Waterfalls of the Cares Gorge

Cain de Valdeon / Poncebos / Parco Nacional de Picos de Europa, Leon / Asturias, Spain

About Waterfalls of the Cares Gorge


Hiking Distance: 12km shuttle; 20-24km round trip
Suggested Time: 5-6 hours

Date first visited: 2015-06-11
Date last visited: 2015-06-11

Waterfall Latitude: 43.22703
Waterfall Longitude: -4.89524

The Waterfalls of the Cares Gorge page was basically my excuse to talk about the famous hike that quite possibly was the quintessential Picos de Europa experience.

But prior to our visit in June 2015, there was quite a bit of misleading information in the literature concerning whether there really were waterfalls worth talking about on this excursion.

Cares_Gorge_135_06112015 - Context of one of the waterfalls and the Ruta de Cares deep within the Cares Gorge (la Garganta de Cares)
Context of one of the waterfalls and the Ruta de Cares deep within the Cares Gorge (la Garganta de Cares)

So I eagerly anticipated doing this hike not only for the experience and the well-known scenery, but I wanted to see for myself what the waterfalls were like.

Thus, in one way or another, I guess this page had to happen as far as waterfalling was concerned.

About the Cares Gorge

If you’re not yet familiar with what the Cares Gorge is about, let me summarize it here.

It’s basically a 12km route between the towns of Poncebos and Caín de Valdeón.

Cares_Gorge_271_06112015 - Context of hikers on the Ruta de Cares being dwarfed by the sharp peaks towering over the Cares Gorge
Context of hikers on the Ruta de Cares being dwarfed by the sharp peaks towering over the Cares Gorge

The route followed along a narrow gorge topped off by tall mountains while bottomed out by a rushing Cares River (Río Cares) far below the sheer cliffs.

The footpath was an old hydroelectric maintenance track, which pretty much meant that the trail would feature tunnels, canals, bridges, and some houses or shelters along the way.

This was something that most natural trails typically don’t feature.

All throughout the hike, there’s scenery as well as butterflies-in-the-stomach moments given the constant exposure to the gorge dropoffs.

Cares_Gorge_509_06112015 - Context of a pair of hikers heading north to Poncebos in a particularly dramatic and precipitous part of the Cares Gorge along the Ruta de Cares
Context of a pair of hikers heading north to Poncebos in a particularly dramatic and precipitous part of the Cares Gorge along the Ruta de Cares

There was also that claustrophobic feeling you can get from being dwarfed by neck-cranking peaks practically leaning over the trail.

Indeed, it’s hard to convey in words the powerful experience that this trail could provide, but that’s what the pictures on this page are for.

The Waterfalls on la Ruta de Cares

As far as waterfalls in the Cares Gorge were concerned, the thing I realized about most of the ones that I encountered were that they were pretty much man-made.

The reason why was because throughout the hike, there were canals essentially paralleling the trail itself.

Cares_Gorge_264_06112015 - Looking down at one of the cascades spilling out of an underground canal deep within the Cares Gorge. Note the cut out trail above it, which belongs to la Ruta de Cares
Looking down at one of the cascades spilling out of an underground canal deep within the Cares Gorge. Note the cut out trail above it, which belongs to la Ruta de Cares

These canals carried water through both open spaces (often times almost next to the trail) as well as tunnels.

In many instances, the canals would overflow their banks (or have some kind of a breach) and actually spill over its sides as waterfalls.

To a casual observer, they may seem like springs or natural waterfalls, but upon closer inspection, you could quite literally see the canals that gave rise to them.

On this page, I tried to identify the waterfalls that I believed were natural as well as point out those that were artificial.

Cares_Gorge_659_06112015 - One of the few natural waterfalls spilling into the Cares Gorge
One of the few natural waterfalls spilling into the Cares Gorge

However, by and large, the natural waterfalls were pretty much on the Río Cares deep into the gorge.

There really weren’t any major waterfalls worth noting.

So the bottom line is that I don’t think you should come here seeking waterfalls exclusively.

Instead, you get a better experience by just appreciating the scenery and take the waterfalls (real or fake) as part of the backdrop to the otherwise surreal landscape before you.

