A visit from family, or friends you love, and with whom you wish to share the wonders of our land, is always a perfect excuse to return to one of our most emblematic routes: the Senda del Cares.
Poncebos is only 20 minutes by car from our rural house and for us it is the best place to start the route. For some reason, we always find the landscape more beautiful when you go up the river. Besides, this way you get rid of the hardest part at the beginning, and the rest is flat or downhill.
In Poncebos, a warning to navigators: we recommend that you scrupulously respect the yellow line on the road, and do not park on it because of the famous “I can’t find any other place”, and “it doesn’t bother anyone here”. Be warned: there are daily tickets. It is better to get up early and leave your car in the authorized places near the path, or in the parking at the entrance to Poncebos. From there you can take one of the shuttles to the route, which at least were running in the summer of 2020.
At the beginning of the path, we leave the Puente la Jaya bridge on our left, and the start of the path that would take us to the village of Bulnes. A little further on, on the right, a signpost indicates the start of ours. We begin a gentle ascent (remember that we are in the Picos de Europa, where the landscape is not very flat) of about 45 minutes. Once you have overcome this first slope (only 300 m), the rest is very easy. If we are lucky and the day is fine, at the beginning of the path we will be able to see the mythical Urriello (Naranjo de Bulnes).
The path crosses what is known as the Garganta Divina (Divine Canyon), a gorge carved out of the rock over millennia by the Cares. This river, with its green waters and cheerful singing, accompanies us all the way. We are lucky, it is a wonderful day, and it has rained a lot the previous week (even the first snow has fallen on the peaks), and we have never done the route with so much water. The river is full, and small streams and waterfalls overflow and surprise us at many turns along the way. The spectacle is, as always, impressive. Rocks, cliffs, water and sun; trees that defy a landscape that is easy only for the goats, which also accompany us for part of the route. Asturias and Picos de Europa at their highest splendor.
Twelve kilometers that worths walking slowly, enjoying, letting your eyes soak up the landscape, and your soul dialogue in silence with Nature. A perfect scenery to remember that we are also mountains, water, and light. At the end of the path is Cain. We will arrive there in about three hours. The perfect place to rest, eat and refresh our feet in the river.
The Cares path, like all the accesses to Picos de Europa, was built for economic reasons. In the mid-1940s, to serve the canal that feeds the Poncebos-Camarmeña hydroelectric power station. The canal itself is an impressive work of engineering (more than 71 tunnels excavated in the rock) that is well worth contemplating. 500 workers carved out the slopes of our mountains with pickaxes and dynamite, over impossible precipices. 11 of them died in the undertaking. As an anecdote, we can tell that one of the conditions of the contract limited the number of times per week they could be given salmon to eat.
For the return journey, we can choose between walking back our steps, or hiring a taxi to take us along the roads between Poncebos and Cain. In terms of time, the two options are the same, about two and a half hours: 12 km of walking, compared to 113 km by car. On one occasion we did the route with a friend who preferred to return by taxi, and she and we arrived at Arenas de Cabrales at the same time.
On this occasion, honoring our guests, we have opted to hire a company that, in an off-road vehicle, takes us back through the restricted-access tracks opened in Picos de Europa for livestock use. We are not fans of these options, but we did it well: Fernando (ProNatura, Turismo Sostenible), our guide, is not just a driver, he is a biologist in love with his profession and with nature, who show us the landscape from the inside, revealing geological secrets, singularities of flora and fauna, and also the human dimension of Picos throughout its history. We return home with a warm heart. It has been a perfect day.
IMPORTANT: What you need to know and take with you to walk the Cares’ Path.
The Cares is a mountain route. Accessible, practically flat, very comfortable and popular. But it is still a mountain route. And it is good to respect the mountain and to act in it with caution.
- Choose a day that meets suitable conditions (the most dangerous can be rock falls, so windy days, or after heavy rain, may not be the safest).
- Always be well equipped, with good footwear (flip-flops do not fall into this category, which seems incredible, but we have seen everything on this route), and suitable clothing depending on the weather.
- Plenty of water (the water in the canal is not drinkable).
- Sun protection. Sun can be scorching, especially in summer.
- And even if we have lunch booked in one of the restaurants in Cain, some dried fruit or chocolate to replenish our strength.
- Taking your mobile phone with you is a great idea, but be careful with selfies
- With children, we know, hand in hand and inwards.
- Dogs must be leashed, as in all the territory of the Picos de Picos Park.
So, let’s enjoy the day! We are lucky to have an accessible, comfortable and easy route in the heart of the beautiful Asturian mountains.