The routes in and around the Parque Natural de Grazalema are a major starting point for exploring the wildlife, both animal and plant, of the Sierra. Among its treasures you will discover the Roman highway running through the region; the spectacular Salto del Cabrero, the ‘goat’s leap’ spanning a gorge of 80m depth and 50m with vertical drops on either side; the canyoners’ favourite, the Garganta Verde ravine; and the fantastic arroyos, water torrents, that vein the area.
Some nearby hiking routes, with descriptions, below:
Route: Benaocaz – Salto del Cabrero – Puerto del Boyar
Hours: 5 hours approx (2 hours to the Salto del Cabrero).
Route description: A route roughly paved in parts and once upon a time frequently used, since it was the key route of communication between Benaocaz and Grazalema, part of the area known as San Antón looking for Puerto de San Fernando.
Similarly, as we rise we enter the kingdom of rocks, where diverse and peculiar birdsongs (‘quiuo’, ‘quiou’, ‘cou’…) announce the presence of ‘chough’ crows and jackdaws.
Finally we end our ascent at the Puerto de San Fernando, also known as the Puerto de Don Fernando, a pass that received its name in honour of the route taken by the Reyes Católicos on their journey to Benaocaz.
From the Puerto de San Fernando to the Salto del Cabrero the pathway vanishes on a relatively flat area, which since time immemorial has been used for the small-scale farming of cereals. Small farms, rain cisterns, stone works, and rabbit enclosures record the presence of man and give a measure of the life of the inhabitants in what is in fact only the recent past.
If we continue a little further there is a fascinating view of the Salto del Cabrero, one of the most singular geological formations in the Sierra: one drop, where there appears to two peaks, almost twins, with impressive vertical walls that rise over 80m and divided by a ravine of around 50 m wide.
Sometimes, flying overhead are various birds of imposing size, wide winged with tail short and squared, gliding in circles at a good height above us. Without doubt this is the common or griffon vulture, which uses the crevices and crags of the cliffs of the Salto del Cabrero for nesting.
From here the path continues alongside the gorges, without an opening into the thicketed woodlands, and past the farm of las Albarradas and on to an easy pathway to our final destination at Puerto del Boyar.
Starting point: Benaocaz
Access: own vehicle, or bus from Cádiz or Jerez
Difficulty: Easy and largely downhill
Hours: One hour
Route description: The town of Benaocaz is situated at the head of a valley leading down to the neighbouring town of Ubrique. On the valley floor, our path disappears into the surroundings, replaced by an ancient Roman highway in a good state of conservation.
Heading in the direction towards Villaluenga by road and taking a pronounced left-hand curve, we find a trail that soon turns into the Roman highway mentioned above.
Descending between cultivated fields and orchards, we arrive at the ‘Piedra del Toro’ (stone of the bull) where, half-legend and half-honest-truth, an age-old dispute between the towns of Benaocaz and Ubrique still stands, symbolised by the rock.
A little further on we begin to see the town of Ubrique, famous for its leather, at the bottom of the valley.
Route Ermita de la Garganta-La Garganta Verde
Starting point: Zahara de la Sierra, situated near the motorway from Seville-Ronda (Málaga) at 30 Km. from the latter (and seen above the reservoir of its name)
Access: Zahara – Ermita (hermitage) de la Garganta – Zahara
Difficulty: Medium: During the descent to the hermitage. Advisable for walkers of 7 years or older.High: Only for experts during the rest of the walk (Garganta Verde). Requires knowledge of Alpine techniques in the descent, with appropriate equipment. Limited groups.
Hours: Downhill 1h 15m and ascent 1h 30m to the Ermita. 3h to the exits from the Gargante Verde
Route description: We begin this route at Zahara de la Sierra, in the direction of the grotto of the Ermita de la Garganta, our destination.
At approximately 500 m, we reach the Pozo del Retamalejo well, at 1 Km, we can see the hut or shack at Fuertecillo, used either as a shelter or rest for storing charcoal, tools, etc.
