Trekking Spain’s Picos de Europa

By Michael Lanza

As my family hiked up the Cares Gorge in northern Spain’s Picos de Europa National Park, which looks like an impressionist painting with its soaring, white and gray limestone cliffs dappled with greenery, I was struck by one curious fact about this mountain range: how it has retained a surprising degree of anonymity.

Until just months before this trip, in fact, I had never heard of the Picos de Europa—which also bear a striking resemblance to Italy’s world-class Dolomite Mountains and lies just two flights from major U.S. airports and obviously a much shorter distance from numerous European cities—and I’ve made a living for years seeking out the world’s best hiking trails.

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A hiker at dawn outside the Refugio Vega de Urriellu in Spain's Picos de Europa National Park.
Dawn outside the Refugio Vega de Urriellu in Spain’s Picos de Europa National Park.

I went to the Picos with my wife, Penny and our teenage son, Nate, and daughter, Alex, to trek about 52 miles (84k) over five days through the highest and most rugged and vertiginous peaks of the Picos de Europa, in the part of the range known as the Central Massif. We stayed in lodging in villages and in mountain huts while hiking a loop through the heart of these mountains.

Overlapping three very different regions of northern Spain—Asturias, Cantabria, and Castilla y León—the Picos were part of Spain’s first national park when the Massif de Peña Santa was declared the National Park of Covadonga Mountain in 1918. In 1995, it became Picos de Europa National Park.

Scroll through the photo gallery below for a sense of what it’s like to trek through Spain’s Picos de Europa or go straight to my full story about this world-class adventure, “The Best 5-Day Hike in Spain’s Picos de Europa Mountains” (which, like most stories about trips at The Big Outside, anyone can read in part for free, but only subscribers can read in full, including my tips on planning those trips).

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