Cares Gorge, Picos de Europa, Northern Spain





Cares Gorge or La Garganta Del Cares is located in the Picos de Europa Mountains in Northern Spain. We had visited this area about 7 years ago, and enjoyed fabulous scenery and great walking so had decided to return. We would recommend this area, not only due to the scenery, but also good value for money accommodation and food, empty roads, friendly locals, and well signposted paths.

On the first day of our trip we chose complete an iconic walk. The walk is a linear 12km walk to the beautiful village of Cain. I would advise people who are scared of heights not to do this walk, as at times there are vertical drops to the river far below. A canal carrying water for hydro electric power was built in1916 typical of many water channels in Spain. A service path for the canal was built alongside in 1940, which is now used by tourists. Take plenty of water and food as none are available along the path, and sturdy footwear and mind the edge, as well as potential rock falls. During the months of November to May there may be snow or ice, making it very dangerous.

The hotel La Rivera Arenas de Cabrales where we stayed served breakfast from 8.30am, but having decided to leave earlier than this, we went to Cares Cafe over the road from the hotel. After having coffee and toast  €2.80 each we left.  Arenas is a convenient  location for the walk, being only 4km from the start. It was a beautiful drive with the mist clearing from the valley, and bright sunshine appearing over the mountains. We parked in a lay-by at Puente Poncebos at the side of the road by the Los Picos sign, and walked through a tunnel. To the left over the bridge is a medium sized car park which was filling up fast, the track leading to the start was lined with cars. This was a week day in September, it is reputed to be extremely busy in July and August and at weekends. We previously visited in mid October when there were only 3 cars parked. Parking is free, as is entry to the gorge.


We followed the road past the Hotel Mirador, arriving at the well marked start at 9.15am, with a useful information board and a map and any current problems are also posted so worth a look, signed Cain 3 hours. All the way to Cain the path is very obvious. Initially it gradually rises and passes an interesting ruined farm on the left, with fantastic views of the valley. After 250m of climbing we reached the highest point of the walk at Los Collados at 10.05am. Plenty of people were also walking.

The path continues keeping to the right hand side of the gorge. Be careful not to lose your footing as the path is not wide, and in places there is a very steep drop to the River Cares below. In places it is carved out, with massive overhangs of rock above your head. A small section of the path was replaced in 2013, and now consists of wood, with a corrugated iron panel in, so you can gaze down if brave enough at the river far far below.

At 12.15pm we went over the first of a couple of bridges - Puente Bolin- before the path eventually returns to the right hand side. At this point there is a long walk through a tunnel, with a couple of windows in, but taking a torch is advisable as it is dark, with plenty of puddles and low ceilings. Take care not to bang your head.

After a leisurely walk admiring the views, taking photos and chatting to fellow walkers, we arrived in Cain at 12.45pm, We ate our sandwiches on a grassy bank by the river. Then had coffee and a pint of lager (€5.40) with free Bombay Mix in the Albergue, which had free WIFI connection, no data being available in the  gorge.

Cain is a lovely small village in an exquisite location surrounded by high mountains some with patches of snow on the tops. There are about 5 bars/ restaurants, a couple of hotels, souvenir shops and a couple of food shops.  Menu of the day  is available at €12 for 3 courses, sandwiches are €4/5. It is well worth a visit in its own right


We eventually reluctantly left Cain at about 2.15pm, wishing to sit out in the sunshine for longer, but realising it is at least 3 hours back to the car. It seemed to get hotter and hotter as the afternoon progressed, with plenty of walkers heading in both directions. Towards the end of the gorge the path rises and falls again, before we eventually returned to the car at 5.40pm, for the short drive back to our hotel 

This was a simply stunning walk with fantastic limestone scenery, complete with vultures flying overhead. Both sides of the gorge rise to100s of feet above the River Cares, I would definitely recommend this walk, except if you have a fear of heights. Even then the first hour could still be attempted to reach sublime views down the gorge. Note that there are no facilities after leaving the Hotel Mirador until reaching Cain at least 3 hours later.

Distance 14 miles (22.5km)

Duration of Walk Hours  8.05

Average Pace  Min/Mile 30.35

Steps  463761

Elevation gained 2900feet (883m)


Be aware vertiginous drops, so complete the walk if you are not scared of heights, and mind children/pets carefully.

Don't attempt in snowy/icy weather, one false slip and you could be over the edge.

Take plenty of water, food, sun hats, sun screen, torch for the tunnels, wear walking shoes/boots and mind your step.

If only wishing to walk one way, apparently there is a taxi, €145 from Cain covering the 125 km to Arenas or late in the afternoon there is a bus. Alternatively a better idea would be just to walk half way down the gorge before turning round.

Parking is probably an issue during the summer months and at weekends, so arrive early to get a space.

This area of Northern Spain is accessible from England either by driving through France, or flying to Bilbao, then hiring a car or the route that we took, driving from our home in Manchester then catching the 24 hour relaxing ferry from Plymouth to Santander. From there we visited Aldi in Torrelavega  as the food is more expensive in the Picos national park area, and drove to where we were staying in La Rivera Arenas de Cabrales for 5 days.

Resources Used

Picos De Europa car tours and walks, by Teresa Farino  Sunflower Press

Picos de Europa Map scale 1:80.000

Spanish Trails, Book 1, Los Picos De Europa by Phil Lawler, was recommended by fellow walkers.

Another book is Picos de Europa et sur la cote Cantabrique, by Alban Boyer. This is in French, but with maps in and accurate timings, you could get the gist even without knowledge of the language.

Websites used