The canyon ends at the grotto, made of karst rock, an immense water hole that the waters of prehistory have carved into a curve and a wide pool. Of gigantic size, its mouth is 30 m high and 25 m wide, with pink and green colouring. There are stalactites and stalagmites inside, and different ‘piletas’, pools, formed by water falling from the roof of the cave, whose filtration makes the water eminently drinkable.
The naming of the Ermita derives from a rock form inside which suggests the shape of a pulpit, confessional or altar. From here on we can continue even if we aren’t experts. In the Garganta Verde we need lines and harnesses to descend with rapels, now with rappelling pitons fixed into the walls (four in total). The Garganta runs dry throughout this part of its course, except in rainy season, right up to the exit from the gorge, where there is at least a metre of water throughout the year. The path to the right takes us back to Zahara.
Route Zahara – Garganta Seca – Puerto de la Breña – Zahara
Starting point: Zahara – Garganta Seca – Puerto de la Breña – Zahara
Difficulty: Easy, on a gentle uphill route
Hours: Three hours
Route description: From Zahara a path of red soil leaves in the direction of the Puerto de la Breña; this is the same path that leaves the exit from the Garganta Verde (see the Garganta Verde walk itinerary). The path runs first through the olive groves around Zahara and then into the fruit orchards in the outlying farmlands.
After crossing this area, the path takes a marked downhill slope, arriving at the banks of the Bocaleones river. If we travel a little way up the river side, there is a ‘mini-adventure’ in negotiating the almost continuous interruption of the river’s course by tributaries.
On from here, the path rises and to the left the dry Garganta appears, offering a safe route up through this exotic landscape of vertical cliff faces, cork oaks and spectacular perspectives from two vantage points at the top. After descending to the forest floor and taking a left turn, we arrive at the Puerto de la Breña, historically a bull farming area of great local importance, where we join the road – but not the cattle track – that continues on.
Route El Bosque-Benamahoma
Starting point: El Bosque, on the regional road 3321, at 94 km. from Cádiz
Difficulty: Easy, with a gentle ascending route
Hours: Three hours
Route description: BenamahomaLeaving the town of El Bosque, we take the route towards the youth hostel, crossing the bridge over the río Bosque river that runs through the town, on whose left bank we follow the path that continues along the river, crossing between the banks on handsome bridges along its course.
The río Bosque riverside is a classic walking route in the middle of the natural park of the Sierra de Grazalema, along which you encounter a great many of the park’s flowers, bushes and trees, their presence, and abundance, due to the high rainfall in the area, and the geological accident that allows the region, particularly its river margins, to retain much of that rainfall.
The route takes a paved pathway that sometimes crosses rocky terrain or through bush, generally of the leafy mastic (Pistacia lentiscus) family, easy to negotiate.
In this part of the itinerary, we can see fine examples of the regional cork oak, and willows of sizeable proportions. Flocks of birds roost here, mainly finches, but also otters and other mammals.
Route Benamahoma-Llanos del Campo
Starting point: Benamahoma, situated at 6 km from El Bosque towards Grazalema, by local road
Difficulty: Easy, on a gentle uphill walk
Hours: Two hours
Route description: We leave Benamahoma by the road crossing the town on the hill above, where it joins the other road around the town outskirts leading towards Grazalema. Here we join a small path which we have to take for the route towards what’s called el Molinillo (little mill), with a waterfall that once powered an old water mill here. The route passes through a great variety of trees and plants, including eucalyptus, laurel, rockrose, cork, Algerian oak, mastic, ardevieja, pears, walnut, fig trees, willows and many other species along the water course of the Descansadero.
Following this path, we then arrive at the road again and after a few kilometres we see at left a wide, flat area with a forestry building with a sizeable porch entry. This is Llanos del Campo, where there’s a free camp site popular during the summer months.
Route Grazalema – Ascent to the Reloj (clock) y al Simancón – Grazalema
Starting point: Grazalema, on the national motorway Cádiz-Ronda (Málaga), on a right turn at km 94 and, from there, 14 km to Grazalema itself
Difficulty: Difficult; not in terms of orientation, but due to the absence of any marked path on the final stretches of the route, plus the need to use hand-holds at certain parts of the ascent, and depending on your scrambling skills if you want to follow the route to the top (and, of course, back down).
