Aigüestortes Hikes – Cavallers to Estany Negre

Aigüestortes Hikes – Cavallers to Estany Negre

Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park - Amazing walk to a black lake in the PyreneesReady to see another Gorgeous hike in the Pyrenees? Our next adventure was a giant loop within Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park. As the hike we did was immense, (and jelly leg inducing), I’ll split it up to write about it. This is the first section between two lakes; It’s called the Route of the Marmot from Estany de Cavallers to Estany Negre and Refugi Ventosa i Calvell.

Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park is one of Spain’s 15 National Parks, and the only one located in Catalonia. The park is famous for it’s hundreds of lakes (or estany in Catalan) so you will see plenty of gorgeous Pyrenees rocky slopes reflected in these lakes. The main two access points for Aigüestortes are from the Vall de Boí in the West, or from Epsot in the East. As we were staying in the Vall de Boí, we started by exploring the West side of this ridiculously beautiful region.

Route of the Marmot trail map

Estany de Cavallers to Estany Negre – The basics

Estany de Cavallers to Estany Negre and Refugi Ventosa i Calvell hike mapDistance: 11 km (return)  
Elevation Gain: 
High Point: 
2214 (at Refugi Ventosa i Calvell)
Time: 6 hours
What to bring:
Water, snacks and your camera!
Hiking sticks were helpful as the path is soggy at some points.
The 10 essentials.
Okay but keep them on a leash.
How hard is it?
Moderate. It’s not technical but it is a bit of a slog. If you’re not used to hiking you may find this difficult.
Maps: Spain has fantastic maps that you can download or use the Mapas de España app. We used a mixture of that, Maps Me and hard copies of maps that my mum brought.

Getting to Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

Hike or cycle:
There are car parks near most of the entrances to Aigüestortes, so you can park and hike in. For example you can park near Caldes de Boí and hike up to Estany de Cavallers. It will take 2 hours for you to walk the 6km (gaining 430m in elevation)

4×4 Taxis:
Private Vehicles can’t drive into the park, but there are fantastic taxi services from Boí or Epsot. The 4×4 Taxis in Boí can take you to either Estany de Cavallers, or over to the Aigüestortes plateau. We used this service to start our hike from Estany de Cavallers. It cost €12 each (one way.)

Park Bus:
If you visit from June to September there is a Park Bus which will take you to the various entrances around Aigüestortes. This would be great if you want to hike in one way, and out via another. You can find  the Park bus timetable here.

La Vall Fosca Cable Car:
If you fancy a different walk, you can take a cable car up into Aigüestortes for €18 return. See details and time here.

Estany de Cavallers – Getting Started

We cheated and took the taxi up to the Estany de Cavaller (Cavallers Reservoir) to start our hike. We’d planned a pretty epic route, and we had limited time, so we didn’t want to exhaust our legs before the hike had actually started! This meant our walk began with views like this:

It is quite shady around the Cavallers Reservoir early in the morning, but the reflections were fantastic. The route starts by walking around the reservoir on a wide, easy to follow path.

Route of the Marmot

Since we returned, I have found out that this walk is called Route of the Marmot. We didn’t see any Marmots along our hike, but it did seem like ideal terrain for them. Maybe the cows had scared them all away. Route of the Cows might be a more appropriate name as there were cows (wearing massive cowbells) in all directions. Can you see the cow silhouette below?

Pyrenean cow etiquette

Mum’s hiking guidebook said we should always stick to the paths and stay at least 10m away from the cows. Cattle can be very dangerous, especially in the summertime when the mothers are protecting their calves. The thing is, the cows seemed to really like the hiking paths, and they were so numerous that we couldn’t always keep a safe distance.

Plateau of Riumalo

There is a bit of a climb up to the plateau of Riumalo. The views back to Cavallers Reservoir improve with each switchback. Then, once you reach the plateau, you’ll be greeted by more cows and fabulous views. Cross the stream (there is a footbridge) and then continue in the same direction, across the plateau with steep mountains in all directions.

This is the view looking back on the plateau once we started to climb above it. You can see two hikers behind us for scale. For some reason, all the other Spanish hikers we met wore incredibly bright colours. It must look like a rainbow earlier in the year when there are more people on the trails.

