Shortly after our arrival in Potes we heard about a gorge walk from other tourists at the campsite. The ‘Cares Gorge‘ lies in the north of the Picos de Europa where it runs between Poncebos in Asturias and Cain in Leon and is the most popular hike in the range.
Being the types who love a good walk, especially our hairy progeny Sweep Osito, we looked into the route from Potes and the walk itself.
The drive from Potes takes us north through tight, twisting mountain roads (N-621) where little pockets of existence such as Castro and La Hermida incredibly manage to sustain themselves in the seemingly harsh mountain environments. During the winter months sections of this road see no sunlight at all due to the high walls and low arc of our shiny celestial light bulb.
At Panes we took a left turn over the bridge and headed across the northern limits of the Picos de Europa on the AS-114 towards Las Arenas (it runs all the way to Cangas de Onis). The road is smoother, less twisting and more accommodating than its eastern sister. It runs adjacent to the Rio Cares which was given a boost in 1946 when a section of the Cares Gorge was blown out to tap into the river in order to feed the hydro-electric dam at Poncebos, our intended destination on this drive.
Passing through Las Arenas we turned left at a fork and followed signs for Poncebos that took us south along the steadily rising AS-264 which snaked through man made tunnels in the mountainside and on to the tiny town beside the river.
As we emerged from the last tunnel the walls of the massifs closed about us and the sheers scale of the Picos became evident. From the clear water river to the high, grey peaks eagles, vultures, goats, rabbits and fish soared, swooped, scurried and swam about us.
The hydro-electric dam was a small affair and did not seem to have impacted upon the local wildlife. The deep waters at its base were very inviting although I imagine equally freezing. Plus I didn’t have my swimwear.
The road leading to Poncebos gets very busy during the summer months so it’s best to arrive early in the morning otherwise you face the prospect of adding another four or five kilometres to your hike as parking spaces vanish rapidly.
Find Poncebos and the Cares Gorge using this map:
Next up – Preparation for the walk
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