Hiking the Congost de Mont-Rebei is a must, as it is one of the most beautiful and spectacular natural spaces of Catalonia.
Congost is Catalan for “Gorge” or “Pass”, and refers to the huge slabs of vertical rock that have been carved over the millenia by the flow of the river Noguera Ribagorçana through the Sierra del Montsec mountain range – the foothills of the Catalan Pre-Pyrenees.
Having said “in Catalonia”, one should also note that the gorge also forms a natural geographic border between Catalonia and Aragon, so you’ll actually be visiting both regions if you do this walk.
Hiking the Congost de Mont-Rebei from the Parking at La Masieta to the Hermitage of the Pertusa via the Montfalcó Stairs
Start point: Parking La Masieta
We recommend starting and finishing your visit from the car park at La Masieta.
Here you will find an information point, gift shop, very cool composting toilets, and drinking water.
The car park is operated by the Pedrera Foundation a not for profit private organisation modelled on the UK’s National Trust. They are funded primarily via the entrance fees to the eponymous Gaudi Building on Passeige de Gracia. They now own, manage and protect various nature reserves across Catalonia. Your €6 parking fee will be invested in the upkeep and protection of the area.
Want to help out more? You can register as a volunteer with the foundation here. They do (or did before COVID) regular excursions to their various reserves to do activities such as tree planting, building and hanging bird boxes, dry stone walling and more.
Stage 1: La Masieta to the Suspension Bridge
The spectacular views start directly from the car park. The flow of the river is controlled by a dam further downstream, it’s really halfway between a river and a reservoir. It’s usually like a mirror, creating amazing reflections of the hills that surround it.
After about 1km you’ll come across the first suspension bridge. A great place to watch the huge Black Bass fish clearly visible in the crystal clear blue-green water.
Stage 2: Traversing the Congost de Mont-Rebei
The suspension bridge marks the entrance to the steep-walled cliffs of the gorge. A path has been carved into the rock on the eastern bank of the river which allows you to explore the Congost on foot. It’s a very easy path, but there’s no safety barrier and a very big drop to the water below, so make sure any young children and animals are under control.
The cliffs are home to many many birds, including vultures and eagles, highly recommended to take a pair of binoculars with you to get a good view. Make sure you keep an eye on the path too though!
Stage 3: The Stairs of Montfalcó
At the end of the narrow section of the gorge, you’ll find another suspension bridge (The Siegue) that takes you over to the other side of the river. A worthwhile little detour to the Aragonese side of the pass. In addition to yet more spectacular views, you can also brave the wooden Indiana Jones-style walkway on the cliff face which takes you all the way down to the water and an amazing spot to swim with the Bass!
Stage 4: The Hermitage of la Mare de Deu de la Pertusa via the Serra del Mill
This final stretch of this route takes you through some beautiful woodland and ends with yet more breathtaking views where the gorge opens out into a huge reservoir with magnificent rocky peaks jutting out of the water.
This is probably the more challenging half of the walk, though this (often thankfully, see below) means that there are fewer people, as most people just go as far as the second suspension bridge / Montfalcó.
In fact, for this reason, if you weren’t planning on doing the full 20k, I’d recommend skipping the diversion across the river in the previous stage, and instead “just” stick to the Catalan side, as it’s less crowded.
Stage 5: Back to the Car Park at La Masieta
Excellent work, you’re more than half-way there if you did the option diversion across the river to the Montfalcó stairs! Now it’s time to retrace your steps back to the car park where you began.
Hopefully, you’ve really taken your time on the route, stopping to enjoy the view, take photos, watch the wildlife and eat a tasty picnic. I say this as it’s best to walk back as the sun starts to drop lower in the sky if possible, as the colours you’ll see in the rock if you do are truly spectacular!
Flora and Fauna
You will definitely see plenty of fish, that’s pretty much guaranteed. You will also very likely see plenty of “Voltors Comuns” Griffon Vultures. Despite their name, there’s nothing common about them – they are really impressive birds with huge wingspans. They often fly so close by that you think that they might just swoop off with one of the smaller party members!
There are also apparently otters that live in the river, though unfortunately I’ve never spotted any as yet.
The forest is still very young, as with much of Europe it was heavily exploited for centuries. This is why the foundation is doing tree planting and bird boxes (the young trees are too small for birds that live in holes in the trunks).
Traditionally, the area was known for its walnut trees (Noguera, the name of the river, is Catalan for Walnut Tree). There are also many oaks, and lots of Juniper bushes for those of you that like a good GnT.
When to go?
The combination of beauty, easy accessibility, low skill/fitness level required, the novelty of the wooden walkways, and additional activities such as kayaking, Via Ferrata and climbing, makes the Congost very, very popular.
So much so that the limiting access has become necessary.
I would strongly recommend if you can, visiting midweek / out of season. Otherwise, you’ll likely find an awful lot of people, up to the point where you’ll have to queue at the bridges and stairs etc.
My advice would be to make a small holiday of it – there are plenty of other hikes to do, plus I’d highly recommend hiring a kayak to get another perspective of the gorge, plus there are numerous via ferratas if you have the gear.
The good news is that the route is happily done in any season, providing you have appropriate clothing. Summer, you can go in the water, winter there are fewer people, it’s a win-win.
Where to Stay
There are numerous options when it comes to accommodation.
For camping or even glamping, check out Terra del Congost.
Our last trip we went in a campervan which was perfect, as wild camping is prohibited within the nature reserve.
One thing to note is that campervans are not permitted in the Car Park of the Foundation. There are a number of spots further along the road however you can stop for the night, or alternatively, you could try the Parking La Pertusa and do the route in reverse.