If you enjoy hiking, heading to Andalucía is a must. The region is home to the beautiful Sierra Nevada – a mountain range that is home to some of most epic hikes and scenic trails you could hope to find. Situated in the province of Granada, the Sierra Nevada is easy to get to with a Malaga car rental. It is the second-highest mountain range in Europe, so, as you can imagine, the views and sights to be had are spectacular.
Praise for the Sierra Nevada
Richard Hartley from Spanish Highs, a company that arranges hiking and walking tours of the Sierra Nevada, spoke to us about what makes this such a special location:
“The Sierra Nevada is a world of soaring, snow-clad peaks and deep valleys far removed, yet so close, to the crowded beaches of the Costa del Sol. Relatively few foreign visitors venture into the Sierra Nevada, especially in winter when snow normally lies over the mountains from December until May. The Sierra Nevada contains the highest peaks in western Europe outside of the Alps. It is a relatively small range of mountains but what it lacks in size it makes up for in altitude with over 25 peaks above 3000m. These include Mulhacén at 3,482m.
“From these mountains, on clear days it is possible to view the coasts of North Africa some 200km away across the Mediterranean Sea. There is tremendous scope here for those hikers who prefer their mountains wild and dramatic. It has its trade routes, especially around the easily accessible peaks of Mulhacén (highest) and Veleta (easiest access) but, once the decision has been made to venture away from these and especially during the week, the area has much to commend it for the hiker seeking solitude or multi-day wild camping.”
Melanie, a hiker from the blog The Thousand-Miler, loved her time hiking in the Sierra Nevada and spoke to us about what makes it special:
“Spain’s Sierra Nevada is an incredibly beautiful and diverse spot. I love the fact that a hike can take you to the highest point in the Iberian Peninsula, which offers incredible views of the Mediterranean Sea and Africa, and also past historic old bunkers and watchtowers from the Spanish Civil War. It is also easy to spot wild ibex, a novelty, plus delicate Estrellas de la Nievas, or the Stars of the Snow, a pretty plant that’s only found in the Sierra Nevada. Finally, the area offers hikes for every ability, from easy strolls on up to challenging treks with more difficult footing and inclines of 20 or 30 per cent.”
Roel from the travel blog Beat the Trail, has spent time hiking in the Sierra Nevada as well and shared with us his praise for the area: “The things I enjoyed the most about hiking in the Sierra Nevada were its relative accessibility and the variety in scenery the national park offers. With the city of Granada close by, preparing for and starting a (long-distance) hike becomes quite easy. The starting and ending point of the circular G240 ‘Sulayr’ trail at El Dornajo can be reached by car or bus, making this a good point to start a number of hikes from. The park can also be reached from any of the villages surrounding the mountain range. Finding your way back after a hike to where you parked your car is not as much of an issue here!
“The terrain itself is varied enough to offer different experiences depending on your chosen area. I hiked the first section of the GR240 trail in winter, where at first, I faced cool temperatures on the steep, western slopes of the mountain range. When the trail brought me around to the Sierra Nevada’s southern slopes, I seemed to have walked right into springtime. Instead of marching through snow and ice, I found myself walking in pleasant temperatures with the sun on my face and a green scenery unfolding in the valleys below.”
The Sierra Nevada’s best hikes
To help you plan a future visit to the area, we have highlighted a handful of the very best hikes available, perfect for those who want to stretch their legs during their visit to this lovely area of Spain.
Silleta de Padul
Silleta de Padul is 15km long and the trail takes about five hours to complete. The trail is ideal for experienced hikers or those who fancy a challenge. Starting from the village of Dílar (which can be accessed via car from Granada), the walk takes you through a steep pine forest and to the top of a spectacular mountain. Here you will be rewarded with wonderful 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and nearby towns.
It is advised to hike this trail in Spring and Autumn when it isn’t too hot and when there is no snow underfoot. Resource, Trek Sierra Nevada advises: “The walk requires a significant amount of physical exertion, particularly if it’s a hot day, although the paths are good so it is reasonably easy going underfoot.”
This 8km walk isn’t quite as physically demanding as Silleta de Padul, taking a nice two hours and 30 minutes to complete. Suitable for most people (but with its own tricky areas), the hike begins at the charming mountainous village of Monachil and follows the river up the gorge. Monachil can be reached from Granada by car and the trail itself is a truly beautiful location for a walk. The route features lush vegetation, fruit trees, bridges, a picturesque river and flowers that won’t fail to delight in the spring and summer months.
The gorge and river make for a delightful setting and Tracey – from the travel blog a Taste of Trace – has described the scene from her own time hiking Cahorros: “From the top of the cliffs, we followed the trail down into the valley and it was here where the interesting part of the hike started! After crossing a wobbly suspension bridge, we hiked beside the surging Rio Monachil. I didn’t even stick my fingers in the river, but from what I’ve heard, it’s cold! The flowing river and the steep walls of the gorge sandwich the trail.”
