El Torreón is the highest peak in Sierra de Grazalema. After a satisfying hike to its summit, views on a clear day can extend as far as Africa. Here’s what you need to know.


Sierra de Grazalema, in the centre of Andalucía, is a hidden gem for hikers. In early spring, while many of Europe’s hiking areas are covered in snow, Sierra de Grazalema can be bathing in glorious sunshine and colourful flowers.

It’s the perfect time to explore its dramatic canyons, lush green vistas, and craggy mountains,

Rising above everything else in the park is the triumphant peak of El Torreón. The 360-degree views from the 1654m summit collect the mountains, valleys and white villages of Andalucía, down to the rock of Gibraltar and the oceans that surround it.

If you are lucky you may also see Africa, shimmering on the horizon.

Conquering the highest peak in a region is always a rewarding challenge. Fortunately, the path to the top begins high up on the mountain road, so it’s less than 800m of ascent to reach the summit. The result is excellent views without excessive effort to get them.

Here are all the details including how to get the permit required to hike el Torreón.

HIKING EL TORREÓN OVERVIEW


SUMMARY / A half-day hike steeply ascending the highest peak in the park

DISTANCE / 3.2 km each way – 6.4 km in total

TIME / 3 hours 10 minutes for the complete round trip

ELEVATION / 780m descent and 780m ascent

DIFFICULTY / Medium

HIKERS / Mark & Paul

HIKING EL TORREÓN

As we drove down the Grazalema to El Bosque road the mighty buttresses of El Torreón rose above us. We stared up at its impossibly steep flanks wondering how we would ever get up there. Others were less concerned: a couple of ibex ran down the slopes and bounced gleefully across the road.

It was the first of April and a truly glorious day, but it’s not a walk to dawdle on. The path rises from the car park at 865m to the 1654m summit and it is pretty unyielding. We began contouring round the shoulder. Mostly in the shade of the trees, we occasionally popped out into the sunshine for glistening views to the west. The start of the el Torreón hike is about putting some height behind you.

For an hour we puffed and panted our way up the relentlessly rising path. After some steep zigzags, the trail flattened for a while, giving us a chance to catch our breath and realise how beautiful this part of Spain actually is. We followed the green and white markers up the final assault on the peak.

EL TORREÓN SUMMIT

The last 100m of ascent is a fun scramble up the rock face. Tired legs were pleased to work with the assistance of hands as we pulled ourselves up the craggy face. It’s a bit steep but there was nothing too challenging and the reward was magnificent.

All alone, we sat and surveyed the 360-degree views across dark forests, craggy mountains and white villages glistening in the sun. Gibraltar rose out of the ocean to the south as the plains of Andalucía stretched to the west. We basked in the sun, got our breath back and took a well-earned rest.

There’s something exceptionally rewarding about conquering a mountain, no matter how small that mountain is. El Torreón is not exactly Everest, but the feeling of satisfaction at getting to the top is still worth celebrating. Unfortunately, we only had a couple of chocolate biscuits left, but a celebration it was.

HOW TO GET A PERMIT FOR HIKING EL TORREÓN

Sierra de Grazalema is one of the last places where the Spanish Fir (or Pinsapo) grows. The park looks after the few that remain with a lot of care. Therefore, during the summer season (01 Jun to 15 Oct) when forest fires are a risk, hiking is not allowed on El Torreón at all. In the other months, a permit is required.

Permits can be obtained in person at either the El Bosque or Grazalema visitor’s centre. Obtaining a permit on weekdays should be no problem at all, but weekends and public holidays can get booked up.

It’s possible to reserve a permit up to 1 month in advance by phoning or emailing the El Bosque visitor’s centre, telling them the date you intend to walk, the name of the route (El Torreón), the number of walkers and one passport number.

The permit usually needs to be collected in person from the visitor’s centre, but if you ask them nicely they may email or fax the permit to you.

Please be aware the visitor’s centre staff speak very limited English, so if you don’t speak much Spanish, being understood on the phone can be a challenge.

All the permits are free.


El Bosque Visitor’s Centre / 10:00 – 14:00 everyday | Phone: +34 956 709 733 | More: See their website

Grazalema Visitors Centre / 10:00 – 14:00 & 15:00 – 17:30 Tue – Sun | Phone: +34 956 132 052 | More: See their website

TRAIL CONDITIONS FOR HIKING EL TORREÓN

El Torreón trail is very clear and easy to follow (unless there is snow on the ground). As it rises above the zig-zags and flattens it’s a little less clear but green and white ringed wooden posts mark the trail and allay any fears you are going wrong.