Cares_Gorge_770_06112015 - Context of a natural waterfall just south of the hamlet of Caín de Valdeón further upstream from the Cares Gorge
Context of a natural waterfall just south of the hamlet of Caín de Valdeón further upstream from the Cares Gorge

In addition to the waterfalls within the Cares Gorge, we also spotted a couple more around the village of Caín de Valdeón.

These were natural waterfalls, and we happened to find them both along the trail leading to the Ruta de Cares as well as another one further south of the village.

Options for Hiking la Ruta de Cares

In any case, there are many ways to experience this trail.

Perhaps the most talked about option (at least as far as the literature out there is concerned) was the north-to-south one-way shuttle hike option.

Cares_Gorge_669_06112015 - The Ruta de Cares passes within the steep and precipitous Cares Gorge along ledges, passing through tunnels, and going over bridges like this one at the Puente de los Recebos (often confused with the Puente de Bolín according to the maps)
The Ruta de Cares passes within the steep and precipitous Cares Gorge along ledges, passing through tunnels, and going over bridges like this one at the Puente de los Recebos (often confused with the Puente de Bolín according to the maps)

This particular route started in Poncebos and ended in Caín de Valdeón, where a pre-arranged shuttle would take the finished hikers on the long drive back up to Poncebos.

However, I exercised the logistically easier (though physically more taxing) option, which was a long out-and-back hike that started and ended in Caín de Valdeón (where we were staying).

In order to not miss out on the best of the Ruta de Cares, I pretty much hiked as far north as I could before turning back the way I came.

While I didn’t go all the way to Poncebos and back (which would be a whopping 24km round trip), but I did manage to hike roughly 20km round trip.

Cares_Gorge_483_06112015 - The Ruta de Cares passing before a legitimate natural arch high up on the cliffs somewhere closer to the Poncebos side of the Cares Gorge
The Ruta de Cares passing before a legitimate natural arch high up on the cliffs somewhere closer to the Poncebos side of the Cares Gorge

In addition to the incidental waterfalls along the way, my main goal was to reach an impressive natural arch before turning back.

That said, in doing this second option, it’s really up to you how far you want to go before heading back based on time, conditions, and ability.

Just to give you an idea of the time commitment for my hiking excursion, it took me just under six hours to do the out-and-back excursion covering about 20km in total.

The following list tells you the landmarks and timetables just to give you an idea of how much time to allocate for your own trip planning.

Cares_Gorge_058_06112015 - Context of the Ruta de Cares passing through tunnels and ledges, which further added to the atmosphere and adventure of this highlight of the Picos de Europa National Park
Context of the Ruta de Cares passing through tunnels and ledges, which further added to the atmosphere and adventure of this highlight of the Picos de Europa National Park

Consult the photo journal (where the photos are in chronological order) to help paint the picture of what you’re seeing with this rough time table of what I saw and when I saw them.

  • 1:45pm – Started hike from Caín de Valdeón
  • 2:00pm – Arrived at dam at the head of the Cares Gorge
  • 2:30pm – Arrived at Puente de Los Rebecos (commonly mistaken for Puente Bolín)
  • 2:35pm – Arrived at Puente Bolín; a fake and real waterfall were on either side of this bridge
  • 3:10pm – Saw a gushing waterfall coming out of a hole fed by man-made canal
  • 3:45pm – At a house and rock shelter near Covadonga Trail junction
  • 4:30pm – At another house
  • 4:45pm – Arrived at natural arch; this was my turnaround point
  • 5:50pm – Back at Covadonga Trail junction
  • 6:40pm – Back at Puente Bolín
  • 7:05pm – Back at dam at the head of the Cares Gorge
  • 7:20pm – Back in Caín de Valdeón

Authorities

The Waterfalls of the Cares Gorge reside between the towns of Poncebos and Caín de Valdeón in the provinces of León and Asturias, Spain. It is administered by the Parque Nacional de Picos de Europa. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you may get leads from this website.

