A weekend’s hiking accessible from Barcelona by train in a couple of hours. A great mix of rolling farmland and imposing rocky outcrops and plunging ravines. An easy path though lots of KM. Could be split over 3 days if necessary.
The Sanctuary of Cabrera, Collsacabra, 1300m
The Sanctuary of Cabrera is a truly magical place to visit. Located at 1300m on the edge of the vertical and imposing Collsacabra mountain ridge, one can really appreciate why the monks chose this spot to contemplate the wonders of the universe.
The Cabrera overlooks the fertile planes surrounding Vic and Olot with views of the mountain ranges of el Cadí to the north and Montseny to the south.
The Sanctuary has a bar and restaurant for weary hikers, and you can sleep there refuge style if you bring a sleeping bag.
Torellò to La Cabrera and the Foradada of Cantonigròs finishing in Manlleu
This route is not technically challenging and is mostly pretty flat or gently undulating aside from the final ascent up to the Sanctuary.
With a total of 48km however, it can be challenging if just split over two days. If I were to do it again I’d perhaps split over three.
Start point: Torellò Train Station
You can catch the train from Sants, Catalunya, Arc de Triomf or Sagrera-Meridiana. The journey is approximately 1.5 hours and tickets cost €6.95 at the time of writing. Make sure to check the timetable, and note that there is a different schedule for Weekends and Bank Holidays.
Torellò is a large town with plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants for refuelling and bathroom breaks after the train journey.
Stage 1: Torellò Train Station to Sant Julia de Cabrera – 20km
From the station, follow the long set of stairs down into the town centre.
Our GPX track actually starts from Patisseria Serra, a good place to fuel up on carbs and caffeine before the long road ahead. In stage 1 we’ll gradually ascend from 500m to 1000m over 19km so treat yourself to an ensaïmada.
From the café head out of town, and you’ll soon find yourself in lush farmland for the first half of this stage.
This is the Plana Dolça, or “Sweet Plain”, the breadbasket of the region. In addition to wheat fields, you’ll see vineyards and olive groves, plus slightly less idyllic, numerous indoor pig farms.
We went in mid-May and so we were treated to Golden fields of thigh-high wheat with explosions of red poppies all around. In the distance, you can see the foothills of the Pyrenees rising up out of the plane.
After crossing under the C37 motorway, the landscape changes as we reach la Serra de la Creu, “The Ridge of the Cross”. This long and narrow ridge takes us the rest of the way to our first destination, offering magnificent views across the planes with El Cadí to the left and Montseny to the right in the distance.
Stage 2: Sant Julia to the Sanctuary – 1km (Steep)
After the long but steady climb from Torellò to Saint Julia, we are abruptly faced with what looks like a vertical cliff face that we’re going to have to scale Alex Honald style. Fear not though, as there is a path that winds up through the woods.
It does involve climbing 300m in 1km though, which can be a challenge, particularly if you’ve already done 19km. For less hardened hikers stopping for the night in Sant Julia or wild camping along the Serra de la Creu could be an alternative.
It’s definitely worth that effort to hike it up to the top though, as the views are absolutely spectacular.
Stage 3: Cabrera Sanctuary to Cantonigròs – 6km
You’ll be happy to hear that this stage is all downhill. In fact, it’s mostly downhill for the rest of the route.
The way down to Cantonigròs follows a gentler path, allowing us to decend back down from 1300m to 1000m over 6km rather than 1km. You’ll be glad of this if like us you did stages 1-3 in one day.
There are a couple of steeper more technical parts though, so don’t get too carried away with the beers in the Sanctuary’s bar…
Cantonigròs has various bars and restaurants for refueling.
Stage 4: Cantonigòs to the Foradada – 2km
There are various “Foradadas” dotted around Catalunya. It refers to “Roca Foradada” which basically means “Rock with a hole”.
The Foradada of Cantonigòs refers to a large hole that has formed in the limestone wall right next to a waterfall.
It’s just a 1km walk along a natural limestone pavement, followed by a short but steep decent down the side of the gorge to the pool at the bottom of the waterfall..
Stage 5: The Foradada to Manlleu – 19km
The final stage, but still plenty to see! The first half of our route back to the train line follows the “Riera de les Gorgues” – The River of the Natural Pools, or words to that effect. Gorgues refer to the large pools of slow flowing water that form in rivers where you can dive in and swim. Like the one you just saw at the Foradada.
The river has cut a deep gorge through the limestone, it’s very impressive. Along the route you’ll come across various waterfalls and natural pools.
The halfway point is marked by a huge agro-industrial complex. At the time we recorded this track there were constructions underway, and the path was diverted all the way around. It will probably be best to ignore the GPS briefly here and follow any signs for Manlleu/Sant Martí Sescorts as likely the path will have changed again once the work is finished.
For the home straight it’s back to the fertile plains. We were again treated to acres and acres of poppies, thank you Spring!
Once back in Manlleu you’ll find all the usual amenities of a large town. The central square is a good place to grab a drink, snack and loo break before taking the train home.
There are more direct ways to get back to the station from the central square. Our GPS takes the scenic route following the river. Please note this is a bit longer than going directly.
Flora and Fauna
La Cabrera and the Foredada are both located within the Collsacabra Protected Natural Area. The zone which spans the regions of Osona, Selva and La Garotxa, was declared of special interest in 1992 for its unique geology and biodiversity.
The forests surrounding Tagamanent are filled with oak, beech, and birch trees, plus many shrubs and bushes such as holly and juniper, and aromatics like rosemary and thyme. An area popular for mushroom picking, in the Spring you can find St George’s Mushrooms (Moixernons / Calocybe gambosa), at the end of Summer Green Brittlegills (Llora Verda / Russula virescens), which grow around the roots of the Oaks.
The forests covering the crags are home to foxes, badgers and boars, though it’s unlikely you’ll see any during the day. You’ll likely see raptors and carrion birds circling overhead – there are buzzards and vultures a plenty. We also heard woodpeckers, though didn’t manage to spot any.
In the Spring both the plains and hte forests are a wash with colour from all the wild flowers.
When to go?
This walk is good any time of year. It’s very unlikely you’d find snow in the area even in Winter. There’s little to no shade or water on the plains (so first and last 10km stretches of the route) so plan accordingly for the Summer.
Personally I think that Spring is the best time to try this route. Not too hot, and those amazing poppy fields!
Where to Stay?
We stayed at the Cabreres Hostal de Muntanya in Cantonigròs and can highly recommend it. Nice large clean room, working WiFi and reasonably priced. Good breakfast too!
If you have the time for two nights, a good alternative route could be to hike straight to Cantonigròs on day 1, day 2 do a circular route to the Sanctuary, then on day 3 head back to Manlleu via the Foradada.