Spain is home to some of the most beautiful National Parks on earth! In South Spain alone, you can hike Sierra Nevada, Sierra de Tejeda, and the Sierra de Cazorla, 3 absolutely incredible parks. On top of that, taking a road trip driving through Spain was an amazing experience as well! In this blog we are going to tell you about the best hikes across South Spain in these 3 National Park. Let’s go!
First off, something you’ll need to know when visiting these parks. In Spain National Parks are called Natural Parks (Parque Natural). These mean the same thing, there is no difference between United States National Parks and Spanish Natural Parks. For the purposes of this blog, we will call the parks National Parks.
The first thing we noticed while hiking our first Spanish National Park: there were no people. HELLOOOOO where is everyone?? Around every turn we thought we were in some quarantined area and the Spanish National Guard was going to accost us with tasers and rubber bullets and put us in adventure jail. Fortunately, the only police we talked to were very friendly!
Hiking Sierra Nevada, Sierra de Tejeda, and Sierra de Cazorla were each a unique and wildly awesome experience! Each one was special for its own reason, and for the life of us we can’t understand why more people don’t visit these wonderlands! Do yourself a favor and drive through Spain stopping at these hikes along the way!
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We will talk about this trip in the order you should do them if you are visiting from the North. This would be the path if you are driving from Madrid or Barcelona. If you plan on driving from Seville, Granada, or Lisbon, you will want to go in the reverse order that we present.
Sierra de Cazorla
Sierra de Cazorla will be stop number 1 on your trek through South Spain. The largest National Park in all of Spain, this baby did not disappoint. On our trip we flew into Madrid to start the adventure. We landed in Madrid, got our rental car, and drove straight from our landing in Madrid (at about 10am) to Sierra de Cazorla!
The drive from Madrid took just over 3 hours, and we had time to spare for hikes and scenic driving on our first day! The drive through Sierra de Cazorla will leave you speechless, especially if you make the journey at sunrise and/or sunset.
The crown jewel of Sierra de Cazorla is the Guadalquivir, the river/lake that flows through the entire park. With at least 20 scenic overlooks, and the opportunity to rent kayaks, paddle boats, stand-up paddle boards, and more, there is no excuse for not making the most of your time here. Just stop at one of the local towns and there will be a rental shop open for you to rent some adventure gear!
We do have to give a warning: do not drive a big vehicle through the park, unless you are VERY confident in your driving skills. The views are UNBELIEVABLE but there are a few hairpin turns and the road isn’t exactly what you would call ‘wide’. It can be a bit like the Road to Hana in Maui. Incredibly beautiful but a bit stressful.
We stumbled across a watering hole on one of our hikes, and to be honest we thought we struck gold. The air temperature: over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The water temperature: cold as ice! Which fit because we were ‘foreigners’… (ba dum tsch, if you got that joke, you are probably our parents, thanks for reading our blogs Mom and Dad).
We absolutely LOVE photography, and sharing pictures! These are the cameras we use on all of our adventures. The drone and GoPro help us get cool new perspectives (underwater, in the air, wide angle) and the Rebel we use on a day-to-day basis for most of our shots!
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The water felt ridiculously refreshing for a perfect cannonball, which of course we did. The extreme highs gave way to extreme lows when we realized that Zach’s wedding ring slipped off during his anything-but-gracious swan dive into the pool. What a moron. Literally the day before our first wedding anniversary, he lost his wedding ring. He has always had incomprehensibly symbolic timing.
Every hike we did in Sierra de Cazorla was pretty intense. Mostly because we went in August and the heat made it feel like we were hiking on the Sun. Any other time of year the hikes would be moderate-to-easy.
Sierra de Cazorla Photo Album
We spent a few days walking on trails we found by driving the road through Sierra de Cazorla. The trails in this National Park were not extremely well marked, so we recommend enjoying the lakeside views and walking any trails you find along the way. We have some more intense hikes planned in a bit…
Sierra Nevada is located right outside Granada. The drive from Granada to Sierra Nevada is just about 30 minutes to the entrance. In that time, you’ll go from a wonderful tourist town to a heavenly hiking haven.
