The Cares route

The Cares from the highest

Following the course of the River Cares in its high sections involves entering a calcareous throat of authentic vertigo which has its beginning in the municipality of Cabrales. Nature exposes its most recondite beauty here. Surrounded by an unlikely path, the most vertical slopes of the Picos de Europa are thus within the reach of any mortal, affordable and close to the human enjoyment of the mountain and its gorges.

The path that runs through the Cares River gorge is the most spectacular and well-known hiking route in the Principality of Asturias. Without a doubt, it is the most traveled of all the peaks of Europe and, according to numerous statistics, it is also the busiest mountain route in Spain. Inducements are not lacking to be a powerful magnet for nature lovers from all over the world; It equates its spectacularity and beauty to the ease of its route and in recent times have been accounted more than 200.000 walkers per year. These figures also warn us of something very important to take into account, and that for the full enjoyment of the route is preferable not to undertake it in the month of August or the weekends of the summer given the concentration of people on the route. Choosing any other date is more rewarding if we seek the privacy of the mountain. With some sneakers or light boots and a backpack that has the essentials (including a raincoat, just in case), the route can be undertaken on any date between the months of May to October, so it is only about choosing a suitable day to walk.

Origins of the Cares route

On the other hand, without minimum Historical facts It is difficult to understand how it is possible for a road of so many kilometers to cross the mountain in such a daring way, and we wonder who undertook this project and why. Although the first crossing of the Cares was made by meritorious mountaineers such as the Englishmen Abel Chapman and Walter J. Buck, together with the Marquis of Villaviciosa, Pedro Pidal (first also in climbing to the top of the Naranjo de Bulnes), the popularization of the route was not It would arrive well into this century and after certain works that enabled the path for the transit of any person.

The oldest route It had a significantly different route to the current one. At first it was exclusively for pastoral use and only after 1916 did things change. This was the year in which it began to delimit a winding and precarious path so that the operators of the Electra de Viesgo company could monitor and maintain a water channel, a channel that transported part of the flow of the Cares for its hydroelectric exploitation in the Central Camarmeña The construction of this power station meant the minimum widening of a path with continuous ascents and descents, from the Cain dam to Camarmeña. At that time it took about seven hours to go from Poncebos to Cain. Later, the enabled road was used to take agricultural products from Caín to the Cabrales markets, and only in the 40-50 years was the current path to improve the maintenance of the canal. The route was opened based on peaks and dynamite and in recent decades have been improving certain sections to ensure a safe walk.

Over time this route became a tourist attraction in the area. Currently it is one of the cardinal points of the Picos de Europa for any lover of the mountain. It is also known as the Divine Throat, given its spectacular nature, and offers its walkers privileged images along twelve kilometers that mark the division between the Western Massif of the Peaks, or of the Cornión, and the Central Massif or of the Urrieles. If we look up, we will see that the Ruta del Cares is also the beginning of a multitude of channels that cross the strong collapses of the two massifs that it divides. The Mesones canal to the west, or the Dobresengros canal to the central one are two clear examples. In addition, the roof of the Picos, Torre Cerredo, falls vertically on the Cares River, giving more form to its vertiginous canyon.

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Posada de Valdeón - Poncebos. Poncebos- Caín

This hiking route has its development in the Central Massif of the Picos de Europa, between the provinces of Asturias and León. The true Ruta del Cares begins in Poncebos (Asturias) and ends in Posada de Valdeón (León) or vice versa, but due to its long duration, 21 kilometers, this option can only be undertaken if a car will pick us up point of arrival. The bus company ALSA offers trips to Poncebos and Posada de Valdeón, to know their schedules you can call: 902 42 22 42.

Currently, the company S-cape Travel It offers a package of 3 days that includes the Cares Route on foot combined with the return in 4 × 4 so that there is no need to make the round trip walking.

From Posada de Valdeón We will take between 5 0 6 hours to reach Poncebos. Once in the town we follow the road to Cordiñanes; past this village we find the Mirador del Tombo, with a sculpture of the most emblematic species of the Picos, the chamois. The road continues parallel to the river Cares, and shortly after, passing the Chorco de los Lobos, we crossed the flock of the Crown, to reach the town of Cain. After the bridge over the dam, once past Caín, the path narrows, because the walls of the two massifs already form the true gorge. Several tunnels excavated in the middle of the rock lead us to the Rebecos bridge and the Bolín bridge, from where we see the Cares flow in the depths of the gorge. Follow the road and leave behind the small sheepfold of Culiembro, where the canal that bears his name starts, and on a steep climb leaves us far above, in the sheepfolds of Ostón, in the Massif del Cornión. The path continues along the river, and after a slight climb, it approaches us at the end of the route in Poncebos.

From Poncebos to Caín. This is the route that is normally carried out. They are 12 one-way kilometers and other 12 return. The time is similar to the one in the detailed option from Posada de Valdeón, but in this case we do not have the inconvenience of a third party coming to look for us at the destination point. We can leave the car ne Poncebos and pick it up at the same point after returning from Caín. The route can take us between 3 and 4 hours in a sense and a similar time in the return. The degree of difficulty is low and the slope of about 700 meters. After the town of Poncebos, a few meters later the road becomes a gravel track and a sign indicates the beginning of the Path of Cares with the legend of «Caín 3h, Posada de Valdeón 6h». The initial 2,5 kilometers may be the hardest, a continuous steepness of a certain slope until reaching the ruins of a house and a tree (first shadow in many meters). Shortly after we arrived at The Collaos, point at which a slight descent begins until finding the path carved in the rock next to the channel. From here the difference is almost non-existent. After five kilometers we reached the sheepfold of Culiembro, from where the channel of the same name rises to the ports of Ostón. We continue walking, we appreciate that it increases the height with respect to the river. We reached the Bolín bridge, where we crossed the river at high altitude, crossing it again shortly after by the bridge of Los Rebecos. Finally, we go through a tunnel area with windows carved into the rock, in the narrowest part of the route and we reach the Cain dam, where the valley begins to open and we will see the houses of the town of Leon.

Total distance: 14419 m
Max elevation: 679 m
Min Elevation: 229 m
Total ascent: 958 m
Total descent: -720 m
Total time: 05:03:15
Travel: One way, Poncebos - Caín


Some practical advice: it is advisable to bring water and comfortable shoes; in summer you have to be careful with the sun. Remember that the water in the canal is not potable.

Of course do not forget the camera because the views are really spectacular.

To get to Poncebos we will take a detour on the AS-114 as it passes through Arenas de Cabrales. There is a clear signaling.

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