The Ruta del Cares hike in the Picos de Europa is considered one of the most beautiful hikes in northern Spain. On 11 kilometers it leads through an impressive mountain region and connects the two northern Spanish regions of Leon and Asturias. We tell you now from where you start the hike best, how strenuous the Ruta del Cares hike really is and what you can discover on the way.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Ruta del Cares Hike
The Ruta del Cares is one of the most popular hikes in the Picos de Europa. You walk 11 km along a gorge, which the river Cares has washed over millions of years into the over two thousand meter high mountains. During the hike, the gorge is sometimes several hundred meters wide and sometimes barely five meters.
Either way, the view is always spectacular and the nature surrounding you is truly majestic. On the hike you will have the rushing river Cares next to or below you and next to you the partly vertical towering cliffs of the Picos de Europa mountains.
If you start from Cain (which most people don’t do) you will be at the same level as the river Cares at the beginning. But little by little the Cares flows deeper and deeper while you stay at about the same altitude. Next to you (sometimes also below or above you) flows a small canal, which reminded us strongly of the levadas that are common in Madeira.
The trail itself is relatively easy to walk, despite the 11 kilometers each way. Exhausting on this hike is actually only the length of a total of 22 km, if you have walked back. The Ruta del Cares hike is not a circular trail, but you have to walk there and back.
The special thing about the Ruta del Cares hiking trail are the numerous bridges that lead you over the river and the narrow tunnels that were cut into the rock. This makes the hike really adventurous and very special.
Short information about the Ruta del Cares hike:
- Length: 22 km (there & back)
- Duration: 4-6 hours
- Circular route: no
- Altitude gain: 1200 meters
- Difficulty: medium
- GPX: Hike at Alltrails
The History of the Ruta del Cares Trail
The Ruta del Cares hiking trail was of course not carved into the rock for today’s tourists, but was built as a work clearing for the workers of a hydroelectric power plant. Almost 100 years ago the trail was created and almost 70 years ago it was again fundamentally extended.
Start the Ruta del Cares in Cain or Poncebos
Since the Ruta del Cares is not a circular trail, you can start at either end, in Cain or Poncebos.
We started in Cain because we didn’t plan to walk the entire route, and the part of the hike at Cain is the most spectacular. At Cain the Cares Gorge is the narrowest (often only a few meters) and here there are the most tunnels and bridges over the river.
In addition, the biggest slope is waiting for you in Poncebos if you start the Ruta del Cares trail there. Namely, the first 2 kilometers from Poncebos go steeply uphill and, moreover, the landscape at Poncebos is less spectacular than at Cain.
The third reason that we think Cain is a good starting point is that 95% of the visitors start from Poncebos. This means that if you start from Cain, you will be completely alone on the trail for the first few hours. At least if you start quite early.
Attention: Officially no campers are allowed to use the road to Cain, because it is very narrow in some places. But we dared it with our van and had no problems. With a normal car you won’t have any problems either.
Our Experience during the Rute del Cares Hike
We started around 8 am in Cain, because we didn’t want to hike the whole route and wanted to see at least the most spectacular part with the very narrow gorge in any case. Also, we wanted to avoid the very steep incline that you have to walk if you start from Poncebos.
Right at the beginning of the hike we cross the rushing river Cares several times. Partly over dilapidated bridges where (according to the sign) you should not use the handrail!
A few hundred meters after the start you have to walk through partly very narrow and low tunnels. To the right of you the Cares river rushes along and the gorge is mostly only a few meters wide here. Water drips down from above via various trickles, forming large puddles that you can’t always avoid in the dark tunnels.
The path of the Ruth del Cares continues to rise as it goes on, which we actually notice only in the fact that the river Cares is getting farther and farther away from us. The canyon becomes wider and wider and slowly the sun dares to rise above the mountain peaks. It is getting warmer and warmer and slowly we meet other hikers who started in Poncebos. We greet each oncoming hiker with a friendly hola and also our dog Aaro does his job very well.
