Cascada de Cotatuero

near Torla / Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park / Aragon Pyrenees, Huesca, Spain

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 3.5
Cascada de Cotatuero

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Cascada de Cotatuero was said to be the tallest waterfall in the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park at 200m. Not only was this waterfall tall, but it was also situated in a cirque, which was surrounded by shapely cliffs and knobby mountains (some of them have imaginative names like La Virgen del Pilar). Julie and Tahia were able to spot part of the falls from an easy trail along the Río Arazas, which was also the main river passing through Ordesa Valley. However, in order to really appreciate this waterfall, I had to go on a pretty strenuous hike that climbed about 350m from the valley floor right up to the base of the Circo de Cotatuero (circo meaning cirque in Spanish, which were basically valley enclosures of glacial origin). Even from up at these heights, I still had to do a little work to get the clean view you see at the top of this page.

From the far east end of the Pradera de Ordesa (which was the name of the car park area (see directions below), I followed the main trail on the north side (left) of the Río Arazas. After about 700m of flat walking along the valley floor, I then reached a trail junction, where I then veered left onto the narrow path as I went away from the wider main trail. At this point, the trail immediately started to climb through a grove of leafy trees, which kind of helped shelter me against some on-and-off rain in the area. As I went higher on the trail, the trail started to follow the Barranco de Cotatuero while the trees started to thin out and become more fir like. Unfortunately, that also meant that I was starting to become more exposed to the sporadic rainfall as well.

Cascada de Cotatuero seen near the bridge over the Barranco de Cotatuero After about a little over an hour from the start, I reached an abrigo (hut) where there was a trail junction. Had I gone left, it would've taken me to the Clavijas de Cotatuero, which was said to be a climbing route where bolts were put in by Torla blacksmiths in the 1880s. Given the rapidly deteriorating weather during my visit, I opted to stay on the lower path to the right, which then led out of the tree canopy and towards the bridge over the Barranco de Cotatuero. It was from this area that I finally was able to start getting a somewhat satisfactory view of the Cascada de Cotatuero. However, it left much to be desired in terms of a clean view, and the view from directly on the bridge was no better than when I first saw the falls.

So I spent some time walking past the bridge then ascending more switchbacks for the next 30 minutes. When I started to notice that the trail started to veer further and further away from the falls (it would continue following the Faja Petazals and Los Canarellos to el Bosque de las Hayas back at the floor of the Ordesa Valley), that was when I decided to make a scramble onto some rocky scree slopes. I'd imagine most of the rocks came from the calving of the cliff walls towering over me so the danger of rock falls was on my mind.

But in any case, this trail-less scramble (which I don't condone even though I violated my principles here) eventually led me to a steep but satisfactory view of the Cascada de Cotatuero above the tree line (see photo at the top of this page). When I had my fill of this spot, then headed back down, I had paid enough attention to where I had gone up earlier that I was able to recover the main trail. I had also noticed someone had put up a small rock cairn where I had recovered the main trail so perhaps someone else earlier was compelled to go the same way as I ended up going. By the way, there's no guarantee that the cairn I saw would still be there.

Once I was back on the main trail, I then decided to go back the way I came. And in doing so, I managed to get more partial looks at the Cascada de Cotatuero (it always seemed like the trees near its base kept me from seeing all of the falls completely) while also noticing the impressive cliffs and formations literally watching over me in the nearly semi-circular cirque. After descending back down to the bridge over the Barranco de Cotatuero, I then decided to continue my descent back down to the main trail. Again, the weather still hadn't improved by the time I had come back so I didn't feel like I could keep Julie and Tahia waiting any longer to pursue the other trail towards Las Clavijas de Cotatuero.

