Road trip guide: Conquering Estany de la Gola in the Pyrenees
Estany de la Gola is a glacial lake at an elevation of 1.997m (6,551ft) above the sea level, located in the comarca of the Pallars Sobirà, Province of Lleida, in the western part of the autonomous community of Catalonia, Spain.
Set high in the Pyrenees mountain range, within the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, the road to the lake is extremely narrow and totally unpaved, with loose gravel and very big rocks. It’s called Camí de l'Estany de la Gola. Attempting it in anything but a 4-wheel drive vehicle is a recipe for disaster.
Tucked away in the north-eastern part of the country, this road is usually impassable in winters. It was built in the 1960’s for the construction of a dam. Due its narrowness, in 2019, a system was implemented that establishes timetables to give alternate passage to vehicles traveling in each direction. Running through the scenic Vall d'Àneu, the road to the lake is very steep, hitting a 23% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps. Starting at Esterri d'Àneu, the ascent is 12.4 km (7.70 miles) long. Over this distance the elevation gain is 1.059 meters. The average gradient is 8.54%.
The road ends on a parking lot at Planell de Sartari. This road offers jaw-dropping views, unparalleled freedom, and lots of fresh air. The last 1.3km are closed to private vehicles. Near the lake is a small mountain cabin, known as Refugi Estany de la Gola.