• Get your Camino Frances Guidebook here.
  • For 2024 Pilgrims: €50,- donation = 1 year with no ads on the forum + 90% off any 2024 Guide. More here.
    (Discount code sent to you by Private Message after your donation)
  • ⚠️ Emergency contact in Spain - Dial 112 and AlertCops app. More on this here.

Search 69,459 Camino Questions

Descent into Roncesvalles

Ahaj

Member
I have only ever turned right and descended on the road into Ronscevalles assuming it would be too hard on the knees to go the main route. I have an occasional, minor degree of pain in one knee on steep descents. I am wondering just how hard the forest way is. Has anyone done both and have an opinion on which they prefer and why? I’m thinking of giving it a go but only if I’m really missing out by going the longer road way.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
HI @Ahaj

Last October I walked from SJPP to Roncesvalles for the 4th time. All previous times I took the steep path, but this time I took the alternative. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it picturesque. I've read descriptions of it as 'walking on the road' but I think that's misleading. It's a very quiet 'road' and much of the time we were on a grassy verge. I wonder if that was your experience. There were some lovely views looking down to Roncesvalles and I liked the entry into Roncesvalles.

The steep path through the forest is atmospheric for sure, but I seem to recall that each time I've walked it I was very focused on how I was walking, and being careful not to trip or slide. I found the alternative more enjoyable in that regard. So, in trying to answer your question, I have enjoyed both but I too have a few knee issues - and if I walk that path again, I will choose 'the road' option again.
 
Although it was years ago I have walked both paths down from Ibaneta. The forest way can be slippery and covered in roots which could catch your foot. The road route always seemed easy. This photo from winter 2007 shows the view of Roncesvalles from the road route in snow.

Roncesvalles 2007..jpg
 
Last edited:
Very light, comfortable and compressible poncho. Specially designed for protection against water for any activity.

Our Atmospheric H30 poncho offers lightness and waterproofness. Easily compressible and made with our Waterproof fabric, its heat-sealed interior seams guarantee its waterproofness. Includes carrying bag.

€60,-
The first edition came out in 2003 and has become the go-to-guide for many pilgrims over the years. It is shipping with a Pilgrim Passport (Credential) from the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
HI @Ahaj

Last October I walked from SJPP to Roncesvalles for the 4th time. All previous times I took the steep path, but this time I took the alternative. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it picturesque. I've read descriptions of it as 'walking on the road' but I think that's misleading. It's a very quiet 'road' and much of the time we were on a grassy verge. I wonder if that was your experience. There were some lovely views looking down to Roncesvalles and I liked the entry into Roncesvalles.

The steep path through the forest is atmospheric for sure, but I seem to recall that each time I've walked it I was very focused on how I was walking, and being careful not to trip or slide. I found the alternative more enjoyable in that regard. So, in trying to answer your question, I have enjoyed both but I too have a few knee issues - and if I walk that path again, I will choose 'the road' option again.
Thank you so much! I agree I found it very pretty- the heather was in full flower and very stunning. I think like you I might find the concentration on walking on the forest track would reduce the enjoyment.
 
Although it was years ago I have walked both paths down from Ibaneta. The forest way can be slippery and covered in roots which could catch your foot. The road route always seemed easy. This photo from winter 2007 shows the view of Roncesvalles from the road route in snow.

View attachment 164496
Thank you for your reply- I can be slightly accident prone so another factor pushing me towards the road route!
 
Havin walked both, i found the left path a bit more beautiful but a lot harder on the knees. Pretty sure elevation profiles for both can be found online, but to make things short: if you get issues with yopur knees on steep descents, take the right hand path.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
If you have a sketchy hip, knee, or leg. I recommend continuing to take the road snaking down from the peak. There is a more direct route, through the woods.

You make your choice at the pole / marker that splits the trail into two routes - the road route mentioned, and the forest route.

Be advised that the forest route is known to be slippery and somewhat treacherous at times, especially for folks who are not fully ambulatory and fall resistant.

Hope this helps.

Tom
 
If you have a sketchy hip, knee, or leg. I recommend continuing to take the road snaking down from the peak. There is a more direct route, through the woods.

