10 Hiking and Walking Routes in the Cabo de Gata - Nijar Natural Park

With the ochre rocky cliffs and crags of the Sierra del Cabo de Gata, the jagged volcanic coastline and the beautiful golden beaches there are plenty of different types of hikes on offer in the Cabo de Gata natural park. Along the coast the long distance trail GR92 extends all the way from Almeria through the entire natural park, while inland a criss-crossed network of trails takes in many of the rolling hills and valleys of the arid desertscape. Although the natural park might not boast the 3000m snow capped summits of the nearby Sierra Nevada, the variety and contrast on offer creates a unique hiking environment with routes to suit all abilities. We've put together a collection of our favourite trails from our winter stay in Cabo de Gata.

1. The summit of El Fraile (493m) from Los Ecullos - The highest point in the park
The 3 peaks that make up the Los Frailes (the monks) massif between Los Escullos and San Jose are a highly visible monument in the park. Their position right up against the Mediterranean coastline creates a fantastic setting for a relatively moderate summit walk to the highest point in the park, El Fraile (493m). Although not marked on the hiking map of the park, this relatively easy to follow hike up a (mostly) gentle ridge is very rewarding one, with great coastal and inland views.

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2. Exploring hidden bays and beaches from San Jose
The coastal stretch lying immediately to the west of the town of San Jose is the most beautiful we have found so far in the whole of Spain. After walking along the sweeping iconic beach of Playa de los Genoveses, a coastal trail continues which takes in the many pristine bays, ravines and beaches between Genoveses and the equally well known Playa del Monsul. At around 10km out and back from San Jose, with just small amounts of climbing, this route is like walking through a postcard picture.

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3. Los Escullos to Cerro Penones (488m) via Los Alboricoques
This is a relatively long hiking loop for Cabo de Gata at around 23km. The first half of the trail passes through gentle countryside, dusty desert and cactus dotted landscapes as it loop around the north of a collection of volcanic hills. Halfway around the loop the trail turns back into those hills to ascend a surprisingly green and lush ravine right up the second highest peak in the park, Cerro Penones (488m). The views of the coastline between La Isleta del Moro and Los Escullos, with Los Frailes massive against the Mediterranean sea are wonderful.


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4. Hiking loop from Los Escullos to San Jose - Inland and coastal trails
This approximately 18km loop is a walk of 2 distinct halves. The inland portion of the trail through the arid, desertscape is gentle and peaceful, taking in the sleepy village of El Pozo del Frailes before reaching the larger coastal town of San Jose. From here the trail cuts straight to a stunning section of volcanic coastline, where a wide trail skirts along the 100m vertical drops into the sea below. The cliffs and bays beneath are full of jagged volcanic vents and semi-submerged rock shelves, creating a beautiful series of viewpoints.

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5. Hiking into a volcano - The Caldera de Majada Redonda
We found the ancient rounded bowl left behind by this extinct volcano to be one of the most peaceful and meditative parts of the entire natural park. After 15 million years of erosion and change anyone expecting to find a conical summit with a deep smoking crater may find this underwhelming (as another visitor said to us). However, we found the grassy walls of the shallow crater, filled with rolling mounds of earth and collapsed on the side where the magma escaped all those years ago to be an ideal place to reflect on the beauty of the natural world. It is just a short, easy walk from Los Escullos or the village of Presillas Bajas.

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6. A short coastal walk from Los Escullos to La Isleta del Moro
The tiny village of La Isleta del Moro built on a rocky spit of land is the epitome of a traditional Spanish fishing village. This short walk along low sandy cliffs, watching the collection of boats in the small harbour bobbing up and down and listening to the ocean is a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon. The rocky promontory at the head of the spit of land is also great place to sit and watch the sea birds reeling above the transparent waters below.

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7. Direct route from Los Escullos to Cerro Penones (488m)- via Barranco del Negras
If you don't have time for the longer loop towards this summit listed above, it is possible to head straight from Los Escullos to Cerro Penones. We ascended to the radio mast at the summit following the wide Barranco del Paraiso cutting diagonally across the mountainside but chose the much more natural Barranco del Negras for our descent. After the amazing inland and coastal views from the top this lush green ravine is a wonderful way to head back down again.

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8. Hiking from Faro de Cabo de Gata to Torre de la Vela Blanca (GR92)
This out and back walk from the lighthouse right on the southernmost point of the natural park takes in more of the impressive volcanic scenery of the natural park, climbing to over 200m to offer amazing coastal views. The path is wide and easy to follow and continues on in both directions for anyone lucky enough to have transport to collect them from elsewhere, so could be extended to run all the way from El Cabo de Gata to San Jose, for example. Or, if you have the time and energy you could do it as part of enormous loop like we did, although we were riding bikes at the time.

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9. A clifftop hike along the beaches west of San Jose
This variation on the coastal hike listed above (2) follows a similar route, but instead of taking the track which hugs the sea and passes along the beaches, this route stays high. Following the roughly marked tracks across the low, rocky hills behind the beaches gives great views down into the hidden bays and beaches from above in addition to an impressive outlook over the Sierra del Cabo de Gata mountains inland.

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10. Exploring the Sierra Almahillas - Huebro (Nijar) to Mina (1216m)
Although this hike suggestion is not technically in the Cabo de Gata natural park, the Sierra Almahillas mountain range lies to the north of the park and is just a short drive away across a flattened plateau. The village of Nijar on the lower slopes is a well known tourist destination, famous for its local pottery.  However, on this visit we found the mountains far more enticing. This route starts out from Huebro, above Nijar, and follows mostly wide and easy to follow tracks (mostly the GR140) to the highest point in the range, the summit of Mina, which provides amazing views of the Andalucian coastline, the distant peaks of Sierra Nevada and a view over the entire Cabo de Gata natural park.

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A Note About Hiking Trails in Cabo de Gata - Nijar Natural Park
Although many of the trails we hiked and that which are marked on the hiking map for this area (Mapa Excusionista: Cabo de Gata Nijar Parque Natural: 1:50,000) are wide and easy to follow, often dirt track roads, it's important to note that there are very few trail markers. There are some information boards dotted around the park indicating the start of 'senderos' and some trails markers on some routes, but on the whole we didn't find there to be a consistent marking scheme showing where to turn or which trail to follow.  Fortunately, with n ormally good weather and visibility you can normally see where you're heading. For us, having spent so long in the well marked areas like the Alps and Pyrenees, it took some getting used to, so as with all hikes we'd recommend carrying a map and knowing how to use it.  It's also worth being aware that many of the remote homesteads or agricultural areas have guard dogs. Generally those we came across were on leads/chains but we were always very wary just in case.

These are our hikes in the Cabo de Gata natural park but if you have any questions, comments or have any hikes of your own, please share these below.  We'd love to hear from you ......

Other 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







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Adventures In Life, Love, Health, Travel... & Puppies!: 10 Hiking and Walking Routes in the Cabo de Gata - Nijar Natural Park
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