- What do I need to know before visiting the National Park?
- How to get to the National Park
- Can I camp in the National Park?
- Can I light fires in the National Park?
- Can I drink the water from the fountains, streams and rivers in the National Park?
- Is there mobile phone coverage in the National Park?
- Can I bring my pet to the National Park?
- Can I collect plants, flowers or their propagule, animals, their eggs or babies, or geological elements from the National Park?
- Can I release animals or bring plants into the National Park?
- Can motor vehicles (cars, 4×4 vehicles, motorbikes, quad bikes, etc.) be driven on the paths and roads around the National Park?
- Can I ride a mountain bike in the National Park?
- Can I fly over the National Park (plane, light aircraft, helicopter, balloon, drone, hang glider, paraglider, wingsuits, etc.)?
- Can I take photos and freely record videos in the National Park?
- Can I swim in the rivers, lakes and pools in the National Park?
- Can I wash clothes and utensils in the fountains, rivers, streams, lakes and pools in the National Park?
- Can I sail (canoes, boats, inflatables, etc.) on the rivers, lakes and pools in the National Park?
- Is canyoning allowed in the National Park?
- Can I do other extreme sports (riverboarding, base jumping, parachuting, bungee jumping, etc.) in the National Park?
- Is there hunting in the National Park? Is fishing allowed?
- What are the minimum safety requirements I need to bear in mind if I want to do a mountain trek in the National Park?
- Are the mountain shelters open all year round and how can I make a reservation?
- Is free climbing allowed in the National Park?
What do I need to know before visiting the National Park?
- Vehicles may only access the roads that cross the park and a small number of tracks. All other tracks are restricted to park services or to use by farmers and estate owners only and there are signs up to this effect.
- Almost the entire National Park can be accessed on foot, except for the nature reserves. In the restricted use areas, you must stay on the marked roads, paths and climbing tracks.
- You must always respect private property and close any gates for keeping livestock enclosed that you come across.
- You must not act in any way that disturbs the peace and quiet of this environment, particularly the livestock and wild fauna. Furthermore, you must be aware of and respect others who are enjoying the park.
- You must not pick specimens or natural materials, whether these are animal, vegetable or mineral in nature. The areas where local people are duly authorised to do this or there is a regulated research activity are exempt from this restriction.
- Do not use radios or other devices that make a noise of any kind.
- You must not draw or write on the rocks or trees. Outside the traditional village areas (the village centres), you must not, under any circumstances, undertake any activity that is likely to cause a forest fire. Gas stoves and charcoal barbecues may only be used in the open spaces within the recreational areas. If you witness the start of a forest fire, you must contact the park wardens or call the emergency services (Tel: 112) immediately. If you are close to the fire and physically able to do so, try to put the fire out.
- Keep the National Park clean. Whenever possible, take your rubbish away with you so that it can be recycled and only the minimum number of rubbish bins that are required can be provided. Please remember that you are not allowed to leave, put or throw any kind of rubbish outside the rubbish bins and containers.
- Dogs and other pets must be kept on a lead and stay with their owners, except for sheepdogs and working dogs.
- You are not allowed to swim in the lakes or rivers within the National Park. The only swimming areas are in the traditional village areas and there are signs informing you of where this is.
- You may not wash your vehicle. You may only wash utensils and clothes with soap. You are not allowed to use liquid detergents, bleach or any other cleaning products.
- So as not to destroy the clear views of the landscapes, you are not allowed to use kites, gas or hot air balloons, model airplanes (including drones) or hang gliders and paragliders.
- Extreme sports are not allowed in the National Park except with express and exceptional authorisation. These sports include canyoning, riverboarding, canoeing and rafting, etc.
- You are not allowed to camp in the wild. Bivouacking and camping at night are only authorised at heights of above 1,600 metres. Tents must be put up one hour before sunset and taken down one hour after sunrise.
- Brightly coloured parasols and sunshades are not allowed.
