Distance: 27 kms
Time Required: 7 hrs
Map(s): IGN 1:50000 La Línea de la Concepción 1075 (14-47), Tarifa 1077 (13-48) & Algeciras 1078 (14-48)
Water: waypoint 26 @ 3 hrs 55 mins
This long and averagely challenging walk leads you up from Los Barrios along a forestry track which loops up and over the thickly wooded hillsides of the Sierra de Ojén. The area is home to abundant wildlife and contains pristine tracts of ancient woodland which has been given double-status protection within the Alcornocales Natural Park. As you climb from Los Barrios sweeping views open out across the Bay of Algeciras towards Gibraltar and, on a clear day, to the distant peaks of the Moroccan Rif. After your efforts during the first half of the day the latter section of the walk is plain sailing as you drop down towards the Atlantic and the sleepy roadside settlement of El Pelayo. The wild beauty of this section of the Coast to Coast footpath belies the fact that the sprawling conurbation of Algeciras lies only a dozen kilometers to your east.
Download the GPX files and instructions on how to load up files to BaseCamp.
The walk begins in front of a fountain with twin sculpted heads in the Plaza de la Iglesia (1) at the heart of Los Barrios. Exit the square at its bottom, left hand corner along Calle Santísima Trinidad. At the bottom of the street bearing left at house no. 20 and passing a bank you reach the lively square of El Paseo de la Constitución. Head straight across the square then bear right and cross the road which dissects the town via a pedestrian crossing. Turning left you reach a roundabout with a fountain which looks like an over-sized birthday cake, La Fuente de la Constitución (2).
Turn right along Avenida III Centenario, a broad tree-lined avenue, following signs Mercado de Abastos and Recinto Ferial. Reaching a roundabout (3) at its far end, just past a Mapfre office, bear slightly right and continue along a broad street with a wide pavement to its right which shortly passes beneath the twin bridges of the A-381 motorway (4). The road bears right then crosses a bridge over the Rio de Las Cañas. Beyond the bridge follow the CA-9209 round to the left, sticking to its left edge or picking your way along a rough path just to its right. Keep an eye open for approaching traffic: cars speed along this shortcut to Algeciras. Bearing slightly left you pass the Centro de Defensa Forestal, a wood merchant then a car dump where the road bears right before reaching a junction and a sign for Parque Natural (5). (35 mins) Here cut right up a cobbled track which shortly passes a cattle shed. After climbing steeply the track arcs right as you pass an entrance to Monte de la Torre (6) where the track levels, bears left once more, then descends to a junction with a broader track (7). Cut right along the track which runs past a group of ramshackle buildings, crosses a bridge, then arcs round to the right. Just before reaching the entrance gates of Cortijo de la Duquesa (8) the track arcs hard left then runs up to the first houses of the hamlet of Botafuegos where you reach to a fork (9).
Taking the left fork you pass the gates of Casa de la Huerta. Passing the last of Botafuego's houses the track becomes less distinct as it runs parallel to a stream then reaches a broader track (10). Here cut left and follow the track across the stream via a ford (11). Passing by more ramshackle buildings the track reaches a junction in front of a galvanised metal gate (12). (1 hr) Turn right along another broad dirt track which shortly runs past a ruined building with a tall palm tree. The track narrows, loops right, then crosses the stream (13) you forded earlier in the walk, the Arroyo de Garganta del Capitán. Bearing left you pass a sign prohibiting unauthorised vehicles then reach a gate with the initial C.A., the entrance to Cortijo del Acebuche (14). Go through the gate and head on past the farm. The track runs across open countryside (where you may encounter cattle) then passes through another gate (15) with a sign Por Favor: Cerrar La Engarilla.
