A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it


Camino Forum Donation

Bears??? oh my!

A few weeks ago, I wrote to the Refugio de Riano to ask a question in connection with my upcoming camino Vadiniense. That must have gotten me onto their mailing list, because this morning I was somewhat surprised to receive an email from them telling me about the return of the brown bear to the area. Attached was a photo of a big footprint, and a warning about not bothering the bears.

I managed to ignore the warnings about the mad dogs of Galicia on the Camino Frances (that legend seems to have disappeared from the Camino lore), and I paid no heed to the suggestion that I would have to walk in fields with vacas bravas or bulls of the Vdlp, but bears are a horse of a different color, pardon the bad metaphor.

I've worn bear bells while hiking out west and wonder if that might be a good idea, especially since I will be walking alone and not talking out loud. Reb, or anyone else familiar with the Vadiniense, do you have any advice?

Buen camino, Laurie
I am virtually certain that the sight of me dancing any dance would scare all of God's living creatures. I wasn't sure what Morris dancing consisted of (being the provincial ignoramus), but having seen it on youtube, I'm happy to see that I could incorporate my hiking sticks into my routine. And it looks like it would be much more effective than bear bells. Thanks, John -- L.

Alan Pearce

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones 2008, del Norte 2009, VdlP 2011, Ingles 2014, Camino de Madri 2015, Frances 2017
In 2008 As I walked from Somport to Jaca I came across a sign saying that bears may be in the area, with suggestions on what to do if you saw one. Morris dancing was not on the list. Keeping still so as not to appear threatening was.


Be brave. Life is joyous.


Veteran Member
JohnnieWalker said:
Morris dancing with hiking poles with bells attached should definitely be on the list
so Bears have driven you back to using 'poles', :)
thankfully we start after the bears in Astorga,
but if people shooo them further West please keep us posted :arrow:


Active Member
Oh, Laurie!
I can perfectly understand your fears!
I had some this summer on the Piemont Way - especially in the Ariège and Hautes Pyrénées sections where brown bears have settled again...
Well, I met none ...
But this was subject of some very interesting talks with local people: knowing afterwards a bit more about the pro- and anti-bear-discussions in Southern France...

And beside I was quite reassured - as to that way - the bears were far more up in the mountains than the wanderpaths.
Nevertheless, I would not camp outside far from civilisation.

All the best, the Vadiniense must be of terrible beauty and is definitely on my "list" as well...

PS the "original" bear population of the Pyrenees were apparently vegetarian. But they have been mixed up with some Slowenian bears who like meat... (another intervention of mankind into nature...)
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
I have to go with the Morris dancing with bells, perhaps a bladder on a stick too.
In fact, I think it should be compulsory for all pilgrims going through bear areas- I'm all for it!!
I will keep my fingers crossed that the only bears I see are vegetarian. And, John, I will look forward to your demonstration of Morris dancing when we meet in Santiago.

My post was half in jest, but I do remember being in Yellowstone one year when a young man hiking alone was killed by a mama bear when he apparently went between the mama and her baby. The rangers were encouraging everyone to wear bear bells, and my then young children thought it was quite the adventure.

Buen camino, Laurie
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
Seriously, brown bears are very shy.
My grandfather used to have to chase 1 or 2 up a tree every year when we camped in Sequoia National Park - they'd come into our tents for food. But he'd stand tall, shout and wave his arms, and they'd retreat quickly.

Of course, Spanish bears may be less cowardly. :lol:

And Basque bears.. well.. probably fearless!


Hi Laurie

I was rather hoping to see some bears in the Picos. Hopefully there will be still 3(me,geoff and phil) of us by then and we can all dance around manically waving our arms and blowing our whistles :D. Read a few blogs of people walking in and around the Picos as well as LK's and they all seemed to be fine. Get a little Klaxon before you enter the Picos or at Potes and carry it with you a few days just for peace of mind.
Do Bears like tarmac???????