- Hunting and fishing are not allowed, except under the circumstances expressly regulated for in the current National Park standards.
- You must follow the instructions given by park wardens and other persons of authority about respecting the natural environment.
ENJOY YOUR VISIT TO THE PICOS DE EUROPA NATIONAL PARK!
How to get to the National Park
FROM THE REGION OF ASTURIAS:
From Oviedo, take the N-634 to Arriondas and from here the N-625 to Cangas de Onís. In Cangas there are two options: going south (Amieva (with access to the Angón valley and the spectacular “Arcediano trail”, taking the turning in Precendi towards San Román and Amieva, Sajambre and the Pontón mountain pass), take the N-625. Going north, head towards Soto de Cangas on the AS-114 where there is a new junction that takes you either towards Covadonga (take the AS-262 and then the CO-4 if you want to go to the Enol and La Ercina lakes), or take the AS-114 if you want to go towards Onís, Cabrales and both Peñamellera. In Arenas de Cabrales you can take a road that goes to Poncebos (starting point of the famous “Cares Trail” and location of the station at the bottom of the funicular railway that takes you to the unique village of Bulnes) and Camarmeña, with its famous viewpoint of the Urriellu peak. Continue on the AS-264 to Tielve and Sotres, where there are amazing landscapes to be seen (the latter is the starting point of the most commonly used footpath to Urriellu or “Naranjo de Bulnes”), and finally to Tresviso in Cantabria, where the road ends and the wonderful Urdón footpath begins (the path descends to the La Hermida gorge). If you continue on the AS-114 in Arenas towards Panes, you can take the road from Mildón to Oceño, where you can enter the National Park via Peñamellera Alta and where a new Y-shaped footpath has just been signposted to San Esteban de Cuñaba and Treviso, or you can continue on the road alongside the River Cares to Panes where you join up with the N-621, turning off in Rumenes and on to San Esteban de Cuñaba and Cuñaba in Peñamellera Baja, where the views are spectacular.
From Santander take the Autovía del Cantábrico (A-8) to Unquera and then the road that links with the N-621 to Panes; here you can either head towards Arenas de Cabrales on the AS-114 if you want to see the massifs from the north face up close (see the previous section), or you can continue on to Potes on the N-621 and do some of the aforementioned trips in the Cuñaba area (San Esteban and Cuñaba) or access the eastern massif from La Hermida on the road to Bejes. This is where the footpath to the amazing, high areas of Ándara starts. Alternatively you can get to Tresviso from Urdón on the aforementioned impressive footpath. Finally, if you continue on the N-621, from Potes you can access the southern slope of the Picos de Europa by taking a road towards Fuente Dé, the start of the amazing cable car, which covers almost 1000 metres in just a few minutes at the foot of the Peña Vieja. In Potes, you could also take the N-621 to the Valdeón and Sajambre regions, beyond the San Glorio mountain pass and La Reina in León, in the area of the National Park that is in León.
FROM LEÓN: (to the Valdeón and Sajambre region)
You can take the N-601 from León to Mansilla de las Mulas, where you link up with the N-625 and on towards Cistierna and Riaño.
In Riaño, continue on the N-625 towards Cangas de Onís and you will come to the Valdeón valley (Caldevilla, Soto, Posada, Prada, Santa Marina, Cordiñanes and Caín (the start of the “Cares Trail” through the part of the National Park that is in León)). Close to the top of the Pontón pass, take the LE-2711 towards the Panderruedas pass. If you continue on the N-625 through the Pontón pass, you will come to Oseja de Sajambre, the capital city in the municipal area of the same name, which stands entirely within the National Park. From Soto de Sajambre there are exceptional footpaths to the beautiful Majada de Vegabaño at the foot of the Santa peak. If you continue on this road, you will come to the abovementioned part of the park that is in Asturias.
You can also get to the Valdeón valley if you take the N-621 in Riaño towards Potes. In Portilla de la Reina take the road towards the Pandetrave pass and, from there, you can go on to Santa Marina and Posada de Valdeón within the National Park. Likewise, if you continue on the N-621 through Llánaves de la Reina and the San Glorio pass, you come to Potes, where you can access the part of the park that is in Cantabria, as previously described.
