The Caminito Del Rey (Little Pathway of the King) is located in El Chorro, Spain, approximately one hour northwest of Málaga. The pathway was built from 1901 to 1905 as a means for workers to cross between two hydroelectric plants in the area. The path is elevated up to 330 ft above the canyon floor, and over time it has deteriorated to dangerous levels. Despite the path’s poor condition, adventure seekers continued to cross it, leading to multiple deaths over time. The danger of the path is well documented by the Expert Vagabond. He is a braver man than I am. Starting in 2011, the pathway was closed for renovations, and it finally reopened in 2015 with a safer wooden boardwalk and handrails. In the pictures below, you can see the new path built over the old, dilapidated path.
I was excited to learn that the trail had just reopened a couple of weeks before I arrived in Spain, so I woke up early one morning and took the train to El Chorro. I had decided to walk the path on a whim and had done very little planning. When I reached the entrance to the park, I was surprised to find out that I needed a reservation to walk on the Caminito Del Rey and that everything was booked for several months out. Fortunately for me, a very kind park ranger showed mercy and let me pass. Before I was able to enter the trail, I had to comply with the new safety regulations, which included wearing a hardhat. The hairnet liners they provided were a nice touch.
The walk up the path to the canyon’s entrance was peaceful and beautiful. The first section of the path into the canyon was very high off the ground, and the cantilevered wooden walkway made you feel like you could fall at any moment. Those with an extreme fear of heights are probably best served to stay at home.
In total, the trail is 3 kilometers long, one way. Visitors can either walk down and return on the path or walk to the end and catch a bus back to the starting point. Only about half of the path is on the elevated boardwalks, and the rest of it is on a well-maintained dirt and gravel road. It is interesting to see some of the hydroelectric plant’s equipment along the way. I imagined what it would be like to be a worker precariously transporting equipment on the narrow concrete slabs, and I quickly realized that I did not want to stay in that fantasy very long.
Outside of the canyon, the rest of the area was remarkably beautiful, with tree-lined trails and a bright-blue lake. It is worth spending a whole day or more here. Picnic tables, concrete walls, and other resting spots could be found at many places, so you could take your time. There were also several surprisingly-dark pedestrian tunnels that added to the adventure.
Now that the renovations are completed, the Caminito Del Rey has been fundamentally changed forever. The improved accessibility has opened up this natural wonder for everyone, but with that improved accessibility comes increased crowds and a larger tourism footprint. The danger and adventure of the path — the things that put it on the map to begin with — are gone, but a whole new world is available for those that would have never been able to see it before — myself included.