Hi there, Laurie....when hiking the Ruta Vad. I seem to remember a huge amount of time spent on or beside tarmac. It wasn't bears that I needed to avoid but the cars, particularly when approaching Riano. I became adept at high jumping the road barriers. I've just scrolled through my maps and photos and here's what I found (kms aproximate):

Potes to Fuente de..................................................tarmac (23 kms)
Fuente de to Puerte de Pandetrave......................... ......piste (11 kms)
P de Pandetrave to Portilla de la Reina...........................tarmac (10 kms)
P de la Reina to Barniedo de la Reina.............................tarmac (8 kms)
B de la Reina to Boca de Huegano.................................camino (4 kms?)
Boca de Huegano to Riaño.........................................tarmac (8 kms)
Riaño to Carande....................................................tarmac (5.3 km)
Carande to Horcadas...............................................camino (1-2 kms?) tarmac (2 kms?)
Horcadas to Las Salas...............................................tarmac (6.7 kms)
Las Salas to Verdiago....................................Calzada Romana(10 + kms) camino (2.5? kms)
Verdiago via Sabero to Cistierna .................................caminos
Cistierna to Gradefes..............................................tarmac (?)
Gradefes to San Miguel de Escalada.............................tarmac (10 kms)
San Miguel to Santa Olaja de Eslonza...........................camino (6 kms?)
S. Olaja de Eslonza to Puerte Villarente..........................tarmac (10.5 kms)
P. Villarente to Leon................................................camino

[the Tab stop doesn't work here]

Cheers y buen-escaping-the-loloping-autobears,


Hi, lk,
Thanks for the info. Frankly, I think I might prefer bears to asphalt. Your post has just radically changed my impression of the Vadiniense. I am really surprised to hear about the high amount of road walking, and it's something I really struggle with. My feet just don't tolerate too much. Here I was envisioning mountain paths, glorious vistas, clear air... but I have to walk along the side of a road most of the time? Hmm, not sure what to do about this now. Back to the drawing board?

Buen camino, Laurie
Avoiding tarmac on the Ruta Vadiniense

Hi there, Laurie. The Ruta Vad. has stunning scenery. I don't regret choosing this route. it was, however, exceedingly taxing hiking in high summer with soaring temperatures and low humidity. As mentioned, I did spend a lot of time jumping road barriers and scrambling down to sheep runs and pasture land. Here are some alternative trails close to the Ruta Vad. There may be more elsewhere.

Cheers, Lovingkindness

Potes to Fuent De
I noticed several signed trails leading off the motorway between Potes and Fuente De and one accessible from the Kiosk situated at the top of the Telefonica, Los Picos Fuente De. These routes may be an exhilarating alternative to the stretch of tarmac between Potes and Fuente De. There are albergues and/or hotels at the end of each. Before setting off from Potes I asked at Officina de Tourisme about alternatives to walking the motorway but the person asked knew of none.

* St Toribio to Casgaya, 3 hours. Yellow + white balis.
* Casgaya to Pido, 4 hours. Red and white GR.
*Pido to Fuente De, 1 1/2 hours. Green sign, white lettering. (ends directly on the Ruta Vadiniense, a few hundred metres after the Official sign.)
* There is a trail from Espimas up to the Picos, Fuente De (Ruta de Reconquistadors?)
* A trail at the top of the Picos going to Puerto de Pondetrave, marked as a dotted line on a map. I spoke to someone who had hiked this particular trail. I was concerned that with 10-12 kilos in my pack it would be dangerous. After consideration (I´m not sure how he decided) he suggested it would be better for me to go back down the Telefonica and walk the route by the Piste, ie the signed Ruta Vadiniense.


Hi Laurie

You could try contacting these people http://www.fempa.net/fempa/servlet/Home they may be able to suggest an alternative route to walk between the towns on the Vadiniense.

Here is a link to the GR202 (the Ruta de Reconquista) http://reddeparquesnacionales.mma.es/parques/picos/guia_itinerarios_gr_202.htm, our tentative plans are to leave Santo Toribio by the Camino del Duje http://www.cantabriajoven.com/camaleno/rutas/duje.html and take up the GR202 in reverse from Sotres, that last link is quite useful for looking around it may give you some ideas.

Good luck

Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
...as for bears, I never saw any up on the Vad. Too many people about. Closest I have come to Camino bears is seeing bear tracks in the snow above Poladura de Tercia, on the San Salvador. Spanish bears are extremely rare and shy. One was struck and killed by a car this winter, and it made national news!

As for asphalt, well. When a camino gets old, it gets paved. The Vad does have some unavoidable asphalt stretches, and it gets pretty wearying when temperatures are high. But I assure you I did not dive over any highway railings or feel I was risking my neck. I do know a former long stretch of road, the 13 km. into Cistierna, has been re-routed onto a beautiful creekside trail in the past year, and the group that oversees that camino is always looking for alternative paths that take you off the roadside.
I did heavy research on alternative ways to and from Fuente De, but found most of them a bit too vertical for my taste. The path as marked was plenty tough enough for me! The Picos de Europa area is crisscrossed with good trails from Potes or Hotel Oso to Boca de Huergano, (over the Puerto de San Glorio), but these leave out the emblematic Fuente De - Pan de Trave high-altitude spectacle, and you end up walking along the road into Boca anyway.

