Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

February 5, 2012

Los Tilos Tunnels, La Palma

On an island with many must-do hikes, Los Tilos still looms large in every guidebook.  It has it all. Gushing waterfalls, water channels, black tunnels, sheer cliffs, flooded trails, deep canyons, and beautiful vistas. 

Unfortunately it is tough to get to the head of the trail, as a rough gravel road is the only way up and 4x4 taxis charge 60 euros per carload to make the ascent.  Ouch.  I suppose that if the road was paved, more people would hike the dangerous trail, so perhaps this is a method of crowd control.  The other way up to the trail is an arduous ascent or decent down the canyon to Los Tiles visitor center.  Either way, it is difficult to make a circular hike of it without a padded wallet or two sturdy cars. Rob and I had neither the dual cars or the wish to waste money on a taxi, so we did it the only other way it can be done, a huge 16 mile hiking circuit which took a lot of effort and almost 8 hours.  It was still worth it. 

Parking at Los Tilos, we climbed up the canyon for a steady 3 hours, with an steady rain dipping down on us from the canopy of trees.  The overcast weather meant that we were denied any views, but the wetness seemed appropriate in what was after all a rainforest.  
Finally we arrived at the head of the roaring springs, which were gushing straight out of the side of the mountain, collected up in a handmade water channel which hugged the side of the mountain.  La Palma is one of the few canary islands with natural springs.  The water from the Marcos and Cordero springs in this canyon provides water for the towns and farms near the coast.

The "Wet" Tunnel
We had seen water canals in Tenerife, but those had been mainly dry.  This one was full to the brim, and when the canal dropped sharply, the water was a frothly mass pouring down the hillside.  I wondered if this was where someone got the idea for a slide at a water park....hmmm. 

There are 12 tunnels in the trail along the water channel, which we were happy to see was almost on level ground after the leg-sapping climb to get up to it.   The second tunnel we encountered was also the only time we saw any other hikers along the whole trail. 

The people we met were wild-eyed, dripping wet, and carrying headlamps.  Sure enough, we had arrived at the "wet" tunnel.  The ceiling was pouring water, the trail was flooded with fast moving streams, and the tunnel "windows" looked out over a sheer cliff.  We suited up with waterproof jackets and braved the opening.  Balancing along the canal top didn't keep our feet dry but felt more reassuring than the streams flowing by on both sides.  I'm sure we were a bit wild-eyed as well when we popped out the other end!

The tunnels continued, some long, short, wide, narrow, high, and quite low.  We were progressing quite well in the beam of our dim headlamps (why do I never bring anything brighter along!?!) when I missed a protruding bump in the ceiling and brained myself so loudly that Rob heard the crash up ahead of me.  Luckily my thick cap kept me from a knockout blow which would have tumbled me into the canal, to be fished out in much worse shape. 

After two hours of sheer cliffs, smothering tunnels, and the endless flow of water, we arrived at the end of the trail and the start of the gravel road.  While the big excitement was over, only a bird could reach our car from where we were at the moment.   So, the trail was now a long descent back down into town on the PRLP 6.  Luckily the sun came out and it was finally able to warm my freezing fingers and toes.  The descent was marred only by the final 2 kilometer climb to our car on the road, which of course we knew about and dreaded in advance, having driven it that morning. 

Even with the 3 hour ascent I would do this hike again, it's that awesome.  Although a shared taxi up to the start is probably preferred. 

Hike #25 in Walk! La Palma hiking guide.  OR  Walk #31 in Walking On La Palma suggests the whole route we walked rather than just the "exciting" parts of the circle.  However this guide dulls down the exciting bits, so ignore the boring description and just get out there and find a way hike the tunnels!


  1. I'm not jealous about all those fine walks you've posted in the past week. Not at all.

  2. Well done you - fantastic write up! Definitely the shared taxi option for preference. For anybody else planning on going up, go the plaza in Los Llanos and wait by the 7-seater taxi so you can go up in a group. Best get there for around 9am.
    Great stuff!

  3. Hendrik, La Palma is worth the flight out there. Just go!

    Ann, we loved your island and thinking it's worth a return trip someday. But for an ultrarunning, taking a taxi to save some mileage just seems wrong...loved the whole circle and it was a great day out!