If you only have a couple of days to spend in the Sierra Nevada and you enjoy wild camping, then this may be the trip for you.

A good walk in wild and dramatic scenery where few others will be seen! Also includes the park rules and regulations regarding a wild camp.

Many thanks to Ian Tupman for this guest post

Pretty scary eh?
Pretty scary eh?

Our starting point is the Central Eléctrica (power station) at La Cebadilla which is at 1,600m and is reached by a driveable track from above the village of Capileira. The well-trodden path up the Poquiera valley crosses the river several times and passes through mixed woodland which provides welcome shade in hot weather. It eventually emerges onto the open mountainside below cortijo Las Tomas with its rather bizarre scarecrow.

From here, the route up to the Refugio Poquiera at 2,500m is marked by orange poles. In the summer months the refuge provides an all-day menu of cooked dishes but telephone them first to confirm (958 343349).

Most people at the refuge will either be on their way up, or coming down from Mulhacén. At 3,482m it is the highest peak in mainland Spain and as such, it draws walkers and climbers from all over Europe and beyond. We, however are seeking the quieter route and after a well-earned rest at the refuge, we take the marked path heading west and then north into the Río Mulhacén valley.

We cross the river and take the cairned path, briefly heading south-west and then west up and across the southern end of Loma Pelada. On reaching the west flank, the path swings north and the magnificent Raspones ridge comes into view on the west side of the Río Seco valley.

In the summer and early autumn, the river may well live up to its name and be completely dry so it’s probably best to carry water from the Río Mulhacén. The path descends into the valley and continues up the east side as far as the lagunas de Río Seco before it joins the old road to the east of Veleta. Walk up the valley as far as you wish and look for a suitable place to pitch your tent, bearing in mind the National Park rules (see below).

I camped in the centre of the valley before it rises up to its second tier. After pitching my tent I walked up onto the Terreras Azules which runs from the southern end of the Raspones ridge. This provides superb views north and south and is an ideal spot from which to enjoy the sunset. You will almost certainly have the valley to yourself but look out for cabras monteses (mountain goats or ibex) and aguilas (eagles) which can often be seen here.

Looking south from Terreras Azules
Looking south from Terreras Azules

After a good night’s sleep and depending on how much time you have, you could return the same way or do as I did and, after returning to cortijo Las Tomas, traverse across to the west side of the valley and follow the higher acequia (water channel) which contours around the mountainside and feeds the hydro-electric pipeline above La Cebadilla. The path zig-zags steeply down the east side of the pipe and feeds back onto the main valley path where we turn right for the short descent back the car.

Looking north to the Raspones and the main Sierra Nevada ridge
Looking north to the Raspones and the main Sierra Nevada ridge

The route as described is 20kms with a total ascent of 1,600m and it reaches an altitude of 2,700m. From La Cebadilla to the Refugio Poquiera allow 2½ - 3½ hours and from the refuge to your camp, allow a further 1½ - 2 hours, depending on how far up the Río Seco valley you go. The return along the acequia to La Cebadilla will take around 3 - 4 hours.

Camping is allowed in the National Park but there are rules and restrictions.

The following apply to small groups of 3 or less tents (max 15 persons). Larger groups should apply to the National Park (see below)

  • You must notify the National Park office of your intention to camp by post, fax or e-mail (see below)

  • You can only set up a tent one hour before sunset and it must be taken down within one hour of sunrise

  • You can only stay one night in the same place

  • You can only camp above 1600m. In the summer this rises to above the tree line (about 2,200m) due to fire risk

  • Not within 500m of a guarded refuge or public vehicle track

  • Not within 1km of a tarmac road

  • Not within 50m of a mountain lake or river

  • Not on private property without written permission from the owner

  • Leave no trace and take all rubbish out with you

Sierra Nevada National Park Address: Ctra. Antigua de Sierra Nevada, Km 7, 18191 Pinos Genil Phone: +34 958 026300 Fax: +34 958 026310 Email: pn.snevada.cma@juntadeanda​lucia.es

Ian Tupman ** September 2014**