Getting to the park using public transport and regulations governing access to Los Lagos and Covadonga
You can take a bus or taxi from the surrounding villages to the National Park.
In order to protect the Picos de Europa National Park, a plan governing public transport access to the Covadonga Lakes is drawn up each year. This plan regulates access to the site (from the Covadonga roundabout), limiting the use of private vehicles (cars and motorbikes) and organising access via public transport on the busiest days during Easter, summer (usually from the last week in July to the first week in September, although this varies and details are published in the media) and national bank holidays in Spain. Throughout the rest of the year there are no restrictions on accessing the lakes in your own vehicle, although the National Park board may implement complementary regulations with temporary restrictions if the road to the lakes becomes blocked.
Buses may not enter the car park next to La Ercina lake and should park in the designated services area in Buferrera. When access is restricted, private buses must obtain authorisation prior to entering the Covadonga lakes area. Authorisation can be obtained from the Asturias Transport Consortium (CTA) (Tel: +34 985 105858; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Please note that access to the Covadonga shrine is open all year round, although on very busy days this depends on the number of car parking spaces available in the shrine car park.
Can I camp in the National Park?
You may only camp in the Picos de Europa National Park in the authorised campsites and in the areas immediately surrounding the villages (fields in the village centre). You must have prior authorisation from the owners to do this.
Outside these restricted areas, you may only camp when trekking through the massifs, it suddenly becomes dark and you are walking above a height of 1,600 metres, in which case you are allowed to bivouac (tents must not be put up earlier than one hour before sunset and they must be taken down no later than one hour after sunrise). Similarly, if there are no spaces left in a shelter, tents may be put up around the hut to accommodate up to10% of the total number of people who can sleep in the shelter. Tents must be put up and taken down in accordance with the bivouac rules (tents cannot remain up during the day).
Camps for young people and similar activities can only take place in the areas around the village centres, as previously described. These activities must be authorised by the relevant departments for young people within the regions and the department in charge of managing the National Park.
The complaints most often received from the National Park wardens and the nature protection service in Spain (SEPRONA) are related to unauthorised camps.
Can I light fires in the National Park?
No. Lighting fires is strictly forbidden by the environmental protection regulations. Fire can only be used for management purposes by the National Park board at very specific times and in a very controlled manner.
Can I drink the water from the fountains, streams and rivers in the National Park?
All fountains outside the villages are designated as “water not monitored for health purposes” (many of them, in particular those that are most easily accessed, have signs to this effect). This does not mean that the water cannot be drunk, but as regular health controls cannot be carried out to assess the quality of the water for drinking, its quality cannot be guaranteed. The water in lower areas, where there are larger numbers of animals, is obviously not as clean as the water in the higher areas. Each individual will react differently depending on how used they are to drinking water from these areas.
Is there mobile phone coverage in the National Park?
Generally speaking, mobile phone masts cannot be installed inside the National Park and outside the villages due to landscape conservation criteria. Nevertheless, there is mobile phone reception in many parts of the National Park from one company or another. If you move just a few metres (especially in areas of the National Park that look towards external valleys), you will get some reception. In a large part of the park however, there is enough reception to make emergency calls (Tel:112).
Can I bring my pet to the National Park?
All kinds of pets must be suitably controlled by their owner (i.e. they must be on a lead). The National Park is covered by a special hunting scheme, and given the large numbers of livestock that roam the park at certain times of the year, pets should not be allowed to bother these animals.
Can I collect plants, flowers or their propagule, animals, their eggs or babies, or geological elements from the National Park?
These activities are not allowed in protected areas in accordance with general nature conservation legislation in Spain and the specific National Park regulations.
Can I release animals or bring plants into the National Park?
No. These activities are forbidden in order to prevent the risk of passing diseases on to native flora and fauna and to avoid hybridization or competition that could result in the degeneration of species.