It is a wonderful Way. Laurie, I know how much you love the San Salvador, and I think this has comparable asphalt (although I cannot back this up with science!)



I saw bear poo on the way to cueva santa near Potes last year. OK I'm no expert, but it wasn't horse or cow and there was plenty of it! No, I didn't take a photo.
Thanks, everyone. I am going to stick with my original plan, and stick with the yellow arrows, look for possible ways to stay off the asphalt, and keep my eyes trained on the spectacular mountain views. Can't wait! Laurie
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
if the weather stays fine and your knees hold out, you will not regret it. And if you do, give me a call and the Peaceable Flying Squad will come and pick you up off the roadside. Let me know when you get close to San Vicente, I still would love to walk that Liebana trail with you if I am not out on the Portuguese Costa just then...

You rock.
Hi, Reb,

I'll be landing in Madrid on May 24, getting up to Santander and starting from there. I see you're going to be walking in Portugal in mid-late May, so we may miss each other. Keep in touch.

Anyone else thinking about the walk through the Picos from San Vicente de la Barquera (on the Norte) to Leon (on the Frances)?

Mike, I know you'll be in the vicinity around the same time, but your plans sound too daring to me, I never stray far from the arrows (at least not intentionally).

Buen camino, Laurie


Hi Laurie, not quite sure how we are going to get to Covadonga from Potes. We have made provisional plans just to make sure there was a route which did not involve climbing ropes, but will make up our minds when we get to Potes and see what the locals have to say.

It is the route to Potes which really which I am not sure about, on the Jubilar Cantabria handout there seems to be two routes for the 2nd day from San Vincente. I think LK took the route to Cabnes which takes you off asphalt, but I saw a map for another route which seems to swing further west and goes on to the La Hermida route which goes through this beautiful gorge to Potes and is part of an old pilgrimage/cattle droving route from Asturias. The same map seems to indicate that is possible to walk from the Serdio albergue and join up with the Santo Toribio rather than retrace your steps for about 3/4 km to where you have the posts indicating the 2 options, the only reason that this really matters is that we may be heading for 'Cicera' which is about 34km from San Vincente and that could be a really tough day, so any way to shorten it would be a real bonus. We are taking 3 days to get to Potes, 1 quite hard day and then 2 gentle ones, well thats the plans anyway. Laurie you have more clear ideas than us of what this route involves and the options(just got that feeling from your posts) so going to keep my ears open on this one and anything you want to say about it will be VERY gratefully received.

Buen Camino

Hi, Mike,
Everything I know about this route comes from Reb's guide and those few websites. (I assume you have Reb's guide to the Liebana/Vadiniense. I don't think it has been posted online at the CSJ website yet, but it's complete, so let her know if you don't). If you think it sounds like my ideas are clearer than yours, that's only because I haven't even begun to consider the options you are dealing with, like Potes to Covadonga! (By the way, where will you go from Covadonga????)

Like you, I'm going to take the three day version into Potes, and I have the idea that I'll go the first day from San Vicente to either Quintanilla or LaFuente (not really even sure if those are different places), the second to Cabanes off road, and the third into Potes. Since the day into Potes is so short, I'm assuming it will give me plenty of time to walk up and back to visit the monastery, and then continue on to Fuente De the next day.

From Potes I'm going to stick with the Vadiniense all the way to Leon. Rebekah has all the etapas outlined, and it looks like 8 days. I have considered the possibility of staying put in one of the mountain albergues and doing some day hikes in the Picos for a day or two, but I will wait and see how things develop.

I know we're going around the same time, do you have exact dates yet? Buen camino, Laurie


Hi Laurie,
Found these photos of a group of teenagers walking from Santander to Santo Toribio. If you go to the newer photos from where the link takes you in, it shows them, and ignore the usual teenager photos, walking a very beautiful route. http://www.flickr.com/photos/katiegoldstein/4799744438/in/photostream/

The older photos show them starting out in Santander and walking the coastal path out, that has given me something to think about. You still have to walk over the train bridge.

