Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park

Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park
 

Overview
The natural park Sierra de las Nieves is located north of Marbella and to the east of Ronda. It is a mountainous area covering 18,500 hectares that is pretty much untouched by cultivation, for this reason its flora and fauna is very diverse. The park is dominated by Mount Torrecilla which is 1919 metres above sea level and provides excellent views of Ronda from its summit.

The main access to the heart of the park is off the Ronda to San Pedro road at the 14km mark where the entrance to the park is clearly signposted. On leaving the main road you will follow a metalled road for about 1km before the road becomes a well maintained track which is suitable for a normal car. This continues for a further 1km or so before terminating at a car parking area called Los Quejigales. It is a good idea to leave your car at this point as the tracks leading further into the park are prone to becoming washed out during the winter months. Several walks begin at this point and there is no real point in driving further into the park and running the risk of damaging your vehicle.

There is also access from Tolox, El Burgo and Yunquera.

The park is located to the east of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.

Walking
There are more than 30 hiking trails in the Sierra de las Nieves park including: 21 Short Distance Trails (PR) approved by the Andalucian Mountain Climbing Federation and 15 trails for public use within the Natural Park, offered by the Ministry of Environment. These trails cover a wide variety of distances and difficulties so that you can choose the most suitable. Many of these trails are accessed from the GR 243 long distance footpath, approved by the Spanish Federation of Mountain Sports Climbing and divided into a total of 6 stages. This is basically the 'highway' leading to the trails of the Sierra de las Nieves.

There are several walks which begin at Los Quejigales, which is the easiest place to leave your car. One of these is a challenging walk which takes you up to the summit of Torrecilla. This walk takes about 2 hours for the ascent and one hour for the return. Most of the way uses paths intended for the 4x4 vehicles used by the park rangers. This means that the path is easy underfoot and it is not really possible to get lost. This walk is highly recommended but it is not a good idea to attempt it in the summer months as there is very little shade.

There is another short walk which begins at Los Quejigales which takes you past the largest Spanish Fir (pinsapo) in the park. This circular walk is on the level, offers some shade and takes about an hour which makes is suitable for a hot day. It is clearly signposted from the car park and it is very easy to follow.

 

Sightseeing
The area is home to a significant number of large caves and potholes (simas in Spanish).  GESM (Grupo de Exploraciones Subterráneas de Málaga ) is one of the deepest potholes in Europe and has still not been fully explored.  Of the caves in the area, there three of particular interest:- Hoyos del Pilar, Hoyos de Lifa, Cuevas del Moro and Los Quejigales - a recreation area. Casa Forestal and an excellent point to start one of the many lengthier walks in the park.

Animals/Birds
The area is home to several species of birds of prey, these include golden, Bonelli’s and booted eagles.  The park has a large population of mountain goats (one of the largest in Andalucia. The non-native muflon is found here (ancestor of our domestic sheep) as well as meloncillo which is a kind of mongoose. Other mammals include deer and otters.

Plants
Sierra de las Nieves has extraordinarily high number mountain species due to its high rainfall and low temperatures. Trees include chestnut, Spanish fir, carob gall oak, cork oak and wild olive trees.

Within the natural park of Sierra de las Nieves there are three main habitats:

Spanish Fir or Pinsapo. This is considered the most important area for these trees which are usually found between 1000 and 1800 meters as they can withstand temperatures as low as -12º C. Pinsapo tends to produce a dense mass of tall trunks which precludes the growth of much understory.

Gall Oak. These occur at heights of around 1750m altitude as they can cope with very low temperatures. They often appear twisted and weatherbeaten and an some excellent examples can be seen near the pylons on the path to the summit of Torrecilla.

Holm Oak. This should be one of the most widespread species in the park but these trees have been badly affected by fires, livestock and crops although you can still find extensive areas of these trees below the 1300 meter line.

 

 
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