Sant Maurici Lake Loop via Refugi Amitges
Just in case I did not already convince everyone I know to visit the Spanish Pyrenees, I’d like to share another beautiful walk. This adventure explores the most famous lake in the area, Estany de Sant Maurici. This hike is a bit easier than my previous Pyrenees walks; So if you are vaguely fit, you’ll be able to manage it. Our route goes around Lake Sant Maurici, then we walked up to Refugi Amitges (via the Carros de Foc trail), then returned on the opposite side of the lake via the Mirador de l’Estany viewpoint. This loop involves waterfalls, spectacular lakes, two refuges and mountain scenery that will make you go “squeeee.”
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). This is also one of the best spots to see the beautiful ‘Enchanted Mountains’.
Sant Maurici Lake Loop Map
Sant Maurici Lake Loop – The basics
Distance: 10 km as a loop
Elevation Gain: 463m
High Point: 2370m (at Refugi d’Amitges)
Time: 4-5 hours
What to bring:
Water, snacks and your camera!
Hiking sticks were helpful if you have ouchy knees!
The 10 essentials.
Must stay on a leash.
How hard is it?
Moderate. There is a bit of elevation gain, but it’s not too long and the views will keep you going. I did this hike when I was a bit poorly, so you can do this!
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 Estany de Sant Maurici
As I mentioned in my previous post, there are a few ways to get to the start of your hike.
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 at Llac Sant Maurici car park. It will take an 1 hour to walk the 4km (gaining 250m in elevation)
Private Vehicles can’t drive into the park, but there are fantastic taxi services from Boí or Espot. The 4×4 Taxis in Espot can take you to either Estany de Sant Maurici, or even all the way up to the Refugi Amitges. We used this service to start our hike from Estany de Sant Maurici. It cost €10.5 each (both ways.) The taxis pick people up every hour to bring them down again (so 3pm, 4pm, 5pm and 6pm.) The service is really easy to use.
Sant Maurici Lake Loop – Getting started
The 4×4 taxi drops people off right next to Estany de Sant Sant Maurici. So you’ll be treated to gorgeous views like this right from the start of the walk. There are several options for loops around the lake. You can take it easy and stay on the low path, or follow our (still easy-ish) route up high to Refugi Amitges via the Carros de Foc trail. There are also multiple possible ways to return, depending on your energy levels.
Cascada de Ratera
The path starts off under trees, so it’s not too hot. Every so often you can peek down at Sant Maurici Lake and the gorgeous mountains. The path follows switchbacks up to the pretty Cascada de Ratera waterfall.
Keep going beyond the waterfall. You’ll soon emerge above the main forest to see the fantastic views of the sub-alpine area of the National Park. Looking back you get your first full view of the twin peaks of the Enchanted Mountains. *swoons*
Eastany de Ratera
The hike up to the refuge goes past quite a few picturesque lakes. First you’ll see Estany de Ratera. I loved the way it is such a good backdrop for the huge rocky peaks behind it. Follow the path around the lake and keep climbing to the next ridge.
Estanyola de Ratera
Next there is a smaller lake, Estanyola de Ratera. This also has a perfect background of Pyrenees peaks. You can turn left here to return to Lake Sant Maurici via a pretty viewpoint, or keep heading up on the Carros de foc trail.
Carros de foc
Just in case you missed my other post about this, the Carros de Foc is a truly epic mid-distance hike that connects the 9 mountain refuges in the Aigüestortes i Llac de Sant Maurici National Park. It covers 55km with 9200m of elevation gain(!) Most people take 5-7 days to walk it, but some Sky Runners do the entire thing in a day. Carros de foc means “Chariots of fire” in Catalan, so if you see chariots of fire related images along the route, that is why!
The whole section of this walk up to the refuge is part of the Carros de foc trail. It was also much easier than the previous section we had attempted.
Estany de la Bassa
This is the next small lake along the trail. This one is teeny but seemed to be keeping the grass green, and the cows happy.
There are quite a few switchbacks, so each time you turn around, you see better views of the spiky-topped Pyrenees.
This gives you an idea about the trail up to Refugi Amitges. You can pay for a ride the whole way up this bumpy road, if you don’t think you can walk this far, but you still want to take in the views.
I already thought Refugi Ventosa i Calvell was impressive, but the views of Refugi Amitges blew me away. Just look at this location!
We’d bought sandwiches (pan con queso) down in Espot, so we spent some time out on the balcony enjoying the views. There were quite a few staff at the refuge, and the beds looked clean (and super comfy.) It looked like it would be a truly fantastic place to stay overnight.
This is the view down to the Enchanted Mountains from Refugi Amitges’ balcony.
Then as you come out of the front door, this is the epic view that greets you.
From this point, there are a couple of different possible ways to continue your Lake Sant Maurici Loop. We decided to keep going to Estany de les Obagues de Ratera, another beautiful mountain lake. We descended a little, and then followed the a contour around a headland. Once again, the views were spectacular.
Estany de les Obagues de Ratera
Now you can probably tell from my overexposed photos, but it was SUCH a bright sunny day. It was so bright that I felt like I wasn’t wearing sun glasses, even when they were on my face! I had been sick the previous day, and I hadn’t quite recovered, so we had to sit in the shade for a while by this lake for me to hydrate and feel better. It was a pretty stunning spot to relax.
Vall de Ratera
However, we knew we wanted to take the taxi back down to Espot, so we soon sped back up to hike along the gorgeous Ratera valley.
Mirador de l’Estany
This is one of the best viewpoints on our Lake Sant Maurici Loop. Even if you don’t want to hike all the way up to the refuge, this is a gorgeous viewpoint to aim for. The Enchanted Mountains look perfect from here, and the lake was a shade of fake-looking glacier blue.
