Walking the Covão dos Conchos Trail in Serra da Estrela
Located at 1500 metres above sea level, the Covão dos Conchos trail is a must do easy hike (more of a walk) in the Serra da Estrela mountain range. On a clear day the drive to Lagoa Comprida (where this hike begins) is absolutely stunning.
What is Covão dos Conchos?
Covão dos Conchos is a small man made lake/lagoon that has become famous for its “bell-mouth spillway”, a 1.5km long water tunnel that was built in the 1950s and carries water from Ribeira das Naves to Lagoa Comprida:
“The spillway was built in 1955 with the aim of diverting water from Ribeira das Naves to Lagoa Comprida. It is a part of a hydro-electric dam system of Serra da Estrela.” (Source here).
The part of the spillway that can be seen now resembles what one might expect a portal to another world to look like!
What is Lagoa Comprida?
Lagoa Comprida is a dam built in 1912 but it has undergone a number of upgrades since then.
“The construction of the dam began in 1912. In 1914 it had a height of six meters and in 1934 it reached 15 meters. Since 1965 it has a height of 28 meters.” (Source here).
It is the largest water reservoir in Serra da Estrela, supplying water to the surrounding area. It also provides power via the hydroelectric power plant that is located there. This is also where you will start your walk to Covão dos Conchos.
The Covão dos Conchos Trail:
The Covão dos Conchos trail is an out and back trail totalling eight kilometres in length (four kilometres each way). Despite a lack of trail markings, the trail is easy to follow (in Summer time) and relatively flat. There is little shade so prepare accordingly depending on the weather when you visit (not always accessible in Winter). While there were some people walking the trail in flip-flops (very slowly), we personally would recommend runners or similar as eight kilometres in flip-flops does not sound comfortable and some sections are very rocky. It takes about 1 hour each way.
The best thing about this trail is that the whole area that you walk through is impressively scenic, every step you take through the stunning landscape of Serra da Estrela is magnificent. From the moment you park your car in the car-park at Lagoa Comprida you are immersed in nature.
We had no issue parking when we arrived at 9:30am, in fact there were very few cars there at this time. We planned to arrive early as the great weather was continuing and the forecast was for 33’C again that day, so early in and early out was our plan! Also, it was peak Summer time too when we visited so we anticipated that there would be a lot of other tourists also coming to the area so again getting there early helped us to avoid getting caught up in that madness!
When we parked the car, we walked across the road to find we were above the clouds:
Back over at the car-park, we headed off on the trail. The start of the trail runs along the side of Lagoa Comprida so you get to observe it from different perspectives. I’m sure you will agree when you see my photos below that Lagoa Comprida itself is a place worth seeing! Some people were already swimming and fishing.
Looking back you can clearly see the dam walls:
A slight climb up away from the lagoa and more splendid views:
Below some photos of the path and the surrounding area, granite rocks and lots of pink-purple heather (when we visited):
It is difficult to stop taking photos when the view is this good!
With four kilometres walked we got our first glimpse of Covão dos Conchos:
Being early was definitely an advantage, while there were a few people around it was easy to take photos and have the the main attraction, the spillway, to ourselves.
So pretty, you just need someone with long arms or a selfie stick to get a bit of height for a better photo!
A few final photos on the way back to the car:
The trail was a lot busier as we walked back and we couldn’t get over how busy the car-park was when we returned! People were waiting for car parking spaces. We also passed stalls selling “local” products and souvenirs inside the car-park that were not there when we set out on the trail.
This is a wonderful trail and you could easily extend your visit to include a picnic and/or swim at the lagoa when you return after your walk.
You could also visit Torre after (or before) doing this hike, it is only about 11 kilometres drive. Read our blog Experiencing Torre, Mainland Portugal’s Highest Mountain for more information.