The Sierra Nevada mountains of southern Spain offer some of Europe's finest mountain biking, writes local enthusiast and guide David Isaacs.
Trails descend from the rocky heights over 2,000 metres through forest and farmland to the semi-arid foothills below, the glorious scenery illuminated by 320 days of sunshine per year and punctuated by time-warped mountain villages.
Across the main Sierra itself and surrounding outliers are thrilling routes of all types, with tecnical singletrack and easy stretches on forestry roads. Making it even more special is the fact that this region of Spain is still wild, not a manufactured bikers’ playground. There are no ski lifts and no coach parties: just you, the bike and the trail.
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David Isaacs hails from Cumbria and has enjoyed mountain biking and road cycling in the English Lake District, Scotland, Wales and much of Spain.
Having moved to the town of Orgiva in the Sierra Nevada back in 1998, David renovated a local farmhouse and set up Biking Andalucia, offering a range of mountain biking and road cycling holidays in the southern sierras. His time here has given him an...
There are four principal areas for mountain biking in this part of Spain. The Sierra Nevada mountains are the highest and most extensive, but those in the know also head for the smaller sierras of Lújar, Contraviesa and Guájares. The trails are natural - a combination of generations of mules, shepherds and also forestry access. Combined with the scenery and the villages, a mountain biking trip here combines white-knuckle thrills with an authentic encounter with rural Spain.
The Sierra Nevada (meaning "snowy range" in Spanish) is a mountain range in the region of Andalucia, extending across the provinces of Granada and Almería. It contains the highest point of continental Spain, Mulhacén, which rises to 3,478 metres (11,411ft) above sea level.
Parts of the range lie within the Sierra Nevada National Park, while the area has also been declared a biosphere reserve. The southern slopes extend down towards the Mediterranean Sea and the Costa Tropical (the eastern extension of the Costa del Sol), known for its warm temperatures and abundant sunshine. The city of Granada, famous for the spectacular Alhambra Palace, lies in the western foothills.
Cañar to Órgiva
A classic Sierra Nevada route on the GR7. Follow the pristine single track between Cañar and Soportujar, 600 metres above Orgiva, traversing the valley side through breathtaking scenery. There's a steep but rideable descent on single track with switcbacks to Carataunas then a minor climb to traverse a ridge. Finally a quick blast on classic singletrack takes you into Órgiva town.
Sierra Lújar 46 switchbacks
Get close to the dramatic scenery of the Sierra Lújar - like something from a spaghetti western, with wildlife including ibex and imperial eagles. Enjoy incredible views back to the Sierra Nevada then descend on a rough track with its 46 switchbacks - demanding but doable - down to Tablones. Cross the Rio Guadalfeo and return to Orgiva.
Set out from the idyllic village Guájar Faguit and proceed to Guájar Alto, then up the Rio Tobas among limestone peaks and pine forests. After 11km a track leads off to the left to reach Alto de Posta at 1,200 metres, with amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea, and the snowcapped Sierra Nevada. Continue along this high ridge for 6km before the exhilarating 800-metre descent back to Guájar Alto and Guajar Faguit via a spectacular route that traverses the valley.
Begin at 1,000 metres altitude on the Sierra Contraviesa, heading east with amazing views of the Mediterranean and the Sierra Nevada. At Hazo de Lino, there is a spectacular track plunging down from 1,300 metres to Torvizcon at 500 metres, via vineyards and almond groves, before the return via the Rio Guadalfeo back to Órgiva.
High altitude mountain biking
There are various trails over 2,000 metres altitude, including one brilliant route that runs to the top of Pico Veleta – mainland Spain’s second highest mountain at 3,400 metres (11,150 feet) – and a 3,100-metre (10,300ft) descent to Órgiva.
Best times to go:
With one of the mildest climates in Europe, mountain biking is possible year-round. In the height of summer negate the fierce heat by doing higher level routes; conversely in winter, the lower trails remain warm and springlike. For all-round enjoyment at a variety of altitudes, late March to early June and early September to early November are ideal.
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