Picos de Europa 11 Day Trek
Picos de Europa is the perfect trip for those who want a incredible trek around some of the most wonderful Spanish mountain landscapes which explore the whole ring of Picos (Anillo of Picos).
About the expedition
The Picos de Europa National Park is known to many as the ‘Spanish Dolomites’ thanks to the breathtakingly beautiful treks, strong local culture, and a wealth of animal-life thanks to the varying habitats, from river-valleys which are almost sea-level to alpine environment in the high mountains.
The Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe) mountain range extends for about 20 km and form part of the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain. The range consists of three major massifs; Central (also known as Urrieles), Eastern (Ándara) and Western (also known as the Picos de Cornión). Almost all the rock in the Picos is limestone, the highest peak is Torre de Cerredo (2,650m) but there are so many exciting options to bag a couple of peaks and we’ve included two of our favourite Picos peaks in our itinerary; Torre de los Horcados Rojos (2506m) and Pico de la Padierna (2319m).
Picos de Europa 11 Day full board Trek
Deposit €399 on booking.
Full payment required six weeks before trip departs.
- Jason Black personal Trekking guide
- All meals throughout itinerary
- Accommodation throughout the itinerary (hotels on the first and last night and beautiful refugees throughout the trek)
Costs Do Not Include:
- International Flight
- Travel insurance
- Hard and soft drinks
Flights from Ireland and Uk are very competitive and there are a number of airlines that have direct flights in to Bilbao (Easy Jet, British Airways and Aer Lingus). Santander flights are usually a bit more expensive as they tend to go via Madrid.
Some people may wish to arrive in Santander or Bilbao early to explore these cities, or add an extra night on to the end of the itinerary to have some time to explore the medieval town of Potes (we can help arrange transport to Potes if needed, it’s about €20 and there are plenty of accommodation options that can be booked online too. There is also plenty of beautiful coastline to explore too if you fancy extending your time in Spain and arrange some R&R along the north coast.
What is the Anillo de Picos de Europa Route Like?
The Anillo de Picos has three alternative circular trails which explore the numerous mountain huts in this complex mountain range in northern Spain. The three alternative hiking trials lead on to each other and are known as El Anillo Vindio, El Anillo Extrem and El Anillo Tres Macizos. The route we are offering is the El Anillo Extrem, an 84km loop trail which would be rated as challenging, not just because of the terrain but because you are also carrying your full kit for the duration of the trek.
For private groups, including smaller teams, Jason can arrange private dates to suit you.
Arrival: Meet at Hotel La Balsa, just outside Cangas de Onis where you will have stunning views of the surrounding Picos de Europa National Park. The itinerary begins with a welcome dinner at a nearby restaurant and trip briefing with your guide. Accommodation: Hotel La Balso
Day 2 | Elevation: 1063m – 2028m – 1460m | Travel Time: 6-7h
Lago de Enol to Vegarredonda Refugio: After breakfast we transfer to Lago de Enol (Lake Enol - 1063m) within the National Park and begin our trek up to Vegarredonda, through green pasture areas, past shepherd´s hamlets and over rocky paths we ascend to Vegarredonda Refugio (1460m), our accommodation for the night. Originally shepherds’ cabins which were rebuilt in 1987 to provide mountain accommodation for the Western Massif of the Picos, we are surrounded by some of the higher summits of this massif which we will explore in the afternoon with a hike up to a beautiful viewpoint called Mirador de Ordiales, with impressive views to the Dobra Valley. From here, we can ascend to the summit of Pico Cotalba (2028m), before returning to the refuge for dinner and hopefully one of the best sunsets on the anillo. Accommodation: Vegarredonda Refugio
Day 3 | Elevation:1460m – 1660m – 1630m | Travel Time: 7-8h
