Portugal – The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail

Seven Hanging Valleys Trail

I’ll admit that we I came to Portugal a little under prepared. It was my turn to plan out sights to see and things to do, but I procrastinated, put it off some more, and eventually ran out of time. Before I knew it, we were in Portugal and didn’t have much of an itinerary. While in a small town outside of Lagos, we spent a morning thumbing through websites on our phones–cringing at the slower-than-dial-up internet speeds–attempting to figure out what sights we ought to see. Being on the coast, there are, of course, plenty of boat tours. But they seemed a little pricey and organized tours aren’t really our thing anyways. There are also plenty of short hikes in the area and there is one that stood out above the rest. We hopped in our car and we were on our way to The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail.

The 3.5 mile trail follows an almost unbroken line of limestone cliffs between Praia de Vale Centianes and Praia da Marinha. Many years ago rivers flowed to the sea here and erosion over millions of years sculpted u-shaped formations in the cliffs creating hanging valleys after which the trail is named. We were so excited, but en route realized there wasn’t enough time before dark to hike the trail as a 7 mile out-and-back. Fortunately for us, Christine found that multiple Ubers are readily available at Praia da Marinha. Decision made. We parked at Praia da Marinha and for 5,98€ took a ride to Praia de Vale Centianes. Besides shortening the hike, there was another unexpected benefit. Being Portugal’s southern coast, the path runs east-west and the direction we were now hiking put the setting sun to our backs, saving us from squinting and perfectly lighting the landscape for our trek.

Had we walked west, we’d be constantly squinting like this!
Farol de Alfanzina which has been in continuous operation since 1920.
We paused often to take photos. How could we not?
Rugged landscape at Cabo Carvoeiro.
A small opening in the cliff at Praia do Carvalho.
According to Outside magazine, 259 people died in recent years attempting to take selfies. We made sure to take this one several extra feet away from the edge.
A bit awkward, trail markers actually direct you through a restaurant at Praia de Benagil.
Tiny Dan on the path over the Benagil Caves.
The view of Heart Rocks.
The sun had set and our dilated pupils should be some indication of how dark it was outside.

Though the Federação de Campismo e Montanhismo (Portugal Camping and Mountaineering Federation in English) rates this trail as medium difficulty, we would consider this scenic path as easy.  (Don’t you love the Portuguese word for camping, “campismo”?)  The walk does have some steep sections where the cliffside trail descends to a beach and climbs back up, but for the most part we enjoyed a relatively flat path.  According to the the map at the trailhead, the highest and lowest points of the trail are 149′ and 24′, respectively.

So what are the seven valleys?  We couldn’t really figure that one out.  We expected seven distinct valleys or beaches, but there seemed to be a few more.  So we liked calling this path, “The Seven [mais ou menos] Hanging Valleys Trail.”  A trail of this length could be completed in 1.5-2 hours, but with so many picturesque scenes, we were constantly pausing for photos.  With the sun set over an hour prior, we reached our car around 9:45 PM with just the slightest bit of last light.  Couldn’t have timed it better if we tried.

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