I’ve definitely caught the hiking bug. Lucky for me, living in Northern Spain means no shortage of hiking trails with jaw-dropping views. Just an hour & a half from Mundaka at the border dividing Castilla y León and País Vasco is el Monumento Natural Monte Santiago, home of the highest waterfall in the Iberian Peninsula – El Salto del Nervión… that is, if there’s water. While the south of Spain is basically under water from the amount of rain fall they’ve been seeing lately, we’ve been experiencing an uncharacteristically dry winter (so far). So, when we hiked to El Salto del Nervión it was completed dry – but it’s grandiose cliffs and stunning forestry more than made up for the lack of water.
I sheepishly entered “Salto del Nervión” as our destination into Google Maps and after driving about 10 minutes down a dirt road through what appeared to be an abandoned village, I realized we had ended up about half an hour away from the actual entrance to the park. We used A-2625 to reach BU-556. The main entrance was on our left, along with the first parking lot. We continued slowly down the dirt road past the guard house, trying to avoid the numerous potholes, until we reached Parking Lot 3.
NOTE: I’ve read in other blogs that there’ll sometimes be a fee to access the parking lots closer to the trails. This may be true during high season, but we didn’t have to pay.
From here, we set out on PR-BU 41, the trail that leads to el Mirador Esquina de Ruben. This was a really simple 1.7 km long trail with just a tad bit of an incline. At the end of the trail was the first viewing platform which is seemingly hanging off the side of the cliff. The views were absolutely breath-taking (or maybe it was the sensation that I was going to fall through the rusted flooring of the platform).
The viewing platform for el Salto del Nervión can be accessed two ways from el Mirador Esquina de Ruben. You can take PR-BU 41 back to the parking lot and proceed to PR-42 (a leisurely 2 km walk that should take no more than 20 minutes to complete) or you can use PR-45, a trail that connects the two viewing platforms, creating a circular trail of about 6 km. We opted for the latter and it didn’t disappoint. PR-BU 45 runs along the edge of Monumento Natural Monte Santiago and while it’s not the hardest trail we’ve hiked, it’s by no means easy. It’s not a well defined trail like PR-BU 41 and PR-BU 42 and we found ourselves walking through thick mud, climbing down steep rocky areas and skipping over downed trees. It’s easy to veer off course, but as long as you stay within safe distance of the edge, you’ll eventually reach your destination. It’s really worth the effort. We saw a number of large falcons and vultures and even a small fox. The bright orange mushrooms growing along the trail were a welcomed contrast to the green surrounding us.
NOTE: Towards the end of PR-BU 45, you’ll find the beginning of PR-BU 44. If you’re intention is to reach el Mirador Salto del Nervión, do not take this path. This path leads you away from the edge and deeper into the surrounding forest back to the parking area.
We reached el Mirador Salto del Nervión in the late afternoon. There were many more visitors here than el Mirador Esquina de Ruben. It could be because of the time we arrived, or because el Mirador Esquina de Ruben isn’t as popular. I highly suggest visiting both. While el Mirador Salto del Nervión does have spectacular views of the jagged cliffs (and the waterfall, when there’s rainfall or melting snow), el Mirador Esquina de Ruben offered those expansive, far-as-the-eye-could-see views that for me are truly mesmerizing.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE/DO
– There are 12 trails in total, ranging in difficulty and length. You can easily spend a few days hiking them all.
– Just at the entrance to PR-BU 42 is la Fuente de Santiago, a tranquil grotto and natural spring.
– Monumento Natural Monte Santiago is possibly the best picnic spot I’ve ever seen. Not only are there numerous tables near the parking lots, but along PR-BU 45 there are a number of flat grassy areas perfect of enjoying a light lunch. Just remember – take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.