Sierra de Huetor
Designated a natural park in 1989, the 12,128ha Sierra de Huétor is only a few kilometres northeast of the provincial capital of Granada, so it is a popular weekend destination for city dwellers. The mountainous area has dramatic geological features characteristic of limestone areas, with narrow ravines, steep cliffs, springs and caves, such as the Cueva del Agua. The most famous spring is the Fuente Grande in Alfácar, cleverly used by the Moors as a source of water for the Albaicín in Granada city and transported via an irrigation channel called Aynadamar.
With its altitude ranging from around 1,100m to 2,000m and a marked climate variation within the park, it has a pronounced biodiviersity. It is noted for its botanical importance, with numerous endemic and rare plants growing here on its dolomitic sands, and the presence of the threatened wild cat.
The mountainous slopes are covered with pine trees, which were mostly planted in the early 20th century to try and halt erosion brought about by deforestation of the original vegetation due to agricultural activities, forest fires and charcoal production.
There is a visitors' centre in Puerto de Lobo near Víznar with information on the park, a picnic area and signposted walks. It is located on the road from Víznar to Puerto Lobo at Km 43, 958 540 426. Next to the centre is an area with birds and animals, such as mountain goats and stags, from the park
The park has superb views south to the nearby Sierra Nevada National Park; the viewpoints (miradores) in Víznar and Huétor-Santillán are some of the best places to visit.
|Rural village house in village of Viznar|
Only a few kilometres out of Granada city, the park is well signposted and easily accessible from the A92 motorway. There are two exits from the motorway to the park: one for the visitors' centre Puerto Lobo in Víznar and Las Mimbres, at Puerto de la Mora. The park can also be entered through Alfacar.
There's a youth hostel in Víznar.
Within the park there are campsites in Alfácar (Camping La Alfaguara) and Huétor-Santillán (Camping Florencia).
More than 800 species of flowering plants have been recorded in the park, with 75 of these endemic in the Iberian peninsula.
The main trees in the park are Aleppo, Laricio and Austrian pines; there is some original pine forest but most pines have been introduced under various reforestation programmes. There are also some maritime pines, Atlas cedars and Spanish firs. In the north of the park, in the areas of Linollos, La Ermita, Las Mimbres and La Gallega, there are significant woodlands of the native holm oak, and, to a lesser extent, gall oaks and maples.
In the oak woodland at higher altitudes there is scrubland under the trees, like Spanish barberry (berberis hispanica), hedgehog broom (erinacea anthyllis) and different species of dog roses (rosa canina, r.corymbifera). There is also thyme-leaved fumana (fumana thymifolia) and various species of rock-roses (cistus clusii), including the shrubby lavender-leaved rock-rose, helianthenum lavandulifolium. The memorably named stinking hellebore (helleborus foeticus) also grows on the upper slopes underneath holm oaks. Honeysuckle (lonicera hispanica), laurustinus (viburnum tinus) and yellow adonis (adonis vernalis ssp granatensis) are common. In winter the crocus nevadensis can be found, which is endemic to the nearby Sierra Nevada.
The park has a significant raptor population, such as golden and booted eagles, buzzards, goshawks, sparrowhawks, eagle, little and tawny owls. In the woodland areas are tits, robins and chaffinches, while in the higher, rockier areas are warblers and rock buntings. In 2002 it was declared a special protection area for birds (ZEPA).
The diversity of habitats in the park mean that there is a wide variety of mammals, such as foxes, rabbits, wild boar, genets, badgers, weasels, beech martens, mountain goats and wild cats. In Las Mimbres there is a recovery centre for endangered animals in the park.
Reptiles include ladder snakes, Montpellier snakes and many different lizards.
An endemic species of butterfly is the blue lysandra bellargus ssp alfacariensis, which was first discovered in the Sierra de Huétor.
The Darro and Fardes rivers start in the park. There are many streams and springs.
There are signposted walks within the park, including Cruz de Víznar, Cerro Maúllo, Cueva del Agua (from Alfacar to Víznar) and Las Mimbres. Ask in the visitors' centre for a map.
Sendero Cruz del Víznar is a circular 5km-long easy walk through pine trees that can be completed in around two hours. It starts in the picnic area of Puerto Lobo near the visitors' centre. The first few kilometres are uphill, but the remainder are downhill (and vice versa on your return).
The path first goes up through woodland of Aleppo pines, with an undergrowth of gorse, white rock-roses, lavender, broom and rosemary. The Aleppo pines give way to laricio and Scotch pines. Later on there are gall oaks and occasional examples of the rare Spanish fir. Wildlife to look out for includes hares, larks and lizards.
Sendero del Cerro del Maullo also startes at the Puerto Lobo visitors' centre. It's an easy 3km circular walk that takes around an hour, with superb views from the 1,928m peak of the Cerro del Maullo.
Sendero Las Mimbres starts in Las Mimbres picnic area. It's an easy, circular 4km walk, which should take just over an hour.