Hiking in Sierra Nevada, Spain is an experience any lover of nature should have while in Andalucia. This is one of the most touristy regions of Spain, famous for its beautiful cities such as Malaga, Granada, Seville, Cordoba and Almeria. But there’s a much less touristy side to it. Indeed, Andalucia is where the Sierra Nevada of Spain is located.
This fantastic mountain range spreads across the provinces of Granada and Almería. Most of the range is now part of a National Park, and thanks to its diversity, it has been recognized as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
The Sierra Nevada is one of the highest mountain ranges in Europe. The highest peak is the Mulhacén, which reaches 3478 meters. This and other peaks obviously mean that the Sierra Nevada is an outstanding destination for winter sports such as skiing. What’s interesting is that Andalucia remains mild and sunny throughout the winter; while at the same time the Sierra Nevada gets covered in snow.
Hiking the Sierra Nevada is incredible: there are lots of excellent hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to those that require a higher level of fitness. Most trails can be walked in just a day; some go all the way to the Mulhacén, and even among them there are various levels of difficulty: the hardest trails are those on the northern side of the mountain; whereas the southern part has the easiest ones.
Curious to discover the best hikes in the Sierra Nevada, Spain? Continue reading this post for the best trails, by level of difficulty.
The Best Hiking In Sierra Nevada
High Difficulty Hikes
LENGHT – 16 KM
Locals call Travenque “The King,” and there’s a reason for this nickname. It may not be the highest mountain, but when it comes to hiking in the Sierra Nevada, this is as good as it gets. Once at the top, there are 360° views of Veleta, the Sierra Nevada ski station, and of the mountains around it. The trail also goes through the splendid valley of Dílar river.
This hiking trail is 16 km long and walking it takes around 5 hours and 30 minutes. This is one of the most challenging hikes in Sierra Nevada – 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. There are no water fountains or sources (or anywhere to buy water) along the trail, so make sure to take enough.
Trevélez – Siete Lagunas
LENGHT – 17 KM
You will love the Travélez – Siete Lagunas trail. It goes all the way to the green meadows of Siete Lagunas, which is rather lush compared to the desolate surroundings. From Siete Lagunas another trail goes all the way to Mulhacén and Alcazaba – but beware that it’s practically impossible to walk it in a day.
This is a challenging yet very rewarding hike. It’s a bit over 17 km, there’s a considerable climb and it takes more than 7 hours to walk it. It’s better not to attempt it on hot days, though keep in mind that there’s snow on the trail until the end of May. I also recommend not carrying a lot of weight: it just makes it harder to walk.
The path is properly marked and the terrain good. There’s water about half way, in La Campinuela. Just carry enough anyways: water fountains can be found in Trevélez. Camping is permitted in Siete Lagunas.
GOOD TO KNOW: The best views of the Sierra Nevada are those from the Mirador de Travélez, a two hour walk on the southern side of the Mulhacén mountain.
Vereda de la Estrella Loop
LENGHT – 22.5 KM
This is one of the longest hikes in Sierra Nevada. The Vereda de la Estrella Loop is 22.5 km long, and it can be walked in 7 hours. It combines the Vereda de la Estrella trail (a path built to access the Estrella copper mine, and a nice hike on its own) with a higher trail on the other side of the valley.
The trail is good in terms of terrain and how it is marked; but the 1000 meters climb make it quite challenging. Beware that there is a section between the river and the Refugio de la Cucaracha where the path is not as visible and it becomes quite rocky. Also keep in mind that there’s no water fountains along the way, so make sure to take enough.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the weather can turn quite bad all of a sudden, and snow can be an issue – so it’s better to hike it during the spring, summer or fall. I love it in the fall, when the colors are just gorgeous. The views are stunning all along, spreading to the three highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada – Mulhacén, Veleta and Alcazaba.
Sulayr Capileira – Trevélez
LENGHT – 19 KM
This is a rather long trail, but the bit that connects Capileira to Trevélez, which are two of the prettiest villages in the Alpujarras, on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, is absolutely wonderful. The views of the mountains and villages throughout the hike is breathtaking and the waterfalls encountered along the way make it even more beautiful.
The hike is long and strenuous. In this case it is not the terrain that makes it hard, but the length: 19 km, with some hard climbing bits. The path is well marked – though it gets confusing in some parts so I recommend taking a map.
Hiking this side of the Sierra Nevada is not possible in the winter months, when there are high chances of snow on the trail. And in the summer months there’s hardly any shade to take shelter from the sun and heat. Make sure to carry enough water – though there is a spring at the highest point.
Medium Difficulty Hikes
Beas de Granada
LENGHT – 16 KM
This is one of the unmissable trails, thanks to the breathtaking views of the entire mountain range. The best time to walk the Beas de Granada is the winter, when the mountains are snow capped and the views even more beautiful.
The trail starts right in Granada, making it a great option for a day trip. The hike is 16 km long, but it is not hard. However, keep in mind that there’s no shade along the trail (a good reason to avoid it during the summer months) and that no water fountains can be found along the way.
GR-7 Trevélez – Busquístar
LENGHT – 13 KM
I am a huge fan of long distance trails. I walked the Poon Hill circuit in Nepal and had the time of my life. I know that most people won’t have enough time to walk the whole GR-7, but the good news is that the Trevélez – Busquístar is one of the nicest bits, not to mention one of the best trails in Sierra Nevada.
The walk starts in the village of Trevélez and from there it goes through a forest, past farmhouses, and a beautiful waterfall before descending to Busquístar. I recommend walking it in the spring, when the flowers are in full bloom. It takes around 4 hours to walk the 13 km trail. It is not a strenuous hike – mostly downhill though there’s a couple of uphill bits. There are no water fountains along the way.
