Once again, quite some time passed since my last post. But late is better than never, so here comes my summary of my most recent hiking trip to beautiful Andalusia in Spain. My boyfriend joined me on a two-week tour through the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park along a trail called Bosques del Sur, or simply GR247.
He took a flight to Malaga, I flew to Granada, where we met at the central bus station. After buying some necessities (like gas for our stove) at the local Decathlon store and a large supermarket, we spent our first night at the Motel Sierra Nevada, right next to the bus station. The bus to our hike’s starting point would leave quite early the next morning.
Day 1: Siles – Las Acebeas
The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and boarded the overland bus to Siles at 7:45. After passing seemingly endless olive plantations for several hours, we finally arrived at our destination shortly after noon. Luckily, the local supermarket only closed at 1 o’clock, so we used the opportunity to fill our drinking water reserves there. And then it was time to finally start hiking.
We walked through the village of Siles, then descended the hill to arrive at a picnic area, where we had a short break. Late March is apparently still off-season, so not only the restaurant, but also the restrooms were closed and locked. After our break, we hiked up another hill for quite some time, until we had a beautiful view of Siles and the surrounding mountains. On we went through mostly wooded areas, and halted briefly when we initially followed the wrongs signs. But with a little help from the GPS, we were soon back on our way.
In the late afternoon, we stopped at a fountain to replenish our water reserves. It was already getting dark, but the last few kilometers were on dirt and paved roads, so it was an easy hike. By the time we arrived at Las Acebeas controlled camping site, it was almost dark, so we used the headlamp while pitching the tent – which was much easier than expected with a brand new tent.
Day 2: Las Acebeas – Refugio El Bodegón (Los Anchos)
There was still quite some snow around us at the campsite and we were not used at all to the cold nights and mornings. As a consequence, with our slow getting up and packing it was quite late by the time we finally started hiking. We stayed on a dirt road for most of the day, so hiking itself was easy (once we got going). We had beautiful views throughout and I especially liked one mountain pass where we had our lunch amidst the stunning scenery.
Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to catch up on our late start, so it was already dark by the time we finally reached the small village of Prado Maguillo. We had to walk the last 1.4 kilometers to the refuge by the light of our headlamp. By the time we finally arrived at the hut, I was completely exhausted. But at least it was much warmer here than in the tent. After a quick dinner, we went to bed early.
Day 3: Refugio El Bodegón – La Toba
We learned from our mistakes and started relatively early the next morning. It was foggy and there was some drizzling rain, so this was actually the only occasion we put on our rain gear during this trip. We went back down to Prado Maguillo on the same route we had taken the night before. Once there, we hiked further down into the valley through some beautiful, but seemingly deserted villages.
Then we needed to cross a mountain to get into the next valley. The ascent was exhausting but doable, but the descent was on a rather steep and narrow path and always close to impressive (and partly overhanging walls). Once we had finally passed into the next valley, we hiked to the village of La Toba. Here, we asked for a room at the local bar / restaurant / hairdresser and luckily they understood my three words of Spanish and heated up a room especially for us.
We urgently needed some time to rethink the tour we had planned. We were continuously struggling to make it in time to our destination before dark and at the end of each day, we felt much more exhausted than expected – which you could probably blame on the lack of training beforehand. We altered our initial plans a little until we thought we had arrived at an acceptable new version.
Day 4: La Toba – Pontones
We started the next day with a few kilometers of paved road, before we entered an impressive canyon. We descended further and further into the canyon, where there were many nice and cool spots in the shade. At the lowest point the in canyon, we crossed the river at its bottom several times and then hiked up in order to get out again.
At the rim of the canyon, we could see the next valley beneath us. We walked along beautiful streams and poplar groves and past several shepherds with their sheep. Finally, we reached the village of Pontones, where we had reserved a room for the night beforehand. We found the first supermarket since Siles here and were happy to buy some Coke, sweets and fresh fruit to satisfy our hiker hunger now slowly setting in.
Day 5: Pontones – Refugio Campo del Espino
The breakfast at the hotel the next morning was what felt like a rare and luxurious treat. It was still off-season, so we were the only guests and served by two people. Today’s hike would finally take us to the high plains. We started by passing several villages and the crystal-clear source of the Segura river. The path wound through the forest for the next few kilometers and we had a extensive break before heading to the (treeless) high plateau.
