Sierra de Guara, a wonder of nature sculpted by time, is a labyrinth of ravines, canyons and caves of impossible forms where the water flows at will. Not only it, but also the man moves by this enclave of Huesca like a fish in its element, being canyoning the star adventure of the place.
Twilight in Sierra de Guara from Salto del Roldán
British and Dutch were the first to discover its possibilities. It’s been a while since they wandered around in bathing suit, causing surprise. Nowadays, the hundreds of ravines of the Natural Park of the Sierra y Cañones de Guara (as it is actually called) are no longer a secret for anyone and have made this place one of the best in the world for the practice of canyoning.
If you are also a river lover, you can not dismiss a visit to this spectacular Aragonese landscape. Don your wetsuit and take note of the descents that I present below.
1. Vero Canyon: The Origin of Canyoning
Probably, the most popular canyon of Sierra de Guara.
Already in the 60’s, a multitude of adventurers from all parts of Europe made this descent, giving rise to the beginning of this sport in Spain. It is a long descent (it can take up to 6 hours), with a high flow at certain times of the year and that lacks rappels, so it can be done by inexperienced canyonists, although it is advisable to have good physical shape.
The approach is made from Alquézar, a town dedicated almost entirely to active tourism. It is usually advisable to take two cars to leave one in the parking lot of this village (end of the descent) and arrive with the other to Colungo. The second car is left in the parking lot that is 13 kilometers after Colungo, from where you must walk until the beginning of the ravine.
Alquézar and surroundings
The first part is quite open. You will pass to the right of the Tozal de Mallata, a set of cavities open on the cliffs that shelter a good number of cave paintings. If you have the opportunity, do not hesitate to spend another day in the area to see them up close.
Now, go ahead. Here start the narrowest part of the canyon, where you will find 4 different rock chaos. In canyoning, it is known by chaos to the accumulations of rocks from landslides that give rise to caves, jumps, waterfalls and natural slides.
Jumping in Vero Canyon
If you have a camera, you can not avoid taking pictures of these spectacular formations. At times, you will be immersed in a real labyrinth, which leads me to give you one last tip: do not venture into this canyon without the company of a guide who knows it well.
2. Mascún Ravine: the Pretty Girl
If you have ever seen a picture of canyoning in Guara, it is probably of this canyon, because when it carries water, its images are incomparables.
Beautiful views from Mascún Ravine © Oriol Closas Sallent
However, this ravine is not one of the most crowded, because it is one of the most demanding and technical of the place. The approach is also long. It takes 2 hours and a half of walking through the Rodellar Valley to reach the beginning.
To access, you have to descend towards the ravine of the Virgin and cross the River Mascún. Then continue along the Andrebot Ravine and, at the height of the formation of La Ciudadela, take the road to the left that leads to the abandoned village of Otín. After a few more steps, you must take a path to the right that gets the starting point.
La Ciudadela © Neus
The descent can take about 6 hours and it is spectacular. During it you will find jumps, rappels (up to 20 meters high) and an impressive landscape. Passing by the zone of Otín, the play of light and shadows will make you feel in a dreamy place. To enjoy it in full swing, you may do the descent in Spring or early Summer.
Definitely, one of the best descents of Europe but only advisable if you have some experience.
Enjoying the canyon
2. Formiga Canyon: the Perfect Example
The Formiga is one of the most busiest canyons in Huesca. It is a true classic of canyoning that it also perfect if you want to get started because it has all the typical components of a descents: jumps, rappels, natural slides and siphons. And all of them very accessible.
The approach is also easy. About 2 kilometers after the village of Panzano, direction to Bierge, you will find a curve to the left that pass over the Formiga River. Right there there is a parking lot where you can leave the car. Then you just have to walk along the left bank of the river until reaching the final railing that leaves you directly in the first rappel, only of 4 meters.
The descent is short but very fun. After overcome that first rappel, you must don your wetsuit, because the rest of the descent is mainly aquatic. You will pass jumps, slides and rappels, the highest of less than 8 meters. But, if you do not dare with everything, there are also some scapes.
This places is a perfect resume of what canoyning means and a secure bet to spend a great day.
4. Ravine of La Peonera: fun in the water
It is the aquatic park of Sierra de Guara. It is a spectacular descent that ends in the dam of Bierge, in the municipality of the same name.
Although access is complicated, the ravine is definitely worth it, because there are almost 4 hours of continuous games, jumps to emerald-colour pools, impressive slides and beautiful galleries. As there are no rappels, the rope is not even necessary.
One of the pools of La Peonera
The descent can be divided into two different stretches: the Fornazos Straits and the Puntillo Straits. The first part is, perhaps, the most beautiful, with many projections that will make you bring up the child inside.
Halfway, after passing the Tamara Fountain, you must leave the river and walk for a while along the bank until you reach the second part. In it you will find some of the highest jumps of the ravine, although they are not obliged. The final surprise is an 8 meter jump over the Bierge Dam, an unbeatable way to say goodbye to the river.
This descent is essential for the Summer, due to the aquatic that it is. Find out about it before going, because depending on the flow rate can be dangerous.
5. Palomeras Canyon: Short but Intense
A good perfumer knows that small bottles keep the best essences. In the same way, a good canyonist never scorns a ravine just because it is short.