Ramping up the difficulty is Trevenque, a mountain that isn’t the highest in the Sierra Nevada but a challenge none the less, thanks to the rugged terrain and steep ascent during the final climb. 16km long and taking a healthy 5 hours and 30 minutes to complete, the Trevenque route starts at a lovely restaurant named Fuente del Hervidero (perfect for fuelling up before your walk or before the drive home). Accessed from La Zubia, the trail is made up of loose gravel and sand – making a walking pole rather handy – with the summit treating walkers to a 360-degree view of the Sierra Nevada Ski Station and encompassing mountain ranges.
With a lack of shade from the hot Spanish sun, enjoying this route in the spring or autumn is recommended. Claudia from the travel blog, My Adventures Across the World, says this is “as good as it gets” for hiking and describes its tricky nature: “As far as hiking the Sierra Nevada, this is one of the most challenging ones – mostly because of the terrain (gravel and sand) that makes it quite hard to walk. The trail is well marked, though, in parts, it’s not so easy to identify it.”
Vereda de la Estrella Loop
Named after the Estrella copper mine, the Vereda de La Estrella track is one of the most famous in the Sierra Nevada. This classic track can be walked itself but for a bigger challenge, there is a loop available instead of marching back the way you came. The loop takes a mighty seven hours to complete across 22.5km so it is not for everyone. You can park up at Barranco de San Juan, which is just outside the village of Güéjar Sierra and from there enjoy one of the jewels of Sierra Nevada. Snaking through the deep valley and offering breathtaking views of the formidable mountains either side, there are plenty of moments to stand and stare at the rugged nature all around. The loop back takes you on the other side of the valley for rugged views of Sierra’s three highest peaks.
Trek Sierra Nevada recommends walking this difficult route in “spring, summer or autumn when there is less risk of bad weather and/or problems with snow. The combination of autumn colours and early season snow on the high mountains is particularly beautiful.”
Laguna de las Yeguas
For something a little easier, Laguna de las Yeguas offers a lovely hiking opportunity for everyone to enjoy, making for the perfect morning or afternoon activity during your visit to the area. 6km in length and taking a comparatively brisk 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete, the walk is accessed via ski lifts at the Sierra Nevada ski station at Pradollano. Once you reach the starting point (the kids will surely love the cable car to begin the adventure), the walk will lead you through gorgeous mountain terrain and idyllic meadows.
This walk is a lovely one and gives those who want to experience the joys of a 3000-metre-high walk without having to climb to get there. With excellent views of Granada and the surrounding mountains, Laguna de las Yeguas is only available in the summer when the ski lifts are open so make sure to bring plenty of water.
For more information (including travel directions) on all the hiking trails listed here, head on over to Trek Sierra Nevada and use their hike finder.
Should you take a hiking tour?
While you can enjoy these hikes alone, many people opt for a hiking tour during their time in Sierra Nevada. As mentioned, Spanish Highs is such a company and was chosen by Melanie of The Thousand-Miler for her hike. Speaking about the benefits of choosing a guide, she says:
“One of my biggest tips for hiking here is to consider employing a guide. I don’t normally use guides, as I’m an experienced trekker. But I hired one to lead my husband and me on the ‘Tres Picos Challenge,’ which is hiking to the tops of the three highest peaks in three days. In addition to his wayfinding skills, our guide was invaluable in telling us the history of the area and pointing out various native plants and animals. More importantly, there was a series of storms that passed through during our trip and our guide made sure he was on top of the weather, leading us out every day at exactly the right time to reach the day’s targeted peak and avoid the storms.”
Richard from Spanish Highs spoke to us about the benefits of their tours: “We do our best to protect this breath-taking, unspoiled but fragile wilderness. Hikers can benefit from the knowledge and experience we have gained from over 20 years of guiding here in the Sierra Nevada. Our locally based, qualified guides share a deep love of these mountains. Local guides using local people with local knowledge. Experience you can trust!”
Tips for hiking in the Sierra Nevada
Melanie from The Thousand-Miler offers a piece of advice, telling us that it is important to pace yourself in Sierra Nevada: “Some of the trails here can be challenging, with rocky footing and elevations past 10,000 feet (3,050 meters). If you want to have an enjoyable, safe time, know your limits and don’t push yourself too hard. Also, make sure to dress for the weather – always an important consideration in any trek.”
Roel from Beat the Trail has this top tip: “For those who don’t handle hot temperatures very well, the mild Andalusian winter offers plenty of possibilities and variety to explore. Therefore, my advice is to go hiking in the cooler months. You won’t be missing out on diverse scenery, I promise! Even if the stunning mountain scenery isn’t enough for you, Europe’s only desert climate can be found less than two hour’s driving from Granada near the town of Tabernas.
“Also, in my humble opinion, there is simply no better way to reward yourself for a completed hike than to indulge in the region’s gastronomic culture, which I consider to be one of the best in the world!”
What are the best hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada?
- Silleta de Padul
- Vereda de la Estrella Loop
- Laguna de las Yeguas
As you can see, there are some absolutely amazing hikes available in the Sierra Nevada. We hope you consider trying one of the above out as soon as you are able to visit this wonderful part of Spain.
For more tips, guides, and advice on all things Andalucía, head to our blog.