The Caminito del Rey (Spanish for “The King’s Little Pathway”) is a historic scenic trail with origins dating back to the beginning of 20th century. Originally constructed in 1904 as an maintenance walkway between two hydroelectric power plants, the Caminito del Rey was once a crude catwalk made of rebar and concrete suspended along the massive 400-meter red walls of the El Chorro Gorge. In 1921, it was walked and inaugurated by Spanish King Alfonso XIII, giving it the name by which the path is still known.
After a century of elemental wear and dilapidation, the crumbling path was eventually closed in 2000 after several deaths. Over the next 15 years, it gained the title of “world’s most dangerous path” and attracted climbers and adrenaline junkies from far and wide to climb along the rusted via ferrata-esque remainders. After years of illegal entry and accidents, it was renovated and re-opened to the public in 2015.
Now, it is a maintained and controlled-entry one-way path that goes north to south down the gorge with a shuttle service that operates between both sides. The path opens at 9:30 a.m. and the last hikers are admitted at 2:30 p.m. each day to account for the four-hour end-to-end hike time. It is open Tuesday through Sunday, aside from a handful of holidays, though is subject to closures in cases of inclement weather, which happens often due to high winds that tear through the gorge.
From the north end parking lot and shuttle stop, there’s a little bit of walking required to get to the actual entrance station. In fact, you have to get around a small mountain by one of two access routes:
Pass through the entrance station at the old hydroelectric plant and pay the €10 entrance fee, unless you’ve already reserved online, which is definitely recommended. Reservations frequently sell out, especially in peak seasons. Upon entry, everyone is provided with a helmet to protect from falling rock. This MUST BE WORN at all times on the trail.
From here, the trail narrows and gradually descends downhill, which it will continue to do until the southern exit. After 2.9 kilometers, it enters the first major canyon, Gaitanejo Gorge, and a second canyon, Las Palomas Cliff. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to view the remnants of the old pathway, still attached to the gorge walls just below the new path.
Finally, you’ll reach Valle de Hoyo and the famed boardwalks the crawl along the stunning cliff walls. The boardwalks are about 1 meter wide (with side rails to keep everyone secure) and have some sections of glass floor. The views over the next 3 kilometers are especially stunning, with a striking contrast between the red rock gorge walls, the bright blue water of the river, and lush greenery of the valley floor. Even if you aren’t afraid of heights, you may find yourself short of breath for sheer beauty. You’ll pass through a third canyon, called Desfiladero de los Gaitanes, and finish your hike with the nerve-rattling but incredible experience of crossing the Balconcillo de los Gaitanes via a hanging bridge suspended over 100 meters above the ground.
Go through the exit station and walk another 2.1 kilometers of moderate uphill grade back to the El Chorro train station.
By car: If you choose to drive yourself, you can either park at north entrance in Ardales at the Conde del Gaudalhorce lot (in which case you will take the chuttle back to your car after the hike) or the south exit at the Alora train station (in which case you will take a northbound shuttle to begin the hike). Shuttle buses leave every half-hour, and tickets cost €1.55, though you can buy a bundled shuttle an entrance ticket when making a reservation online.
By train: The easiest way to get to El Chorro and the Caminito del Rey is via train. From Malaga’s Maria Zambrana station, take the 10:05 a.m. train to El Chorro. Of two trains that leave per day, this is the early train; the later train arrives too late to hike the Caminito. Tickets cost €6 and the ride takes 40 minutes. Take the shuttle to the north entrance; the bus stops at the roundabout just by the train station. Return trains depart from El Chorro back to Malaga at 9:33 a.m., 3:03 p.m., and 6:03 p.m.