Vegarredonda to Vega de Ario: After breakfast we will start our descent back down towards Lago Ercina where our path weaves through small hamlets and rocky terrain, heading towards the clear division of the western and central massifs, the Cares Gorge. At the highest point of the route, El Jito Pass (1660m), we have incredible views of the central massif ahead. Walking over limestone slabs we gently descend to the refuge of Vega de Ario (1630m). This refuge is remarkably close to one of the deepest cave systems in Spain and offers great views towards the Cares Gorge. Accommodation: Refugio Vega de Ario
refugio veja de Urriellu
Day 4 | Elevation: 1630m – 1730m – 600m | Travel Time: 6-7h
Descent to Cares Gorge and Puente Poncebos: After the varied high pasture trek on the previous day, we start today with a challenging and steep descent of nearly 1200m to reach the Cares Gorge, the natural division between the Western and Central massifs. Following an old shepherd's trail, we reach the hamlet and high pastures of Oston. From here we start a steep but steady and impressive descent through Culiembro gully, surrounded by some curious goat-like chamois and overlooked by vultures we descend towards a small wooded area before we get to the Cares Gorge path. This path was built in the 1920's as part of a hydro-electric structure and was completed in just 4 years, with rock walls as high as 2000m surrounding the walk and linking the mountain town of Caín (in the province of León) with Puente Poncebos, it is one of the most outstanding gorge walks in Spain. Accommodation: Hotel in Puente Poncebos
Day 5 | Elevation: 600m – 1960m | Travel Time: 7-8h
Puente Poncebos to Refugio Vega de Urriellu: Unlike the previous day which was mainly a descent, today our route will be a long and steady ascent into the heart of the Central massif. We trek up to the base of Picu Urriellu (also named Naranjo de Bulnes), one of the most famous climbing areas in Picos. The first part of our ascent will take us through a narrow gorge (Texu Gorge) and up to the old mountain village of Bulnes, which was only accessible by foot until 2001 when a funicular railway was built, more as a tourism resource than a transportation improvement for the town. After a coffee stop and wander around the scenic village, we continue ascending along a stony trail surrounded by deciduous trees all the way to the high pasture area of Pandébano, where we will take another break at a mountain hut. The last part of the ascent is along a winding, stony trail to the base of the extraordinary Naranjo de Bulnes. Accommodation: Refugio Vega de Urriellu
Day 6 | Elevation: 600m – 1960m | Travel Time: 7-8h
Vega Urriellu to Jou de Cabrones Refuge: Our journey immerses deeper into the Central massif with an ascent to refugio Cabrones (2040m). The moonlike landscape surrounds us for the whole day, along short chimneys, and some narrow lanes all the way to Cabrones refuge. Today is a shorter to compensate for the effort of the previous challenging stages and to give us the chance to prepare for the next few days. The refuge is in a sinkhole whose name was given by the presence of Pyrenean ibex in the area in times when those species still inhabited Picos de Europa. Surrounding the refuge are remarkable views of the peaks of Cabrones, Dobresengos and the highest summit in Picos de Europa - Torre Cerredo (2648m). Accommodation: Jou de Cabrones Refuge
Day 7 | Elevation: 2040m – 2506m – 1650m | Travel Time: 7-8h
Refugio Cabrones to Aliva Refuge vía Horcados Rojos Pass (2344m): Today we head towards the southern side of Picos de Europa. The route starts by ascending to a high pass called Horcados Rojos Pass, which is a scramble of about 300m, although the path is assisted by a cable. Once we reach Collado Horcados Rojos (2344m) and after a short break to admire the views, we can summit the peak of Torre de los Horcados Rojos (2506m). From this high point, with panoramic views all around, we descend through limestone boulders, stopping for a visit at the unique Cabaña Verónica hut. From here, stony paths and an old mining track wind down to green, fresh meadows and Aliva refuge, which has perfect views of the Eastern massif. Accommodation: Aliva Refuge
Day 8 | Elevation: 1650m – 2319m – 2064m | Travel Time: 6.5h
