Cascais Europe Hiking Lisbon Portugal Sintra

The Elusive Praia da Ursa

Since we’ve been back in Portugal, most of our time has been consumed by adjusting, getting settled and finishing up some work projects. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been plenty of time for seaside strolls and a few nights out to some of our favorite restaurants, but its been a busy time. This weekend, we had time for some relaxation. On Saturday, we drove up to Azenhas do Mar, a favorite from last time and on Sunday I struck out to locate a beach I’d been trying to find and had been unsuccessful in doing so.

I’ll blame this on three things: 1. I was using a review of the beaches near Cascais and Sintra which had no map or clear directions. We found all of them except Praia da Ursa and wrote about our experiences doing so here. 2. We didn’t have a Portuguese cellphone or data plan yet and I was too cheap to pay the international charges to roam and find the trail. 3. It just never occurred to me to look it up on the AllTrails app.

This time, with a local data plan activated and AllTrails in hand, I struck out from Cabo da Roca relatively early on a Sunday before the busses, bikes, tourists and motorcycles arrived (Cabo da Roca is a pretty busy place, especially on a weekend). The trailhead is marked by a red, white and yellow horizontal line indicator just off the road. The narrow trail winds through succulent plants away from the shadow of the lighthouse sitting on the westernmost point in continental Europe and climbs north up, down, across and through the seaside cliffs.

The trail is not for the meek. After a mellow start, most of it is either up or down. I wouldn’t rank it in a dangerous category, but minding your step is a must, much of it involves scrambling and I was glad I chose hiking boots vs. sneakers. AllTrails actually has the trail marked to a point where you cannot access the beach (without maybe a fifteen to twenty foot drop off a cliffish rock which seemed like an invite to try out my Portuguese health insurance, so I passed). Back up (and then down) the hillside I scrambled, trying to make a shortcut which deadended into a massive scrub brush. I had previously passed by a path which looked like it went to the beach, but was fooled by the official trail markers above me and I ascended back up from that junction, following the trail on the AllTrails app. It turned out that this aforementioned (and I must admit logical) path (noted in my photo of the app below, the blue dot is me half way down) which I’d passed by is the one that leads you to the beach. The upside of my detour was I got some extra cardio in, burned a few more calories off from last night’s Vinho Verde and got some great and different views of the beach, the Atlantic Ocean and cliffsides.

Praia da Ursa (Beach of the Bear) is aptly named for the massive rock formations ascending out of the beach and the sea like massive brown, golden and white bears and, let’s be honest, because the trail to it is a bit of a bear in and of itself. That said, the payoff was worth it. Sparsely populated on a cloudy, windy, early Sunday morning mostly by overnight campers and a few other early rising hikers, the beach was secluded, private and provided beautiful views of the sea, rock and cliffside.

Good things come to those who wait and the hard work to find and climb this trail and beach was well worth it.

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