Having said this, it should not be surprising that the Ravine of Palomeras, the little brother of the Guara canyons, deserves a place on our list.
According to the duration of the descent (about an hour) the approach is also short. Driving by the road that connect Arcusa with Colungo you must pass the bridge announced as “Barranco de la Palomera” (kilometer 26) and leave you car in the esplanade. From this departs a path that will carry you to the canyon in 5 minutes.
The narrow Palomeras Canyon
The descent is fairly narrow and specially beautiful if it carry enough water. So, it is convenient to do it in Spring or after rains. You should pass 3 rappels, between 5 and 7 meters high, placed among flooded areas. None of them is too difficult, so this is a good descent to start.
The adventure finishes in the point where the ravine meets the Fornocal Canyon, under a bridge again.
6. Ravine of Portiacha: the Highest Rappels
Spectacular is an adjective that become too small to speak about the Portiacha Canyon.
The lack of water does not make turn back the rappels lovers. Actually, they find here challenges at their level thanks to the two 30 meters high caves that they must abseil in this canyon.
The approach is again in the road that connect Colungo and Arcusa. About 10 kilometers from Colungo you will find the parking lot with the signal of Portiacha Canyon (do not confuse with the one of Vero Canyon, located 3 kilometers ahead). From there, you only have to walk 5 minutes to reach the start point.
You will find an spectacular crevice that gets into the depths of the Earth. The first rappel, 30 meters high, is an advise of what is to come. A descent between narrow corridors and small projections until reach the amazing final: a big chimney that get into the River Vero and that you should overcome abseiling no less than 35 meters.
Who said fear?
7. Oscuros de Balcés: short, easy and magnificent
That is how we could describe the ravine of the Oscuros de Balcés.
If you are among those who put the landscape before the challenge, this is your descent. Both the nearby spots and the ravine itself are places of spectacular beauty. A narrow valley where nature has the leading role.
The access is made by a the road linking Bierge with Rodellar. After passing the Ravine of Fondo you will find a track on the right. You must follow it for 2 kilometers and park before the fence.
Spectacular landscape around Rodellar
Then, continue on foot. Five minutes later you will see a path on your right. Walk for 10 minutes until reach the valley of River Isuala, and then you just have to go down. The amazing scenery and the possibility of seeing vultures flying around, make the trek worthwhile.
The descent begins with a great chaos of stones that gives rise to the first rappel. If there is not much water, it can be avoided with a slide on the left. Afterwards, a rappel over a 7 meter waterfall takes you to the narrow corridor and, finally, to a set of small jumps.
Narrow rock corridors
In total, 2 hours of fun in a magnificent setting.
8. Basender Canyon: Between Rock-Art Remains
The Ravine of Basender, tributary of River Vero, is probably one of the best places to learn the technique of abseiling.
It is a completely dry canyon whose route is formed by a succession of rappels, none of which is more than 15 meters high. Because it has no water, it can be done all year round, so it is a perfect alternative for the colder days or when other canyons have too much flow.
The approach is from Lecina. In the town square, you have to take the route that leads to the cave paintings of Barfaluy and pass by the medieval fountain of Fuendiós. After 15 minutes walking, the path downs to a dry riverbed where you must continue until the first rappel.
Exploring a different world © Oriol Closas Sallent
Descending by a multitude of slides and going over its curious nooks, you can have an idea of how water run here in other time.
To return, I recommend you a great alternative: Las Escaleretas Path.
Once you get to Vero Canyon, you have to take the path that goes by its bank but, instead of crossing the riverbed, go to the wall on the right. There starts Las Escaleretas, the old path that locals used to take to leave their orchard when the River Vero overflowed its banks. You will pass by natural ledges, rock windows and even cave paintings until reach the path linking Lecina and Barfaluy.
Rock paintings in Sierra de Guara
The finish touch of a perfect journey.
Extra. Gorgas Negras: The Tough Guy of Guara
If you have never done a descent, you can stop reading here.
However, if you consider yourself an expert in the world of canyoning, the ravine of Gorgas Negras is your opportunity to show what you are capable of.
The length of the course, uneven terrain, cold water … everything makes it a really hard canyon, only suitable for people in very good physical condition.
The setting, of course, is magnificent. Already in the approach (which can take about 3 hours) you will pass by some emblematic points of Sierra de Guara, like the abandoned village of Nasarre with its beautiful Romanic church or the dolmen of Losa Mora.
Gorgas Negras: simply amazing © Oriol Closas Sallent
The descent is also spectacular, very aquatic, with a lot of rappels and jumps to pools of cold water (be sure to wear a good wetsuit). In total, the route is about 5 kilometers, although you can lengthen it by linking it with the Ravine of Barrasil.
Prudence is always necessary but, in this case, it becomes even more imperative. You must be aware of your physical condition before decide to do this descent. Moreover, hiring a professional guide, who knows well the terrain and accompanies you during the descent is always a plus.
Ready for the adventure?
To climb is an overrated verb. No one wants to be an intern for life, but it remains to be seen if the manager sleeps better than the storekeeper. It also remains to be seen if climbing is better than descending. Especially if the descent takes place in the rivers of this mountainous system of Huesca. To descend them is both an experience and a lesson in life. It teaches that sometimes the peaks are not at the top.