7 reasons to visit the Picos de Europa: #1 Tranquil trails, shifting scenery
This article forms one of a seven-part series showcasing how we could share Spain's Picos de Europa with you and your walking boots. You can find an overview of all seven reasons here. Enjoy reading and if it inspires you to come and see it all for yourself, you'll find links to some trip ideas and a direct line to a team of people who'd love to help you plan a visit to somewhere so close to our hearts.
#1. Tranquil trails, shifting scenery
The Picos de Europa is a place where, in one day of walking, you'll tie your boots up in front of wildflower meadows at the bottom of a valley, cross a sparkling river, traverse dense forests, stop for a picnic in an Alpine pasture and then kick your boots off again up in the craggy limestone highlands, where the peaks might still blanketed in winter snow. For somewhere of such varied beauty, it continues to confound us just how little-known Spain's joint-oldest national park remains.
Still, let's face it, that's all the better for those of us who love walking in the peace and quiet of unspoilt nature and stopping now and again to do this...
A moment to pause in the Picos
Straddling three Spanish provinces - Cantabria, Asturias and Castile & León - the Picos de Europa National Park is predominantly defined by the peaks which give it its name. The mountains are a constant backdrop to your walks, but to get up and down you’ll pass through isolated red-roofed hamlets, meadows full of flowers, forests of cork oaks, holm oaks and ash and upland summer pastures grazed by flocks of sheep, goats and Asturian Mountain cattle, the gentle tinkling of their cowbells drifting off down the valley slopes.
Exiting the high mountains is done by an iconic walk along a narrow river gorge which slices through the highlands, carved by the Cares river on its way to the Cantabrian sea.
The spectacular Cares Gorge trail
These soaring mountains attract vultures overhead, nimble chamois on the vertiginous walls and even wolves and bears in the remotest parts. From a canvass of revived grassland and snow-covered peaks, the spring brings a bounty of new birdlife and alpine flora, proceeding the arrival of beautiful butterflies and the awakening of delicate orchids in the early summer months. The onset of autumn breathes fire into the leaves of the beech forests, rewarding the season’s last hikers with a mosaic of crimsons and ochres.
The changing seasons of the Picos de Europa
Dispersed shepherd huts, crumbling ‘hórreo’ storehouses, humble stone chapels and shadowy cheese-aging caves show how humans have lived off of these lands for centuries. You still sense that the Picos de Europa remains a place where culture has to primarily adapt to nature, and not the other way round.
Our unique way of sharing it all is to thread you through the national park over the course of a week of varied self-guided walking, crossing the three regions of the Picos from south to north, from the highest summits to the deepest gorges. Each day has you out in your boots, walking unencumbered from one rural family-run inn to the next, settling into the Picos at your own pace as your luggage takes a taxi ahead of you.