It was pure bliss to be hiking in a beautiful national park with an abundance of lakes, sleeping in huts that were tucked away in nature with breath taking views, and to be in the outdoors away from daily life with only the bare necessities. The Carros de Foc is a loop trail that connects the nine refugees (huts) within Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, which is one of the 14 national parks in Spain and the only one located in Catalonia. Aigües is the plural form of water in Catalan and the direct google translation of tortes is crooked. Then, even though estany translates to pond it represents lake (there may not be a distinction in Catalan). The rough translation of the name of the park is “the winding streams and lakes of Saint Maurice” (wikipedia). Down in each valley and over each hill and mountain, another one of the almost 200 lakes in this park will be found and provide another amazing view.
The Carros de Foc, meaning “Chariots of Fire”, is a total distance of 55 kilometers and total accumulation of 9200 meters. Every year there is a SKY RUNNER option where you must run the whole loop, getting stamped at each refugee, within 24 hours. Not tough enough? Do not worry! They have added the sky runner plus with extra elevation gain and distance! 😛
Each hut along the way can provide you with dinner, breakfast and a picnic lunch for the next day if you desire. Carrying all your food for the trip is an option but it is kind of fun sitting down to dinner with everyone. Dinner is a yummy 3-course (usually soup, salad, and then a meat course) meal including bread and it is a good way to meet others. I basically just took snacks for during the day and ate breakfast and dinner at the huts.
Join me as I take you on my 5 day adventure (including a tip for each day) through the park!
Day 1: Hiked into Llong
I had to start in the evening due to work so I chose to just hike into Refugi d’Estany Llong so that I could get an early start the next day. I got a special ride into the park (my friend works there) and then it was just an hour hike. Even without that, I think it is only a 2-3 hour hike in to Llong from the entrance of the park.
The accommodation: It was a very simple and small hut. The bathrooms were outside so I made sure to go to the bathroom before bed! It was the cheapest hut I visited (30 euros) which included breakfast (5.60), sleep (8.15), and dinner (16). The salad (second course) was very yummy with eggs, tomato, cheese, sunflower seeds and other yummy things. The meat course was also incredible- I was feeling guilty though since I had not really worked out that day!
Tip 1: When wine is set out on the table it is because someone has bought it to have with their dinner- it is not for everyone! I learned this the hard way or maybe the easy way because I ended up with wine 🙂 Language barrier for the win(e)! 😀
Day 2: Hiked to Blanc
First you must hike to Colomina which took me about 4.5 hours. I stopped for a break and enjoyed my lunch. Then hiking to Refugi Joseph M. Blanc took a little under 4 hours. It should have taken less time but the last two hours of hiking, it poured, it hailed, and poured some more! Feeling exhausted, wet, and frustrated, only the most beautiful rainbow (shown at end of pictures) could make me smile 😀 It was a true blessing!
The accommodation: Blanc is a beautiful cabin house with an amazing backdrop in every direction. Free WIFI. It was 43 euros which included breakfast (8), dinner (18), and sleep (17). The main dinner course was sausages. The breakfast consisted of white bread (toaster available), cereal, lunchmeat ham, cheese, and tomato/garlic for your bread (bonus!). There was also other bread toppings like honey. Coffee/tea was extra which I thought was odd.
Tip 2: Bring a personal clothes line and clothespins. Though the huts usually have them outside, if it is rainy you are out of luck. Also, some clothes did not dry over night so clips would have been useful for attaching clothes to my backpack while walking. I was creative and still attached them but the clothespins would have been helpful.
Day 3: Hiked to Amitges
This was a LONG day!! I met a guy from Israel who was also hiking alone so we decided to hike together and we sure did pack it in. We took a morning detour that was one of the most beautiful mistakes 🙂 Then we stopped for some coffee with some other Israeli guys. Then we headed up to the first pass. We both wanted to hike a peak so we decided to do Pic de Peguera. We dropped our bags and headed up! This was a pretty intense and scary climb towards the end. We made it up (very carefully!). Since I was hiking with others there were a lot more breaks and I was bad about keeping track of time it took for each section but in total it was a 10 hour day of hiking.
The accommodation: Overall, Amitges was my favorite hut. They had the best breakfast (coffee, yogurt and granola, yummy bread, salami and cheese, delicious muffins). I loved the lentil soup they served with dinner. They had HOT showers with no time limit! Free WIFI. It was 43 euros for breakfast, dinner, and sleep.
Tip 3: It is pretty obvious and I think there is typically a sign but you must take your shoes off and leave them outside. They provide crocs or similar sandals for walking around the hut. I liked this because I only had flip flops which are not good for wearing with socks!
Day 4: Hiked to Ventosa
The hike from Amitges to Colomers takes about three hours. If sticking to the Carros de Foc trail, it will take another three hours to Refugi Ventosa i Calvell. However, there is a shortcut! If you do not take that shortcut though, or are going to Refugi Restanca, you can hike to Montardo Peak along the way. We were pretty warn out from the day before so we decided not to do it but I was told it is not too much extra effort and gives more amazing views 🙂
The accommodation: This hut had the least compared to the other huts. The water was freezing cold. The toilets were just a hole in the ground. It was 35 euros for dinner and sleep so not cheaper at all. The dinner was good though and I had snack food leftover so I ate that for breakfast.
Tip 4: Make sure you are on time to dinner! As soon as it is served, people are eating! I went towards the end of the hiking season so I had no problem but I can see where food could disappear quickly if you are not at the table.
Day 5: Hiked out of the park
By the 5th day I was ready to head out. Though I did not need to get an early start I got up and headed out pretty quickly after breakfast. The clouds were very low and the sun never really came out. I could barely see 20 feet in front of me for a while which made it very eerie. I felt pretty alone until out of the fog came a cow! LOL It was startling! Once out of the park I continued to walk until hitching a ride back to Taull.
Tip 5: Bring a bottle (plastic) of whiskey! This was something I forgot and very much regretted. It would have been a nice warm up from the cold and to ease the soreness. Booze are available for purchase but are overpriced.
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