Cascada de Riumalo Waterfall

We saw a few good waterfalls on our way up. This was the best one with several giant steps up. You get to walk over the top of it higher up the trail(!) This part of the trail is called Llastres de la Morta (literally “the ballasts of the deceased,”) possibly because it gets quite steep!?

Cows on the move

So, I mentioned that you are supposed to stay on the trail aaaand stay 10m away from the cows; Well that is not always possible! The pathway narrows through a boulder-filled area surrounded by cliffs. As we were about to climb up, bell (and moo) sounds warned us that a group of cows was using the path. We had to quickly scamper up some boulders to get out of their way.

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After that, there was a giant cow conga line the whole way up the mountain. The cows use the hiking path, as it is the easiest route, so there was very little room for us! We had to climb up mini waterfalls and boulders to leave the switchbacks free for our musical cow friends. Once we made it to the top of the waterfall, most of the cows were below us, apart from one cow-lady who stood at the top of the cliff bellowing. I guess she felt she’d been left behind?

From the top of the waterfall you need to keep your eyes peeled for the little wooden posts with yellow markers that show the route. The path is rocky, but the views keep getting better as you see more of the mountain tops.

First view of Estany Negre

In no time at all we could look down on the Estany Negre or Black Lake. The shadows make the mountain behind look black, but the “black Lake” looked like a beautiful shade of blue to me. In any case, it is a stunning location; Definitely worth the effort!

After our first view of the lake, we dropped down a little and the path became a little easier. I was then blown away by our first view of Agulles de Travessani! It looks a bit like a giant Stegosaurus in the distance.

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We could also see our destination, Refugi Ventosa i Calvell. We just had to hike around to it.

Mini detour for lake views

However (as always) we were distracted by a pathway leading upwards. We decided to take a mini detour up to the top of the nearest ridge to see the views to the west. Once we made it up there, we got to see Agulles de Travessani reflected into this mini lake.  Isn’t it stunning?

This is the (very rocky) view in the other direction. I am looking really happy to be in the mountains, and because we’re about to reach the Refugi and lunch!

This is Marc’s photo back from the Refugi, looking back the way we had just hiked. I have to admit, the Estany Negre does look more like a black lake from up here.

Refugi Ventosa i Calvell

We made it to Refugi Ventosa i Calvell in just over 2.5 hours, despite plenty of stops to take photos of the cows. The refugi is in a stunning location, and has picnic benches as well as running water. It looks like a fantastic place to sleep if you were doing a multi-day hike. It costs €31 to stay overnight, including breakfast.

They did sell food, so if you wanted to do a long distance hike, you could manage without carrying too much grub. I loved that they had a dino in their flower box too.

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This hike would be fantastic as an out-and-back walk if you decided to return to Cavallers Reservoir from here. However we had searched various maps to find a larger, circular walk so we carried on along the Carros de Foc route towards the next refugi. I’ll tell you about that more in my next post!

What do you think? Have I convinced you that you need to go hiking in the Spanish Pyrenees yet? If you like the look of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, you can find more information, a map and a great list of walks (including this one) on this fantastic leaflet.

Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park - Amazing walk to a black lake in the Pyrenees Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park in Catalonia Aigüestortes - Catalonia's prettist lakes - perfect for hikes

48 thoughts on “Aigüestortes Hikes – Cavallers to Estany Negre

  1. Amazing photos. Your walks just seem to get better and better. Love the lakes and the views, absolutely spectacular as always. Do you ever stop hiking? Fantastic.

    1. Thanks Jonno! This one is good isn’t it? Spain’s national parks are seriously amazing. I feel soooo lucky that we were able to explore here.

  2. This hike looks so beautiful, and full of cute cows haha! I know it’s not recommended to be near the calves but how cute are they?? Beautiful views, love it!

  3. So many cows! I love cows, even though I know to give them space, although it doesn’t look like that was always an easy thing to accomplish. Keep these posts coming, I can’t get enough of the beautiful pictures

    1. Yay! Thanks Emma!

      They didn’t see too bad for us (apart from the conga line where we had to climb up some rocks to get out the way!) One pushed my poor dad over though. He was in the middle of a grassy field, and it just walked over and pushed him aside. 🙁

    1. Oooh you lucky thing! We LOVED the whole area, but I think Aigüestortes was my favourite spot for hiking. It’s gorgeous from the other entrance at Epsot as well (if you get the chance to explore)

  4. I just love yours posts! I like the mini lake area, that looked like a great place to stop and take in the scenery. Of all the amazing hikes you have done, which one is your favorite?

