the villages around Potes in the south eastern side make good bases from which to explore the park. From Arenas you can reach the funicular to Bulnes and the Cares Gorge very easily (as well as taste some of the strongest cheese known to mankind!). Potes has good access to the Fuente De cable car.
    Hope everyone enjoys their hiking there!

  4. Why is September the best month? I’m thinking about doing this circuit. We just got done waling the Camino Primitivo and I’m looking for something more wilderness like without roads. I can’t find any info on the distances of each day or to each refugio or pension. Do you have nay links or books you recommend? We don’t want to hike this in the heat. We’re from Alaska and we were too hot in May of this year 🙂

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