Vías Verdes (in Spanish), Vies Verdes (In Catalan) are literally, “green-ways”. They are old disused railway lines that have been recovered and reconditioned for use by walkers and cyclists. In the USA they have something similar and there they call this old railways “Rails to Trails“. Exploring them is a different, enjoyable and environmentally friendly way of getting to know Spain, its culture and its landscapes.
It is possible to choose from 4 different “Vies Verdes” in Catalonia:
The Iron and Coal Route: Ripoll to Sant Joan de les Abadesses-Ogassa: It follows the route that was once plied by the train. The 12 km of railway have been transformed into an ideal trail for enjoying a bicycle ride, and for reminding us of the industrial past that is an important part of our heritage. The route links Ripoll (682 metres above sea level), with Sant Joan de les Abadesses (775 m). The total vertical rise is 160 metres, and there is a gentle 1% incline.
The next section of the track starts at km 9, right in front of the old train station at Sant Joan de les Abadesses. Some 300 metres past the station, the track crosses the road to Ogassa and begins to rise gradually along the valley of the Malatosca. The route is placid and runs without problem to a point some 2 km before Sant Joan, at the Toralles loading station, where the coal from the mining railway of Ogassa was received.
El Carrilet: From Olot to Girona: This 57-km route crosses twelve towns, following the valleys of the Fluvià, Brugent and Ter rivers. The Narrow-Gauge Railway Route descends smoothly from Olot (440m) to Girona (70m). Its highest point is at Coll d’en Bas, which is a pass situated 558 metres above sea level.
The trail is in very good condition, and has been fitted with new bridges. It crosses through magnificent scenery of great ecological and cultural value. The old rail line that connected the Garrotxa and Gironès regions now allows visitors to discover the natural resources of the Garrotxa Volcanic Area, the Hostoles castle, and the towns of Anglès, Sant Feliu de Pallerols and Girona, among others. The last section of the trail runs along the Ter River as it crosses the pasturelands of Salt and Girona.
El Carrilet: From Girona to Sant Feliu de Guíxols: The Narrow-Gauge Railway Route stretches out 39.7 km. With a smooth incline from Girona to Sant Feliu de Guíxols (15 m), its highest point is at Cassà de la Selva (136 m). From the Ter River basin, crossing the Selva depression and ending in the Ridaura valley. The most salient feature is the smoothness of its slopes and curves. The route is formed by a winding line that was mathematically mapped out over the rugged terrain.
After leaving Girona behind, the route crosses the Selva depression, characterised by a patchwork mosaic formed by alternating croplands and forests. On clear days you can enjoy an extraordinary panoramic view that encompasses the easternmost mountains of the Pyrenees range all the way down to the Montseny massif, including the coastal Serralada Transversal (El Far, Sant Roc, Rocacorba). The second half of the section crosses the Ridaura valley, which separates the Cadiretes massif to the south from the Gavarres massif, and runs gently down to the seaside town of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, the birthplace of the Costa Brava place name, which offers breathtaking seascapes and views of the surrounding countryside.
Terra Alta: It follows part of the route of the old railway, now asphalted, that joined the towns of Tortosa and Puebla de Hijar. The itinerary crosses the Pàndols and Cavalls mountains, an area with spots of pristine beauty where one can enjoy peace and silence in the midst of Nature. It leads through areas that show a surprising diversity of landscapes, where rural settings devoted primarily to dry farming alternate with mountainous wooded areas marked by the abrupt shapes of sheer rock walls, canyons, gorges, narrow passages and small dams formed by the river Canaletes. In addition to natural beauty, of interest here are the historical and artistic features that line the path, together with the beauty of the towns, which in many cases preserve a certain medieval character. The stretch that has been recovered, extending 23.6 kilometres, passes through the old railway stations of Arnes-Lledó and Tortosa, and crosses the districts of Arnes, Horta de Sant Joan, Bot, Prat de Comte and El Pinell de Brai. It may be followed on any type of bicycle. The whole path is conditioned with benches, litter-bins and gardened stretches, and there are two springs with drinking water