Cares_Gorge_768_06112015 - Just before arriving at the hamlet of Caín de Valdeón, we saw this waterfall tumbling right before one of the road bridges
Cares_Gorge_763_06112015 - Looking upstream from the hamlet of Caín de Valdeón at the attractive cascade that tumbled beneath the road bridge to get here
Cares_Gorge_771_06112015 - Context of the attractive roadside cascade just south of the hamlet of Caín de Valdeón
Cares_Gorge_758_06112015 - Another contextual look at that roadside cascade just south of the hamlet of Caín de Valdeón backed by a towering rocky mountain
Cares_Gorge_022_06112015 - Just before I started to do the long hike on the Cares Gorge, I noticed this impressive natural waterfall right across from the end of the hamlet of Caín de Valdeón
Cares_Gorge_033_06112015 - Following the Ruta de Cares heading north from the hamlet of Caín de Valdeón
Cares_Gorge_036_06112015 - Approaching the Cares Gorge and the dam situated right at its head as I followed the Cares River downstream
Cares_Gorge_037_06112015 - About to cross the dam and its man-made waterfall before following tunnels dug into the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_041_06112015 - Looking back towards the Cares River spilling over the dam infrastructure as I looked back upstream in the direction of the upper end of the Ruta de Cares hike
Cares_Gorge_043_06112015 - Following this tunnel near the bottom of the Cares Gorge early on in my hike as I headed downstream (north) towards Poncebos
Cares_Gorge_046_06112015 - Once I got past the dam, I found myself in a long series of ledges and tunnels deep in the depths of the Cares Gorge heading downstream towards Poncebos
Cares_Gorge_051_06112015 - Looking up at a weeping wall part of the Cares Gorge seen from the initial tunnel section as I headed north towards Poncebos
Cares_Gorge_059_06112015 - Continuing along the Ruta de Cares as I followed one tunnel after another on my way north towards Poncebos
Cares_Gorge_060_06112015 - When I left the tunnel section, I was suddenly seeing rugged mountain scenery like this that typified the rugged scenery of the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_067_06112015 - Context of the Ruta de Cares with other hikers on it going north along the Cares Gorge in the direction of Poncebos
Cares_Gorge_076_06112015 - Looking back at the context of the Ruta de Cares Trail as I continued heading north towards Poncebos along the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_078_06112015 - Some wet spots on the Ruta de Cares considering that the area must have experienced some rain prior to me doing the hike
Cares_Gorge_096_06112015 - It wasn't long before the Ruta de Cares trail rose high above the deepening Cares Gorge thereby presenting constant exposure to dropoffs
Cares_Gorge_105_06112015 - Looking back towards a tunnel high up on the Cares Gorge while I continued my long hike in the direction of Poncebos along the Ruta de Cares
Cares_Gorge_107_06112015 - Looking ahead at the Puente de los Recebos deep along the Ruta de Cares
Cares_Gorge_110_06112015 - Approaching the Puente de los Recebos, which was one of the footbridges that spanned the width of the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_119_06112015 - Looking back at the other side of the Puente de Los Rebecos, which I've seen in the literature often being misidentified as the Puente Bolín
Cares_Gorge_139_06112015 - Looking back at an artificial waterfall (because it's caused by a canal overflowing its banks) from the Puente Bolín
Cares_Gorge_148_06112015 - Just on the other side of the Puente Bolín, we spotted this attractive waterfall, which I believe to be natural (unless there was another one of those canals unseen further up on the mountain)
Cares_Gorge_149_06112015 - Context of the Puente Bolín with the natural cascade together within the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_199_06112015 - As I went further along the Ruta de Cares, I encountered many more of these mini-tunnels or man-made archways
Cares_Gorge_208_06112015 - Looking back at another one of these mini-tunnels in the context of dramatic Cares Gorge scenery
Cares_Gorge_233_06112015 - Parts of the Ruta de Cares followed alongside canals such as this one, and I suspect all the illegitimate waterfalls in the Cares Gorge came from these canals
Cares_Gorge_247_06112015 - Here is an example of an artificial waterfall caused by a canal overflowing its banks. Note the mini-tunnel above it as the canal was beneath the Ruta de Cares
Cares_Gorge_278_06112015 - The Ruta de Cares often hugged overhanging vertical cliffs like this one while also exposed to long dropoffs
Cares_Gorge_285_06112015 - Looking down over some canal (on the lower left of this photo) juxtaposed with tall peaks and narrow hanging canyons as part of the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_289_06112015 - Looking back along the Ruta de Cares where the trail was actually right on top of a water canal passing through a man-made tunnel. This just shows you the degree of engineering that had to be done to cope with the rugged terrain of the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_295_06112015 - Here's a part of the Ruta de Cares trail where the dropoffs were so sheer that I could quite literally see the Río Cares at the same time that I could see the trail