GR-7 Busquístar – Capileira
LENGHT – 11 KM
Another section of the GR-7 is the one between Busquístar and Capileira. It goes all the way through the Alpujarras, the countryside has some pretty villages such as Busquístar, Pitres, Capilerilla and Capileira. The views of the Sierra Nevada are gorgeous while approaching Capilerilla.
The trail is a bit over 11 km long and it takes around 4 hours to complete. The terrain is good, the path well marked. There are a couple of uphill sections. As it goes through several villages, there are plenty of places to stop for water along the way.
LENGHT – 8 KM
This trail if perfect for families with children as there are plenty of wild flowers, fruit trees, a river and the lavender and rosemary bushes along the way: it makes it all the more colorful, especially in the spring or in the fall, when the leaves turn gold. And there are even a gorge and hanging bridges.
It is a circular route of about 8 km that can be walked in 3 hours or less. It isn’t among the difficult hikes in Sierra Nevada, but there’s bits in which it is necessary to scramble under a rock: do not worry though as metal handles have been placed to help walking past.
LENGHT – 12 KM
Cañada Sereno is one of the easiest hikes in Sierra Nevada, thus especially recommended to families with children. It’s about 12 km long, with benches along the way to rest, and even a meadow where it is nice to stop for a picnic. A water fountain can be found near the River Darro, one of the two rivers running through Granada. Though the trail can be accessed throughout the year, keep in mind that there may be snow in the winter.
Melegís – Reservoir
LENGHT – 4 KM
Starting in the beautiful, white village of Melegís, and going to the Béznar reservoir, this 4 km walk goes through the beautiful orange groves of the Lecrín Valley. What makes it great is the favorable micro-climate of the valley, which means that even during the winter it is much milder than in the rest of the region.
Practical Information To Organize Your Trip To Sierra Nevada, Spain
Guided tours of Sierra Nevada, Spain
If you wish to explore the Sierra Nevada, a guided tour may be a good idea. These are the most popular tours in the region:
- 4WD safari of the Sierra Nevada
- Sierra Nevada small group e-bike tour
- Granada to Veleta Peak – the highest e-bike tour in Europe
- Alpujarra experience – historical mountain villages
Several companies offer guided hikes in Sierra Nevada, varying in difficulty levels and duration.
When to go hiking in Sierra Nevada
Any season, including winter, is good for hiking the Sierra Nevada of Spain – much like Sardinia. Its position in Southern Europe is very favorable, but keep in mind that the highest peaks may not be accessible in the winter months because of snow and ice. However, the temperatures are pleasant on the foothills even in the winter, and the views from there are equally beautiful.
I wouldn’t recommend hiking Sierra Nevada in the summer, definitely not the foothills, as it may simply be too hot. The peaks may give a break from the heat. In any case, keep in mind that the weather can turn to the worst all of a sudden and it may rain even in the summer.
GOOD TO KNOW: Hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada of Spain are hardly known to people outside of Spain, so you won’t find them crowded.
Best starting point to hike in Sierra Nevada, Spain
The beautiful Granada is the perfect starting point to go hiking in Sierra Nevada, Spain. This is one of the most famous places to visit in Andalucia and even in Spain. Granada has a small airport that is well connected to other places in Spain and Europe via budget flights, but for better options you may wan to check flights to Malaga, the best airport in Andalusia, which is at about 200 km and 3 hours drive from Sierra Nevada.
Granada is a lovely place to spend a few days. Some of the trails start directly in the city, making some of the hikes an excellent option for day trips from Granada. Here are the sights you will enjoy the most:
ALHAMBRA – A fortress built in the 9th century and which is a wonderful testimony of the Moorish rule over Spain.
GENERALIFE – The summer equivalent of the Alhambra.
CARMEN DE LOS MARTIRES – Beautiful gardens best visited in the spring and summer.
ALBACIN – The oldest neighborhood in Granada; an incredible maze of beautiful, narrow alleys, cobbled streets, small squares and tiny shops and cafés.
GRANADA CATHEDRAL – Built in a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles starting in 1518M; it took over 180 years to finish.
CHARLES V PALACE – The royal residence that was built in tribute to Charles V parents Ferdinand and Isabella (who freed Granada from the Moorish rule in 1492).
Other useful information for hiking the Sierra Nevada
Although wild camping is supposedly permitted in the Sierra Nevada National Park, there are a lot of restrictions you need to be aware of. In any case, there are campsites in the villages and cities where tents can be pitched and they typically also have places to park camper vans. Most also have cabins, while all have basic restaurants, a pool, a bar and laundry facilities.
The most comprehensive, updated site about hiking the Sierra Nevada is Trek Sierra Nevada, which also has downloadable maps and pdf information on the various hikes.
Remember to always get a good travel insurance for your hiking trips. You can find a good one here.
Have you ever been hiking in the Sierra Nevada, Spain? What did you enjoy the most about it?
Are you planning a trip to Spain? Make sure to read my other posts:
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- 7 Great Reasons To Visit The Basque Country
- 11 Reasons To Visit Galicia
- 11 Gorgeous Places To Visit In Asturias, Spain
- What To See And Do In Cantabria, Spain
- 31 Awesome Things To Do In Madrid
- Where To Find The Most Amazing Hikes In Spain
- The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary
- 10 Fabulous Places To Go Hiking In Malaga And Its Province
- Hiking The Picos De Europa: The Best Trails
- Hiking In The Pyrenees: The Best Trails