In between “The Sherry Triangle” and the beautiful city of Rhonda is Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, a mountainous region of Andalusia. The mountains, albeit not as big as those in Granada’s Sierra Nevadas, are donned with tons of gorgeous green landscapes, canyons, and valleys. The area is breathtaking and one of our favs (particularly in the province of Cádiz).
- Length: ~5k
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 1,020ft.
- Hiking Time: ~3 – 3.5 hours
- When: Spring (April – May)
- Permit: Free, but required.
Having lived in a nearby town, we have ventured to this area of Andalusia often and feel that Garganta Verde, a 400 meter deep canyon, is one of the most interesting hikes offered. The other being El Torreón, the highest peak in the park topping out at 5,427′ of elevation. Both of these hikes are fairly short in length but afford you with some rad views. After all, isn’t that what you came for?
If hiking isn’t your jam, but somehow you’ve landed on this page, that’s cool. Go ahead and skip this post and hop on over to our Zahara page (the hike is located in the same general area), so fear not, you can still enjoy this area of Andalusia and the neighboring fairytale pueblo blanco!
Garganta Verde (“Green Ravine”) is exactly that, a super lush hike with gorgeous views (especially during the spring season, April – May, when the wildflowers are blooming and the greens are the brightest). The hike, like a couple others in the area (we’re looking at you El Torreón, Los Llanos de Rabel, and El Pinsapar), does require a free permit in order to complete, so planning ahead is certainly key.
In order to obtain a permit, you’ll need to contact the Visitor’s Center in El Bosque. We’ve read that it’s possible to call or email the Center and have the permit sent to you via email, however, in our experience as non-native Spanish speakers this proved to be difficult We’ll link the info below if you want to give this a try first, however, if you have the time, going to the Visitor’s Center and signing up for a date in-person is probably your best bet (unless your Spanish is really good!).
However you choose to try and obtain your permit, you’ll need to make sure to have: the date you plan to hike, number of people in your party, your address, and well as your passport number (or NEI number).
Additionally, it’s important to note that the hike may not be completed during the summer months due to increased fire risk (beginning of June to mid-October). Sorry summer travelers!
Overall, we would grade this relatively short hike (the entire hike is 5 kilometers roundtrip) as “Moderate” (despite the sign just after the gated entrance into the protected area warning of “extreme danger”) and feel that it can be done with kids (heck, we did it with all three of ours ages: 7, 4, and 4 months). However, be aware that you will need to watch your footing during the descent and the ascent is relatively steep, so you will want to account for those aspects of the course before tackling Garganta Verde.
With our oldest (age 7) hiking the entire way, our 4-year-old completing the top half of the hike (this portion of the hike is fairly level and does not have the elevation change that can be found as you head into the canyon), water stops, a short snack break at the bottom of the canyon, photo ops, and exploring the canyon floor, your family can plan on the adventure taking ~3 – 3.5 hours roundtrip. Bottom line: The hike is much more challenging than your typical nature walk, but it is not overly technical in nature (you could probably “get by” with athletic shoes with good grips, however, we prefer hiking boots especially when wearing our kids as good footing is key). Oh, and baby wearing or not, it’s a great glute burner on the way back up to the car park!
Getting to the Garganta Verde Trailhead
Car: The Grazalema Natural Park is fairly easy to get to, however, there is no public transport, so your options to access the trailhead really are 1. rent a car and drive the mountain roads yourself or 2. hire a taxi. The trailhead is easy to get to as it is located just ~4 kilometers south of Zahara de la Sierra on CA-9104 and signage is good!
Parking is located right in front of the trailhead. Additionally, there is a “ranger” station near the hike entrance to check permits, however no one was there on the Friday morning that we hiked.
From the car park you’ll enter through a gate and then boom (!!), you’re officially on your way! We’ll go ahead and warn you now that the signage along the hiking route is decent, however there are a couple spots that can be a smidge confusing. These days, we never set out on a hike without trail directions downloaded because better safe than sorry. No one really wants to get completely lost in the wild with #allthekids! This trail is available on both the WikiLoc and AllTrails apps and if you like to hike and don’t have the premium version of the app go ahead and get it now – so. worth. it.
The first portion of the trail is pretty well-marked and gentle (read: no steep grades in this section). This is also the portion of the hike when you’ll want to have your tiniest hikers hike before tossing them into carriers, as the next sections of the descent become gradually steeper.
It is during this top (relatively flat) portion of the hike that you will also see the sign leading to an off shoot “mirador” (view point). Make sure to take advantage of this look out either before or after hiking down into the ravine. It’s a great overview of where you’re headed or where you just came from!
As you continue on from this point, the trail gets progressively more challenging and you’ll need to be more and more careful with your footing as the grade gets steeper. At some point you’ll want to throw your littler littles into a hiking pack (most likely) as some of it is just tough for little legs (When we referred to little ones we are really talking about those that are under the age of 5ish. This is (of course) is greatly dependent on your child’s athletic ability, height, hiking skills, etc.). Additionally, if you are baby wearing we feel that hiking poles are a huge help in staying balanced with the added weight, so if you’ve got those, bring ’em!
On the steepest sections there are metal railings, as well as foot holes in the rocks making the way a bit easier. As you descend into the valley you will get your first few glimpses of the caves at the bottom of the canyon. Keep on truckin’ and eventually you’ll reach the very lush bottom where the official trail ends at a dry riverbed (for our family this was ~1.5 hours from the trailhead).
