There are three main things you should know before camping in Picos de Europa:
- If it is legal to camp in Picos de Europa
- If it is safe to camp in Picos de Europa
- Whether there are huts and refuges or not
These free questions answered you will be ready to decide how you want to hike in Picos de Europa. Backpacking in Picos de Europa is an incredible experience, and definitely something you should try out, but not while breaking the rules!
Can you camp in Picos de Europa?
First, let’s talk about the penal part of camping. There are lots of places in Europe where wild camping is not allowed. On the other hand, bivouac (one-night camps) are usually allowed. What are the rules in Spain? What do you risk if you wild camp? Can you camp in Picos de Europa?
You cannot camp in Picos de Europa. Wild camping is not allowed, even for one night. You can only pitch your tent above 1,600 meters, and only for one night. This means that bivouacking is allowed above 1,600 meters, but that everything else is forbidden.
To avoid issues with local authorities, you should only pitch your tent at night and above the legal limitation and take it down at dawn. This way, you do not disturb anyone.
We can safely say that wild camping is tolerated in Spain. But since Picos de Europa is a national park, with natural reserves inside it, you should be careful where you pitch your tent. You take the risk of paying a fine between 30€ and 800€.
Is it safe to do wild camping in Picos de Europa?
Beyond the rules, there are also other things you should know before camping in Picos de Europa. There are two different points which could repel you from camping: the weather, and the wildlife. Let’s start with the weather.
In Picos de Europa, the weather can change very quickly. It can be sunny, rainy, and snowy on the same day! Since you can only bivouac above 1,600 meters, it is important that, at this altitude, the weather varies even more. During the night, it can get very cold and wet, even during summer.
Summer is the best time to visit Picos de Europa because the temperatures should not fall under 15°C at sea level. This also means that they can fall at around 5°C at high altitudes! Summer is also the busiest season, so the prices of the camping sites and refuges can increase.
Winter is another type of experience for Picos de Europa. If you are a hiker who loves snow, it is a great place to hike. However, for beginner hikers, the best is simply to wait for summer.
The fauna of Picos de Europa is extremely rich. You can expect to see cows, sheep, sheepdogs, foxes, wolves, and bears. Wolves and bears are the two species that could get you in trouble.
Normally, those two species are afraid of humans and will never approach you. Such a situation only happens if the wolves or the bears smell your food. However, unlike in Alaska or on Vancouver Island, there are no bear boxes to hide your food for the night.
This means that, if you choose to wild camp, you will probably have your food in the tent too. This is totally normal. Since it can rain, you do not want your food to rot. But the bears may smell your food. Since they do not see you while you are sleeping in a tent, they could get close to the tent.
Basically, the combination of weather and wildlife make wild camping in Picos de Europa unsafe. You won’t probably wake up inside a cloud in front of a bear. However, the apparition of clouds is very common in Picos de Europa. This is due to the altitude and the atmosphere.
Are there camping sites in the Peaks of Europe?
Since it is not totally safe to go wild camping in Picos de Europa, maybe you should change your plans and choose camping sites and refuges. But is it possible? Are there refugios and (mountain huts) in Picos de Europa?
There are a lot of refugio accommodations (refuges or mountain huts) in Picos de Europa. Hikers should book their night in advance during the summer season because there are lots of tourists.
To make your planification easier, I summarized all the refugios of Picos de Europa in the following table. First, note that hikers should always bring their sleeping bags.
All the accommodations in Picos de Europa
|Refugio name||Massif||Opening date||Location||Phone number|
|Vegarredonda||Western massif||March||2 hours 30 minutes from lake Enol, heading to Ordiales viewpoint and Hou Santu||(+34) 985 929 952|
|Vega de Ario (or Pedro Pidal)||Western massif||May to October||2 hours 30 minutes from lake Ercina, heading to Jultayo peak, and the Canal de Trea descent into the Cares gorge||(+34) 639 812 069|
|Vegavaño||Western massif||Mid-March to Mid-January||In the forests above Soto de Sajambre||(+34) 699 633 244|
|Cabaña de pastores||Western massif||Mid-June to Mid-September||Near lake Enol||(+34) 985 849 261|
|Vega Uriellu (or Julian Delgado Ubeda)||Central massif||All year||At the foot of Picu Uriellu (the Naranjo de Bulnes)||(+34) 985 925 200|
|Hou los Cabrones (or José Ramón Lueje)||Central massif||May to October||Near Torrecerredo||(+34) 650 780 381|
|Collado Jermoso (or Diego Mella)||Central massif||May to October||Near Torre Palanca and Llambrión||(+34) 616 904 353|
|Terenosa||Central massif||May to October||Between Bulnes and Sotres, heading to the Uriellu area||(+34) 985 252 362|
|Hotel de Aliva||Central massif||May to September||Puerto de Áliva s/n, 39588 Puerto de Aliva||(+34) 942 730 999|
|El Redondo||Central massif||Open all year||On the campsite at Fuente De||(+34) 942 736 699|
|Andara||Eastern massif||Open all year||Old mine building at the foot of the peaks above Sotres||(+34) 985 846 487|
|Albergue Peña Castil||Eastern massif||In the village of Sotres||(+34) 985 945 040|
Hiking in Picos de Europa
Now that you know everything about camping in Picos de Europa, you are ready to start your hike. The first thing I want to share about this topic is some inspiration from the best hiking filmmaker Kraig Adams. He hikes there back in September 2019 and you can see the result in the following video. I already talked about Kraig Adams in another article about Adirondacks.
As you have seen in the video, Picos de Europa (or Peaks of Europe in English, or Picos for the locals) are a great national park. The Picos de Europa mountain range is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site on its own like Yosemite Valley, Uluru, Grand Canyon, Ha Long Bay, and Iguazu Falls, but it is still a scenic mountain range.
Activities in the Picos
There are tons of activities you can do in the area, like trekking, ultra trails, climbing, via ferrata, cycling, kayaking. What I would recommend is to do the activities you like according to your level.
For instance, if you are with children, maybe the best is to start with easy hikes, or even guided tours to do some guided hiking. Then, if you are a hardened hiker, you can do multi-day hikes, and try to climb the highest peak of Picos de Europa culminating at 2,650 meters. Torre de Cerredo is the highest peak in Picos de Europa and you will need to do some climbing to reach the top.
Finally, if you are more of a runner, you can do treks and even the ultra trail of Picos de Europa, but you will need to be ready for that!
Picos de Europa in the Asturias is just a breathtaking place full of life and activities. Now that you know everything about hiking and camping in the Picos, it’s time to get there!