There is the Gijon to Covadonga pilgrimage route which is well waymarked just have to follow it in reverse to near where the camino has the two options, Gijon or Oviedo. Or follow the GR105 in reverse to Oviedo, a very beautiful route. I have seen a website where someone has really given a lot of info for it and quite recently as well, but it can be a bit full on and maybe a bit beyond my present abilities and patience. I leave that one open and see who or what comes along to make us consider it.

We should get to Potes on one of these dates 30/31 May or 1st June, depending on days off and whatever else comes our way.



Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
I am almost finished my notes on the Vadiniense (using Rebekah's brilliant guide), which I walked last October and will post them in due course, but write only to say that I saw no bears. I did have a wild boar zoom across the patio of a bar where I was taking a glass of spiritual refreshment after a visit to the monastery of San Toribio and its portion of the True Cross, and can report that even at a few metres distance, they have quite a smell. I gathered from the bartender who handed us little shots of aguardiente to calm ourselves and to toast the boar, that he was likely on the run from some hunters, given the season.

As far as bears go, the best advice I have was passed on to me by my Six Nations schoolmates from the local Mohawk reserve: when walking in the woods, always go with a friend with short legs because you can't outrun the bear, but you can always outrun your friend.
Hi, oursonpolaire, I for one would be delighted to read your updates to Reb's guide. I'm not leaving till mid-May, so if you get them done any time before that, you'll have one grateful peregrina here.

And Mike, I walked from Santander to San Vicente when I walked the Norte in 2007. My pictures have a few shots from the stretch between those two places, but not too many. https://picasaweb.google.com/laurie.rey ... ELNORTE07# It isn't the most spectacular of the coastal segments on the norte, but there are some nice stretches. And btw, that train bridge to get into Mogro is really not a big deal. Visibility is extremely good, the train schedule is well known, and the people who live there use it on a regular basis. Your idea about going over through Covadonga to get to Oviedo is tempting!

Buen camino, Laurie


Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
My updates will be minimal as Rebekah's document is excellent. I would have liked a bit more precision on the day out of Riano and gave her my suggestions. As well, I crossed the sierra out of Cosgaya over to the Puerte de San Glorio, which I can only recommend with great reservations-- not because it is terrible or not scenic, as it is gently rising, well-marked, and spectacular, but because it is not regularly patrolled by the authorities and, in poor weather, a solitary peregrino puts himself at great risk.

This is a route for the hardcore peregrino, but not for one who thinks that they are tough as Vin Diesel and that their testosterone will get them out of trouble if the conditions are poor over the sierra. Canadian outdoors types know that poor weather can be very dangerous indeed. The other considerations is that it is a solitary route-- I saw no other pilgrims after I left San Vicente-- and that adequate Spanish would be really very helpful. The senora who runs the casa rural in Villareina speaks English well, as does the landlord at the hostal in Las Salas (he used to work in New York), but otherwise Castilian Spanish is the only language spoken. Locals are really friendly and helpful at every stage

But I will try to get it done before Easter.
Thanks, oursonpolaire.

So, putting together comments from the three who have walked the Vadiniense and posted here, it looks like the choice is between staying on the camino near the road or going off onto well marked but solitary and remote paths. I am not testosterone-fueled nor a Vin Diesel wanna-be, but I do like mountain hiking, so if I am lucky enough to run into others who are venturing off, I would consider it. Otherwise, I'll stick very close to the yellow arrows. I have Spanish friends who hike this area regularly and they have told me that June is still pretty early for the hiking crowds. That's good for finding a bed in the albergues, but not so good for finding companions on the trails. Ah, well, even if I'm alongside the road, I know this will be a beautiful walk.

Buen camino, Laurie
peregrina2000 said:
.....That's good for finding a bed in the albergues.....
Hi there Laurie, before setting off on the Ruta Lebaniego (July/August, 2011) I overnighted at the Serdio albergue. Some albergues between Serdio and Potes were closed. I detoured via Quintanilla to purchase food and slept out on a couple of church porches.
Cheers, Lovingkindness

Serdio to La Fuente via Quintanilla & Sobrepeña (tarmac)

Serdio Albergue (€5). Several bars.

Cades Albergue. Closed. Bar open.

Quintanilla Bar open. Pensione (quoted €32 BB). I enquired about a mountain trail which I’d noticed signed nearby (yellow & white balises). The barman thought perhaps I shouldn’t hike it alone as fog and rain were forecast.

Sobrelapeña Iglesia porch barred, locked.

