Playa del Barronal from San Jose - Hiking on the Cliffs of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park

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Friday 2 January 2015

Playa del Barronal from San Jose - Hiking on the Cliffs of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park

As we had seen during our cycle circuit of Cabo de Gata from Los Escullos a few days beforehand, the stretch of coastline lying between the rocky promontory of Cabo de Gata stretching east towards the town of San Jose is stunning. This volcanic coastline, with sheer drops, sheltered bays and rolling hills pushed right up against the sea is one of the most beautiful we had seen and we found ourselves drawn back once again today to explore another one of those secluded beaches. Having visited the iconic Playa de los Genoveses Beach the previous week and having stopped by the equally well known Playa del Monsul during our cycle loop, today we decided to explore the Playa del Barronal which lies a little to the east of Monsul.

Cycling our increasingly familiar route to the coastal town of San Jose, we once again locked our bikes close to the start of the dirt track which gives cars (winter) access to this otherwise secluded and unspoiled coastal stretch and began the hike westwards towards our destination around 5km away. Passing by the old windmill which stood proudly against the bright blue sky we descended the stony walking trail to reach the sand of Playa de los Genoveses once more. From here, although there is a far more direct walking route from Playa del los Genoveses to Playa del Barronal (and Playa del Monsul) which cuts inland slightly and passes round the north of the Cerro del Barronal (163m), our plan was to try and hug the coastline instead. According to our hiking map at least it should be possible to follow a clifftop path right along the sea all the way to our destination.

Passing over the golden sand of Playa del los Genoveses, dotted with swimmers and sun seekers enjoying the relative isolation of this secluded corner of Spain, we once again ascended towards the Morron de los Genoveses (73m) right at the western edge of the beach. However, unlike our previous visit, instead of turning left and climbing to the incredible viewpoint there we turned right to follow the dusty track over bare stone heading further.

Although we saw no waymarkers or official indication that we were following a trail, the red line on our hiking map and the worn out groove of previous feet over the bare rock reassured us, aided by the occasional small cairn built alongside the trail. We had expected to stay relatively close to the sea based on the trail marked on our map, however, we soon found ourselves with the sea behind us as we tracked inland and upwards onto a rocky ridge of fossilised sand dunes that climbed towards the highest peak nearby, the Cerro del Barronal (163m). Weaving our way over the pitted and uneven surface the 'trail' seemed to fade in and out and we were uncertain if we were following the same 'path' marked on our map. However, it didn't really matter since it was a beautiful day, visibility was excellent and the views were stunning. We were in no hurry after all.

Looking back and east the entire panorama of the Playa del los Genoveses, San Jose and the El Frailes summit beyond felt so close we could have reached out and touched it, whilst to our left we could look down the weathered ravines that descended steeply onto tiny hidden beaches with the sound of the sea wafting up from below.

Reaching a slightly flattened col on the ridgeline, with the summit of Cerro del Barronal now directly in front of us, only another 20m or so of climbing remained when the rocky path seemed to disappear from sight. We thought we could just about make out patches of trail skirting the summit on the southern flank, but with a rocky plunge just below neither of us particularly felt like chancing it and so instead turned north from the col to descend back to the inland trail which we could see below. Pushing through scratching shrubs and avoiding the tips of sharp cactus all around us (and watching out for scorpions of course) we passed through soft sand to reach the inland trail and turned left (west) to walk the final 15 minutes or so to Playa del Barronal.

Reaching the magnificent beach, which is 800m long, we found a handful of families enjoying the afternoon sun and found a comfortable sand dune to sit and relax and take in the scene before us. With volcanic basaltic rocky outcrops hemming in each end of this beach, we could see people scrambling over them to reach the smaller hidden coves we had read about, but we were content just to sit and listen to the waves on the shallow sloping shore. We did get a bit of a surprise when some cyclists arrived and stripped off before taking a dip themselves, but later found out that this particular beach is popular with nudists (although it is not officially a nudist beach).

As the afternoon was passing by and our shadows were lengthening fast we knew we only had an hour and a half or so to make it back to our campsite in daylight and so reluctantly set off back towards our bikes, this time taking the inland dirt track that the cars are allowed to use (only in winter) as the more direct route. Although much less scenic than our lofty clifftop route, the softening evening light cast a beautiful glow over all of the surrounding hills that made the panorama remain magical from any angle.

With the soft breeze from earlier in the day now fading to a whisper, the completely still air combined with the pink and orange sky as we reached our bikes made the close of the day even more special as we covered the 7km or so ride to Camping Los Escullos, arriving just before darkness enveloped us completely to end another wonderful day out in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park.

Related Posts:
10 Reasons to Visit the Cabo de Gata -Nijar Natural Park - Andalucia, Spain
12 Places to Visit and Things To Do in Cabo de Gata Natural Park
10 Hiking and Walking Routes in the Cabo de Gata - Nijar Natural Park

View from  the clifftop path looking back over Playa de los Genoveses and peaks of El Failes in the distance

Families enjoying Playa del Barronal in the afternoon sun

Playa del Barronal
Views over the Sierra de Gabo

Old windmill at Los Genoveses

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