City living got you longing for some fresh air and open spaces? Lucky for you, Madrid is situated near some great hiking trails that can take you over mountains, through forests and quaint old towns.
Here are a handful of stand-out hiking areas near Madrid, all of which offer a number of hiking trails.
The quaint mountain village of Cercedilla, located a little more than an hour outside of Madrid in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, is a popular starting spot for a number of hikes of varying levels of difficulty. From Cercedilla, hikers can choose from dirt road or mountain trails, many of which afford views of mountain goats, waterfalls, ponds, panoramic views, and maybe even a history lesson. (The Sierra de Guadarrama mountains played a key role in the Spanish Civil war, and were the scene for much of the action in Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”)
The peaceful Camino de Agua trail (roughly 5K) in the Cercedilla area is good for just about everyone and offers views of ponds, lush forests, and overlooks. ) For a slightly longer adventure, try the Los Miradores hike, which is marked in orange. The 9km hike is not very difficult and has great views. Plus, if you want to change your route midway through to something more challenging, it crosses with a number of other paths.
After working up an appetite, settle in for a leisurely lunch at super-cozy La Alacena. This charming little restaurant offers a menú del dia every day of the week, which is cheap (about 16 euros) and gets you wine, a starter, entree, and dessert. In the chilly months, there’s nothing better than a post-hike glass of Spanish red and La Alacena’s gooey brie appetizer. In the warm months, sit on La Alacena’s leafy terraza and cool off with a big beer.
You can get to this Cercedilla using public transportation by taking the C-8 Cercanias line from Atocha Renfe to Cercedilla for about €5 each way. Or take the 684 bus line from Moncloa Intercambiador to Cercedilla. Once you’ve arrived at the Cercedilla station, walk two kilometers to the Environmental Office, grab a map, and chat with rangers who can point you toward the hike you’re looking for, based on how much of a challenge you want and how much time you have. Follow your trail’s colored markings.
2. La Pedriza
Located on the southern slopes of the Guadarrama Mountain Range is La Pedriza, a 32 square mile geological formation with tons of interesting rock formations spread out in “boulder fields.” This a popular area for rock climbers and hikers alike. The hiking area is in the Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares, located outside the town of Manzanares el Real, which is just a 45 minute bus ride from Madrid. Trails offer views of lakes, a castle, Spanish ibex, and even a cave that was a hideout during the Spanish Civil War.
Try the 8.5 km La Gran Cañada hike, which is easy to navigate, and takes about five hours to complete. The trail begins and ends in the town of Manzanares el Real. There isn’t too much uphill on this hike, but you still can see wonderful views, rocks in the shapes of animals, and explore caves. And you’ll hike by the Risco de Ofertoria, which is a huge rock that looks like an engagement ring. According to legend, you can come here and ask the universe to bring love into your life. Also, it’s supposedly a popular spot for proposals. Spray-painted hearts line this route, which is why this hike is also called “The Walk of Hearts.”
If you are looking for a more challenging hike in La Pedriza, try the El Yelmo, which is the area’s highest peak, and called “the helmet” because of the mountain’s helmet-like shape. Walk 45 minutes from the small village of Manzanares El Real to begin the hike at the base of the mountain range. It’s a 10km route, which is mostly well-marked with red and white. Estimated time is three hours up and two hours down, so at least five hours total, more if you want to enjoy your lunch on the top. Bring lots of water.
To get to La Pedriza, go to Plaza de Castilla, go to the Intercambiador de Autobuses, and take the 724 to Manzanares El Real. Its a 45 minute ride and costs €4.50 each way. Check the schedule here. Get off at the bus stop right next to the Manzanares El Real Castle and across from Eroski grocery store. You will find a Parks office near the stop where you can get helpful assistance for your hike.
3. Patones de Arriba
This quaint and sleepy hillside village is an hour from Madrid in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama near the Jarama River. It’s known as the pueblo negro, or black village for its slate buildings that dominates the architecture of this town of fewer than 500 inhabitants. Patones is a delightful daytime visit and a solid starting point for several hiking trails, including the circular 10km Cancho de la Cabeza route, which takes you up a brush and scrub ascent to stunning views. The descent is a little difficult, but overall, this is an easy hike. If it’s a clear day, you can see the skyline of Madrid in the background. If you start in the morning, you’ll be back in town for lunch. There are a number of traditional (and reasonably-priced) lunch spots where you can gorge on a menu del dia with wine to reward yourself for your hard work.
If you’re going by bus from Madrid, you’ll need to catch the 197 from Plaza de Castilla and then another from the much less adorable Patones de Abajo or else follow signs and walk uphill to Patones de Arriba.
4. Hoyo de Mazanares
There are a number of routes that start in the town of Hoyo de Manzanares (about 35km northeast of Madrid). Arrive in town, and follow signs for parking. When I did this hike once on a sunny January day, the views of the snowcapped mountains were beautiful, but my best memory of that day was partaking in the Spanish tradition of the calcotada at a restaurant called Calsots, in Hoyo de Manzanares. A calcotada is essentially a gloriously messy, fun, and delicious meal that centers around a Spanish leek called a calcot. Calcot season is generally November-March and you’ll likely need a reservation to eat at Calsots.
If you’d rather someone else do the planning for you (and you’re looking to meet some new hiking friends, the group Hiking in the Community of Madrid, started by two avid expat hikers, plans group hikes nearly every weekend. To get updates about upcoming group hikes you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or like their Facebook page Hiking in the Community of Madrid.