La Fuente Albergue. Closed. No bar. I slept on the Iglesia porch, lavadero next door. The Bread van arrived early the next morning and parked by the Iglesia. A local invited me home for breakfast .

La Fuente via Burio & Cicera to Lebeña (tarmac uphill 8-10 kms? , 1.8 kms camino to Cicera, steep concreted road from Cicera to the Colado, camino down to Lebeña).

Cicera Albergue Municipal; Casa numero 40; Tel 679 530105 or (0034) 942 7309 64. Bar & restaurant

Lebeña I slept on the iglesia porch. Kiosk by the iglesia parking lot. Camping near by.

Lebena via Cabanes to Potes (mostly trails & caminos)

Cabanes Albergue de Cabañes El Hayal; Tel (0034) 942 744211 – 667 648541. Here I stopped by for breakfast.

Potes Albergue de peregrinos. Open




peregrina2000 said:
Your idea about going over through Covadonga to get to Oviedo is tempting!
Here are the details that I could glean from various websites.

Relevant links

1. San Vincente to Santo Toribio to Covadonga

2.Covadonga to Oviedo Via GR105 (115km- 6days)


They have really documented this route but it is still quite easy to get lost, 6 days for 115km is about right it is beautiful but very demanding.

3. Is the route from Covadonga to Gijon, it crosses the Camino Del Norte just past Villavicioasa http://www.elgarrapiellu.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/ruta-xixon-cuadongaa.html

The last two you will be walking in 'reverse', against the signalling and that requires extra attention and guesswork sometimes.



It looks a bit special that GR route, it even has the yellow arrows but pointing to Covadonga, it is still way beyond my comfort zone. When I was looking at various German speaking forums I saw one of the regular contributors on here posting a message about the GR105 so the walking and info could be coming from another source, but not me.

Buen Camino

Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
Hmmm. I recall seeing a GR route branching off the San Salvador leading to Covadonga, I think on the day out of Mieres. Everybody loves Covadonga, evidently.
Camino(s) past & future
Caminho Português da Costa (Fall 2018)
Laurie, I'm sure you know the difference between black bears and grizzly bears?

The scat of grizzly bears contains bear bells ... the sound is a dinner bell to them! :shock:
Thanks, Brian, I have no experience with bears, but I'm pretty sure there are no grizzlies in Spain. My experience on this camino this past summer was entirely bear-free. As lovingkindness posted early in the thread, cars were more of a hazard than bears in certain places.

Anyway, this is a beautiful part of Spain for walking, and I wouldn't mind spending a few weeks somewhere near Potes to do some day hiking. I've gotten some good recommendations for places to rent on the Spanish forum, and one of these days hope to be back.

Buen camino, Laurie


Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte/Primitivo (April/May) 2009: Norte/Primitivo (parts) (April/May) 2010: Inglés (May) 2011: Primitivo (April/May) 2012: Norte / Camino de La Reina (April/May) 2013: Camino del Mar / Inglés (May/June) 2015
We are thinking of walking part of the GR105 next year (2013) to Covadonga. From Santillana on the Norte to Llanes and then this route;- http://www.vivirasturias.com/asturias/l ... oriente/es
I would love to see even one bear in the Picos. doubtful though, the few there are will be hidden away during the daytime.
However, maybe a few jesters bells sewn on a garter will be effective if they get too close . . . . .

Tio Tel
Camino(s) past & future
Sept/Oct (2013) Camino Frances to Muxia
There was a Momma Bear and two cubs in my mother's trashcan a few weeks ago here on the Coast Of North Carolina. I believe they are most places. They ran quickly away! There are definitely loads of bears on the Appl. Trail!

A few items available from the Camino Forum Store



Latest posts

Most read today

Most downloaded Resources

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Forum Store

Camino Forum Store

Casa Ivar Newsletter

Forum Donation

Forum Donation
For those with no forum account, it is possible to donate here as well. Thank you for your support! Ivar

Follow Casa Ivar on Instagram

When is the best time to walk?

  • January

    Votes: 11 1.4%
  • February

    Votes: 5 0.6%
  • March

    Votes: 35 4.4%
  • April

    Votes: 117 14.8%
  • May

    Votes: 192 24.3%
  • June

    Votes: 55 7.0%
  • July

    Votes: 15 1.9%
  • August

    Votes: 12 1.5%
  • September

    Votes: 236 29.9%
  • October

    Votes: 96 12.2%
  • November

    Votes: 11 1.4%
  • December

    Votes: 5 0.6%