You make your choice at the pole / marker that splits the trail into two routes - the road route mentioned, and the forest route.

Be advised that the forest route is known to be slippery and somewhat treacherous at times, especially for folks who are not fully ambulatory and fall resistant.

Hope this helps.

Tom
this was very helpful. thank you.
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
I’ve done both.
The straight down is steep and hard on the knees.
And slippery when wet.
 
I went down through the beechwood forest with two companions I had met earlier in the day. I was in the lead. When I did not hear their voices, I turned around to face uphill. In an instant, I fell backwards about 5 meters straight down the mountain, landing at the base of a tree hitting my head. Before that, as I was falling, my right arm was shredded by the rocks in the trail. One of my companions was from Brazil. I had some gauze in my backpack and duct tape wrapped around my trekking poles. She stopped the bleeding. At Roncesvalles, I showered and tried to remove some gravel around the wound. I didn't do a very good job. The next day, at the Albergue Suseia in Zubiri, two Austrian nurses who were traveling together saw my arm. After I showered and removed yesterday's gauze and tape (there was not enough gauze to cover the wound), the nurses picked out the remaining pieces of gravel, and removed from their medical kits, that would be the envy of any EMT ambulance, what appeared to be a sophisticated battle dressing. They said to keep it on for a week. I removed it in Logroño, and was stunned that it had healed so well. I could never thank Gabriella and Zlatica enough. I still have a scar on my right arm reminding me of that experience. Now then, to the question: road or forest? Of course, I will take the forest again. Carefully.
 
I took the steep forest route in September 2021 on the recommendation of Joseph from Beilari. It was indeed beautiful, and I had never experienced problems with steep descents - until that day!

I developed a twinge in one of my knees that never really left me during subsequent descents on that Camino (it's fine now). I also tripped while taking a detour around a fallen tree, but suffered no damage other than to my pride!

My next CF will be with my wife, who has foot problems. We will definitely take the alternative path, and I won't even blame it on her!
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
Has anyone done both and have an opinion on which they prefer and why? I’m thinking of giving it a go but only if I’m really missing out by going the longer road way.
My wife and I have done it both ways, the first time on the forest path and the second time on the roadway. We thought the views on the roadway path were outstanding. The views on the forest path might be better, I suppose, but you sure couldn’t prove it by us; we were too busy watching our feet to look up. It’s pretty challenging. We didn’t regret taking the other path the second time.
 
Very light, comfortable and compressible poncho. Specially designed for protection against water for any activity.

Our Atmospheric H30 poncho offers lightness and waterproofness. Easily compressible and made with our Waterproof fabric, its heat-sealed interior seams guarantee its waterproofness. Includes carrying bag.

€60,-
@Ahaj, this information is likely well known to you but I'm including it for those reading this thread that are unfamiliar with the two ways down to Roncesvalles, the forest trail that is marked as the camino and the variant way following the road marked as the "soft" or easy way. There are a number of reports on the forum from people who wanted to avoid the forest way but got confused and ended up taking it by accident. The following thread discusses these two ways down from the Col de Lepoeder in detail and it has a lot of maps, aerial views and pictures.

 
Last edited:
HI @Ahaj

Last October I walked from SJPP to Roncesvalles for the 4th time. All previous times I took the steep path, but this time I took the alternative. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it picturesque. I've read descriptions of it as 'walking on the road' but I think that's misleading. It's a very quiet 'road' and much of the time we were on a grassy verge. I wonder if that was your experience. There were some lovely views looking down to Roncesvalles and I liked the entry into Roncesvalles.

The steep path through the forest is atmospheric for sure, but I seem to recall that each time I've walked it I was very focused on how I was walking, and being careful not to trip or slide. I found the alternative more enjoyable in that regard. So, in trying to answer your question, I have enjoyed both but I too have a few knee issues - and if I walk that path again, I will choose 'the road' option again.
Absolutely!!!!
 