We started again after the worst of the midday heat had passed. The landscape changed dramatically once we entered the high plains: no trees, no shade, just rocks and some dry plants. We saw some mountain goats in the distance and suddenly understood why most fields were surrounded by fences when we saw them grazing in one of the unprotected fields.
We collected a large amount of water at a drinking trough and then hiked up the last kilometers to Campo del Espino refuge. The hut is situated beautifully at a hilltop, overlooking the plateau around it. We spend a very nice evening sitting in front of the hut, drinking tea and watching the sun set.
Days 6 & 7: Refugio Campo del Espino – Coto Ríos
Today, we would leave the high plateau again and descend to the village of Coto Ríos. We hiked through the plains until we reached a large valley. Here, we hiked further and further down – to a difference in altitude of almost 1200 meters in total. We passed crumbling ruins and walked along beautiful forest paths.
At some point, we reached the road leading down to the village in switchbacks – for 14 very lengthy kilometers. Once arrived in the village, we had to walk along a larger road for quite a while until we finally reached our reserved hotel. The next day was a break day, which we spent entirely by loitering around in the local picnic area and indulging in soft drinks bought at the local supermarket. We spent the second night in Coto Ríos at the town’s camping site.
Day 8: Coto Ríos – Refugio La Zarza
After our break day, we left the town on a path leading along olive groves and through a forest. We made a small detour to take a look at the Río Borosa gorge with one of the most popular hiking trails in the entire region. But with all the tourists and day hikers, we quickly decided this was not the path we wanted to hike. Instead, we started to hike uphill again, mostly along dirt roads, until we finally reached La Zarza refuge after a long but beautiful ascent.
There was a fountain very close to the refuge, where we washed both ourselves and our clothes. Before turning in for dinner, we enjoyed a stunning sunset over the plains of the Sierra on the other side of the valley. With some stone benches in front of the refuge, we were even able to have breakfast in the sun the next morning.
Day 9: Refugio La Zarza – Vadillo Castril
After breakfast, we headed out to hike along a beautiful path. It wound along a ridge for several kilometers, making it possible for us to enjoy views on both sides of the mountain range. Again, we deviated from the traditional path slightly and used a trail leading down towards the village of Arroyo Frío. Unfortunately, the path was much steeper and more difficult than our map made us believe. Sometimes we had difficulties finding the path and the hike was quite challenging for me.
Once we had finally made it down the mountain, we hiked on roads for some time, then up another mountain to a beautiful viewpoint. We crossed the Guadalquivir and stayed close to the river until we reached our destination for that day: the Puente de las Herrerías camping site. When I returned from the washroom in the evening, I was startled by a wild sow right next to the path. We decided to store all our remaining food inside the tent instead of in the apsis that night.
Day 10: Vadillo Castril – Cazorla
On our last hiking day, we had some difficulties finding our way back to the hiking path as the GPS track deviated quite a bit from the actual path. In the end, we lost some time going back and forth, but found our way eventually. The hike that day was one of my absolute highlights: For most of the day, we walked along a sheer rock wall to the left and a precipice to our right, with amazing views throughout.
During the second half of the day, we were already able to see the village of La Iruela, but had to climb another mountain to reach Cazorla, our destination for that day. It was a steep final climb, but the views of La Iruela, its castle and the amphitheater definitely made up for that. Finally, we reached Cazorla and walked through the city to our well-deserved hotel room.
All in all, it was a beautiful hike. We had to deviate from our original plans a bit, but I don’t think that made the trip any less impressive. This was the first hike for me that needed some detailed planning beforehand, especially regarding route planning and water sources. But as we did the tour in spring, there were ample water supplies everywhere. The area is absolutely amazing and the trail is well-marked in most parts.
We spent our final days in Spain in beautiful Granada. It was nice walking around the city and of course the Alhambra was impressive. But to be completely honest, we were quite overwhelmed with masses of tourists and selfie-sticks and spent more time than expected at the hotel and on quiet park benches.