November 4, 2015: After our first week in Spain, happily indulging in too much wine and too many tapas in Barcelona and Granada, we needed to burn off more calories than a sightseeing stroll could achieve. We were also craving a dose of nature. Luckily, Granada is located near some of Spain’s best hiking and walking trails, and is at the doorstep of the Sierra Nevada—the country’s highest peaks.
I had done a little research prior to our trip and hit the jackpot when I came across www.treksierranevada.com. Not only does this site provide extremely detailed information about hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada and around Granada, but it is incredibly well organized, allowing users to search hikes by season, location, and length. The 16 km Beas de Granada trail seemed like the perfect option. It met all our criteria: scenic, moderately challenging, and no car needed from our base in Granada.
The evening before our planned hike, sitting in our guest house in the wonderfully atmospheric Albaycin district of Granada, we wondered whether it was worth the effort. Would we find the bus stop? Would the schedule be correct? Would the trail instructions be accurate? Would we find our way back to Granada?
It turned out that our worries were for naught. Between the amazing website instructions and a little assistance from our guest house host figuring out bus schedules, it was smooth and easy. The bus stop was so close to our guesthouse that we arrived almost half an hour early. This gave us lots of time to stock up on picnic supplies. The bus ride was like Swiss clockwork, departing exactly on time and depositing us in the small village of Beas de Granada 30 minutes later.
The trailhead is just a short walk from the bus stop, and the approach is clearly detailed in the Trek Sierra Nevada description. The 16 km trail, originally established as a shepherd’s right of way, follows the undulating ridge crest between Beas and Granada. It meanders through olive plantations, farmland, and scrubby vegetation with nice views to the Sierra Nevada. It eventually (4-5 hours) brings you right back into the heart of Granada, with a bonus of passing through the Alhambra grounds.
It’s not a difficult hike—the trail is wide and obstacle free, and there are no significant elevation challenges. It’s a long hike though, and it was pretty warm even in November. There’s very little shade—I don’t think it would be much fun in summer. While the trail is quite obvious, there are many side paths. This is not a problem if you’re armed with the trail description, but it would be very easy to get lost without it.
Here are some photos we took along the way.
There are many wonderful views back to the village of Beas de Granda along the first portion of the hike. The trees in the foreground are olive trees.
Fall was starting to take hold in this part of southern Spain, and the vegetation, like this somewhat neglected vineyard, was displaying some gorgeous colour.
There are olive plantations along a large portion of the 16 km trail. It was amazing to see these trees flourish in the dry rocky soil. Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil, edging out second place Italy by quite a margin.
There are great views over the green valleys to the mighty Sierra Nevada. Unfortunately, the clouds were just rolling in, obscuring some of the distant peaks. According to the Trek Sierra Nevada website, this trail is at its best on clear winter days when the mountains are snow capped. We were probably a few weeks too early.
The photos above and below are representative of a good chunk of the trail. In the distance you can see part of the trail, snaking up and down the ridge line. There are only a couple of small villages visible along the route, nestled in the valleys below.
What I like most about this hike is that there’s a peacefulness about it—the landscape is perhaps just shy of being dramatic (though I’m spoiled and the clouds messed up our Sierra Nevada views), but it’s soothingly pleasant with its wide-open vistas and subtle colours. The lack of other walkers added to the peaceful nature of this hike. We only met five hikers along the route. Closer to Granada there were a few mountain bikers.
There’s something very satisfying about spending 16 km in quiet nature and then emerging in the beautiful city of Granada. Our final approach was down a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard, part of the Alhambra Forest. Off to the side, the Bib-Rambla Gate, built in the 11th or 12th century, looks like something out of an Indiana Jones scene. There’s a little gory history associated with this gate that is also known as the Gate of the Ears and Hands. Apparently the gate was adorned with the hands and ears of “bad guys” convicted by the courts. But I digress…
Nothing like a dramatic finale to the hike, with entry back into town through the Puerta de las Granadas. From here it was a short walk to our guesthouse, but not before making a pit stop for a couple of well deserved beers and a plate of jamón.
If You Go:
- Refer to www.treksierranevada for detailed instructions on this hike and many others. GREAT site!!!
- The Beas de Granada trail is 16 km (4-5 hours), starting from the village of Beas de Granada and ending in Granada.
- There are several daily buses that run between Granada and Beas de Granada. The website above has a link to the bus company with up to date schedules.
- If you don’t get a chance to buy food/drink in Granada there’s a small grocery store in Beas.
- Bring plenty of water (there is none along the way).
- A cap and sunscreen came in handy, even in November.
- No need for hiking boots on this trail; running shoes or any comfortable walking shoe will do the trick.
Check back for more posts on hiking in southern Spain.