The thing I really loved about this loop was the return journey allows you to drop elevation slowly, so it’s not too hard on your knees. At first the path traverses around the lake up high so you continue to see the best views of Estany de Sant Maurici.
Just how amazing are these mountains!? This mountain is Roca de l’Estany.
As we moved around the lake, we got better views of the Enchanted Mountains. I love how they look once shadows started to show off their rocky faces.
Around Lake Sant Maurici
The return loop around Lake Sant Maurici is quite high up, so you will continue to see pretty views down to the blue waters. There is another pathway down by the water, but if you return via the Mirador de l’Estany viewpoint, it’s easier to take the high route.
This is looking back where we had just walked. We had started on the opposite side of the lake. The refuge is on the ridge to the left of Pui Pla, the massive mountain.
As we got closer to the end of our hike, the light started to become golden and we had some amazing views looking straight up to craggy peaks.
Eventually we made it back down with about 10 minutes before the next taxi back to Espot.
The Sant Maurici Lake side of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park seems to be more famous than the other side near the Vall de Boí. We found there were more tourists and hikers, but not so many that the park seemed crowded. In fact, the protections (no swimming, no camping, no hunting, no gathering plants or mushrooms) ensure that the park seems wild, despite the excellent facilities and clear paths and sign posts. It’s a bit sad that you cannot swim or camp near any of these lakes, but it is worth it to protect the area from the mess us humans sometimes leave behind.
If you like the look of this, you might also like my other posts in the area:
- Romanesque Churches of Vall de Boí
- Route of the Marmot from Cavallers Reservoir to Estany Negre, the Black Lake
- Hike to Coll de Contraix on the Carrors de foc trail
31 thoughts on “Sant Maurici Lake Loop via Refugi Amitges”
Another incredible hike through more beautiful scenery. I like the look of the refuge too, the beds look great and just imagine waking to that view in the morning. Wow.
That is what we thought too! I guess you would just have to bring ear plugs as any room that big *must* have at least one person snoring!!
I have to revisit Catalonia. The pyrenees looks so beautiful! Great photos.
It really is a gorgeous area isn’t it!? Which area did you go to Leslie?
Looks like a great hike and sure wouldn’t mind waking up to that beautiful view!
That is what we thought too. I guess we have to go back to stay there. 😀
Feels like I’d definitely end up utilizing the taxi service because definitely wouldn’t want to miss out on those views!
Totally! Especially if you start later in the day.
We didn’t know about the car park that was close so we took the taxi all the way from Espot. Next time I might just go earlier and hike in from the upper car park.
All of your hiking photos always get me so inspired to go outside! These views are so amazing as always! Nice that there’s an easier hike option in this area too, something for everyone!
There were quite a few super easy options. It’s just normally we get drawn into hiking as far/high as we can!
This looks so beautiful! It looks like you encountered more Pyrenees cows, they seem to be the most abundant wildlife there 🙂 You found so many scenic hikes in this area. The Enchanted Mountains looks like a very apt name for it, and the refugi looks surprisingly comfy.
Heh! At least there was no cow conga line this time! 😉 Those Enchanted Mountains really are gorgeous.
This looks like a great day hike for only 4-5 hours. Good to hear that it wasn’t super crowded! The waterfall and lakes look so beautiful!
Thanks Miranda. It was the perfect length for us (as I was a bit poorly that day) but normally I’d have loved an even longer hike.
Seriously! All of these hikes from the Pyrenees look so incredible. Love your lunch spot and can imagine how amazing it would be to wake up to the view from that balcony! 🙂
I know right!?
You know, there was a bloke who had hiked up to chat up to one of the staff who worked in the refuge. He must be super fit to attempt to date someone that lives that high in the mountains. 😀
Not that I don’t like a good workout, but an easier hike never hurt anyone right? The fall colors around here look so lovely. I think I would definitely want to spend more time here though so an overnight stop at the refuge would probably be a must do for me. It looks really nice.
Thanks Emma! I’m glad I’m not the only one that needs the odd easy day.
Another stunningly beautiful Pyrenees hike from you! Yep, count me as one those you’ve convinced to visit there haha. I love the variety in this hike, and the fact that it is approachable for those who are “vaguely fit.”
Yay!! I am really glad you’ve liked seeing these posts. I feel the same way when I see your posts about epic walks. 😀
Wow, those views of the lake are incredible! I love finding hikes that aren’t too difficult but have awesome scenic payoffs.
Me tooo! I mean I love a good challenge sometimes, but it’s awesome when you can see gorgeous scenery without too much effort.
Gosh, this looks like such a pretty hike! For some reason it reminds me a little bit about the Canadian Rockies actually – with the big beautiful peaks rising above the tree line! Love it <3
Wow – love your photos, such a scenic hike! What an informative post!
Oh my god, that view at Mirador de l’Estany is fantastic! It looks like the kind of place you could only earn with a million-day excursion, really cool that it’s accessible on a day hike. I love refuges, I’ve never stayed at one but every time I see pictures like this I’m like, TIME TO RESERVE
I love when hikes have incredible views right from the start! Seriously though, I feel like this hike would take me forever because I’d always be stopping to enjoy those vistas!
Another beautiful hike in the Spanish Pyrenees! This one is so scenic – I love the lake views!
That looks like Paradise. The Enchanted Mountains are well named. I’m going to keep this open in my browser to escape into on cold gloomy rainy days!
Never heard of these in my life but definitely on google checking out more about the Spanish Pyrenees! We’ve been to Spain a few times but always stayed in the cities! Time to get out and explore!
HI! loved the reading and it seems to be a perfect trail for our family. could you refer us to the trail map you used?
We downloaded local maps from the Mapas de España website: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.orux.oruxmapsIGN&hl=en_CA. I think they sell printed versions as well though. 🙂