El Caminito del Rey takes us through a 7.7 kilometer long stretch of catwalks, narrow ledges, and sky high bridges through a stunningly beautiful river canyon. Once known as “Spain’s most dangerous hike”, recent renovations in 2015 transformed the path into one of the safest excursions in Andalucía – and one of the most popular.
Started in 1901 and finished in 1905, this walkway was created as a means for construction workers to travel between the Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls dams. Over the years, the original concrete path deteriorated, becoming an attraction for rock climbers and adventure seekers. A number of fatalities led the government to finally rehabilitate the entire hike in 2015 and the upgraded El Caminito del Rey has become one of the signature tourist sites of the region.
Type of Hike: Wooden and steel bridges/regular dirt trail/pavement
Time: 2.5-3.5 hours
Distance: 7.7 kilometers one-way
Number of Wrong Turns: 0
The official website is a bit confusing when it comes to information. Here’s the short version of the rules. When in doubt, follow the crowd. We’re all here to hike to the same thing.
-Only a limited number of people a day are let into the canyon.
-Groups of about 20 are let in every thirty minutes.
-You can make a reservation online.
-You can only hike in one direction from north to south.
-At the south end, there is a shuttle every 30 minutes that takes you back to the north end.
-You are required to wear a helmet during the entire hike.
The first phase is a mellow path alongside the Gaitanejo reservoir to the gated entrance. You can either choose the lower path closer the water (2.8 kilometers) or a shorter one through a creepy tunnel
At the gate, you’ll be given a helmet, hairnet, and instructions for the hike. COVID-19 requirements required us to wear a mask whenever we were within 5 meters of another person. Hiking with a mask on in the middle of summer is uncomfortable to say the least, but luckily I was distracted by the buckets of sweat from my completely unbreathable helmet-hairnet headgear.
I didn’t have a reservation, but read online that no-shows do happen and there’s a limited amount of tickets at the gates. My backup plan if the hike was full was to spend the day swimming in El Chorro Lakes (pictured below), so wasn’t too worried.
Past the first bend into the canyon, I let my group get about ten minutes in front of me, mostly so I could just enjoy hiking without my mask. Even with the lag, I caught up to them quickly because everyone on this hike is snapping selfies #allthetime.
After the first gorge, you end up in a tranquil valley between the two narrows. There’s a normal dirt path down here, shade, and places to sit and rest. There’s also plenty of room here to pass the other hikers and walk at a normal pace.
Finally we reach the crux of the adventure! This is the most jaw-dropping part of the hike with skywalks dangling you hundreds of feet in the air. It all culminates in the crossing of the river over the very small and slightly swaying metal bridge. If you look closely at the photos, you’ll see some of the original concrete underneath the updated path.
After that, it’s only a couple kilometers along the roadside to the village of El Chorro, where you drop off your helmet, and board the shuttle back to the starting point. There’s some stellar vantage points here of the route you just finished.
When to Go: Speaking as someone who trekked this at noon in July, your best option is early in the morning and not in the middle of the summer. I am very curious about reserving the last spot of the day as it may cut down on foot traffic.
How Much Does it Cost: Entrance into the hike is 10€ ($11.45 USD). There’s a guided version that costs 18€ ($20.62). Note the first and last hikes are guided tours. That price also includes a shuttle back to the north end.
How I Got There and Back: From the Malaga central train station, I caught the 9:06 train to El Chorro ($8.70 USD/25 minutes) and the shuttle from the south end of the canyon to the entrance at the north ($3.80 USD/15 minutes).
I thought that being a major tourist destination, there would be at least one train back. I was wrong. My backup plan was a bus to the nearest major city of Alora – but it never showed up. I ended up taking a taxi to the Elora train station ($25 USD/15 minutes) and the train from there back to the city ($4.70 USD/20 minutes).
How You Should Get There: Rent a car. Despite its popularity and proximity to Malaga, public transportation is not a viable option.
Other Notes: Be prepared for this hike to be crowded. Limiting the total hikers and splitting up the groups helps somewhat, but a good portion of your hike will be spent bumping into the person in front of you as they stop for dozens of selfies. There’s also no bathrooms on the hike so be prepared for that.
More Info: Like most official websites in Spain, the Caminito del Rey site is a bit of a jumbled mess, but you can make reservations here.
Despite its popularity, this is a super fun hike with lots and fun twists and turns. If you aim to hit this up in the shoulder season, you won’t be disappointed. I hope you enjoyed this photographic tour and head over here to see more of my hiking reports from across Europe.