Cares_Gorge_306_06112015 - Another telling look at the Ruta de Cares hugging ledges perched high above the depths of the Cares Gorge itself
Cares_Gorge_310_06112015 - Looking back at the Cares Gorge with mountains rising high above while the Ruta de Cares trail, which itself was still high above the floor of the gorge
Cares_Gorge_313_06112015 - Looking back at the profile of another waterfall in the Cares Gorge, which I suspect was probably another accidental one that overflowed the banks of the underground canals
Cares_Gorge_320_06112015 - Contextual look back at a waterfall that I believe to also come from a canal whose banks had overflowed within the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_325_06112015 - Another surprise while hiking the Ruta de Cares was the presence of mountain goats, essentially confirming that I was hiking in territories typically traversed only by these species and not humans
Cares_Gorge_335_06112015 - Focused look at one of the mountain goats seen within the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_344_06112015 - Yet another look at the mountain goat backed by the tall peaks of the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_350_06112015 - At some house along the Ruta de Cares near the junction with the Covadonga Trail
Cares_Gorge_355_06112015 - Just a short distance beyond the house, I noticed this rock shelter with a tin roof.  I wasn't sure what this was for, but the inside was pretty much gutted out and smelled of urine
Cares_Gorge_363_06112015 - Contextual look back upstream along the Cares Gorge as I was further along the hike on the Ruta de Cares
Cares_Gorge_389_06112015 - The dramatic scenery continued along the Ruta de Cares as I continued to pursue the natural arch that I knew was somewhere along this trail
Cares_Gorge_391_06112015 - Still more drop-off-exposed parts of the Ruta de Cares as it climbed very high above the gorge floor as I was getting closer to the Poncebos side
Cares_Gorge_395_06112015 - By this point in the Ruta de Cares Trail, I was really looking for the natural arch, but this man-made one with rock holes above wasn't it
Cares_Gorge_401_06112015 - Looking down into the Cares Gorge, where I noticed this cascade, which I believe to be one of the few natural ones
Cares_Gorge_405_06112015 - Closer look down at the natural waterfall deep in the Cares Gorge as I was getting closer to the natural arch that I was pursuing
Cares_Gorge_417_06112015 - Looking further upstream as the cascade in context of the narrowness of the Cares Gorge somewhere closer to Poncebos
Cares_Gorge_513_06112015 - This could very well be the only legitimate waterfall or cascade that was on the Río Cares itself within the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_422_06112015 - Walking over an overhanging ledge with a small tunnel as I was getting closer to Poncebos on the Ruta de Cares
Cares_Gorge_433_06112015 - Still more mountain goats seen while I was still searching for the natural arch in the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_455_06112015 - Approaching the second house that I saw along the Ruta de Cares as I still made my way north in the direction of Poncebos
Cares_Gorge_462_06112015 - This was the scenery of the Ruta de Cares as I was approaching a section of vertical cliffs called Los Collados
Cares_Gorge_472_06112015 - An even more focused look at the Ruta de Cares clinging to the vertical cliffs at the top while I noticed a lower trail closer to the bottom of the Cares Gorge near the los Collados part of the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_500_06112015 - Finally, I spotted the natural arch in the Cares Gorge. This was much closer to Poncebos than it was to Cain. Here's a shot looking right up through the span of the natural arch, which marked the turnaround point of my out-and-back hike from Caín
Cares_Gorge_520_06112015 - While I quickly made my way back to Caín, I had to be cognizant of the constant exposure to dropoffs
Cares_Gorge_582_06112015 - Getting re-acquainted with the familiar brown mountain goats within the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_606_06112015 - Another section of the Ruta de Cares that reminded me of how precarious the cliff-hugging ledge trail can be
Cares_Gorge_617_06112015 - Even though I was quickly making my way back through the Cares Gorge to Caín de Valdeón, the scenery often times compelled me to just pause and take a photo
Cares_Gorge_655_06112015 - Looking high up from the Cares Gorge at some large birds (were they eagles? condors? falcons?)
Cares_Gorge_660_06112015 - Focused on the main drop of one of the few legitimate waterfalls that I encountered while hiking through the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_732_06112015 - Back at the dam near Cain de Valdeon as I was getting close to the end of this long hike through the Cares Gorge
Cares_Gorge_735_06112015 - Finally back at the dam just downstream from the Cain de Valdeon
Cares_Gorge_747_06112015 - Finally back at the natural cascade by the end of Caín de Valdeón

