|The village of Yunquera a great base to explore to the Sierra de las Nieves|
Leaving Tolox, follow the signs for the balneario (spa). After 1km you come to a small car park and kiosk, and a recreation area where you can observe the Rio Cabillos loop around and descend 100 metres via a series of small pools and waterfalls. In the summer the children from the village love to play here.
The Balneario Fuente Amargo makes use of the natural thermal springs, which produce 14,500 litres a day at a constant 21ºC. People with kidney and urinary problems come to drink the water and those with respiratory problems come to inhale the water vapour. The spa is only open in the summer (1 June to 15 October) and patients must see the resident doctor before undergoing a two-week treatment.
|The famous and quaint Tolox Spa|
The road to the balneario is lined with mature eucalyptus trees, planted by the children of the village at the turn of the 20th century. In recent years the tradition has been revived and various plaques name the generations that have taken part in the project.
Continue up the hill, past the large welcome sign to the park and the upmarket rural hotel, Hotel Cerro de Hijar (36.68470, -4.91739). The hotel has commanding views over Tolox and the plains towards Malaga, and is your last chance for a civilized drink or meal before heading into the park. The road, which is only tarmacked for a few miles, continues to climb until 1.6km after the hotel you come to a sign indicating a 4km circular walk called Alto de la Cuesta. Carry on, and 7km past the hotel you arrive at the pass, Puerta de las Gondrines (36.66422, -4.94179). This is the Crewe Junction of the park. Roads go to Monda and Istan, to the Ronda - San Pedro entrance, and another two roads lead back to Tolox.
Five hundred metres before Puerta de las Golondrinas there is a track signposted 'Cerro Coronas' (the name of a hill). This later branches to Cerro Coronas, or back to Tolox by an interesting route that follows the contours of the hill and drops down into the valley of the River Horcajos. Here you will see a natural spring and a water tank for collecting the water. The road doubles back to continue the descent. A path continues upwards to Cerro Coronas and if you follow the river you come to La Tinaja Cave. Continue along the road, which runs parallel to the riverbed, and you come out in the village of Tolox by Calle Ancha and the Plaza Alta.
The road across the park to Ronda is a long 30km, with many different valleys. Some of these are surprisingly tropical; others are a mixture of pine trees and eucalyptus. The soil is a rich red and the rock is slate-like. Twelve kilometres after Puerto de las Golondrinas (322.150E 58.040N), a sidetrack leads down to the upper reaches of the Rio Verde. The track deteriorates badly as it continues upwards towards Ronda, and is only suitable for 4x4s.
The track makes one last climb, leaving the valley behind. There is a track on the left with an interesting walk signposted 'Sendero de Escalereta' . Continuing upwards the road comes out onto rolling plains, where there are signs of human habitation. Further on, 24km after Puerto de Las Gondrines, you reach a junction (36.67534, -5.05281). Turn left to leave the park via the San Pedro - Ronda access road, or turn right for the Los Quejigales recreation area (36.68981, -5.04635).
FROM SAN PEDRO OR RONDA
The easiest way to enter the park is from the San Pedro to Ronda Road, (/travel/itineraries/sanpedro-ronda.htm the A376 at km136 (312.370E 4059.300N).
Three kilometres into the park is a road on the right-hand side (36.67534, -5.05281) that leads to La Fuenfria. (36.64043, -5.05654) a place with an interesting history. This well-maintained track that follows the river Aroyo de Fuenfria through valleys and into clearings and to Fuenfria. This route is also known as 'Via Pecuria Cordel de Ronda' and is the original Marbella to Ronda route before the current San Pedro road was built.
On the main route and a further 2.5km on you pass through a forest of cork trees, before arriving at the Cortijo la Nava de San Luis, where rural accommodation is available. Cortijo de la Nava offers a safe route and the opportunity to stay if you are going to spend time in the area. The complex was originally known as La Nava de San Luis and was a working farm in 1917, when it was owned by Rafael Corro, who called it Las Navas de la Asuncion. Today it has been renovated for touristic use, as many walkers use this as a base to visit the rare and famous Spanish Pinsapo fir tree. A colony can be found on the northern slopes of Cerro Alojona (1,440 metres), which is the peak just south of the farmhouse. The road continues up the hill.
