Nature reserves in Castile and Leon
Castille and Leon currently contains forty Natural Parks, included under the umbrella title of "Red de Espacios Naturales" (Natural Spaces Network). Nature parks and reserves in the area offer excellent hiking and walking trails as well as other outdoor adventure activities. The main Nature Parks, National Parks and Nature reserves in Castille and Leon are:
The Picos de Europa Regional and National Park is situated between Asturias, Cantabria and Castille and Leon and it is one of Spain's most treasured natural parks. The Picos de Europa contain three distinct massifs (Corni贸n, Los Urrieles and Andara). The greater part of the first two of these lie within the borders of Castille and Leon. Some of the highest peaks in the region include El Llambri贸n, Torre Cerredo, Torre Blanca and La Pe帽a, which all exceed altitudes of 2,500 meters. The park also contains spectacular scenery such as the 'Garganta Divina del Cares' ("divine gorge"), and dense forests which are home to a wide variety of wildlife species. There are a number of walking trails, the most famous of which is probably the Ruta del Cares (Route of the Cares river).
The Parque Natural de Sanabria which is home to the Lago de Sanabria; the largest lake in the Iberian peninsula and the only lake of glacial origin. It covers a surface area of 318 hectares and has a depth of 51 meters. Oak and riparian forests surround the lake, as well as other smaller lakes and traces of Quaternary glaciation. A wide variety of wildlife and birdlife can also be found in the park, including golden eagles, wolves, roe deer, the Seoane viper and the Bocage lizard. The Romanesque Santa Mar铆a monastery is also located within the park and there are various walking routes around the park's many lakes and waterfalls.
El Ca帽贸n del R铆o Lobos Natural Park, structured on the axis of a deep canyon surrounded by steep cliffs. Its dramatic landscape is considered to be one of the most beautiful landscapes in Spain. The park contains a wide variety of animal species including Griffon vultures, golden eagles, Egyptian vultures, falcons, buzzards, roe deers, squirrels, otters, wild boar, badgers and wild cats. The area was declared a Natural Park in 1985 and was one of the first protected natural areas in Castille and Leon. The park also has a rich cultural and historic heritage as it contains a valuable collection of artistic remains in the traditional towns and villages of Ucero, San Leonardo, Ermita de San Bartolom茅 and El Burgo de Osma. There is also a Cistercian shrine (the shrine of San Bartolom茅), which dates back to the beginning of the 13th century, situated within the canyon's interior. The shrine and the area surrounding it is thought to have been one of the most important enclaves of the Knights Templar.
The Fuentes Carrionas y Fuente Cobre Natural Park, located in the province of Palencia in the region of Castille and Leon, was declared a Natural Park in 2000. They contain various limestone cliffs, mountains and lakes of glacial origin. The Carri贸n and Pisuerga rivers also have their sources in the park's mountains. The source of the first river is the Fuentes Carrionas lake, which gives its name to the entire county. The Pisuerga river flows from the Fuente del Cobre. The park also contains one of the most notable collections of Romanesque art in the world and there are important cave paintings in the park's Cueva de la Burras de Camasobres. It is also home to a large population of brown bears.
Los Arribes del Duero Natural Park, located in the south-west of Zamora and north-west of Salamanca close to the Portuguese border, contains the deepest and most extensive granite canyons in the Iberian peninsula. It was also declared a 'Special Bird Protection Zone' in 1990 and is home to a number of important birds of prey including the golden eagle, the eagle owl and the peregrine falcon. The park also contains one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Spain: the "Pozo de los Humos" (Well of Smoke), with water cascading over a drop of more than 200 meters. It is an ideal location for hiking, cycling and water sports.
Las Batuecas Natural Park is located in the south-east of Salamanca, at the border with C谩ceres. It is home to various different species of animals and birds such as roe deers, wild boar, golden eagles, wild goats, black vultures, Egyption vultures and the Iberian lynx.It was declared a Natural Park in July 2000 and a 'Special Bird Protection Zone' since 1991. The park also has a rich cultural and historical heritage as valuable cave paintings, dating back to the Neolithic era, have been found in several of the valley's caves and shelters. The valley in which the park is located also contains the Carmelite convent of San Jos茅. There is a walking trail that starts beside the convent, which leads to the Cascada del Chorro waterfall and a scenic viewpoint over the Las Batuecas area.
Las Hoces del R铆o Durat贸n Natural Park is situated in the north-east of the province of Segovia, near to the town of Sep煤lveda. It has been a Natural Park since 1989 and was declared a 'Special Bird Protection Zone' since 1990. It is a bird of prey paradise, with huge colonies of griffon vultures, peregrine falcons, egyptian vultures, kestrels and buzzards. The Durat贸n river, which lends its name to the park, flows through a deep canyon. The park also contains a number of important historical and cultural monuments such as the Romanesque Ermita de San Frutos (Chapel of San Frutos), cave paintings dating back to the Bronze Age and the rich architectural heritage in the town of Sep煤lveda.
Las Hoces del R铆o Riaza Natural Park is located in the north-east of the province of Segovia, at the border with Soria and Burgos. It contains an extensive collection of gorges, canyons and cliffs, excavated from the limestone rock by the Riaza river. It is also home to a large concentration of birds of prey, including Griffon vultures, Bonelli's eagle, golden eagles, short-toed eagles and egyptian vultures. A number of small traditional villages, which still maintain their rural heritage, are situated within the park. These include Maderuelo, Montejo de la Vega de la Serrezuela and Fuentelc茅sped.
The Montes Obarenes are the mountains at the northernmost end of the Cantabrian mountain range and they are located within the province of Burgos. Bordered on the north by the Ebro river, the park includes river canyons, ravines, gorges, synclines and the Obarenes mountains themselves. The main highlights of the park are the ravines carved out by the Ebro river in Sobr贸n and the gorge created by the Oca river near O帽a. Many different birds of prey have made their nests in the numerous cliffs, especially in the Hoz de Sobr贸n. Visitors can also soak up the culture in the nearby town of O帽a, where there is an excellent medieval monastery.
La Laguna Negra y Circos Glaciares de Urbi贸n Natural Park covers an area of 4,617 hectares. The park has been incorporated into the 'Nature Network 2000', forming part of the 'Special Protection Area for Birds' (Zona de Especial Protecci贸n para las Aves - ZEPA) and the Site of Community Importance (Lugar de Importancia Comunitaria - LIC). The park is located within the pine forest region in the higher altitude areas of the Sierra Durelo, Covaleda and Vinuesa municipalities. The area includes several lakes of glacial origin such as Laguna Negra, Laguna Larga, Laguna Helada, Laguna Mansegosa and Laguna del Hornillo.
Parque Natural Lagunas Glaciares de Neila (The Neila Glacial Lakes Natural Park) is located to the south-east of the province of Burgos in the Sierra de la Demanda. The park has an almost unique geomorphology, with glacial formations surrounded by mountain peaks with heights of over 2000m. It also features a unique aquatic ecosystem and has several glacial lakes which have already been included in the Cat谩logo Regional de Zonas H煤medas de Inter茅s Especial (Regional Directory of Special Interest Wetlands).
Las Hoces del Alto Ebro y Rudr贸n Natural Park, situated to the north-east of the province of Burgos, was only declared a Natural Park in 2008. However the landscape in the park is beautiful and includes steep gorges which are crossed by the Ebro and Rudr贸n rivers. These contrast starkly with the vast moors and flat plains in the park's higher altitude areas.