The national park is known for what we call soft adventure. So, that means there are no motorized adventure sports or big guided activities inside the park. It is a carbon-free, motor-free place ideal for day hikes, multi-day treks, animal watching, small groups, and naturalist observations.
There are dozens of hiking trails in the park, and how you plan your day(s) depends on where you enter the park. Since we entered from the east near Espot, our launching point was St. Maurice Lake and Chaple. We used the map covering the Valls d’Àneu Pallars Sobirà.
For those looking for a stroller or wheelchair, there are a few accessible options at either entrance. If you need assistance accessing the park, you can request this from park services.
Easy/Moderate Day Hikes
Using this brochure, we did a custom combination of route 2, 3, and 4 in one day, looping them together as we went. The trail started on a gentle boardwalk running over small gurgling streams before it began to wind up a mountain trail passing roaring waterfalls. Finally, it opened to alpine meadow ponds, lakes full of crystal clear water and grasses. We met a cool Israeli couple and hiked up with them toward the Refugi they were staying at for the night. We went past Lake Ratera, almost to the Refugi with them, before parting ways, and we turned back.
We veered off at Lake Ratera and went to the Estany de Sant Maurici viewpoint, El Mirador de L’Estany, and Portarró. After we ate our packed lunch and soaked in the views, we looped back to St. Maurice Lake to catch the taxi back to our campsite.
If you are short on time, I recommend you head directly to the Estany de Sant Maurici. It is the best viewpoint to get the whole experience of the park.
For easy/moderate hikes on the western entrance, you can view the hiking brochure and plan your day.
Moderate/Challenging Day Hikes:
For lengthier or more challenging day hikes, you can summit El Pic del Portarró. This adds an extra 300 meters and about 45 minutes to summit from Portarró d’Espot.
Through Day Hike
If you plan ahead for the right taxi service or can walk back to your accommodation so you don’t get stranded, you can certainly do a full-day thorough hike starting at either entrance and trekking through to the other. To plan this route, you combine the two brochures I shared, and they connect at Portarró d’Espot. We chatted with a group who had done this hike, which is doable in a day.
Two multi-day treks are circulating the park.
The Camins Vius follows a trail through the villages surrounding the national park, which can take 8 days. You would book accommodation in advance in the towns and villages. The concept behind this walk is to encourage slow, meaningful cultural tourism while alleviating stress on the delicate ecosystem inside the park.
The second route, Carros de Foc, follows the mountain hut system in the park and can take 4 days. You MUST book these huts in advance, registering your intent to complete the Carros de Foc route. This is a technical route with snow, even in summer. Experienced trekkers or groups only.
The park is a notable place designated for its dark sky viewing. If you stay overnight, get out and look up at the stars! With minimal light pollution, you are in for a treat! We had a great view from our campsite and were thankful we packed our portable telescope.
The park is open year-round, and you can visit in the snowy months to snowshoe or observe the frozen waterfalls. Make sure you have the proper winter gear.
Outside the park are plenty of ski resorts, such as La Peülla. This is a dangerous mountain road and even more dangerous in winter; drive with caution.
Els Encantats is one of the most impressive mountains inside the park. If you are an experienced mountain climber, this peak, known for climbing, might be worth adding to your climbing list.
Outside the national park, there are plenty of outdoor adventures, from white water rating out of llavorsí to canyoneering out of Esterri d’Aneu.
Most of the recommended hikes in the park are day hikes. We visited in July, so it was hot at lower elevations but cool at higher elevations. So, we packed for a full day out, including lunch, water, snacks, sun hat and cream, hiking boots, poles, and clothing.
- Day bag – I only ever use Osprey bags. They last me 10+ years, making them a sustainable long-term investment. My Osprey is so old that I’m not sure they are even online anymore, but I have a day bag similar to this with hip support.
- Wool socks – Farm to feet is my favorite sustainable and ethical U.S. brand. These keep you warm, dry, and stink-free!
- Hiking boots – I have a German brand that you can’t find many places outside of Germany. Finding a good hiking boot is best done in person at your local recreational store.
- Hiking pants – I am all about those zip offs
- Hiking shirt
- Camelbak bladder – I use the 2L for day trips and 3L when it is extra hot.
- Snacks – I always pack my snacks in reusable bags or bee’s wax wraps.
- Trekking poles – you might not need these, but I always have them on hand if I get in a sticky situation, get tired, or want to increase my calorie burn with an arm workout. My REI Co-Op poles have lasted me 9 years and are still going!
- Battery charger or watch – keep an eye on the taxi timetable
- Camera or phone
- Binoculars – you’ll want these to see all the wildlife
- Telescope if you are into astrotourism
Multi-day bag – if you are doing a multi-day hike like the Carros de Foc, you’ll need a larger bag. I have and use the Kyte for my multi-day treks. It fits so much but distributes the weight so well that I hardly notice anything on my back. Of course, you’ll need to fill this with adequate gear for a multi-day trek, like extra wool socks, a change of clothes, extra snacks, and the essentials.
If you visit during winter, you’ll need different gear, including hats, gloves, technical outerwear, snowshoes, and snow pants.
We stayed in the most amazing campground just right outside the park. Voraparc Camping is at the mountain’s foothills and is surrounded by nature, including impressive waterfalls. We had our campervan with us, so we booked a spot for our van with plenty of room to spare to hang our hammock.
They have glamping pods and even actual cabins if you don’t have a tent or campervan. There is a pool, a common seating area with a cafe, a little mini grocer, ping pong tables, sitting areas in the forest, picnic spots, and more. This is the whole package.
If camping is not your thing, you’ll want to stay in Espot, which has modern hotels like Els Encantats, or rustic options like Hotel Roya.
There are other hotels near the western entrance Boí, but we did not pass through there.
If you want to stay in the park on a hike in, hike out situation. You can book spots at any of the Refugi mountain huts. We often book this type of accommodation when we travel through European national parks and would have done it if we didn’t have our campervan. The couple we met hiking were staying at Amitges, which looks amazing!
What to Eat
We ate most of our meals at our campsite, cooking pasta, eggs, and couscous salads on site. We prepped sandwiches to bring into the park for our lunch breaks.
I recommend visiting a grocery store before you venture into the park. Make yourself packed lunches for a picnic out in nature. Grab some local Spanish cheese and olives for your packed lunch!
Espot has a few restaurants if you need more of a sit-down meal. We grabbed a cheese pizza one of the days we were in the area.