From the Cortijo, the road climbs up to the recreation zone of Quejigales (36.68981, -5.04635). Many climbers use this as a base camp before they start the six-hour round trip to reach the highest point in the area. Torrecilla at 1,919 metres is actually in the district of Tolox, but is best reached from this side of the mountain range. At the top, there are views of Gibraltar and North Africa. In a normal year, snow sits on its top for about two to three weeks between December-March, but never for more than a few days at a time.
For 4x4 drivers the road does carry on for a few kilometres more. Tracks then continue for those on foot or horseback.
Another pleasant route into the Natural Park is between the turn-off to Igualeja and Cartajima. (36.67045, -5.11570) This takes you to the source of the Rio Guadalevin that flows through the gorge in Ronda, passing a number of farmhouses, starting with Cortijo Navazo, Cortijo Ballesteros, before the track deteriorates at Cortijo Manaderos. This is all evidence that the mountain scenery once supported a living community engaged in upland agriculture. Taking the footpath in a NE direction, the route passes the imposing Sierra del Oreganal to an area once known as Rincon de Malillo. Moreti, writing in the 19th century, called this area 'Boquete de Manaderos', a name now held by another cortijo. Though in the municipality of Ronda, this is a good route to Los Castillejos, which is the site of a Bronze Age hill fort.
The road from the coast to Istan terminates at the village, although if you have a 4x4 you may make the 6km climb to the Puerta de Viñuelas. From there it is a windy 10 km drive to Puerto de Las Gondrines.
The entrance to the park is on the A335 just south of Monda The road winds through the forest as far as Puerta de Viñuelas, and then continues another 10km to Puerto de Las Goldrines.
FROM EL BURGO
The El Burgo entrance is just to the south of the bridge on the A366 that goes through the town. The road follows the south bank of the Rio Burgo, passing a few small dams that provide pools for the local children to swim in the summer months. Only those with a 4x4 can continue, as once again the road deteriorates. The valley becomes a steep-sided gorge and the road clings to the side. It winds upwards, leaving the valley by the Puerto de la Mujer, and then drops down into the forest. There is a junction watched over by a stone cross.
Continue straight on, into and out of the valley and you will find the entrance for the Los Sauces camping and recreation area on the left-hand side The old Convento Nuestra Señora de las Nieves is adjacent but access is not permitted as it is a privately owned estate.
Double back to return to the main road, passing the La Fuensanta camping and recreation area. Cross the little bridge and explore the grounds of the old, but now-abandoned, Fuensanta Cortijo in the woods. The track reaches the A366, 2km south of El Burgo
The Yunquera entrance road to the park is easy to find on the A366, just north of the village next to the old Tower. The tower was constructed in 1813 by General Ballesteros and restored in 1999. It is now houses a visitors' information centre and is worth stopping at - if you are lucky enough to find it open.
The access road passes Camping Municipal Yunquera on the right-hand side. Here the rough track starts but a 4x4 is not necessary if you drive carefully.
There is a T-junction 8km from the start; both left and right forks lead to viewpoints a few kilometres further on. Both tracks are dead ends and the starting points for walks.
Turning left and driving 2km along a track flanked by baby pine trees you reach the Viewpoint of Luis Ceballos (324.480E 4064.560N), named after the locally-famous botanist, professor and academic (1896-1967). The view sweeps across the valley and the dense pine-covered hillside.
A gentle footpath of 4.5km called Sendero la Caina departs from and returns to this viewpoint. Another path heads up 9km to Peñon de los Enamorados (Lover's Rock), and from there, on to Cerro Alto and up to the summit of Torrecillo or to Puerta de los Pilones (the large antenna) and down to Los Quejigales.
Turning right, head up into the forest to Puerta Saucillo (324.490E 4065.830N), where there are two walks. Sendero Puerto Bellina is 4.5km-hike and returns to this point. Sendero Torrecillas climbs for 7km to the Peñon de los Enamerados, and from there, on to Cerro Alto and up to the summit of Torrecillo or to Puerta de los Pilones and down to Los Quejigales.