The Carros de Foc trail connects nine refuges in and around the Aiguestortes National Park and Lake Sant Maurici on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees for all hiking enthusiasts to enjoy. The refuges are all very basic because most of them do not have road access to and from the nearest town.
All of them have bunk beds outfitted with mattresses—sometimes 10 in one row—meatless pillows and thick wool blankets. During the high season, there are more than 40 people sleeping in small rooms, something to consider if you are used to sleeping in nice hotels. With the exception of Colomers, which only had a hole outside tunneling down to the lake, all the refuges have at least one toilet stall and a shower.
When booking via Carros de Foc, they can include dinner when you arrive, breakfast the next morning, and a packed lunch to eat during your next hike from each of the refuges. All other incidentals like a glass of wine (or coffee with brandy for us) are extra. [See my separate entry about Carros de Foc.] Pack your own toiletries, of course, and don’t forget your own toilet paper! Other people brought their own food and mini-stoves and they were allowed to use the table and the sink (or what they called a kitchen) to prepare their meals.
All the refuges apply the same rules and regulations and the European hikers we met seemed to be familiar with the culture:
1. Take off your hiking boots and your backpacks before entering the refuge and wear the slippers provided. We luckily did not experience any thefts.
2. “Check-in” at the desk and receive your bunk bed assignment if you’re staying for the night and/or your stamp if you’re trekking with Carros de Foc
3. If the refuge is full, wait to be called for dinner in the common room
4. Always clean up after yourself
5. Take your trash with you
Following is a list of all the refuges along the Carros de Foc trek. I’ve listed them in order from our route and included their elevation and the hours it took for us to get there from the last refuge. We only stayed the night in those marked with **:
1. Restanca at 6,594 feet: 1.5 hours from the taxi post to begin our trek; 2.5 hours from Ventosa to complete our route
- they let us leave some of our stuff in the storage room for 7 days to lighten our backpacks
- they also called us a cab to wait for us when we reach the entrance to the park
2. ** Colomers at 6,889 feet: 4.5 hours from Restanca
- no bathroom but there is a hole and sink outside
- we were there during a bank holiday in Barcelona so it was full capacity
3. Saboredo at 7,578 feet: 3.5 hours from Colomers
- a very small refuge; make sure you ask where Amitges is!
4. Amitges at 7,808 feet
- one of the nicest-looking refuges; we were supposed to stay the night before but instead got lost and ended up in another town
- there is road access and you can take a cab from the foot of the mountain like we did to recover from our loss the day before
5. Ernest Mallafre at 6,184 feet: 1.5 hours from Amitges
- a very small refuge but a quick hike from Amitges
6. ** JM Blanc at 6,184 feet: 3.5 hours from Mallafre through the forest, 6 hours through the mountains
- the refuge sits in the middle of a lake and is the most beautiful sight
- they cooked the best meals here because they had road access
- the staff seemed to be more young and outgoing
- €2 for 6 minutes’ worth of hot water plus phone and internet services for a small fee!
7. ** Colomina at 7,857 feet: 3.5 hours from JM Blanc
- the refuge is anchored down on boulders
- very cold—no hot water and minimal heat—and mellow atmosphere
8. ** Estany Llong at 6,561 feet: estimated at 4-6 hours but it took us 8 from Colomina
- watch out when you see the signs for lakes Dellui and Corticelles as the unmarked direction to the refuge goes downhill, away from the signs
- toilets are in separate stalls outside and hot water is timed but free
- we were there with only 6 others; the best sleep I had in a week
9. ** Ventosa i Calvell at 7,283 feet: 2.5 hours from the taxi post
- the second best meal we had; the chef seemed to be more adventurous
- you have to squat to use the toilets on the floor and there is no hot water