Congost de Mont Rebei Walk
We’re heading to the Congost de Mont Rebei walk, located between Aragon and Catalonia in this quiet corner of Spain. It’s August 2022 and our Summer travels have seen some incredible scenery, but this next stop is a spectacular adventure.
This narrow gorge walking route, is accessible only on foot where a few hiking trails await. For us, we arrive in the heat of the day, so it’s too hot for walking. So, our plan is to check the parking situation for the campervan, hopefully finding somewhere to stop overnight, before starting early tomorrow.
A Scenic Drive and a River Crossing
First, I’ve got to say that the drive here is spectacular. We pass remote swathes of arid landscapes, milky blue rivers and few towns. It’s remote and refreshingly good.
Our lunch stop takes on a river crossing, driving a short causeway through the water to a pebble beach. Here, we take shelter from the sun under the shade of some trees. Undoubtedly, it’s a beautiful location, where locals paddle in the shallow river. However, there’s always a catch and as usual on this trip, the flies are out in force, so our dreamy looking picnic spot isn’t quite as romantic as it seems.
After persevering in just enough time to eat lunch, we start up the campervan and head back through the river. Then it’s onwards for a 10km stretch of road to the entrance of The Congost de Mont Rebei walk.
Now this road is both narrow and winding in places, but it’s scenic and interesting, with the river below us and the gorge in the distance.
The milky, mineral river flows majestically along, with the mountains rising up around us. Then there’s old Fort’s to be seen on the distant mountain tops, along with layers of rock formations carving their way through this valley.
Parking at The Congost de Mont Rebei walk
Now then, not only is there a height barrier at the entrance to the parking for the Congost de Mont Rebei walk, but there’s also an entrance fee.
This is 8 Euro for the day, but not for motorhomes. Luckily, there’s a really helpful attendant at the entrance. He advises that we park up anywhere on the road that has a lay-by and as long as the tyres aren’t touching the tarmac then we will be ok, even overnight.
Then he points to a few suitable areas, which are either a little further on from the entrance or just before it. We already know that there’s no overnight parking allowed in these parts, as with so many places we’ve been to already on this trip. He also advises that we start the walk early, so we’re not on the narrow paths in the sun and heat of August.
Unfortunately there’s no motorhome or campervan parking permitted in the large parking area itself.
It’s been the most helpful start, so we drive on to check out the lay-by’s, before turning round and heading to a riverside spot that we passed en-route.
A close encounter with a snake
Back along the road from the car park of the walk is a large off-road river area. Here, a few vans are parked next to the water. It’s rough and bumpy, but quite perfect for a few hours rest.
There on the sandy riverside is an ideal parking spot with a bit of shade and a sandy base. We park up and pop out the awning for some extra protection, before slipping into some swim wear.
Soon we’re joined by a group who are on a day trip from Barcelona, a few hours drive away.
They take to the water and when they finish, it’s our turn to cool off. After all, any chance to cool down is welcome. Then, as excitable birds fly overhead, we take the plunge, the milky water revealing no clue of what’s beneath.
Our experience of a dip suddenly becomes a more memorable one, for all the wrong reason. Luckily it’s Nigel who has the close encounter, as I’m already floating downstream in the shallows. But, just as he dips his body into the water, along slithers a large water snake. Yikes, it’s gliding passed his nether regions, before disappearing into a reed bank.
Thank goodness it’s Nigel and not me, but we’re still in the water and have quite a way before reaching the river bank. Eventually, with hearts pounding, we make it out. One good thing is that we’re refreshed, but I can’t say we’ll be going in for another dip.
The Start – Congost de Mont Rebei Walk
It’s 8am and after parking in a lay by overnight, just beyond the entrance, we’re ready to start the Congost de Mont Rebei walk.
As we approach the car park entrance on foot, the first few cars are arriving, but otherwise it’s empty. Morning is a good time to do this walk, whilst the path of the gorge is in shade. The heat through the narrow chasms builds up as the day progresses, which isn’t ideal.
There’s toilets and a shop at the car park but the shop is closed at this time in the morning. However, the toilets are a welcome sight before setting off through the gorge.
Already, the views are superb, spanning the river and the arid cliff face along with an occasional peak. The river levels are low, so there’s cracked clay beds and dried out watermarks showing along the cliff.
The obvious and well signed path leads across grassy areas before reaching a wooded, undulating path. After a short while, and stopping along the way for numerous photo’s, we then come to a metal swing bridge spanning a dry, narrow river bed.
The more exciting part of the walk soon comes into view. It’s a path channelled out through the colossal overhanging cliffs of the gorge. Here, with nothing more than a sheer drop for company, the depths of the canyon reveal the true drama.
Not only are the views thrilling, but the path along the canyon walls of rock are just awesome. All the while, the milky river flows, providing exceptional scenery amongst this natural phenomenon before our eyes.
Not good for Vertigo
The route so far is fairly easy, although it’s not good for those with vertigo. Although there’s a sheer drop, the path is wide enough to feel safe and rope tied to the cliffs provided added comfort.
Along the way are also benches, placed at angles on the bend sections. These allow us to stop and take in the views without fear of falling off the edge. Metal rope is fixed to the wall, which helps to steady the feet, probably this is really useful if you meet someone coming the other way!
It’s amazing though how threadbare some of the rope and wire fencing is in places. Obviously, some is in need of repair, some of it frayed, dangling on the floor, loose of its fixings.
However, this walk is everything you’d expect it to be, but the most eye-watering, nerve-wracking part is yet to come. That’s because the Congost de Mont Rebei walk has a rather infamous section at the end, in the form of a staircase clinging to a cliff face.
Now, I’m getting nervous, waiting for the big reveal and wondering if I’ll be able to step onto the steps of this spine-tingling structure.
Another Swing Bridge
Next, as the path follows a more rugged route through some scrubland, the 2nd swing bridge comes into sight. This one is larger and higher and leads to the famous staircase clinging to the sheer rock face of the cliff.
Ahead of us on the opposite side of the gorge, is this staircase, which we can just about make out in the distance. It looks so small, and for a moment we’re not even sure if it’s the stairs we can see.
Then we pass a yellow sign, of course all in Spanish, we have no idea what it says. Then we get news from a Spanish couple – the staircase is closed as it needs repairs. On no! We don’t know if we’re happy about it or not. But, one thing’s for sure we definitely don’t want to be on there if it’s in a dodgy state!
The swing bridge provides a closer look at the staircase, and it looks absolutely terrifying from where we are. By now, we’re quite thankful that we don’t have to make the choice of stepping onto it.
From here, it’s not just the staircase views that are fabulous, but also the outlook down the gorge itself. Another good point is that it’s quiet, not only do we have the bridge to ourselves, but the paths are still empty too.
Back along the cliff
The return is via the same route, back along the cliff. As we make our way along the path, we notice a few more people coming towards us. By lunchtime, we’re back at the car park and glad we left early, due to it now being super hot.
Despite the main feature of this walk being off limits, the Congost de Mont Rebei is still the most incredible walk.
As the shop and small visitor centre is now open, we ask inside how long the staircase has been closed. Staff tell us it’s been a while, but they’re not sure how long.
They also think it will be closed for at least another 6 months, perhaps longer. To be honest, we get the impression it may be some time yet.
However, this is one must see location. So, if you fancy a walk with a difference, this may be the one for you. If nothing else, this beautiful and somewhat unknown part of Spain really leaves you wanting more.
Next time, we head to more National Parks around Benasque, where the high mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees beckon.