The Sierra Bermeja mountain (1.449m) dominates the landscape behind Estepona. There are few places in the world where a mountain reaches this height so close to the sea (10km) You can drive to near the top in under an hour. Take the road (Carretera Genalguacil) (MA-8301) signposted Genalguacil from the traffic lights on the Estepona inner bypass (Avda de Andalucia), near the Mercadona supermarket.
ROAD UP TO PEÑAS BLANCAS
The road crosses the A-7 coastal highway and on the right hand side is 'Venta Los Reales' this is the last opportunity to purchase drinks. From the narrow winding road you will see that the surrounding countryside is dotted by splashes of white - small traditional fincas, many built on Roman foundations. These days there are also the more modern fincas build on modern foundations so that their terraces can afford the best views over the coast to Africa.
You may stop at the spring to drink water or fill any containers as many Esteponeros do. If you wonder, the white 'huts' beside the road are part of the water supply system for Estepona. At km 8,8 you pass the 'Mirador Ciclista' dedicated to the many cyclists that climb the road and in particular those of the 2012 La Vuelta de España and 2016 vuelta de Andalucia cycle races which terminated stages here.
About half an hour after leaving Estepona you will reach "Peñas Blancas" coll at 960m. The road forks one branch heads down to Jubrique and the other to Genalguacil before both meet the Gaucin - Ronda road. Turn sharp left following the sign to "Los Reales". Pass the open road barrier and join the narrow mountain road with a speed limited to 30 km/hr with a steep drop on one side. Those new to the area might find this road little scary but go carefully and it will be a enjoyable drive.
Paseo de los Pinsapos'
At 2.6 km from the Peñas Blancas just after the cattle grid at 1154m, on a very tight left hand U-bend, on the right hand side you will find the start of the pine forest path called 'Paseo de los Pinsapos'. The pine trees are unique to this part of the world (abes pinaspo boiss). There is only parking for three cars beside the road so on a busy day be prepared to leave the car further up the road. The good condition but stoney path drops at first and then gently undulates. Look out for the pinsapos. There is a natural spring where you take a drink. After crossing the stream on a bridge with newly replaced concrete decking you reach a place called Plazoleta de Genaguacil at 1135m. This is an ideal place to take a rest and read the becoming decrepid ceramic reproduction of the 1919 Fredrico Garcia Lorca poem to the Pinsapo.
"¡Árboles!¿Habéis sido flechas caídas del azul?¿Qué terribles guerreros os lanzaron?¿Han sido las estrellas?
Vuestras músicas vienen del alma de los pájaros,de los ojos de Dios,de la pasión perfecta.¡Árboles!¿Conocerán vuestras raíces toscas mi corazón en tierra? "
Here you have to decide which routes to take. One path leads up to the 2.2km to the peak of Los Reales at 1450m. This is the toughest option. On reaching the peak either return the same way or return by road via the refuge (see below). Second option is to continue to the end of Paseo de Los Pinsapos a further 2.2km decending to 877m at the Genalguacil - Peñas Blancas road. Here you will need to either retrace your steps or return by 3.5km of road via Peñas Blancas. The third option from the Plazoleta for casual walker or if nightfall is aproaching is to simple return the way you came making it a two km stroll through the pine forest.
Continuing up the mountain road, near the top on the left you will see "Refugio de los Reales" at 1257m. Domingo ( tel +34 690 858 936) sells drinks and snacks by gaslight and candle light in the Refuge Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. During the day and has a log fire burning in the winter. At night you may seek refuge in the hut, however you will need a sleeping bag or warm blankets. Nearby you will find a recreational area with picnic tables and barbecue facilities. Deserted most of the time but can be surprisingly busy with local families on a fine winters Sunday. Outside BBQ is not alowed here from 1st June to 15th October for fire risk.
The road ends at a small car park, continue on foot the last few hundred metres to a viewing point called Mirador Salvador Guerrero over Estepona and the whole coast. Spectacular on clear days and also not so clear when the clouds swirl around, Even more so when you are looking at the clouds from above.
Just before the refuge there was another spur road on the left, unsurfaced but ususally in reasonable condition, this leads to the summit. It is marked by a plaque to Botanist Edmond Boisser who discovered the Pinsapo fir tree. It is prohibited to drive this spur road in the summer for risk of fire, you can walk or cycle at any time. On the peak at 1450m are couple fenced off unmanned communication towers and associated instalations. It is interesting to walk around at the summit and take in the 360 views. There is also a path to the summit from the Mirador Salvador Guerrero.
Towards the top of Sierra Bermeja at a place called Real Chico, is the site of a Moorish fortification, which linked by line of site the Genal valley to the coast. It was located near Puerto de Penas Blancas. It seems that this fortification which was no more than one of the single towers, was destroyed after the Morisco uprising of 1570. It is located less than 1 kilometre from the summit, along a ridge at 1,383 metres above sea level. The other ruins at Real Chico, is the site of a gold and silver mine, though it is difficult to determine how much ore could be economically extracted today. This site is also linked to the Roman mines of Cueva del Baque, where a Roman road ran down to Lacippo (see Casares).