A River Runs Through It – Caminito Del Rey – Ardales, Spain
We’re loving every second, and every shawarma, of Granada – but we’re also really digging the scenery of Andalucia. The day trips to Gibraltar and Ronda had us itching to spend another day out of town. A Google search for “best hikes in Andalucia” (not to spill the secret sauce, but this is how 90% of Where’s Chevin adventures begin) led us to Caminito Del Rey.
Caminito Del Rey is a walkway that hugs the walls of the El Chorro Gorge at heights of up to 330 feet over the turquoise river below. This is about as high as we were suspended over the Shotover Canyon in New Zealand. It’s pretty damn high. The original trail was built over 100 years ago for workers of the hydroelectric plants on either side of the gorge to have a quick way to get across. That trail was just a 3 foot wide concrete path with a handrail. In recent years, parts of that path have deteriorated to the point of there being no concrete, just steel support beams. This attracted thrill seekers, resulting in a number of deaths, and the trail being declared the world’s most dangerous walkway in 2000. The Spanish government stepped in, built a fancy new walkway along the gorge, and as of 2015, everyone can have a reasonably safe visit to this beautiful place.
This wasn’t your typical hike where you venture out into nature and explore on your own. To walk the trail, you have to reserve a spot at a set time. We showed up for our 10:15 timeslot with about 50 other people, were given hard hats and instructions (no selfie sticks allowed – finally a selfie stick free zone!) and were released into the gorge. The first part of the trail was a narrow boardwalk that offers great views of the turquoise water of the river running below. The slats in the wood allow you to appreciate how high up you are. You also appreciate the new trail – between the slats you can see what remains of the old trail, just a few feet underneath. After a few kilometers, the gorge opens up into a valley and the trail turns into a stony walkway with benches in the shade. Most people took this as an opportunity to rest, but we saw it as our chance to break away from the crowd! We picked up the pace and passed several groups before finally having the trail to ourselves.
Less than a kilometer later, the gorge closed back up and the boardwalk 300 feet above the river returned. This section was even better – there was a glass-floor section hanging out over the river. Shortly after, there was a suspension bridge that crosses the gorge! How they build this stuff into the side of a cliff is a mystery to us. Traffic slowed at this point – people seemed nervous to cross. We took advantage of other people’s nerves and jumped ahead to cross the bridge. Crossing was a bit scary! The wind was whipping and it felt like it could blow you over. With one hand on our hard hats and the other on the railing, we made our way across. The picture was taken just after the bridge crossing – we were still at one of the highest points on the walkway as we exited the gorge.
Caminito Del Rey definitly isn’t the world’s most dangerous walkway anymore, but by the looks of what remains of the original, we don’t doubt that it once was. The new trail is still high, narrow, and quite intimidating. While the thrill seekers are probably sad to see the old trail go, we’re glad that it was renovated so we could experience the hidden beauty of the El Chorro Gorge.