Eventually, I'd return to the Pradera de Ordesa after spending 3 hours and 15 minutes on the trail. Julie's route along the river was on the south side of the Río Arazas towards the Puente Sarratieto. Throughout this very easy (possibly wheelchair accessible) walkway, the terrain was open enough to appreciate the cliffs of the Ordesa Valley. After about a mile, Julie and Tahia stopped at a mirador near the bridge where she was able to see the full context of the Circo de Cotatuero as well as a partial view of the Cascada de Cotatuero.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

This was the view towards the gorgeous cliffs of the Ordesa Valley seen from the charming town of TorlaThis was the view towards the gorgeous cliffs of the Ordesa Valley seen from the charming town of Torla
On the way to Pradera de Ordesa, we stopped by this pullout with a view over the waterfalls Cascada Tamborotera (bottom) and Cascada Abetos (top) watched over by attractive cliffsOn the way to Pradera de Ordesa, we stopped by this pullout with a view over the waterfalls Cascada Tamborotera (bottom) and Cascada Abetos (top) watched over by attractive cliffs
The impressive cliffs of the Faja Racón, Faja Blanquera, and the peaks of Punta Gallinero from the path near the Faja PetazalsThe impressive cliffs of the Faja Racón, Faja Blanquera, and the peaks of Punta Gallinero from the path near the Faja Petazals
This was the view from the trail that Julie and Tahia took to the mirador of the Circo de Cotatuero with the Cascada de Cotatuero in contextThis was the view from the trail that Julie and Tahia took to the mirador of the Circo de Cotatuero with the Cascada de Cotatuero in context
Looking up at the cliffs comprising the north end of Ordesa Valley as we were making our way to the end of the road at Pradera de OrdesaLooking up at the cliffs comprising the north end of Ordesa Valley as we were making our way to the end of the road at Pradera de Ordesa

At the car park of Pradera de Ordesa at the end of the A-135 roadAt the car park of Pradera de Ordesa at the end of the A-135 road

Looking back at Pradera de Ordesa as I embarked on my hike to Cascada de CotatueroLooking back at Pradera de Ordesa as I embarked on my hike

At first, the trail to Cascada de Cotatuero was shared with the much longer trail to the Circo de Soaso and the Cola de CaballoAt first, the trail to the target waterfall was shared with the much longer trail to the Circo de Soaso and the Cola de Caballo

The wide trail pretty much followed along the Río ArazasThe wide trail pretty much followed along the Río Arazas

Approaching the trail junction where the Cascada de Cotatuero trail veered left away from the wider main trailApproaching the trail junction where the Cascada de Cotatuero trail veered left away from the wider main trail

Somewhat sheltered beneath the leafy tall trees in the lower elevations on the Cascada de Cotatuero TrailSomewhat sheltered beneath the leafy tall trees in the lower elevations on the trail

Parts of the trail to Cascada de Cotatuero was a bit on the rocky sideParts of the trail to the falls was a bit on the rocky side

The waterfall trail followed along the Barranco de CotatueroThe waterfall trail followed along the Barranco de Cotatuero

As I was getting closer to the tree line, I could see more of the imposing cliffs above the treesAs I was getting closer to the tree line, I could see more of the imposing cliffs above the trees

I was now starting to get high enough to encounter fir treesI was now starting to get high enough to encounter fir trees

It was now starting to rain as I got nearer to the Cascada de CotatueroIt was now starting to rain as I got nearer to the waterfall

The trail continued to climb alongside the Barranco de CotatueroThe trail continued to climb alongside the creek

As the trail got increasingly steeper the further up I went, I also noticed spots where roots were protruding onto the trail itself, which meant that I had to be careful about not tripping hereAs the trail got increasingly steeper the further up I went, I also noticed spots where roots were protruding onto the trail itself, which meant that I had to be careful about not tripping here

One of the few hikers that I ran into on this trailOne of the few hikers that I ran into on this trail

Now that I was approaching the tree line, I was also being exposed to the rain that was fallingNow that I was approaching the tree line, I was also being exposed to the rain that was falling

Impressive cliffs around the Circo de CotatueroImpressive cliffs around the cirque

More dirt sections of the trail as it was popping in and out of the tree canopyMore dirt sections of the trail as it was popping in and out of the tree canopy

This was the abrigo near the bridge before the Cascada de CotatueroThis was the abrigo near the bridge before the waterfall

I had my choice of which trail to continue on, but I wasn't confident with the weather so I stuck with the path on the rightI had my choice of which trail to continue on, but I wasn't confident with the weather so I stuck with the path on the right

This was my first look at the Cascada de Cotatuero and the bridgeThis was my first look at the Cascada de Cotatuero and the bridge

Looking back down towards the valley of OrdesaLooking back down towards the valley of Ordesa

Looking along the nearby cliffs of Faja Blanquera and Faja RacónLooking along the nearby cliffs of Faja Blanquera and Faja Racón

