Autumn walking and cycling in the Sierra Nevada

In Cycling, Nature, Spain, Travel, Walking
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The Sierra Nevada massif towers above Granada, which has mainline rail links to Barcelona and onward to Paris and the rest of Europe.

We stayed at Apartamentos Todosierranevada in the ski resort of Pradollano, around 30km from central Granada, and are grateful for the friendly, helpful welcome of our host, Rafa.

Our stay fell between the summer walking and mountain biking season and the ‘main event’ of winter skiing. Although most of the shops and restaurants were closed, there was enough open for self-catering and the occasional meal out. May and October are said to be among the best months for hiking and biking. At around 2,390m above sea level, evenings are cool but the sun is powerful and makes daytime temperatures pleasant.

Enjoying some virtuosity while taking a break outside Granda Cathedral, where the temperature was well above 30 degrees in late September.


Road, gravel and mountain biking are all fantastic in this cyclists’ paradise. Hire bikes, like Chanté’s machine, are available from Granada with suitably large cassettes to tackle the grand tour level climbs into the Sierra. We used Bicicletas la Estación near the centre. Bicimarket in the La Zubia quarter, close to Monachil, were friendly and helpful with repairs to broken spokes at short notice. Cyclica, in Monachil itself, is a friendly indy bike shop.

Pausing during the 1,450m climb from Granada to Pradollano via Monachil. The knee-bursting Alto del Purche section, with 6km at an average gradient of 12%, appeared in the 2017 Vuelta a España. The area has been used as a training base for teams including Cofidis, Quickstep and Movistar, featuring riders such as Cadel Evans, Philippe Gilbert, Bob Jungels and Alejandro Valverde.
The Pico del Veleta (3,398m) is the third highest mountain in mainland Spain (after neighbouring Mulhacén and Aneto in the Pyrenees). The highest paved road in Europe continues from Pradollano (foreground) to around 100m below the summit, more than 500m higher than the Col de l’Iseran or Passo dello Stelvio. 
The military barrier at Hoya del Mora. Only authorised motor vehicles may proceed beyond this point.
The Virgen de las Nieves (Our Lady of the Snows) icon presides over Pradollano.
A group of mountain bikers leave the monument and begin the Veleta climb.
Approaching the end of the paved Veleta road.
A rare image of the author, who much prefers being on the other side of the camera. Taking precautions not to worsen the sunburn foolishly acquired during the first day of hiking.
Mulhacén (3,482m) from the Pico del Veleta
A very tame Alpine accentor waits patiently for crumbs from my baguette.
View west from Veleta summit.
Clouds form later in the day as the sun drives convection currents.
The Borreguiles ski station complex (and Chanté).
Chanté descends the switchbacks back toward Hoya del Mora.
The A4025 to Granada.


There’s a fantastic selection of walking routes around this part of the Sierra Nevada, from strolls through the scrub and woodland of the Monachil River gorge, near-vertical hikes toward the peaks and the Laguna de las Yeguas lake, and scrambles along the ravines of the Hoya del San Juan, a quiet Alpine valley where Veleta’s skiing paraphernalia disappears from sight.

Collardo de Las Sabinas. Although there’s frost on the ground, ‘bird o’clock’ will be over once activity decreases in the hot sun. As this image was taken, the woodland was alive with flocks of passerines, including crested tits, and the sound of crossbills noisily dismantling pine cones.
The ‘path’ out of Pradollano is initially steep and subject to interpretation.
Thistles supported large flocks of finches. Booted eagles and honey buzzards passed over this promontory on their southward migration, and a pair of griffon vultures circled over the Genil Valley.
The Virgen de Las Nieves on foot.
The Sierra Nevada radio telescope (IRAM) station and stationary ski lift.
Laguna de Las Yeguas, a small reservoir below the Pico del Veleta. The only sounds were the calls of the white wagtails and black redstarts feeding around its margins.
Mountain goat.
Arroyo de San Juan stream.

The Albergue de San Franciso walkers’ hostel.
Above the Genil Valley.

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