I've walked both trails with my dad -- the first time we took the forest path, then on our second walk we opted to follow the road down to the Ibaneta chapel -- it was peaceful, lovely, and we stopped to watch a hawk glide through the valley -- a special moment -- would go this way again. Met only one other person walking it so a quieter choice (at least on that day it was) --
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
I have only ever turned right and descended on the road into Ronscevalles assuming it would be too hard on the knees to go the main route. I have an occasional, minor degree of pain in one knee on steep descents. I am wondering just how hard the forest way is. Has anyone done both and have an opinion on which they prefer and why? I’m thinking of giving it a go but only if I’m really missing out by going the longer road way.
Hi there, fellow pilgrim! I've only walked the route that goes off to the left, sometimes called the steep route. It was steeper at the beginning and a couple of places after that, but mostly I was carried away by what I've come to call The Enchanted Woods. It was absolutely gorgeous. However! My legs were so tired from having crossed the Pyrenees already that I ended up with a very sore knee until I went to bed that night. Turns out was actually due to tight calf muscles. The next morning it was okay. So yes, it can be harder on the knees, especially for people like me who weren't that well prepared.
 
I completely missed the “easier” option and took the forest route. It was beautiful and very peaceful as I was the only one walking that way; which was good because I kept declaring very loudly, “You’ve got to be kidding me!!” It was ridiculously steep. My knees were fine, but when I arrived in Roncesvalles I feared that my toes were ruined from slamming into the front of my boots. I recovered, eventually, but next time I’ll watch carefully for the decision point and spare my toes, and now-older knees!
 
The pilgrim office in SJPDP recommends not to take the forest route. The alternate is quite beautiful.
It seems that the staff of the Pilgrim's office always has a story of someone who sprained an ankle or broke their arm just the day before, so I have always taken their advice (4 times) and walked the gentle way to the right. After reading @John Crawford Howell's account in post #11, I think that I made the right decision!
 
The 9th edition the Lightfoot Guide will let you complete the journey your way.
I have only ever turned right and descended on the road into Ronscevalles assuming it would be too hard on the knees to go the main route. I have an occasional, minor degree of pain in one knee on steep descents. I am wondering just how hard the forest way is. Has anyone done both and have an opinion on which they prefer and why? I’m thinking of giving it a go but only if I’m really missing out by going the longer road way.
I would caution going to the left. There are a few slightly steep sections that are not that steep but always shaded so they stay damp and very slippery. It looks like you're standing on a smooth sandy surface but really it is rock hard with a thin layer of mud. In addition since it is beautifully shaded you lose your sense of level. Only section from SJPDP to Santigo that I saw the necessity of EMTs in a motorized mini ambulance.
 
It seems that the staff of the Pilgrim's office always has a story of someone who sprained an ankle or broke their arm just the day before, so I have always taken their advice (4 times) and walked the gentle way to the right. After reading @John Crawford Howell's account in post #11, I think that I made the right decision!
You are a sensible person, Trecile, so of course you made the right decision. I'm a Marine which may explain my, ahem . . . decision. 😎
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I have walked the forest route 3 times and didn't find it too steep but it does seem to last a long time. I always use walking poles to help my precious knees
 
When I was last there, a local man was sitting beside the start of the forest track advising everyone to take the road. I did this and it wasn't such a busy road at all.
 
Technical backpack for day trips with backpack cover and internal compartment for the hydration bladder. Ideal daypack for excursions where we need a medium capacity backpack. The back with Air Flow System creates large air channels that will keep our back as cool as possible.

€83,-
After leaving St Jean Pied de Port in late 2014, we decided to take the shorter route to Roncesvalles. Huge mistake, our knees hurt and our quads were quivering as we finished. The steep descent and switchbacks will never be forgotten.
 
When I was last there, a local man was sitting beside the start of the forest track advising everyone to take the road. I did this and it wasn't such a busy road at all.
I don't remember ever seeing a vehicle on the road. I've seen plenty of sheep though.

Screenshot_20240220_071042_Photos.jpg
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
HI @Ahaj

Last October I walked from SJPP to Roncesvalles for the 4th time. All previous times I took the steep path, but this time I took the alternative. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it picturesque. I've read descriptions of it as 'walking on the road' but I think that's misleading. It's a very quiet 'road' and much of the time we were on a grassy verge. I wonder if that was your experience. There were some lovely views looking down to Roncesvalles and I liked the entry into Roncesvalles.

