The Top Spots for Hiking and Trekking in Spain

The Cumbre Vieja, along the ridge of a dormant volcano, is just one of many great hikes to be found in Spain
The Cumbre Vieja, along the ridge of a dormant volcano, is just one of many great hikes to be found in Spain | © IndustryAndTravel / Alamy Stock Photo
Esme Fox

Thanks to a varied landscapes, rugged mountain ranges, coastal routes, well-marked trails and great weather, finding the best hiking in Spain is no uphill struggle. From the famous Camino de Santiago to the Picos de Europa National Park and the Vías Verdes, there’s a trail in Spain for everyone.

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Ruta del Cares, Picos de Europa

Right up in the north of Spain, a 2.5-hour drive from Bilbao, the Ruta del Cares is one of the most popular and most beautiful routes through the Picos de Europa National Park. Known as the Divine Gorge, the 12km (7.5mi) route follows the Cares River south from Poncebos in Asturias to Caín in León. Hikers stick to a thrilling trail that’s carved into the side of the rocks – and often through them – featuring sheer drops aplenty and caged walkways that zigzag over the thunderous current below. Expect to encounter caves, mountain goats and turquoise streams of water.

Peñalara

This gentle walk in Spain won’t leave you in pain – and being just over an hour’s drive into the mountains north of the Spanish capital, it’s the best place for hiking near Madrid. At a height of 2,428m (7,965ft), Peñalara is the highest point in the mountainous Sierra de Guadarrama National Park – which straddles the provinces of both Madrid and Segovia – but it’s low enough to be suitable for less hardcore ramblers. The hike takes around 3.5 hours for a round-trip, and the route takes you through the Parque Natural de Peñalara, where you can spot many types of reptiles and amphibians. Look out for black vultures (and try not to view them as a bad omen). If you’re lucky, you’ll witness a white-and-brown flecked Spanish imperial eagle – a threatened species.

Camino de Santiago

The most famous Spanish walking route is, of course, the Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St James. A series of ancient pilgrim routes, the trail starts in few different places along the French border and ends up at Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. One of the oldest routes starts at the town of Oviedo in Asturias, but the most popular trail starts at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, just across into France. There is also another path, the Cami Catala, which starts at Montserrat monastery, or in Barcelona, and joins up with the Camino de Santiago to finish up at the in the same place.

Cumbre Vieja, La Palma

The Cumbre Vieja (meaning “Old Summit”) is the ridge of the dormant volcano that dominates La Palma, one of the Canary Islands. Running from north to south, it is approximately 150km (93mi) long and takes between eight and 10 days to complete. If you don’t want to walk the whole way, you could opt between two shorter walks: the Ruta de la Crestería, which follows the rim of the Caldeira de Taburiente, a massive collapsed volcano surrounded by crenellated peaks; or the Ruta de los Volcanes, a walk that snakes its way between the long scar of ancient craters in the dagger-shaped south of the island. Expect Martian-like volcanic landscapes.

Caminito del Rey, Málaga

The Caminito del Rey is one of the best hikes in Spain for thrill-seekers, featuring hanging footbridges, wooden walkways fixed against sheer rock faces, and a glass balcony that helpfully lets you see just how far an unlucky hiker might fall. Once named one of the most dangerous hikes in the world because of its missing sections of pathway and sheer cliffside drops, the Caminito del Rey is about an hour’s drive from Málaga. The route was closed for many years due to safety issues; however, extensive renovations took place, and it reopened again at the start of 2015. Today, the path has been repaired, handrails have been added, as well as bridges and stairs, to create a spectacular – and safe – experience. The trail is approximately 8km (5mi) long and takes around three to four hours to complete.

Pico Sobarcal, Pyrenees

Situated in the province of Huesca in northern Aragon, close to the French border, the Pico Sobarcal stands at 2,259m (7,411ft). Hiking up can be a rewarding experience, with awe-inspiring views of the Pyrenees in the distance and over into France. The total hike takes around seven hours. It’s a moderate climb, but gets very difficult towards the peak due to the rocky terrain, so reaching the top is really only for advanced hikers and mountaineers.

GR92, Costa Brava

Running along the Catalan coast, the GR92 begins at Portbou, just on the Spanish side of the French border, and runs all the way to Ulldecona, approximately 200km (120mi) south of Barcelona. Divided into 20 different stages, you can choose which parts of the path to walk, from hikes lasting just a few hours to those lasting a couple of days. Some of the most spectacular parts of the route are right at the top near the Natural Park of Aiguamolls de l’Empordà and further down into the Costa Brava – the sections between Begur and Palafrugell.

Vías Verdes

Not one particular walk, but a set of trails running more than 7,000km (4,350mi) throughout the country, the Vías Verdes are literally translated as Green Ways. Comprised of hiking paths and cycling routes that have been converted from old disused railway lines, there are around 77 different Vías Verdes running from north to south, all throughout Spain. Along the way, hikers will find old railway stations that have been converted into services such as restaurants, hotels, museums, bike rental stores and information offices.

Las Cañadas

Located on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Las Cañadas del Teide National Park is another great hiking destination through volcanic landscapes. Home to Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain at 3,718m (12,198ft), the park is home to several walking trails and mountainous peaks. Mount Teide itself can also be hiked, from where you can see the 80m (262ft) crater at the top, although a free permit must be applied for in advance if you visit during summer, and you must be accompanied by a guide near the peak.

The Mulhacén, Sierra Nevada

The highest mountain on the Iberian Peninsula, the Mulhacén is located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range near the Moorish city of Granada and stands at 3,479m (11,414ft). It is best climbed in summer and can be done in a day. There are several trails to reach the peak ranging in difficulty levels. The hardest way to reach the summit is via the northern face, which is really only for mountaineers, and the easiest and most popular is the southern face, which from the Mirador de Trevélez in the Alpujarras takes only around two hours.

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