Autumn dresses the woods in ochre and red, fattens up the streams and powders with snow the highest summits. Autumn brings us cooler days and, besides some impertinent downpours, a warm and cosy sun, and ignited sunsets. Autumn is an ideal season for hiking in Catalunya. We are lucky in this land of ours to be able to offer a great diversity of landscapes: from de beech forests of Montseny, all coloured in orange, to the Pyrenean peaks, already splashed with white. Is there anything nicer than taking a getaway here and a getaway there, and going for long walks without going cold or hot?
If –as it happened to many of us– this pandemic issue demolished your calendar, and you happen to have some days off in October, it is a great idea to go for a few days trip. It’s an affordable and rewarding experience, and, furthermore, it is much more difficult for someone cough at your face if you are lost in the mountains –I rest my case.
Being a Berguedan as I am, the first route that comes to my mind for hiking in fall is the Picasso Way. For those who still don’t know, Picasso stayed in Gósol for a while, and the paintings he made there –whose lithographs are shown in the Picasso Centre, in the town– are dominated by the ochres and reds of the clays the painter found there –and of fall. The Picasso Way takes us to follow the artist’s steps from Guardiola de Berguedà to Bellver de Cerdanya, passing through Gósol, of course. From the magical Pedraforca to the Cadí’s crest, which you may find a little bit snowy, the trek discovers us desert-like landscapes, polychromatic forests furrowed by streams, alpine meadows and lovely lodgings in bucolic emplacements. An ideal journey to do at this time of year.
I also find myself in the obligation to look a bit away from home and recommend you walk on the footsteps of another distinguished figure, abbot Oliba. Montserrat is always spectacular, but Tavertet and Rupit are simply magnificent in fall. The Oliba Route is a must for any lover of the Catalan Romanesque. It is longer than the Picasso Way, but no one forces you to do all of it! You can choose between doing the stretch from Montserrat to Vic (5 stages if you take it calmly) or the stretch from Vic to Sant Joan de les Abadesses (around a week if you want to have time to visit everything). Now in fall, I would suggest you lean towards the latter. Montseny and the Ripollès are amazing in October and, among crags and forests, the route will seem short. Guaranteed!
Okay, what if you belong to the vast majority that doesn’t have 4 consecutive days off in October? No worries, you can hike without asking for a vacation –otherwise, I’d never do it. There’s always the option to do a part of a route: there are mountain taxis services that can pick you up wherever you want to end it and take you back to your car. This is a fantastic resource for those who want to discover routes as the Picasso Way or Cavalls del Vent part by part: on Friday, you spend the night in a shelter; then you walk to the next one on Saturday, and on Sunday you get picked up on a third lodging and taken back to the start point with a taxi ride. Easy, comfortable and much cheaper than a weekend at the spa!
It is also a great moment to spend a couple days at Pedraforca and take the opportunity to explore the routes through this emblematic massif. Particularly the stroll through Gresolet valley, with its magnificent beech forest, is an indispensable hike in fall.
If you prefer short walks or you are travelling with very young children, you can also establish a base camp in a place you find appealing and take short hikes therefrom. For instance, from the Rebost mountain refuge you have this awesome hike to Gréixer, where you’ll find another stunning beech forest whose colours will leave you speechless. From Rebost itself, you can also drive to the Crossbill’s Route, a short (about 90 minutes) and very easy track –it’s even adapted for disabled people– that runs through this bird’s habitat and is sprinkled with panels of the Natural Park that will tell you everything about the crossbill. You will also pass by the Orris lookout, with amazing views and a recreational area right beside it. A bit higher on the Coll de Pal road, you can complete your day with the Marmot’s Route. If you are early-rising, you may see –and hear– these trusting mammals who usually watch hikers with curiosity from above a rock. Yet, you will have to hurry, since soon they will go to sleep, and you won’t see them again until spring!
Talking about mammal-watching, there’s an obligated activity in fall: you must see the deer rutting. An expert guide will take you safely to watch the mating ritual of these imponent animals and, besides of enjoying magical landscapes, you will assist to a spectacle of nature. The deer rutting is something you need to see, at least once in life, and it is easily combinable with hiking or other mountain activities. However, you must remember that deer on heat can be dangerous, don’t go on your own! There’s a reason there are guides who specialize in showing you this event with total security; don’t be irresponsible, come on…
Ideas won’t be lacking, and there are options for all tastes and requirements. Catalan autumn offers magnificent landscapes and a much nicer weather for hiking than August’s 36 ºC. It’s worth taking advantage of it, isn’t it?