Sierra de Grazalema: Southern Spain's Hidden Treasure

Jan 31, 2015
by Alvaro Hernandez  
Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure

Sierra de Grazalema mountains breakes the Andalusian countryside plains with its limestone massif. Its crags erect as a natural wall to the Atlantic winds filled with humidity, making it the most rainy area in the southern half of the Iberian peninsula. On top of a rock the white of Zahara blooms amongst dark scrubs hanging on the steep face of the mountain.

Knotted in the Andalusian White Villages itinerary, the ancient Moorish Fortress of Zahara seems to stare at us as it hangs from the rock above the El Gastor dam. By cars number plates it looks like we are in Brussels during an European summit, Germans, French and British come to discover the hidden side of Spain.

Knotted in the Andalusian White Villages itinerary Zahara seems to stare at us hanging from a rock. Ancient Moorish fortress watch from above the El Gastor dam. By cars number plates it looks like we are in Brussels during an European summit Germans French and British come to discover the hidden Spain.

As we try to reach the downtown area with our van the steep gradient convinces us to start walking. We use the castle tower as our guide and although the distance is short, it is hard to climb. As if it's an omen we now we see why the Ibex is one of the most representative animals on the local fauna.

We get lost in the charming lit streets searching for some beers in Al-agua s bar terrace a Moroccan waitress with a strong local accent wonders if we speak Spanish for a moment it looks like we go back centuries as we laugh. For only 30 3 people have 5 dishes packed with spanish specialties cold beer cakes and coffee.

We get lost in the charming lit streets while searching for some beers, in Al-agua’s bar terrace a Moroccan waitress with a strong local accent wonders if we speak Spanish, for a moment it looks like we go back centuries as we laugh. For only 30€, 3 people have 5 dishes packed with Spanish specialties, cold beer, cakes and coffee.

Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure

Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure

At first sight, with only a GPS track in our pocket that looks more like a digital patchwork sewed by the expertise of our guide Jorge Talus than a real MTB tour, Monte Prieto’s hillside that we intend to ride looks crazy. We came blind. The excitement of the adventure almost doesn't let us sleep. Will it be possible to descend over that face? Will it be rideable? As the sun goes down it looks and feels like an ancient chant should be sounding over the hills, like a call to prepare our mounts, to look after our weapons.

The sign at Puerto de Las Palomas Pigeon pass shows 1375m our GPS more reliable 1189. We got here from Zahara better with an uplift. Our goal is to go down back to El Gastor dam across one of Monte Prieto s faces. We studied three variants but chose to ride the highest trail on the west face that looks very flowing up and down.

The sign at Puerto de Las Palomas (Pigeon Pass) shows 1375m, our GPS which is more reliable shows 1189m. We got here from Zahara, better with an uplift. Our goal is to go down back to El Gastor dam across one of Monte Prieto’s faces. We studied three variants but chose to ride the highest trail on the west face that looks very flowy both up and down.

The trail is track of red dirt over limestone, narrow and with rocks lined on the external edge like a warning of a dangerous fall, one mistake would take us to landing where thorns would be our best friends. Even so it’s fast and technical and makes us enjoy the possibility of ride across an unequaled landscape. Except some small passes without traction or some steps we can pedal most of the trail, only the views make us stop.

The trail is track of red dirt over limestone narrow and with rocks lined on the external edge like a warning of a dangerous fall one mistake would take us to landing where thorns would be our best friends. Even so it s fast and technical and makes us enjoy the possibility of ride across an unequalled landscape. Except some small passes without traction or some steps we can pedal most of the trail only the views make us stop.

Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure

Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure

As we flow on the trail, the Zahara-El Gastor dam looks like a turquoise blanket over the brown dirt. Created in 1995 to irrigate the Villamartin countryside it flooded part of the Royal cattle route Seville-Ronda and the Ventas Nuevas salt mines, only the medieval bridge that was dismounted and moved was saved from the water.

As we flow Zahara-El Gastor dam is like a turquoise blanket over the brown dirt. Created in 1995 to irrigate the Villamartin countryside it flooded part of the Royal cattle route Seville-Ronda and Ventas Nuevas salt mines only the medieval bridge that was dismounted and moved was saved from the waters.

Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure

The flow ends on steep switchbacks where we have to stay focused although farther down there are sections where we’ll be able to release our brakes and feel the adrenaline. In some parts it’s so open that unconsciously we get closer than you should to the edge.

The flow ends on steep switchbacks where we have to stay focused although farther there are sections where we ll be able to release our brakes and feel the adrenaline flow. In some parts it s so open that unconsciously we get closer than you sould to the edge.

We reach a small pass from where we can see both faces of Monte Prieto. It's a technical section where we dismount due to a big cliff, we would have been forced to dismount anyway later on a tight switchback that links to other section that leads to Los Espartales rocks.

Looking north we can see the peaks of Tajo las Grajas (left) and Tajo Algarin (right) between which passes the border that divides Cadiz and Malaga. In the background we see the table of old Ronda that holds the Roman ruins of Acinipo and to the south east Libar range, that hides Ronda.

Looking north we can see the peaks of Tajo las Grajas left and Tajo Algarin right between which passes the border that divides Cadiz and Malaga. In the background we see the table of old Ronda that holds the roman ruins of Acinipo and to the south east Libar range that hides Ronda.