Hours: Seven hours
Route description: Sendero de GrazalemaFrom Grazalema we take the town streets leading up to the direction of the road to El Bosque, towards the camp site above the town, where we leave the road on a steep path upwards which, passing beneath the Peñón Grande, a popular rock climbing zone, we follow on towards a hill from which we see for the first time the peak of el Simancón (1561 m). Crossing this flat area marked with low stone walls and animal shelters, we follow a relatively easy walk uphill which, after a kilometre or so, we leave on a turn to the left, now without a marked path, in the direction of the peak of the Reloj (1535 m) along a smooth riverbed.
The riverbed reaches a small plateau bare of vegetation (it’s above the vegetation line) where we have to negotiate the edge to the left to reach the summit through a jumbled rock field of grey limestone boulders. This way we reach the top of the Reloj, and all its 1,535 m altitude above sea level, which we have to skirt around and over its dramatic peak to begin our descent to a high rocky plain, littered with boulders and crevasses, in an enclosed valley, through which we continue on the edge that leads to the peak of the Simancón.
To descend from here, there is on the north-east face a dry riverbed that can be negotiated, although across various difficult sections.
Route Travesía del Pinsapar, de la Sierra del Pinar
Starting point: From Grazalema, and in the direction of El Bosque, passing 3 km and before arriving at Puerto del Boyar, we take the road for Zahara de la Sierra via the Puerto de las Palomas pass, high above Grazalema with views down to Zahara, and at approximately one km on there’s a path and to the right a small area with parking space; our itinerary begins here.
Difficulty: Easy, uphill on the first section, and descending on the rest of the route towards Benamahoma
Hours: Four hours
Route description: Senderismo en el parque natural Sierra de GrazxalemaFrom the Palomas car park track we begin our ascent of the east face of the Sierra del Pinar, via a winding path cut into the rock to connect it with another path about one hour’s walk above us. Arriving at this cross-path, we have a complete vista of the north face of the Sierra de Pinar, on which we can see spread out a dense forest of the indigenous abies pinsapo fir, a tree of great beauty and the object of special protection in the park.
From this point, the Puerto de las Cumbres (peaks), the path now begins to descend between aulagas (a flowering bush of the mimosa-like legume family) and scrub, crossing the rock field of San Cristóbal, which descends from the peak of the same name (1,555 m), the ascent of which would take three hours from here.
We shortly reach the pinsapo woods, of great denseness, and from here the path descends gently, crossing various rock fields dotted with mastic bushes, to reach the Puerto del Pinar, where fantastic examples of pinsapos with an average age of five hundred years, a height of 30 m and diameter of 1 m, give way to holm oak and carob in the shaded fells of the Pinar, home to the magnificent griffon vulture.
The path reaches Benamahoma via the Llano de los Linares, where there is a recreation area and public swimming pool, and a spring producing sizeable quantities of fresh water.
Route Grazalema – Casa del Dornajo – Benaocaz
Starting point: Grazalema
Difficulty: Medium, for its length and the route, which requires some basic orienteering skills.
Hours: Nine hours
Route description: Towards the hill on the same route we described in the itinerary for the Grazalema-Reloj-Simancón ascent, from Grazalema, to reach the point where we can see the peak of El Reloj. The path continues and we follow it until reaching another hill, even higher, from where we descend easily down to an area of tall poplar trees, and a house, the titular Casa del Dornajo, a calm and captivating place, an authentic woodland home.
From the house the path continues, now in a southerly direction, soon arriving at the watercourse of the Pajarito, which follows us for a little until we reach a fork in the path whose branches both lead to Benaocaz; the left-hand of the fork is a little shorter, and meets an old Roman road, in poor condition after centuries of use, which leads us to the village of Benaocaz itself.
Route Puerto del Boyar – Castillo de Aznamara – Tavizna
Starting point: Puerto del Boyar
Difficulty: Medium, from the point where the pathway disappears and we need to continue with orientation skills. The route is downhill.