Context of the cliffs and the Ordesa Valley looking downhill from around the bridge areaContext of the cliffs and the Ordesa Valley looking downhill from around the bridge area

Looking towards a new waterfall that was flowing as a result of the rain that was falling while I was at the Cascada de CotatueroLooking towards a new waterfall that was flowing as a result of the rain that was falling

Looking back at the awkward rocky trail-less scramble I had to take in order to get a decent look at the Cascada de CotatueroLooking back at the awkward rocky trail-less scramble I had to take in order to get a decent look at the waterfall

This was the view I was finally able to attain of the Cascada de CotatueroSignage pointing the way to Salto del Nervión (among other places), where we learned that we still had to walk 3.2km to get to the falls

Looking back down towards Ordesa Valley from near the base of the Circo de Cotatuero and the scramble that I had to make to get above the treesLooking back down towards Ordesa Valley from near the base of the Circo de Cotatuero and the scramble that I had to make to get above the trees

Closer look at a rock cairn set up for what I'd imagine was a scrambling marker to look for when returning to the main trailCloser look at a rock cairn set up for what I'd imagine was a scrambling marker to look for when returning to the main trail

As I was descending back down to the bridge over the Barranco de Cotatuero, I managed to get this view of the Cascada de Cotatuero though it was partial once againAs I was descending back down to the bridge over the Barranco de Cotatuero, I managed to get this view of the waterfall though it was partial once again

Back at the bridge over the Barranco de CotatueroBack at the bridge over the Barranco de Cotatuero

This was the view back up at the Cascada de Cotatuero from on the bridge itself. As you can see, the view from there was not any betterThis was the view back up at the falls from on the bridge itself. As you can see, the view from there was not any better

After a few hours of hiking, I finally made it back down to the valley floorAfter a few hours of hiking, I finally made it back down to the valley floor

Finally back at the Pradera de OrdesaFinally back at the Pradera de Ordesa


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


View of the falls before crossing the bridge over Barranco de Cotatuero then examining the surroundings at the Circo de Cotatuero while fighting mist and raindrops


360 degree sweep from an unsanctioned scrambling view of the waterfall and its surrounding cirque


Checking out the cliffs of the Circo de Cotatuero before zooming in on the falls itself


Checking out the cliffs and mountains from a roadside pullout before panning on the Rio Arazas at what I believe to be the Cascada Tamborovera and Cascada Abetos


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We went to the town of Torla (nearest town to the west side of Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park) from San Sebastián. We accomplished this drive by going south on the N-I for about 12km, then we took the A-15 towards Pamplona. We stuck to the A-15 as it went around the city, and after 74km from the N-I junction, we then continued east on the A-21.

We next followed the A-21, then the N-240 (when the autovía ended), then the E-7 for a brief stretch before leaving the autovía and onto the N-260 road (a stretch that covered 120km). Then, we drove north on the N-260 towards Biescas. After that town, the N-260 veered eastwards as it narrowed and twisted its way up the mountain roads deeper into the Pyrenees. Eventually after 36km, we left the N-260 road and headed north on the A-135 for 2km towards Torla.

From Torla, we continued north on the A-135 (keeping right at 3km to remain on the A-135 and avoiding the turnoff for Bujaruelo Valley) as the road curved to the east and eventually ended at the Pradera de Ordesa after 8km from town (5km from the Bujaruelo turnoff). Note that about 2.5km east of the Bujaruelo turnoff was a pullout overlooking the Cascada Tamborotera and Cascada Abetos backed by impressive cliffs. Overall, this drive took us 3 hours and 40 minutes from San Sebastián to Torla. It took another 15 minutes without stops to drive from Torla to the car park at Pradera de Ordesa.

Note that our visit happened before the June 30 cutoff so we were able to self-drive all the way to the end. I understand that in the height of the Summer season (i.e. June 30 to September 16), we would've had to park somewhere near the larger car parks just north of Torla, then take a shuttle bus (20 minutes duration) to the Pradera de Ordesa, where both the car park and the shuttle costed money.

To provide you with a little more geographical context, Torla was 94km (90 minutes drive) north of Huesca, 163km (about 2 hours drive) north of Zaragoza, 166km (about 2.5 hours drive) east of Pamplona, 204km (3.5 hours drive) west of Espot, and 322km (4 hours drive) northwest of Barcelona.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES






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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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