Here the easterly wind blows hard and we need caution to lead us through exposed areas. We enter a gorgeous trail that ends in a olive tree field. As we reach Los Espartales rocks we dismount again and see vultures flying over our heads, it’s a reminder that, in places like this, mistakes can be costly. In Grazalema lives one of the most important vulture colonies in Europe. They fly so low that we get a hint of their size and huge wingspan.

As we keep riding the trail starts to vanish, just a few people pass through here. We keep going and we feel like we are entering into a book of fairy tales. One pro of riding a non crowded trail is finding no one as you go, on the contrary is fighting challenging thorn bushes that claim scratches on the arms and legs. It’s highly recommended to have good tires and carry spare tubes, patches, etc. The trail is precipitous and besides cutting rocks there are sections with many types of thorn bushes.

As we keep riding the trail starts to vanish just a few people pass through here. We keep going and we feel like entering into a book of tales. One pro of riding a non crowded trail is finding no one as you go on the contrary is fighting challenging thorn bushes that claim scratches on the arms and legs. It s highly recommendable to have good tires and carry spare tubes patches etc. The trail is precipitous and besides cutting rocks there are sections with many types of thorn bushes.

Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure

Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure

Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure
As we reach the end of the trail we come to the turquoise again, a splash will heal our scratches and floating in the waters of El Gastor dam we look up those walls that looked impossible as we arrived. Now as trophies.

TrackMTB organizes Enduro/All Mountain trips all over Spain. If you’d like to know more about this trip please visit our Cadiz trip info.
Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure

Sierra de Grazalema. Southern Spain s hidden treasure



32 Comments

  • 25 0
 Look, actual, real Mountain Biking, Spain is awesome
  • 9 0
 Absolutely, real mountains, lots of climbing to reach the trail head, hours without finding other humans, all natural singletrack... it was just epic! Thanks for commenting!
  • 1 0
 Que hermoso lugar. Saludos
  • 1 0
 Se ve como un lugar maravilloso. Me gustaría mucho visitar en algún momento!
  • 3 0
 @trackmtb I walked up Tajo las Grajas and Tajo Algarin this summer on holiday! I kept telling my girlfriend how sick this would be on a bike, and bloody wish I'd taken it with me. Did you actually ride on those two mountains or come down just before them?
  • 1 0
 Hey @mikeyax we rode in front, by the hill side of Monte Prieto, the mountain on the left if you look at the dam from Tajo Algarin or Las Grajas. We also rode Sierra de Lijar by Algodonales, at the right of the dam looking from Algarin and Las Grajas. Our guide Jorge got this tracks out of nothing because even local bikers told us that wasn't rideable... but it was ;-)
  • 1 0
 Ahh right sweet, it looks awesome. I was staying in El Gastor so wouldn't take very long to get to. Will have to take my bike next time!
  • 1 0
 Great @mikeyax, the climbing is tough but worth! When we go with clients we make some uplift with the van ;-)
  • 19 1
 I need to go so many places!
  • 8 0
 wallet, why you so skinny?

Oh yeah...
  • 4 0
 I love Spain!!! a phenomenal in every aspect of the word. Great food, culture (castles) and people. My family is actually 100 percent Spanish on my dads side. I have still got family that live in the Barcelona area. I would love to travel there its been a while since Ive been there.
  • 1 0
 Those guys at tracktmb.com are great guides and arrange tours according to riders preferences and abilities, very flexible. A genuine experience for sure. Check'em out.
  • 2 0
 Cooll will thanks for the info there. l'll try to eventually get out to Europe and ride. Haven t yet. I live out in Colorado now so there is are a ton of great places to ride too.
  • 7 0
 Thank you all for your kind comments guys!!
  • 1 0
 Looks awesome.
  • 5 0
 The riding in Spain is just magical as it is so different to back home.
  • 2 0
 I can only say the same concerning the UK.
  • 1 0
 I have moved from Australia to the UK in the last month and all i can say is that a change is awesome... Dusty loose sandy trails do get to you in the end...
  • 2 0
 I'm riding in the UK atm, and all I can say is it's bloody muddy! Haha Big Grin But it's great, love it!
  • 4 0
 Che nano , que bueno ! i passed 6 years of my life in a similar area in Spain, riding carbon 26 hartail, it was amazing !
  • 3 0
 looks like a beautiful place to take your time and ride those trails and take in the scenery have a few brewski's on the side of the mountain
  • 3 0
 Beers and food at the end were epic @escapedemo8 ;-)
  • 2 0
 I can't believe this was posted literally 2 days after my families new Naval orders to Rota, Spain! Can't wait to shred these trails!
  • 1 0
 It's close to Rota indeed!
  • 3 0
 it's too bad you guys don't look stoked whatsoever to be shreddin.. maybe drop the post and stand up a bit?
  • 4 2
 It looks rubbish. ... I'd much rather be riding muddy tracks covered in snow Wink
  • 2 0
 Wish I could go there!
  • 1 0
 Could you please share the track?
  • 1 1
 trackmtb.com
  • 1 0
 LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
  • 1 0
 Increíble lugar !!!

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