Walking in Portugal: PR9 Trilho das 7 Lagoas
We started walking the GR50 in Peneda Gerês National Park about four days ago and spotted a footpath sign reading PR9 just after Xertelo. We fancied an adventure and so decided to follow it through a gorge-like valley and camp somewhere along the river near ‘Trilho Sete Lagoas’.
Camping somewhere was a priority immediately after starting the route as it was getting near 4pm and we like to camp with enough time to wash ourselves, clothes, and cook before the sun goes. The old family rule for wild camping which I have taken to heart is:
- Stop after 3pm if you see somewhere exceptional
- Start specifically looking for a good wild camp at 4pm
- Camp if you find somewhere ok at 5pm
- Start panicking at 6pm
- Camp wherever you can at 7pm or later
Unfortunately, this route was lacking in camping spots altogether. It descends into the gorge shortly after leaving Xertelo and the steep sides and large boulders make it hard to camp and tough to walk through.
After crossing the river, the path climbs up the other side of the gorge and contours along the edge of valley as it winds its way towards the head. The views are beautiful and a striking difference after the more gradual mountain paths of the GR50.
As we drew nearer to the lagoons we could see that there were quite a few people sunbathing and eating, so we decided to stay upstream of the lagoons. We got there around 6pm and immediately washed and started cooking on one of the huge Granite slabs, smoothed by the river.
Finding a spot to wild camp still was not easy, due to the steep valley and abundance of broom. One side of the river is a designated nature reserve and so we made sure to camp on the other side. Hidden out of sight by the bridge is a secluded spot surrounded by Broom and perfect for a late pitch/early start.
The lagoons are described as ‘one of the secrets of Gerês’ however the groups of people suggests that it is one of the better known secrets. We waited until morning to explore the lagoons and marveled at the clear water.
A real treasure that few other visitors probably realise is that the pools are home to a lot of frogs, and you can only catch sight of them in the early hours or very quiet days, before the waters become cluttered with people. The first frog photo I took from a distance and managed to capture mid-croak. Unfortunately the focus isn’t perfect, but the frog’s vocal sac makes up for it.
The second photo was after spending some time creeping closer to get a close-up shot. I balanced on the edge of the lagoon and took a few photos before it dove in.
We took the more sensible route for the return journey, following the large track along the left side of the valley to Xertelo. This is the way that day-trippers go and makes for a much easier and quicker walk. Much of the trail follows an old levada (similar to a leat or aqueduct) that carries water from fresh mountain springs to the villages, and so has a gradual and easy decline.
On the way back to the GR50 we passed the Xertelo Fojo do Lobo, or wolf trap again. This angle more clearly shows how the walls create a funnel towards the point, where there is a pit to trap the wolf.
We then rejoined the GR50 and continued making our way towards Gerês.
The route and blog posts
1. Walking GR50 in Portugal: from Tourém to Xertelo
2. PR9: Finding Trilho Sete Lagoas
3. Walking GR50 in Portugal: Xertelo to Gerês
4. GR34: Serra Amarela trail