There is 780m of ascent and descent so the hike requires some considerable effort, but at no point is the path particularly steep or challenging. It’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and taking some breaks when legs are starting to feel the strain. The last 100m is a fun scramble up a rocky summit, where you may need to use your hands.

It takes about 1 hour 45 minutes to reach the summit and another 1 hour and 25 minutes to descend the same way. Allow 3 hours and 10 minutes for the round trip and another half hour to take in the views.

From the summit it is possible to head westwards over a series of summits to el Llano del Campo which would take about 6 hours. Another, much more technical trek, heads eastwards over the summit of Pico San Cristobal to the El Pinsapar trailhead, which also takes about 6 hours.

EL PINSAPAR TRAIL MAP

Although the path is relatively clear, whenever you head up to a peak where weather conditions can change quickly, you should take a compass and a map. We recommend this one.

Guy Hunter-Watts also provides maps in his excellent hiking book. detailing the best path around the mountains of Ronda and Grazalema.

To save this map, click on the star to the right of the title – this will save the map to: YOUR PLACES -> MAPS in Google Maps.

WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU

The El Torreón trail is not long or difficult but good solid walking shoes are always a good idea.

Take a map and a compass in case the cloud comes over suddenly. You don’t want to go wrong on these steep slopes.

Half the walk is spent in the sun and the other half in the shade of the trees. Wear sun block and a hat to help protect from that sizzling Spanish heat. However, in the shade and on the summit it can get quite cold, especially if the wind is blowing, so bring some layers to rug up a little.

There are no refreshments on the route so make sure you have some water and some snacks to give you an energy boost for the relentless tiring climb.

Take a camera and, if you are a bird-watcher, a pair of binoculars.

Don’t forget your permit!

BEST TIME TO HIKE EL TORREÓN

You cannot hike El Torreón in summer (01 June to 15 Oct) as the park authorities shut the trail due to high fire risk. In our opinion, the best time of year to hike El Torreón is throughout April and May. At this time, the glorious wild flowers of the region are in full bloom, any snow should have cleared, the temperature should not be too hot and tourist numbers will be slightly lower.

The hike can be done any time of day, but the visibility is usually crisper and clearer in the morning before the clouds and haze builds.

Try to avoid any extreme temperatures.

HOW TO GET TO EL TORREÓN TRAILHEAD

The El Torreón trail is in Sierra de Grazalema, a natural park which is a 1-hour 30-minute drive from either Seville or from the beaches of Marbella.

The trailhead begins at a car park located just past the 44km marker on the A-372, which runs from Grazalema to El Bosque.

A bus runs along this road but only twice a day, once early in the morning and another late in the evening. So you will either need to have your own car or take a taxi (+34 666 842 973) to the trailhead.

WHERE TO STAY FOR HIKING EL TORREÓN

The closest places to the el Torreón trailhead are the white villages of el Bosque or Grazalema. El Bosque has the benefit of the visitor’s centre making it easy to pick up the permit, but it does not have a dramatic location. Grazalema sits in picture-perfection at the base of some beautiful craggy mountains but dies in the evening.

So we suggest you head a little further away to Zahara.

Sitting on a hill just under a Moorish castle, Zahara has magnificent views and great walks. But best of all it has a couple of decent restaurants in a cute square. We suggest you stay at Alojamiento Rural el Pinsapo and head to Cerveceria el Gallo for its tapas.

If small villages don’t do it for you, consider heading to Ronda, a beautiful larger town a 40-minute drive away.

BOOK YOUR STAY

WHERE NEXT?

There are a number of great hikes in this very scenic part of the world. Just north of El Torreón, is El Pinsapar trail which takes you over a ridge and into a unique stand of pinsapo (Spanish fir) forest. A little further north lies our favourite walk in the area, the Garganta Verde. A magical hike into a plunging 400m deep canyon.

If you are in the area make sure you check out the best white villages, as well as a rather unique blue one, before heading to the magnificent historical cities of Seville, Granada or Córdoba.

3 DAYS IN SEVILLE

WHITE VILLAGES OF ANDALUCÍA

WHAT TO DO IN CÁDIZ

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El Torreón is the highest peak in the stunning Sierra de Grazalema, with views over Andalucía, Gibraltar and even Africa. Here’s a complete guide.

El Torreón is the highest peak in the stunning Sierra de Grazalema, with views over Andalucía, Gibraltar and even Africa. Here’s a complete guide.

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