Aaro even remains relatively calm as we encounter free-roaming goats about halfway along the trail. Directly at a small watercourse they stand at the edge of the way and let themselves be fed willingly by other hikers.
We walk on unperturbed and marvel at the seemingly ever higher towering mountains and the now several hundred meters wide gorge. Slowly it gets very warm and even if the route is not very strenuous due to the lack of steep inclines, we start to sweat.
Shortly before the final climb up the last hill before Poncebos we decide to turn around and walk the whole way back in the blazing sun. Especially our dog Aaro is very happy about the occasional water holes and rivulets that come out of the rocks. Here he can get a short cooling.
When we arrive back in Cain after a total of 15 km (of 22) of the trail, we are very exhausted and sit down in one of the many restaurants and enjoy a delicious burger with fries. After about 2 hours of eating and resting (Aaro is lying totally tired next to us) we get back into our camper and continue exploring the wonderful mountains of the Picos de Europa.
Tips for the Ruta del Cares Hike
Do you have to walk the trail there and back?
Unfortunately, you have few options other than walking the hike there and back. It is possible to take a cab in Cain or Poncebos to get back to the place of origin. But since there are so few road connections in the Picos de Europa, the cab ride between the two places takes over 2 hours and costs about 160 Euro.
So it’s only worth it to a certain extent. If you don’t want to or can’t do the whole route, you should turn back (starting from Cain) after about half of the way. The most beautiful and exciting part of the hike is already behind you.
Ruta del Cares Parking | Where is the best place to park?
Directly in the small village of Cain there are several free parking possibilities. Attention: officially motorhomes are not allowed to enter the village of Cain. The last road a few kilometers before Cain is forbidden for RVs, because the road gets very narrow towards the end. However, we made it with our van and had no real problems getting there.
If you want to start the hike in Poncebos, there are also some parking possibilities here and you can arrive with the camper without any problems. Since most tourists start here, the parking lots are also quickly full. So it can be that you have to park at the roadside.
Ruta del Cares Hike with Motorhome
Because of the above mentioned ban for campers on the road to Cain you should rather drive to Poncebos to start there. If you have a converted van or a very small camper, you should be able to make the narrow road to Cain and start walking from there.
Overnight Stay in Cain
If you are traveling with your camper, then there are several possibilities in the small town of Cain to park for free and also to stay overnight. There is no official camping site, but camping is tolerated here.
If you are traveling with a rental car, then there are also several accommodation options near Cain. We can recommend the following.
Accomodation in the Picos de Europa
This accommodation* is very centrally located in the Picos de Europa and can be used as a starting point for many excursions.
- only a few minutes by car from the start of the Ruta del Cares hike
- simple, clean rooms
- view to the mountains
- amazing breakfast
Alternative: Overnight stay in Poncebos
If you start the hike from Poncebos, we can recommend the following hotel near Poncebos: Logis Hotel Restaurante La Casa de Juansabelie*
The Best Time for the Ruta del Cares Hike
No matter if you start from Cain or Poncebos, you should start as early as possible. On the one hand, there are not so many other hikers on the trail. And on the other hand it is not yet so warm. Because from noon on the sun shines everywhere over the mountains and then the sun can be very merciless.
When it comes to the best time of year, the months of May to October are great to head out.
The Ruta del Cares with dog or children
Even though the trail can sometimes look very scary in the photos because it seems super narrow everywhere, the hike is relatively safe and not overly dangerous. Sure, the trail is often only a few feet narrow and most of the time there is no railing or barrier.
But we found that the path is mostly very good and especially safe to walk. Quite different from, for example, the very hefty hike to Lake Sorapi in South Tyrol.
We were walking with our dog Aaro and that was absolutely no problem. There is only the requirement that dogs must be kept on a leash. By the way, there are also enough natural water sources for dogs on the way. But you should always have water with you
In our opinion, the trail is also good to walk with children. At least if they have a certain age and already have some experience in hiking. At the very narrow or steep places you should still hold your small children by the hand.
We hope you enjoyed our article about the Ruth del Cares hike. Feel free to leave us a comment!