Arga de Baixo Hike

A very enjoyable hike in the Serra d’Arga mountains, starting from the small village of Arga de Baixo. The granite mountains of Serra d’Arga are located in the beautiful Alto Minho region, in the north of Portugal. About an 80 minute drive from Porto, it’s quite an accessible location to get out and enjoy nature.

We parked next to the village Church – Igreja Paroquial de Arga de Baixo – and then started the hike with a stroll through the small village, with its stone houses and espigueiros (traditional granaries), and past the village mailboxes and pay phone.

The first kilometre was fairly flat, as we moved through the village to the foot of the mountain, but then we started the ascent from an elevation of 499 metres to the highest point of our hike, at 800 metres. We would reach that highest elevation at 4.1 kilometres into the hike and, as we climbed, we were treated to some beautiful views across the surrounding countryside. The bracken had turned into a shade of reddish-brown, providing a stark contrast against the green gorse that covered much of the mountainside. The prickly gorse had grown into the narrow footpaths in some places, obstructing our way. Fortunately, I was carrying a pair of pruning shears for such eventualities, so I was able to cut back the gorse to make passage easier.

Recent rains had left many puddles along the trail, with some of them being quite deep. We tried to skirt the puddles wherever possible, but the thick gorse at the edges of the trail meant that we sometimes had to walk through the puddles. Thankfully, our waterproof boots were up to the task.

As we reached the highest elevation, we left the trail to follow a gravel road for a while, passing several wind turbines. The terrain had levelled out, so we only had to contend with a few undulations, which was a pleasant respite after the climb.

After about 1km following the road, the trail turned right, near to a point where the ground has been dug to build a new road, presumably to facilitate a new wind turbine. At this point, the trail is poorly defined, so following the GPS trail on the Wikiloc app was essential. We followed the GPS track until we met up with a better defined trail and then stopped for lunch on a fallen log.

After our picnic, we continued along the trail but soon reached a section where the newly dug road-bed cut across the trail. We had to climb over a mound of excavated earth and then followed the new road excavation for a short distance, until we could pick up the hiking trail again.

Just before the trail begins its descent down the mountain, we stopped at a rock formation to take photos and to admire the panorama ahead of us.

The downhill slope made for some easy hiking. We were on the lookout for the semi-wild Garrano horses that inhabit this region. Throughout the hike we had seen many hoof prints and piles of droppings, so we knew that the horses traversed this area. We saw a few cattle is the distance but, sadly, no horses.

Around 8.6km into the hike, we had descended to an elevation of 595 metres. At that point, I made a deviation to the right, to look at a series of three old stone watermills. The mills had been built on the slope of the mountain and one of them had a raised granite levada (water channel) to feed water to the mill. It was an interesting historical relic that pointed to the activities of the people who once inhabited this area. The slightly raised elevation of the mill also provided a vantage point to admire the scenic surroundings, including terraced fields and the trees displaying their autumn colours. It was also clear that the path alongside the mills is heavily frequented by the horses, as there were piles of their droppings every few metres. This raised my hopes of finding horses in the vicinity, but it wasn’t to be.

I rejoined the trail and we continued downhill. We were soon passing through the villages of Arga de Cima, Gandara and Arga de Baixo, where we got glimpses into rural life in the region.

By the time we reached the car, the hike had covered a total distance of 12.69 kilometres and had taken 4 hours and 46 minutes. Aside from the distance and elevation gain, there was nothing difficult about the route. It is an enjoyable route with excellent scenery.

I recommend boots if there has been recent rain, and something to cut back the gorse on narrow sections of the trail would be worthwhile. The trail signage cannot be relied upon, so following a GPS track is necessary. A GPS track for this route can be accessed on the Wikiloc site using this link.

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