While smaller than Sierra de Cazorla, Sierra Nevada holds its own in the rankings of National Parks in South Spain. Our favorite hike was Los Cahorros, in the beautiful town of Monachil right outside Granada.
The best hike in Sierra Nevada is Los Cahorros. Los Cahorros starts as a quiet hike alongside a river just outside of town. After 20 minutes, the hike quickly changes from quiet to loud. You’ll turn a corner and come across some incredible cliff-side waterfalls.
Los Cahorros has daredevil mountain climbing if you’ve got the stomach for it. And along the way there are a few rope bridges that cross canyons (don’t worry, they’re safe)!!
One of the best parts about hiking Los Cahorros is the finish line. Monachil is a wonderful small Spanish town at the base of the hike. It literally has a garden in the center of town where locals can pick their own vegetables. Have you ever seen that before? We hadn’t.
We had a fantastic dinner, followed by a sunset walk all around town. The locals had their dogs out walking, and Julie petted every one. The $2 wine bottles were out, Julie drank every one. The gelato bars were open, Julie visited every one. Let’s just say Monachil’s economy was heavily supported by our stay. Check it out, you will love your time there!
Sierra Nevada Photo Album
Though Los Cahorros is the best hike in Sierra Nevada National Park, there is a lot of other adventures you can have. We recommend driving the countryside from Granada to Sierra Nevada and back, taking a different route there-and-back.
Hiking is our number 1 favorite activity. You get outside, get exercise, see amazing things, and don’t spend a lot of money. It is literally the perfect activity! You do need to have the right gear to go though. Here is all the best gear we use for our hikes.
You can also drive all the way into the center of Sierra Nevada National Park, which extends the drive but gives you incredible views along the route! The drive from Granada to the center of Sierra Nevada is about 45 minutes each way.
Sierra de Tejeda
Sierra de Tejeda will be the final stop on our tour of National Parks in South Spain. It will not disappoint. We did our own research on the best hikes in Sierra de Tejeda, and consistently Rio Verde was at the top of everyone’s list. If you’re going to do one hike, this is it.
Rio Verde is different than most hikes. You start by hiking down to the river, and end with a hike back up to your car. The reason to do this hike is the jewel at the bottom: the Rio Verde swimming hole. The water is crystal clear, you could see the bottom even if it was 100 feet deep (it is only 10 feet deep, don’t bring your scuba gear…).
If you don’t bring your swimsuit on this hike, then you screwed up. Unless you are the Spanish guy that we saw swimming naked down stream. Not exactly the swimming hole we wanted to see, but ‘when in Rome’ I guess…
Best way to do Rio Verde: plan a picnic and spend 2 hours at the bottom relaxing in the waters and taking in the Spanish countryside. Wait until the hottest part of the day has passed before your hike back to the car.
Sierra de Tejeda Photo Album
Sierra de Tejeda is located on the South coast of Spain. We recommend stopping here as you are driving through Spain from Granada to Malaga or Gibraltar! You will not regret it, especially if you visit Rio Verde.
Go Hike National Parks in South Spain
We absolutely loved all the hiking and driving in Spain. The road trip and treks were absolutely wonderful, they truly knocked our socks off! You will love them too!
Don’t get us wrong, the cities in South Spain are fantastic. We LOVE Granada and Seville. But we have a special spot in our heart for hiking National Parks around the world. South Spain will be tough to beat.
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Thank you so much for reading our article on hiking Sierra Nevada, Sierra de Tejeda, and Sierra de Cazorla National Park! South Spain is wildly beautiful, you should plan your trip there ASAP! If you have any questions at all, please reach out in the comments. If you loved this article please Pin it using the image below!
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