Can motor vehicles (cars, 4×4 vehicles, motorbikes, quad bikes, etc.) be driven on the paths and roads around the National Park?
Notwithstanding users who are expressly authorised to do so (land owners, farmers and others who are entitled to do so, drivers of public vehicles expressly authorised by the National Park board and government services), this type of vehicle may only be driven on the very small number of tracks expressly indicating that this is allowed. These vehicles are therefore forbidden on all other tracks. If you cannot see a sign authorising you to pass, do not continue on the track, as you may be reported by the National Park wardens or SEPRONA.
Cross-country driving is, of course, not allowed.
When you come to a sign indicating that you may not continue with your vehicle, you must take great care to park in such a way that it does not block the path for emergency vehicles (ambulances, fire engines, etc.).
Can I ride a mountain bike in the National Park?
Only and exclusively on the tracks that are authorised for motor vehicles and where there are no signs forbidding mountain bikes.
You must remember that narrow tracks and paths are not trails (a trail is an infrastructure built using machinery to level off and fill in gaps and it has structural elements, such as bridges, water channels, ditches, etc.).
Finally, you are not allowed to ride a mountain bike cross-country or on narrow tracks and paths, as mentioned. Riding a mountain bike on the “Cares Trail”, the “Arcediano Trail”, the “Urdón Trail” and others is strictly forbidden, as there is a huge risk of riding into other walkers or having an accident yourself.
Can I fly over the National Park (plane, light aircraft, helicopter, balloon, drone, hang glider, paraglider, wingsuits, etc.)?
No. In accordance with Law 30/2014 of 3 December on National Parks (section 7.3.e), flying over National Parks at a height of below 3,000 metres is not allowed, except when you have express authorisation or for reasons of force majeure. Any activity of this kind therefore requires prior authorisation from the National Park board. Authorisation will only be given for conservation activities, the protection of natural resources or infrastructures, supplying shelters or for carrying out authorised works and, exceptionally, to monitor authorised activities when essential or similar activities.
Using drones without authorisation from the National Park board is also forbidden, due to the damage that could be caused to flora, fauna, livestock or other users within the protected area.
Can I take photos and freely record videos in the National Park?
Yes, provided that they are for private use. Filming and taking photos for commercial purposes requires prior authorisation from the National Park board.
Can I swim in the rivers, lakes and pools in the National Park?
No. Swimming is not allowed so as to prevent changes to the natural conditions in the aquatic habitat.
Can I wash clothes and utensils in the fountains, rivers, streams, lakes and pools in the National Park?
These activities are only allowed if you use neutral soap (bars of traditional soap). Using liquid detergents and other cleaning products is strictly forbidden.
We strongly recommend however that you do not wash clothes and utensils in this way, except when strictly necessary during treks in the high mountains that last several days.
Can I sail (canoes, boats, inflatables, etc.) on the rivers, lakes and pools in the National Park?
No. This is not allowed.
Is canyoning allowed in the National Park?
No. Due to the changes that this type of activity can cause to the aquatic environment and to the very special flora close to the rivers and ledges, this activity is not allowed.
The National Park board may, exceptionally, authorise this kind of activity if it is related to scientific studies or work that cannot be undertaken in any other way.
Can I do other extreme sports (riverboarding, base jumping, parachuting, bungee jumping, etc.) in the National Park?
For similar reasons to those already described, these activities are not allowed.
Is there hunting in the National Park? Is fishing allowed?
Exceptionally, hunting still takes place in the part of the National Park that is in León and, in terms of wild boar, in the section of the park that is in Cantabria. This is the situation, as the central government still has to acquire the hunting rights from the holders (the town councils).
During the hunting season (in terms of beating, which is usually from the end of September to February), the organisers are obliged to signpost the access points to the hunting areas in order to warn other potential users or walkers. Further information can be obtained from the National Park offices.
