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Els Set Gorgs (Campdevanol)

Els Set Gorgs number 1 In Catalan the word Gorg refers to a river pool, and these river pools are often found in rivers in the mountains at the base of waterwalls, or where rivers run through gorges. Els Set Gorgs is a series of seven pools (Set = 7) with waterfalls on the Torrent de la Cabana or Torrent d'Estiula in the hills above Campdevanol, a town close to Ripoll (there are only five pictured here).

Over the last few years we've started to take a day out to the mountains to find some hikes possibly with some rivers and mountain pools where the walk can be combined with a little bit of swimming away from the tourists on the coast - such as Sadernes.

The 7 Gorgs themselves are well known in Catalan, but perhaps not so easily discovered in English (where they are sometimes called the route of the seven waterfalls), and are sufficiently popular that during the summer the local council charges €5 'ecotax' per person to access the valley, and limits the number of visitors to a maximum of 500. (If you're looking at reviews online, many of the low ratings are complaints about the fee to enter, rather than the place itself).

The thought of an entry fee did put us off at one point, as we felt it could be over commercialsed. However, in practice the valley really is natural, and like the charge to walk the Cinque Terre route in Italy, it is clearly a charge designed to protect a very beautiful area from being spoilt by too many people.

Els Set Gorgs number 2 The drive to Campdevanol and Ripoll took slightly under 2 hours drive from the coast - about 120km (75 miles). We don't have much in the way of maps for the area and though we found Campdevanol, we didn't quite find the right turning for the road. So instead we just parked in the town and walked finding directions at the station (which added a pleasant 3.5km to the walk along a stream). As Campdevanol does have a station, it would be possible to catch the train up from Barcelona, then walk out to the gorgs. If you're driving and find the way, there is car parking at the bottom of the gorg valley that you pay for (some say €10, some €3).

However, the walk out from Campdevanol was very clearly marked and followed a stream with crystal clear water up a broad valley into the hills. The path tracked the road, but apart from a short stretch walking was by the river or in the trees.

At Font de Querol we passed a large barbeque area by the river which was just starting to fill up (and was full when we came back).  After the Font de Querol, there's about another kilometre to reach the valley of the gorgs itself. Finally, we pass by an adventure park and their very long and high zip wire across the valley, before getting up to the ticket booth and entrance.

Els Set Gorgs 3 The number of picnickers was an indication that the area is popular, and because this was the last weekend of August, and we knew there was an entrance limit of 500, we were a little concerned as to whether the park would be too busy to get in. But it wasn't a problem, though the week had had some thunderstorms which had cooled the air a little which might have reduced the number of people wanting to visit.

As I said, we weren't so sure whether to go in, but having made the effort to get there, we decided to try it out - the answer is yes, it's definitely worth it. The gorgs stretch out over about 3-4km, so although I doubt we had 500 people in the park when we visited, the people spread out over a larger area.  Although some of the smaller gorgs get a little crowded. (Note that you can take dogs, but they need to be on a lead and others will have dogs in and around the pools).

Inside the park, the gorgs are clearly indicated and it was just a case of following the signs. However, the paths do cross the streams and there were large patches of mud in places, most probably from wet shoes from people who had been in the water. You can get around with dry shoes, but it's much easier with water shoes, or shoes you don't mind being wet in - though you might need a dry set too for walking back.

Secondly, though the path is marked and well used, it is a narrow track in places, and in some situations, quite a scramble. We saw plenty of younger children, but you also need shoes you can walk in comfortably - flipflops don't make sense here.

Els Set Gorgs number 6 The first gorg, at the bottom, is the most difficult to get to. The path descends through the trees to the waterfall at the bottom, and it's relatively steep and, because of the wet feet coming back up, has a quite slippy mud surface. To help get up and down there are ropes strung up, and you definitely need them. Our second problem was that we entered at about the same time as 3-4 other small groups, which did mean that we were all on the path to the first gorg at the same time. This is a good reason for the people limit.

Though the scramble down was slightly challenging, the waterfall and gorg at the bottom was beautiful. Immediately all doubts about coming in to the park disappeared. The pool is relatively small - the size of a large swimming pool, with a cascade of water. Around the edge was a little crowded and there was a stream that you could cross via rocks, or just wade through the water - it's a lot easier stepping into the stream.

Naturally we wanted to get in and try the water. So we did get in but lets say the water was 'refreshing'. Despite being the last week of August the water is very cool. We actually swam in all the gorgs, but for each it was a quick plunge in to cool down and out again. Lovely to swim under the waterfalls, but not for very long. Other visitors were also pretty much quickly in and out too.

From the first gorg, after a scramble back to the main path, we carried on up the trail to each of the next gorgs. They are all different, all very natural, some larger and some smaller than then first one.

Being natural there are stones and rocks at the bottom of the pools, and the depths can be uneven. The largest pools were towards the top and invited swimming if you could manage with the temperature. The smaller pools at the bottom weren't quite so deep, so though it was possible to jump from rocks into the water unless you've checked the depth beforehand, it's not advised. We did see some people jumping in Gorg 3.

Els Set Gorgs number 7 Generally the path goes up, but you have to divert to reach the gorgs themselves, often along a small side track. We missed Gorg 5 at one point and doubled back along the river close to the water, but there isn't really any way of just tracking the river itself along the stream bed, so best to stick to the paths.

Each of the gorgs has a waterfall. The smallest were Gorg 3 and 5. At Gorg 1, the cascade is pretty broad and dramatic, while some of the higher Gorgs had longer but more narrow waterfalls. Each pool therefore had its own character.

The path continues up for about 3km following the stream and though you could walk it quickly, in practice while you're getting to the gorgs themselves, enjoying the water and taking photos, it can easily take 2-3 hours to work all the way to the top. Since it is a reasonable walk, quite hot in the sun, it is necessary to have water and sunscreen with you.

At the top just above the last waterfall is a small makeshift bar area with a meadow to relax. Then there is a broad gravel mountain track that takes you back down to the start point that runs along the hillside above the valley - about 30-40 minutes back to the bottom.

See also: Sadernes and river pools of St Aniol d'Aguja - Sant Esteve d'En Bas (Olot) - Olot - capital of Garrotxa - Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France - Puigcerda and Bourg-Madame - Ribes de Freser and skiing at Vall de Nuria - Waterfall at Les Escaules (Boadella)

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