Spring is now in full blast with bright and clear skies… but before the excruciating heat of summer arrives, now is the time to take full advantage of Madrid’s amazing hiking trails. None is more famous or spectacular than La Pedriza on the southern slopes of the Guadarrama mountain range.
It was difficult to find English sources for a detailed hike how-to, so I thought I’d add my own experience in case it proves helpful to anyone. (So if this has been useful, please leave a comment! 🙂 )
The closest town to the hiking trails (senderos) is Manzanares El Real, a pueblo around 55km from Madrid Centro. We took bus 724 from Metro Plaza de Castilla (around 45-50min one way). There was a helpful tourist information centre right across the bus stop / supermarket, but beware of their opening hours, because usually they close early or close during the siesta which is a ridiculously long lunch break.
Anyway, that day we made it while it was open, but the information personnel we got – although well-meaning – wasn’t that helpful. She suggested some easy but shitty (read: no panoramic views) trails because we didn’t have that much time that day, and it had been raining all morning.
So we began to walk along the road (she said it would be a short walk to the start of the trail), but we would have wasted 40++ minutes on concrete pavement seeing and doing essentially nothing had we not hitchhiked with a kind bombero (fireman) who gave us a lift to the jumping-off camp: Canto Cochino…
Now before I continue I would like to stress that if you really want to hike anywhere in Madrid (or Spain, for that matter), the easiest and most efficient way to go about it is to rent a car – or go with someone who has one. Honestly, the bus connections will take you forever, plus they are infrequent, and if you depend on them you risk getting stranded or waiting for hours. Plus, there are no bus connections to places like Canto Cochino, where the major hikes through La Pedriza originate.
So this kind-hearted bombero dropped us off at this place, where we were able to somehow get our bearings. Hiking in Spain is badly signposted so it was inevitable that we got lost, but thankfully we were able to bump into some hikers to pointed us in the right direction. Plus, Vicky miraculously had GPS working her iPhone despite all of us having NO SERVICE…
Somewhere along the way two middle aged women stopped us and started frantically speaking in Spanish. The jist of what they were saying – and at first we thought maybe we were understanding wrong and out Spanish classes were not working at all – was basically that there was a naked (“desnudo”) man running around the mountains, and did we see him? And if we hadn’t, then we should be careful!
At some point during this exchange, we actually saw the naked man running up the path several metres downhill, but when he saw us staring at him, he turned around and went the other way. The two ladies said he hadn’t bothered them, just carried on, but nevertheless it was disturbing.
Vicky began to freak out and said she wanted to quit the trail before we had even begun, which I quickly vetoed, and we almost got into a fight…
Me: There’s three of us and only one of him
Vicky: Yeah but what if he has a weapon!? Do you have a weapon?!
In the end we decided to carry on but she and I decided to keep big rocks in our pocket to use against any naked old men who might try to attack us along the way.
The ladies who had warned us, apparently having thought we were super young, upon realising we were actually in our twenties (and me in my late twenties), waved us along our way finally convinced that we could take care of ourselves.
Getting back, we hitched another ride from Canto Cochino (another hiker making his way home) to the bus stop at Manzanares El Real, where we took the same bus back to Plaza de Castilla. We had to wait a long while in the rain and cold, though, because the rides were few and far between. Maybe you should check the schedule and plan ahead what time you should be back so you don’t have to wait as long as we did. We were mostly playing it by ear that day though, maybe not the best idea… But as Shakespeare said, all’s well that ends well!
Happy trekking muchachos !
Un afectuoso saludo (and missing Madrid terribly from Berlin),