The Cares trail, the Divine Gorge
In this article, we give you a summary of everything you need to know to do the Cares Trail, suitable for everyone. We will talk about the route, places of interest, stages, slope, difficulty, and some other recommendations. We hope you find it useful.
The Cares Trail is the best-known route in the Picos de Europa, linking the León municipality of Posada de Valdeón with the Asturian municipality of Poncebos.
Although the route is long, about 22 km one way, there is no need to panic as it is easy because it is not very steep (about 720m of descent and 100m of ascent).
This means that anyone can enjoy it without having to be too fit. In addition, it can also be split into two stages, or you can do the part you are most interested in.
Where to start the Cares Route
There are two clearly differentiated parts to this route. The section that goes from Posada de Valdeón to Caín is about 10km long, and the second stage is the most famous and crosses the Cares river canyon, also known as “la Garganta Divina” (the divine gorge), which is about 12km long.
The first stage of the walk, from Posada de Valdeón to Caín.
This stage runs down through a lush green forest, surrounded by high peaks of more than 2000m, entering the gorge between the central and western massifs. Another option to shorten the journey a little (3km less) is to start directly from the Mirador del Tombo, past the village of Cordiñanes, you can park in the Molino car park.
If we start from Posada de Valdeón, we have to go down from the town hall, following the white and yellow route signs, towards the river and cross it by the bridge. Taking the path on the right, you will reach the Mirador del Tombo viewpoint, where you will see an interpretation board to identify the most important peaks of the Central Massif, and the statue of a chamois, the most characteristic animal of the Picos de Europa.
What you can’t miss in the Valdeón Valley
Descending towards the river and crossing it, continue along a path on the right bank until you reach a clearing in the forest where the emblematic chapel of La Corona stands, where, according to the Valdeón people, the great conqueror, Don Pelayo, was crowned.
If we continue along the road we come across the “chorco de los lobos”, an ancient construction which, like a well, was the end point of an ingenious system of palisades, in which the wolf was cornered until it fell, and then killed with sticks and stones.
The men from all over the valley were obliged to participate, and at the ringing of the bell they took their assigned places in the hunt.
Some road sections
It is unavoidable to walk along some stretches of road, here we must take extreme caution and walk in single file and within the road, markings painted for pedestrians.
Continuing on we reach Las Vegas, where the Cares meets the Peguera, and cross over the Capozo bridge. We continue and after crossing the bridge of Canceles and passing to the right side of the Cares we continue along the gorge of the Caínes, which twists and turns between large boulders as far as Caín.
Cain, the village that treasures the “Divine Gorge”
Cain is hidden in the depths of the gorge, between the highest peaks of the Central and Western Massifs. The setting is unique and simply overwhelming.
There are a number of restaurants where you can get your strength back. In high season, you will have to be patient or arrive a little early.
The original village of Caín is known as Caín de Arriba, which is currently uninhabited and is only used to keep livestock. It is highly recommended to visit it, and you can take a short circular route of approximately one hour. The ascent can be made from the Pendín path and then descend through the silt.
The hostile environment helped its inhabitants to develop skills to move around the verticality of the terrain. They are known to be expert climbers. It is worth mentioning the great feat of the “Cainejo” (Gregorio Pérez), who made the first ascent of the Naranjo de Bulnes.
The second stage of the walk, from Caín de Valdeón to Puente Poncebos.
Description of the route
We will not dwell on this section, as there are no decisions to be made on the whole route, except how to take the best photo.
This stage is known as the “Garganta Divina” (Divine Gorge), an impressive path carved into the limestone rock, sometimes crossing tunnels and sometimes with bridges that cross the river Cares.
Although this part of the route is almost completely flat until it climbs up to the Collados, from where there is an extraordinary view of the gorge, it is considered to be of moderate difficulty due to its length.
Tips for the Cares Route
We recommend not going down the rocky slope that leads to Poncebos, as the return is very tedious.
This section, due to its special beauty and ease in terms of gradients, is the most traveled route in Picos de Europa.
So if you do not want to have the feeling of being on a pilgrimage, you could:
- Avoid weekends, especially during the high season;
- It is also better to do it on a day when it is cloudy or raining lightly, as the views are of the canyon itself;
- And if you do it in the afternoon, it will also be a good choice, as there will be fewer people.
Some frequently asked questions about the Route of the Cares
Is it possible to do the Cares Route running?
The truth is that there is no such prohibition. But it can be very dangerous, due to the fact that it is a narrow path, sometimes without fences or parapets and with high drops to the river Cares. All this is aggravated when it is very crowded.
Is it allowed to cycle on the Senda del Cares?
It is totally forbidden to cycle through the gorge.
Visit this post to learn more about our electric bikes.
Is it allowed to take the dog to lose on the Cares Route?
In the entire Picos de Europa National Park, it is forbidden to take pets without a leash. You should take special care if you encounter wild animals, such as goats, during the route.
Visit this post for the best holidays when camping with dogs
Is it possible to do the Garganta Divina with children?
This route is suitable for children. However, if you have a small, very lively and uncontrollable child, it would be better to take them on the first stage of this route. Otherwise, we think you will be worried.
How long does it take to do the Cares Route?
Only the first leg:
- Posada to Cain, about 3 hours (downhill).
- Cordiñanes to Caín, about 2.5 hours (downhill).
- Cain to Poncebos, about 3.5 hours.
If it is done from Cain to Los Collados (without going down the rocky area), about 3 hours.
What do I have to carry in my backpack?
It is important to take a drink to hydrate yourself, some food such as dried fruit and nuts, a cap and sun protection.
where to sleep to do the Cares Trail?
There are several options for sleeping in the Valdeón Valley:
- Albergue Diablo de la Peña If you want to sleep at the foot of the Cares Gorge, you have a very good option in this nice hostel, where you can also taste the delicious food of the area.
- Rural Houses in Posada de Valdeón If you come with your family and you prefer the comforts of a rural house, this may be your option.
- Camping El Cares, if you are more into the adventure of camping in nature, you are a van driver or you prefer a cottage, take a look at our accommodations.
Planning the best route in Picos de Europa
Depending on your ambitions, you can plan your excursion in different ways.
What we recommend from Camping el cares is, if you have time, to do the two stages one way and on different days.
You can also do one or two outward stages on the same day. And the return trip can be done by some kind of transport option from Puente Poncebos to Posada de Valdeón, Cordiñanes, or Caín. We do not usually recommend the option of returning by public transport, due to its high cost, time and curves.
And if you do not have time, the most appropriate option is to do the first section and the first kilometers of the divine gorge. In fact, it is the most characteristic part, where the gorge is more closed and where the tunnels and bridges are. And returning to Caín to take a bus or taxi to Posada de Valdeón or Cordiñanes.