The Eastern Mountains of León (North of Spain), one of the most unknown and less exploited areas of Spain, it’s at the same time an attraction for everyone that looks after the feel of being surrounded by an oasis of peace in full nature; a place where it is still possible to go over kilometers without meeting anyone, and all of that being inside wild landscapes and high ecological value environments: The National and Regional Parks of Picos de Europa.
PEDALES DE LEÓN offers the chance of going deep into this small part of Cantabrian Mountain Range, going through 220 km in a circular tour. This itinerary will keep us, little by little, through different formations and landscapes, from riverine areas on the banks of Esla River, to extensive deciduous forest (mainly oak woods and beech woods) and grasslands with brushwood in high zones.
We are in a region where the dream of feeling lonely in the mountains it’s still possible; where during at least few seconds we can forget the age we live and travel through time, coming back to a pristine place where humans have not left yet a mark of their activity; where forests extend as far as the eye can see; and where wild fauna is abundant and sometimes you can watch it.
We find ourselves in one of the few territories of Spain and also Europe that has on its mountains not only wild mammal species as wild boar (Sus scrofa), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra); but also a high red deer population density (Cervus elaphus) that permits enjoying with the sounds of the bellowing when deer rutting season starts between September-October. And above all, so emblematic species as Cantabrian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) and Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus), which presence in our mountains is sign of their high conservation level.
PEDALES DE LEÓN puts all of that within our reach: 220 km with a positiveaccumulated height of 6650 m, offering a road book with detailed descriptions of all tour, and in addition, the possibility of luggage transport and technical assistance through the entire itinerary, a secure policy for everyone with no cycling license and also rent bike service with Giant Trance 27.5” 4 model.
The tour starts in Cistierna (León), from where we will go following north direction through Sabero, Reyero and Riosol valleys, till arriving to Sajambre and Valdeón regions at the heart of Picos de Europa. From Valdeón valley, the northern point of the trip, we will turn South direction to reach La Reina region. From this land we will pass, without losing sight of Espigüete peak (2450 m), to Valverde de la Sierra, from where we start following GR1 in Prioro valley direction. From here, we will advance through small valleys to border the south face of Peñacorada massif (1835 m), ending finally the tour in Cistierna.
It’s a hard trip, with an exigent positive height difference due to the continuous climbs and descents that the changes of valleys imply. It combines quick spinning path stretchs with slower progress parts as narrow trails and technical sections, so we must be prepared and know where we are going. To adapt the grade of effort to our fit level, or simply, to our more or less inclination to “suffer” with the bike, PEDALES DE LEÓN give us the chance of choosing in how many stages we would like to ride the distance: 3, 4, 5 or 6 stages.
In this case, we have chosen 4 stages.
Stage 1: Cistierna-Lois
In our first journey through the Eastern Mountains of León, it is waiting for us a trail of 54 km and 1970 m of positive height difference.
Starting in Cistierna, first we will follow South direction through the right bank of Esla river until pass the point “El Mercadillo”, an old hostelry in the Vadiniense route of Camino de Santiago. From here, we will change direction starting our progress to the North with the first climb of the day: 350 m of positive height that will help us to get warmed, specially at the hard final slopes, and will take us to the hill separating Esla and Sabero valleys, and from where we will see, just in front of us, La Camperona (1597 m), final mountain pass in the 14ª stage of La Vuelta’14.
Once in the top, we will have a quick path descent to Sabero and then again climbing: 275 m of positive height through easy ground, first crossing Oak wood followed by Pine woods till reach a new hill, from where we will let ourselves fall to Valdoré. Once in Valdoré, we will have 2 options: follow Velilla de Valdoré direction and climb other hill, or follow the Vadiniense route of Camino de Santiago.
This section of Vadiniense route from Valdoré to Crémenes will keep us through the left bank of Esla river, following narrow tracks inside Oak woods and parts where the Roman road is more preserved, putting our mtb skill in test.
Once in Crémenes, we will have 2 more climbs. The first one, quite manageable, with 375 m of positive height, passing through Corniero to Primajas and Reyero, from where it will start the last climb of day and longer, (400 m of height ascent) till arrive to the Cathedral of the Mountains in Lois, the end of the way.
Stage 2: Lois – Posada de Valdeón
During our second day in PEDALES DE LEÓN, the route will keep us to reach a distance of 60 km with a positive height difference of 1860 m.
We will leave Lois and take the way to Liegos, a easy spinning path through meadows where is usually to find stray cattle, specially horses and cows. We are just at beech woods territory: one of most spectacular landscapes in autumn due to color contrasts between red tonalities of beech wood senescent leaves, the green of meadows and greyish tones of limestone mountains.
From Liegos, we will cross Lario and polvoredo, starting the second climb of the journey. With its 400 m of positive height difference, we will reach a high point of 1550 m, where we will be able to enjoy with Picos de Europa Western Massif views. The next will be to lose 850 m height to arrive to Oseja de Sajambre.
Panderrueda mountain pass will be our next stop, but it will represent a long and hard ascent, crossing beech woods and reaching a level difference of 800 m. This effort will have a reward…we will have in sight the spectacular Picos de Europa Central Massif, and it only will rest a funny downhill till Posada de Valdeón.
Stage 3: Posada de Valdeón – Morgovejo
Our third adventure day begins and we start to feel quite tiredness in our legs. Even so, it wait us a stage with 57 km and with an accumulated height of 1466 m, divided between 3 climbs.
From Posada de Valdeón, we will go to La Reina region, but first we must climb to Pandetrave mountain pass (1550 m) and then let ourselves fall down 20 km, following the course of streams that will finish draining to the high course of Esla river, until arrive to Villafrea de la Reina.
At Villafrea the tables turn and we will climb again to cross to Valverde de la Sierra valley, always with oak and beech woods as travelling companions. From this point, we will follow the GR1 Prioro valley direction, and we will have to climb only one more hill (350 m of ascent gradient) to arrive Morgovejo.
Stage 4: Morgovejo – Cistierna
Last stage of our journey at this lands, 47 km, 1362 m of accumulated ascent as result of the continuous up and down that it supposes to cross the small valleys surrounding Peñacorada massif (1835 m), finally ending the stage in Cistierna after 4 unforgettable bike days.
:: MORE OPTIONS
If all of that it is not enough for us, PEDALES DE LEÓN give us more options like complete the tour in more stages, to do it with a mtb guide or to do hikes or alternative activities during the trip, as for example:
- To stay more time in Posada de Valdeón to go to Cares route or to climb some peak (hiking)
- To stay more time in Soto de Sajambre to go to Vegabaño.
Definitely, PEDALES DE LEÓN offers us the chance of knowing this land, enjoying a unique environment, losing ourselves in the splendor of wilderness and, even though we never see it, feeling over our heads the look of the WOLF.
More information in PEDALES DE LEÓN website.
Photos by BICHO PRODUCCIONES