At this point there is a warning sign that you need to have the proper training and equipment to go further. Past this sign, the “trail” really just turns into hopping over large boulders at the bottom of the riverbed heading into the canyon. Please be safe if you are going on a day where there is ANY chance of rain! Even a light rain in another portion of the valley could quickly turn into a fast moving stream down there. Be careful.
Given the more technical nature of this portion of the course, we decided it was best for Britt to stay back with Penny and Jude, while Dom and Miles headed in to explore a bit further. In just a short distance (about 500m from the “end of trail” sign), the large boulders spread out and the river bed turns into much smaller, flatter rocks. We headed into the canyon a bit further, but decided to turn back before getting ourselves in too deep. Truth be told, we aren’t sure how much farther you can follow the river bed, but it’s probably not something to find out with little kids in tow.
Content with our exploration, we headed back to meet up with Britt, Penny, and Jude. Short snack break and back up the trail, we go…quickly realizing just how steep the descent was as our legs burned with the effort (Penny plus pack now near the Deuter Kid Comfort weight limit). Don’t forget to turn around a few times to take a look back into the canyon as you climb out! Breathtaking.
What To Pack
Boba Kids Carrier: We have two standard sized soft structured carriers that we use on the reg, however, we reach for our Boba more often when the weather is warmer and our kids are itsy bitsy as the panel is slimmer (compared to our Tula standard), as well as it lacks a full infant insert (there is a removable pad that babies can sit on to increase their height and better the fit of the carrier) thus it’s a bit more breathable. On this hike, we front carried our 4-month-old in it and it worked really well.
Deuter Kid Comfort Hiking Pack: This carrier gets a lot of mileage in our family as it’s been to Japan, Nepal, Vietnam, and both sides of the United States (East + West). Until our youngest is big enough to be carried in this carrier, we use it as our “safety net” on hikes with our little girl (age 4) and rely on it for more technical sections of harder hikes for her as well. One of our favorite features is the built in sun shade, however, you’ll still want to don the sunhat (assuming your child doesn’t continue to rip it off…*side eye, Penny*) and slather on the sunscreen (see below) as some sections of the hike have little to no shade.
Water: Obviously any water-bottle will do here, but I’ll shamelessly plug our Nalgene wide mouth water bottles as we have found them to come in handy on trip after trip. The fact that they seem to be close to indestructible is an added bonus with kids! A Camelbak or Osprey hydration bladder would also be a great addition. Make staying hydrated easy!
Osprey Backpack: This beauty has been on nearly every trip (10+ countries!) with us since we purchased it years ago. Osprey products are no doubt expensive, but are incredibly durable and there seems to be a spot for everything. Plus, when they get worn out you can even send them back for repair.
Hiking Poles: Although these aren’t completely necessary, we think they make descending and ascending significantly easier when it comes to balance and saving our knees. For us, on this particular hike, one pole per person for stabilization was good, but if you’re set on two – go for it!
Snacks: If you have kids, you know the value of throwing in some trail mix, a piece of fruit, or a bar is a good measure. The hike isn’t long, but a cranky child (or two) can dampen the fun. Amen? If we can get it together, we usually cut up the fruit ahead of time and put it in reusable Ziploc plastic storage containers. To be honest, I really like glass containers better, but they’re just too heavy for hiking.
Sunscreen: We love mineral-based sunscreen and our family go-to has been Blue Lizard. It’s a bit more expensive than many of the other brands out there, but, in our opinion, well worth it. Mineral sunscreens are a bit different than the typical ones you can find on store shelves (many of them chemical-based) as they sit directly on your skin instead of penetrating into the skin’s layers. This essentially creates a better barrier from the sun. We’ve tried many of their products and have been extremely happy with how they feel when we use them, as well as how they don’t leave us looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost! As a side note, most of the sunscreens Blue Lizard offers are just that “mineral-based,” however the “sensitive” line is considered “mineral only,” so make sure to check that one out (hint: it’s our fav).
Hiking Boots: Most footwear is going to work on this trail as long as you have solid grips. We recommend hiking boots (you can check the ones that we use here) as we appreciate the ankle support and the tread is better than any trainers we’ve ever owned. Miles also has a pair which he LOVES for easy on/off and tie free laces.
Permit: These are free through the El Bosque Visitor’s Center. You’ll want to have it on you (just in case), however, if you are hiking during the hiking season and it is not a holiday it will probably not be checked.
- Hours: Daily, 1000 – 1400
- Phone: +34 956 709 733
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Post-Garganta Verde Exploring
After the hike, we recommend checking out one of the many miradors to sit and relax for a bit taking in the beautiful scenery. Just up the road, across from the entrance to Los Llanos de Rabel (an easier hike, but like Garganta Verde also requires a permit) is a good option. If you have a car back-in and then sit and have a drink in the sunshine overlooking the reservoir. This has become somewhat of a post-hike tradition for our family and it is also when we surprise the kids with a small (yet very deserved) special drink or snack (ex: ginger beer, juice, etc.). Relax y’all earned it!
Full disclosure we act as an affiliate for several sites, so clicking through and purchasing products via our links does make us a little money and allows us to continue to put out (hopefully) useful content.