  5. Yes! I always love seeing another gorgeous hike in the Pyrenees! I always love seeing all the fun hikes you do. This one looks like no exception. I like all the cows and the Cavallers Reservoir looked gorgeous!

    1. It’s pretty mad that you can catch a ride the whole way up to the Cavallers Reservoir isn’t it!? It means everyone can see those gorgeous views, even if they are unable to hike far.

  6. So many cows! This reminds me of trekking in Nepal and running into the yak trains — the guides always tell you to stay to the inside of the cliff and let them pass. They could pretty easily push you over the edge!

    1. Squeeee I would LOVE to go hiking in Nepal! I have heard that you need to stay on the inside of donkeys and Yaks, but it must be strange to share the trail with them!!

  7. You’ve definitely convinced me I need to hike in the Spanish Pyrenees! This is another gorgeous looking hike. There are so many cows! They look unavoidable but hopefully pretty chill. I love the name Route of the Marmot though so it’s too bad that you didn’t come across any. Looking forward to reading about the next stage of this hike.

    1. I wasn’t *tooo* sad as we saw marmots a few days before this. 😀

      Also, yaaaay that you like the idea of visiting the Spanish Pyrenees. You have amaaazing photos so I would love to follow your adventure. You will love it.

  8. While I am not sure I have enough endurance to hike 6 hours, the views look absolutely incredible and omg the cows are so cute! It looks like it could be hard to keep a safe distance but thank you for mentioning it. I would love to check this hike out one day!

    1. Yeah, you don’t have much choice when they walk right next to you! Those horns were huge too! We were glad we are getting good at climbing up rocks!! 😉

  9. Love the company from the “locals” but too bad they wouldn’t share the path! This hike looks seriously incredible, though I have to say my legs are aching at the thought of it haha!

    1. I have to admit we ended up walking pretty slowly past all those cows. They can be so photogenic!

      p.s. I am sure your legs would be fine. You are an epic hiking superstar!

  10. How do you always find the most gorgeous locations for your hikes?! Beautiful views as always! Funny that even though you were trying to stay away from the cows, they seem to be wanting to follow you on your hikes!

    1. Thanks lovely! I think the cows were just being sensible. The human path was much easier to walk on than the grassy/rocky areas around it!

  11. I can’t believe you started the hike with those amazing views!! The reflection on that reservoir is incredible, just like glass! This definitely looks like somewhere I’d like to visit 🙂

    1. It’s a good starting point isn’t it! 😀
      To be honest though, the entire valley was beautiful! We could have walked the whole way from our accommodation and still been impressed with all the views!!

  12. I’ve never really associated Spain with Mountains, I’m so used to going to places like Barcelona! It doesn’t look like there were any other people on the trails too which must’ve been nice to have it to yourself. That hidden lake is beautiful too!

    1. It’s funny isn’t it. We flew into Barcelona, so this isn’t even far away from there (about 3.5 hours drive.)

      I think the trails might be busier in the summertime, but it was super quiet by September.

  13. I love the photos and I totally believe that the hike is worth the effort, but my main question is: How do you pronounce “Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park”? I can do “National Park”, but the rest?

    1. Thanks Carol! Yeah my parents are in their 70s, so they skipped this one too. There was a fab, flat path on the other side of the park though. If you do visit the area, you could always visit that. 🙂

  14. Wow just stunning, I love the photos and the little building looked so inviting. Those cows sure have a beautiful life. I’m heading to Europe next year so will definitely be checking your blog and seeing what to do. Thanks so much for sharing.

  15. As always the journey is wonderful and pictures are enticing. But this one is special as there are cows around. If my son where here he would have enjoyed chasing them. Lol I’m glad the cows didn’t chase you guys.

    1. One knocked my dad over on the other side of the park! I did love seeing them, but we did our best to stay out of their way.

  16. I am just chiming in to say that cows on the trail are my least favorite hiking encounter and they are definitely out to kill me. They give me the stink eye, I am on their list

    1. They are good at the stink eye aren’t they!! You might be okay with these dudes though. They were very serious about getting grass into their bellies. Mostly they didn’t want to even look up at us.

      Apart from the cow conga lines. They didn’t give the stink eye, but they would make eye contact and just walk straight for you. We just had to get out of their way, or get trampled.

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