Áliva Refuge to Jermoso Refuge: This morning we head towards the southwest of Picos de Europa where we enter the province of Leon. Retracing our steps back towards Horcadina de Covarrobres along the mining track before taking a trail through Canal de San Luis and on our way, if the weather is kind, we ascend the summit of Pico de la Padierna (2319m). After admiring the views, we gradually descend through rocky terrain to get the highest refuge on our route, Jermoso Refuge (2064m). This refuge is nestled in a great mountain location with cosy facilities and views to match. Accommodation: Jermoso Refuge
Day 9 | Elevation: 2064m – 1432m | Travel Time: 7-8h
Jermoso Refuge to Refugio de Vegabaño: We leave the high terrain behind, scrambling down from Jermoso through Argallo Congosto. With some more scrambles we descend gradually to Vega Asotín, a quiet meadow below the impressive Torre del Friero. From here, before a last look back to the high summits in Picos, our route heads into a path through a beech forest that ends at an incredible trail carved in the rock, La Rienda, leading to the mountain town of Cordiñanes, in the Valdeón valley. After a short stop, we continue our hike along the Cares river to the town of Caldevilla where a forest trail takes us up towards Peña Dobres. The last part of our route descends through a wild beech forest, home of the capercaillie grouse, until we reach the quaint refuge of Vega Baño. Accommodation at Refugio de Vegabaño
jou de cabrones refuge trail
Day 10 | Elevation: 1432m – 1700m – 877m | Travel Time: 8h
Refugio de Vegabaño to Espinama: Our last day trekking contours the southern face of Picos de Europa. Leaving our last mountain refuge we retrace our steps from the day before back to the mountain town of Valdeón. From here we follow an old path that the traders previously used to get from this province (Leon) to the local markets at the nearby province of Cantabria. A gradual ascent to the pass of Caben de Remoña leaves forested areas behind and takes us back to higher pastures where we can once again admire the peaks above us. The last part of our hike and traverse through the Picos, descends gradually through a deciduous forest full of beech, oaks, and hazels, ending at our hotel in the mountain town of Espinama for some well deserved R&R. Accommodation: Hotel in Espinama
Departure / onward travel: After breakfast, we leave the Liébana valley and Picos de Europa. Depending on your flight time / onward travel plans, we can prepare a visit to Potes (20 minutes by taxi). Potes is one of the most popular villages in northern Spain, a good place to taste your last Spanish delicacy of this trip and pick up souvenirs.
The Main Highlights of this Trek
The following are some of the highlights and experiences you’ll experience on our Picos De Europa itinerary;
Trekking in Picos de Europa is regarded as some of the best in Europe, well-defined tracks take you through villages which have barely changed over the centuries.
Experience striking mountain ranges, gorges thick with vegetation and low stone tunnels which will make you feel like you are on the set of Lord of the Rings.
Lower down you have lush green valleys with inconceivably beautiful lakes and thick natural forested areas.
The Picos de Europa is home to ancient legends, rich history, and a striking 19th-century basilica which remains an important pilgrimage destination to this day.
Despite being difficult to spot, its home to the last of western Europe’s brown bears, and a large but elusive contingent of wolves. Easier to see during the trek are chamois, an antelope-like animal mostly found in the western massif at around 1600m. Wild boar, roe deer and fallow deer are also widespread, and if you’re lucky you might glimpse a badger, beech marten, red squirrel, genet or even a mountain cat.
It’s not just the animal life, the different habitats bring out the best in flora too, just below the limestone you get beech and ancient oak forests, while lower down its mainly ash and lime trees which flourish. The area is also home to over forty species of orchid.
Incredible food which is maybe best described as sumptuous, hearty and full of flavour. Local specialities include Fabada Asturiana, chickpea stew, and the famous blue cheese, Queso Cabrales.
Well kept mountain refuge’s make the evenings just as enjoyable, particularly during sunset and the hotels are friendly and full of character.
It’s very easy to extend your stay to take in a bit more of art, culture, history and food in the nearby towns or cities or relax after the trek on the superb beaches on the northern coastline of Spain