The steep path through the forest is atmospheric for sure, but I seem to recall that each time I've walked it I was very focused on how I was walking, and being careful not to trip or slide. I found the alternative more enjoyable in that regard. So, in trying to answer your question, I have enjoyed both but I too have a few knee issues - and if I walk that path again, I will choose 'the road' option again.
I am one of those people who took the forest path inadvertently many years ago- 2009- - despite having been warned by the Pilgrim Office to avoid it. I don't remember the terrain- perhaps I was too tired or because I came upon a film crew complete with people on horseback who looked like they had stepped out of the Middle Ages. When I tried to talk about my experience in Roncesvalles and no one seemed to know what I was talking about, I realized I had taken the "wrong" path!
 
I have only ever turned right and descended on the road into Ronscevalles assuming it would be too hard on the knees to go the main route. I have an occasional, minor degree of pain in one knee on steep descents. I am wondering just how hard the forest way is. Has anyone done both and have an opinion on which they prefer and why? I’m thinking of giving it a go but only if I’m really missing out by going the longer road way.

To quote an elderly gentleman who arrived in Roncevalles: "I'm in a lot of pain."

He checked into the hotel for a few nights to recover and I didn't get an update.

Also, a few women were afraid to walk at times and scooted down on their butts.
 
St James' Way - Self-guided 4-7 day Walking Packages, Reading to Southampton, 110 kms
I’ve gone through the woods twice and I have a bad knee.

I take very short steps, striding no more than the length of my shoe. Shorter sometimes. Baby steps.

And I lean back slightly at the hips.

And I lengthen my poles and always keep them in front of me. Real long poles.

And I zigzagged a little. The trail is often wide enough for this.

Never allow your momentum to build. Pause between steps on the steepest parts, a split second will do.

And it was a lovely walk both times, and one time it was wet and rainy.
 
ALWAYS take the safest route!! It is a wonderful 35 day walk not to be ruined by impatience or shortcuts.
Down to Roncesvalles
Downhill into Zubiri.
Downhill into Molinaseca.
Some paths down from Vilacha.
Come to mind.
 
I’ve gone through the woods twice and I have a bad knee.

I take very short steps, striding no more than the length of my shoe. Shorter sometimes. Baby steps.

And I lean back slightly at the hips.

And I lengthen my poles and always keep them in front of me. Real long poles.

And I zigzagged a little. The trail is often wide enough for this.

Never allow your momentum to build. Pause between steps on the steepest parts, a split second will do.

And it was a lovely walk both times, and one time it was wet and rainy.
Proof that poetry does not have to rhyme!
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
I have taken the forest path both times into Roncesvalles and cannot recall any problems; possibly because I was so excited to arrive there, and also had beautiful weather and a dry path both times.
 

Most read last week in this forum

This is my first posting but as I look at the Camino, I worry about 'lack of solitude' given the number of people on the trail. I am looking to do the France route....as I want to have the...
The Burguete bomberos had another busy day yesterday. Picking up two pilgrims with symptoms of hypothermia and exhaustion near the Lepoeder pass and another near the Croix de Thibault who was...
Between Villafranca Montes de Oca and San Juan de Ortega there was a great resting place with benches, totem poles andvarious wooden art. A place of good vibes. It is now completely demolished...
Left Saint Jean this morning at 7am. Got to Roncesvalles just before 1:30. Weather was clear and beautiful! I didn't pre book, and was able to get a bed. I did hear they were all full by 4pm...
Hi there - we are two 'older' women from Australia who will be walking the Camino in September and October 2025 - we are tempted by the companies that pre book accomodation and bag transfers but...
We have been travelling from Australia via Dubai and have been caught in the kaos in Dubai airport for over 3 days. Sleeping on the floor of the airport and finally Emerites put us up in...

❓How to ask a question

How to post a new question on the Camino Forum.

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Updates on YouTube

Camino Conversations

Most downloaded Resources

This site is run by Ivar at

in Santiago de Compostela.
This site participates in the Amazon Affiliate program, designed to provide a means for Ivar to earn fees by linking to Amazon
Official Camino Passport (Credential) | 2024 Camino Guides
Back
Top