Hours: Three hour
Route description: From the Puerto we take the road towards El Bosque, passing a spring on our left and a little further on a path that descends towards the Casa del Boyar, at the floor of the riverbed of the same name, and from here we continue on the path towards the small fruit farm on the slopes of the Cerro de las Cuevas hill, following from which we abandon the path in favour of the other that rises towards the Cerro, although this is not our destination.
It is here that we encounter difficulties of orientation, a point where we reach a wide area thick with rockrose and cistus plants, and we have to reach the river to continue the downward course parallel to it, risking, at times, losing the path when we try to follow it. We should head down in a straight line through wild bush to try to find the gully or riverbed leading from the previously mentioned Garganta, at this altitude probably dry. This way we can negotiate the initial thickets of bush to find a path on the left-hand side of the riverbed, after crossing a planted bank and a wooded sink hole of particular beauty.
From the river and to our left we see the Castillo (castle) de Aznamara. Much further on, and following the course of the river, we reach the path up to the castle, and to our right, the path leading on to Tavizna.
Route Benaocaz-Villaluenga del Rosario
Starting point: Benaocaz
Hours: Two hours
Route description: The route can be described very easily, as it is all by road, but nevertheless it’s of notable interest and passes through an area of great picturesque beauty.
We leave Benaocaz on the road to Villaluenga, which we will reach after 7 km. After walking 3 km we reach, at the “puerta” (gate) of the manga, arm or sleeve, of Villaluenga, a karst rock formation in an enclosed valley of great charm.
The road continues on along this plain towards Villaluenga, a village that looks as though it is almost part of the rock lining the walls of the valley.
Route Puerto del Boyar – Ascensión al Torreón
Starting point: Puerto del Boyar
Difficulty: Easy in outline, but a very steep route, if well kept
Hours: Three hours
The description of this route is very easy, the point is simply how we reach the start of the path we need to take to the summit of the Torreón, physically quite hard (and hot) work, an effort we need to be prepared for, as the ascent path lacks even a small plateau on which to take a breather. But you can take cheer in the fact that from the Puerto we take the direction towards El Bosque, and after a few kilometres, at the high point of Km 47, at our right there’s a slanting path, winding and narrow, which in a diagonal strike leads towards the Pico del Pinar or the Torreón, the latter at 1654 m altitude. From this height your view will compass the entire Sierra de Grazalema and other nearby ranges as well.
Route Tavizna – Embalse de los Hurones
Starting point: Tavizna
Hours: Two hours
Route description: From the area called Tavizna, near the farmsteads, there’s a path that takes a southerly direction, straight after the camp site. This path, in good condition, rises gently towards the hill, in the upper foothills of the Sierra de Silla, from where we can enjoy a splendid panorama of the reservoir, despite the modest vantage of this altitude above it.
At this point we descend to reach the houses at Esparragosilla, and from there the reservoir itself, in an area of cork and holm oaks in the bosky galleries above the nearby brooks and streams.
At the beginning of the route, we pass the camping ground of Tavizna, near the Cerro Mateo.
Route Villaluenga – Sima de Villaluenga – Llanos del Republicano – Sima del Republicano
Starting point: Villaluenga del Rosario
Difficulty: Medium; in the Llanos del Republicano section it’s easy to lose your way
Hours: Four hours
Route description: At the back of Villaluenga and to the south we see a small closed valley with a riverbed, dry except in rainy season, whose course we need to reach. Here the landscape is chalky, grey with few bushes, except for cultivated areas.
If we follow the course along the riverbed, soon we are surprised when the route begins to head for the mountain, and duly leads us to the mouth of a cave whose entrance is roughly 50m by 20m, and obviously a cave system of great size, where there is a large colony of bats.
Here we need to take care if we want to reach the cave mouth and its interior, as any exploration beyond the entrance requires some caving knowledge (and some prior reading on this particular cave system) as well as special caving equipment.
Returning to the village, we now have to take the direction towards Grazalema by road to reach the venta to take the route that leaves in the easterly direction. After surmounting a hill, this begins its descent towards Llanos del Republicano, where any of the stream beds will take us to the mouth of the Sima del Republicano which, in contrast to the Sima de Villaluenga, has a smaller entrance, although not its interior, which is one of the longest caves in Andalucía.