Once the acquisition of these rights progresses (the result of an agreed process and following substantial compensation), the “control system” comes into force whereby, exceptionally, population control activities may be performed on species where there is a population imbalance (overpopulation), there is a risk to people, livestock or crops, or where other species at risk of extinction are negatively affected. These population controls are carried out by specialised workers and require both technical and scientific justification.
Fishing for sporting or commercial purposes is likewise not allowed in the National Park, except, temporarily, in the area of the park in León and only catch and release. This activity must be carried out in accordance with the annual regulations to the extent that it is not standardised with the general criteria governing the rest of the Park and established by Law 30/2014.
What are the minimum safety requirements I need to bear in mind if I want to do a mountain trek in the National Park?
Taking into account that risk prevention is, primarily, the individual’s responsibility, the following summary applies:
– Always carry a coat and wear suitable shoes. The cold and rain can take you by surprise at any time.
– Be aware of your own strength. If your physical ability is at all in doubt, do not attempt a trek that requires huge physical effort.
– Drinking water can be very scarce in summer and autumn. The water here is untreated water. It is a good idea to carry enough water for the type of walk you are doing.
– Fog is your worst enemy in high mountains and whiteouts or sudden, thick fog are very common in the Picos. Even if you think you know the area, it is better to wait for the fog to lift and look for some kind of shelter or protection before it closes in.
– Physical effort will always weaken you, and this is particularly true in this complicated landscape. Always carry a snack with you.
– If you get lost, look for shelter close by and wait to be rescued.
– If you intend to tackle the crag on your own, you must leave a note in the shelters, on the dashboard of your car and/or with your family, of your itinerary and the length of time you expect to be away.
–Mobile phone reception is limited in the park, so you must not rely entirely on being able to warn the emergency services of a situation from all locations. It is always a good idea to take your phone with you however. In the event of an emergency, call the emergency phone number (112).
– In winter, there is a high risk of avalanches following periods of heavy snow and changes in weather conditions. The Spanish meteorological office (AEMET) produces a specific weather forecast for Picos de Europa (link!), which includes information about the avalanche risk. Further information can be obtained from the emergency services and the National Park offices.
Are the mountain shelters open all year round and how can I make a reservation?
The shelters are not open all year round. Opening times depend on the wardens’ working period, which, generally speaking, runs from just before Easter to the December bank holiday (6-8 December). There is one room in all the shelters that can be accessed (bivouac area), with bunk beds and blankets for emergency situations.
You can contact the shelters and reserve a place on their respective websites, where you will find email addresses and mobile and landline numbers.
Ándara shelter (Municipal area of Cillorigo de Liébana):
Tel: +34 635425228
Email: not yet available
Cabaña Verónica shelter (Municipal area of Camaleño):
Tel: +34 619618175
Email: not available
Collado Jermoso shelter (Municipal area of Posada de Valdeón):
Tel: +34 636998727
Jou de los Cabrones shelter (Municipal area of Cabrales):
Tel: +34 985925200 / +34 650780381
Email: not available
La Terenosa shelter (Municipal area of Cabrales):
Tel: +34 630552016
Email: not available
Vegabaño shelter (Municipal area of Oseja de Sajambre):
Tel: +34 699633244
Vegarredonda shelter (Municipal area of Cangas de Onís):
Tel: +34 985922952 / +34 626343366
Vega de Ario shelter (Municipal area of Onís):
Tel: +34 984092000 / +34 656843095
Vega de Enol shelter (Municipal area of Cangas de Onís):
Tel: +34 985942828
Vega de Urriellu shelter (Municipal area of Cabrales):
Tel: +34 984090981 / +34 638278041 / +34 650780381
Email: contact via the website
Is free climbing allowed in the National Park?
Yes, within the already established climbing routes. All new routes must be assessed in advance for the potential impact they may have on the environment.
The National Park board may temporarily close climbing routes for environmental reasons (generally speaking, the breeding of birds). Notices will be placed on site informing visitors of this situation and the areas will be monitored by park wardens.