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


There are many ways to access the Cares Gorge, and I’m sure they’re all described in the literature.

What I’ll describe here is the route that I ended up taking (though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend) starting from Ribadeo.

Cares_Gorge_004_06112015 - Driving the narrow road from Posada de Valdeón to Caín de Valdeón and the Ruta de Cares
Driving the narrow road from Posada de Valdeón to Caín de Valdeón and the Ruta de Cares

I’ll also describe the route from León since this was where we ultimately ended up after leaving the Cares Gorge.

Driving from Ribadeo to Caín de Valdeón

From Ribadeo, I took the A-8 autovía for about 170km east until I turned off onto the As-260 road (roughly 18km east of the town of Villaviciosa).

I then followed the narrow and twisty As-260 for 17km going over a pass before descending to the town of Arriondas.

Once at the town, I then picked up the more reliable N-625 road towards the busy town of Canga de Onís (after about 6km).

Cares_Gorge_011_06112015 - Arriving at the village of Caín de Valdeón, which was one of the scenic endpoints for the Ruta de Cares
Arriving at the village of Caín de Valdeón, which was one of the scenic endpoints for the Ruta de Cares

I’d continue following the N-625 road, which would once again become narrow and twisty (and supporting trucks going in both directions!), until I’d reach the signposted turnoff for the Le-244 road leading to Posada de Valdeón.

This turnoff was about 45km from Arriondas or 39km from Canga de Onís.

Once on the Le-244 road, I followed it for about 15km to the Posada de Valdeón.

Then, I continued on the narrow, bumpy, and steep road (but still paved) that went the final 8km to the hamlet of Caín de Valdeón.

Cares_Gorge_017_06112015 - While staying in the village of Caín de Valdeón, we managed to find a tight parking space off to the side of this street
While staying in the village of Caín de Valdeón, we managed to find a tight parking space off to the side of this street

Overall, this leg of the drive took us a little over four hours with breaks.

Driving from Caín de Valdeón to León

As for getting from Caín de Valdeón to León, we returned the way we came on the Le-244 (23km).

Then, we continued south on the N-625 road for 18km to the town of Riaño where the N-625 and N-621 roads became one.

From Riaño, we then took the N-621 road for the next 29km before turning right onto the CI-626 road, which we followed for the next 48km.

Riano_003_06112015 - During the drive from Caín de Valdeón to León, we passed by this scenic lake somewhere near the town of Riaño
During the drive from Caín de Valdeón to León, we passed by this scenic lake somewhere near the town of Riaño

Finally, we turned onto the N-630 road south for another 26km as it led us right into the city of León.

Overall, this drive took us about 2 hours 30 minutes.

Finally, for some context, León was 185km (under 2 hours drive) west of Burgos, 263km (about 3 hours drive) southeast of Ribadeo, 206km (2 hours drive) north of Salamanca, 337km (over 3 hours drive) southwest of Bilbao, 332km (3.5 hours drive) east of Santiago de Compostela, and 337km (3.5 hours drive) northwest of Madrid.

Examining the Cares River at the town of Cain de Valdeon, where across the river was an attractive cascade beneath some picturesque and jagged cliffs


Checking out a man-made waterfall (from a canal overflowing its banks) as well as a natural waterfall near the Puente Bolin


Looking deep down into the gorge at one of the few natural waterfalls feeding the Cares River near the midway point between Cain de Valdeon and Poncebos


Checking out a man-made waterfall from within the tunnels close to the Cain de Valdeon side of the Cares Gorge


Checking out an attractive waterfall seen just before entering the remote town of Cain de Valdeon

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Tagged with: cain de valdeon, poncebos, picos de europa, national park, parco nacional, leon, asturias, spain, waterfall, cares gorge, ruta de cares, los rebecos, puente bolin, covadonga, natural arch, posada de valdeon, rio cares



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls
Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.