The Sierra Nevada and surrounding area in the southern Spanish region of Andalucía offers beautiful, often breathtaking scenery and a myriad of options for hiking and other outdoor pursuits. The National Park is surrounded by vast areas of unspoilt countryside to explore and, particularly in winter, some of the most spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains can be had from outside the park itself.
The region is also home to scenic white villages, and, not least, the historic city of Granada and the “must-see” Alhambra.
The Sierra Nevada region is incredibly rich in plant and animal life, much of it unique. You are likely to see lots of rare flowers, birds and lizards, as well as the occasional ibex (mountain goat). See our guide to the fauna and flora of the Sierra Nevada for more information.
As in any mountain environment, safety is paramount. Particularly in winter the mountains can be dangerous, but even in summer the weather can change abruptly and dramatically at high altitudes. The vast majority of visitors encounter no problems, but each year a few people do get into serious trouble, and very occasionally lives are lost. See our guide to staying safe in the mountains for advice on sensible precautions to take.
Sierra Nevada National Park
The Sierra Nevada National Park is a paradise for hikers, with an incredible range of scenery on offer. As you climb up from Granada, lush river valleys and pine forests give way to seemingly barren mountains with spectacular views over the surrounding countryside and Granada. On a clear day, you can even see right across the Mediterranean to Morocco.
One of the most appealing aspects of walking in the Sierra Nevada is the incredible peace and quiet. Due to the huge size of the national park and the fact that few people outside Spain are aware of the excellent hiking available, you can spend the whole day in the mountains and hardly meet anyone. In fact, the Sierra Nevada National Park covers 85,883 hectares, making it the biggest national park in Spain. A further 89,966 hectares are designated natural park, giving a total protected area of 174,849 hectares. Virtually the whole of that area has also been recognised as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
The highest peaks in the park are Mulhacén (3479 metres above sea level, making it the highest mountain in mainland Spain), Veleta (3396 m) and Alcazaba (3336 m). At these high altitudes there can be significant snow cover from November to May, and the north side of Veleta is home to the Sierra Nevada ski station, which hosted the Alpine World Ski Championships in 1996.
The Sierra Nevada is spread across two provinces – Granada and Almería. This website covers the western half in Granada province. This part is by far the most visited as it is easier to access and is home to the highest peaks and most dramatic scenery. We have organised the walks within the Sierra Nevada park into two main areas:
- North-West Sierra Nevada – see the walks in this area
- The Alpujarras (South-West Sierra Nevada) – see the walks in this area
East of Granada
Nestled between the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra de Huétor lie a couple of peaceful river valleys, separated by high ridges which in winter and spring offer uninterrupted views of the snow-capped mountains.
In the valleys there are orchards with an incredible variety of fruit trees , including cherry, apricot, apple, pear, pomegranate, fig, almond and walnut. This area is very close to Granada, and is well served by Andalucía’s regional bus network, making it possible to do a number of one-way walks between the villages of Quéntar, Dúdar, Beas de Granada, Pinos Genil and Güéjar Sierra, as well as from those villages to Granada itself.
Lush citrus groves, pretty white-washed villages and a large reservoir have helped to make this area very popular with both expats and holiday-makers. The GR-7 long-distance walking route runs through the valley, but there are many other possible trails, and as you’re never too far away from a village, refreshments are always close at hand. Its strategic location between the sea, the Alpujarras and Granada makes the Lecrín valley very easy to get to.
Sierra de Huétor Natural Park
The undulating, forest-clad landscape of the Sierra de Huétor offers some relatively short and easy routes, ideal for families and other people who want to enjoy the beautiful scenery without exerting themselves too much. Nevertheless, you get some fantastic views of the Sierra Nevada. The park lies only a short way north-west of Granada, and is easily accessible from the A-92 motorway. A number of trails have recently been marked, so you shouldn’t get lost!
Sierras de Alhama, Tejeda y Almijara Natural Park
Crystal clear rivers, fascinating rock formations and dramatic waterfalls make these three adjoining mountain ranges a great location for trekking and canyoning. There’s also lots of wildlife, particularly ibex and birds. After a day in the mountains, you can unwind by immersing yourself in the thermal waters of the old Moorish spa town of Alhama de Granada. Straddling the border of the provinces of Granada and Málaga, this large natural park can be approached from Granada, Málaga or Antequera, buy is virtually unknown outside of Andalucía.