You're now following the Vereda del Mesto, an ancient drover's path. Soon you pass through another gate which marks the beginning of Finca El Galeón (16). The track loops steeply upwards as views open out towards the Bay of Algeciras before passing through another gate and crossing a cattle grid (17). Resuming its upwardly-mobile course the track angles hard right, passes a small white building with a vine-covered terrace (18) then loops on up through a swathe of mountain where re-afforestation has taken place. Ascending you reach rockier terrain where cork oaks become more abundant. The track describes a tight hairpin then, still climbing, runs past a mirador (glossary) and a sign for Hoyo de Don Pedro where a ceramic map depicts what lies before you (19). (2 hrs 15 mins)
Here the track hairpins to the right. Continuing its ascent, after a tight double hairpin, it adopts a south-westerly course as it runs high above the Arroyo del Prior which cuts a deep cleft in the flank of the Sierra de la Palma. Looping hard left (20) the track runs past a long section of wire-meshed retaining wall then cuts across more open countryside as views open out to the east. The track reaches another mirador, signposted to the left. Like the earlier viewing point this is also marked Mirador Hoyo Don Pedro. It's a great spot to break journey with a stunning panoramic view of the bay of Algeciras, Gibraltar and (on clear days) Morocco (21). ( 2hrs 55 mins)
From the mirador continue along the track which shortly descends for a short distance, levels then resumes its ascent as it contours round the south-eastern flank of the Sierra de la Palma with the jagged peaks of the Cerros de los Esclarecidos over to your left. The track runs past another mirador (22) then passes through a green gate and crosses a cattle grid (23). (3 hrs 10 mins) Beyond the gate the track climbs gently on upwards as, over to your left, the Casas de Las Corzas come into view amidst a sea of green. Soon the track bears left, adopts a more southerly course, then runs past a gate with a sign Finca Privada: Prohibido El Paso, one of the entrances to Las Corzas. Continue on along the track, with the fence of Las Corzas just to your right. Passing a galvanised metal gate the track angles right (24) as it runs past an enclosure with a ramp for loading cattle. Soon you pass by a second gate leading to Las Corzas (25). The track runs on, quite level now, as the Mediterranean to the east of Tarifa comes into view. Passing another cattle grid the track crosses a pretty canuto (glossary) where you pass a sign for Zona de Alta Protección just beyond which you reach a spring (Water) just to the right of the track (26). (3 hrs 55 mins)
The track runs past a water tank then passes across another canuto as it snakes lazily onwards, passing a picnic area with a board explaining why the area's fauna are flora are so zealously protected. Shortly beyond the sign the track run past another mirador with a sign Cabecera del Río de la Miel.
As you lose sight of Gibraltar the track crosses another cattle grid (27) then, looping right, begins to descend: the cork oaks are now interspersed with pines. Soon the Strait of Gibraltar comes into view and beyond it the towering massif of Jebel Musa. Passing a clearing to the left of the track where an oak has been clad with a stone base (28) the track arcs right, hairpins left then right again, before adopting a rather more level course. After passing a water deposit the track loops a final time sharply left. Just beyond a low marker post marking km20 the track arcs hard right (29). (5 hrs)
Here cut left down an indistinct path to a wire-and-post gate next to a sign Monte Repoblado: Por Favor Cierren La Cancela. Beyond the gate head straight along an indistinct path following cairns along the top of a ridge. The path angles slightly left, descends, then loops harder left before angling once more right as it drops down through pine trees and ferns. The path crosses a plastic water pipe then angles left before reaching a flat swathe of rock (30). Here cut left. Looping right then once more left the path crosses a (dry) stream then runs just left of a fence. Follow the fence for 50m, climb down a low wall, then cut right through a wire-and-post gate (31). Here cut right down a concreted track. You soon reach the first houses of El Pelayo where, angling left, the track runs up to a junction by La Alquería (32). Angling right down Calle Sierra de Lucena you reach the N-340. Cut left along the road for 250m and just beyond Restaurante Las Piedras you reach a pedestrian bridge spanning the N-340 (33). (5 hrs 20 mins)
To reach Huerta Grande, the best choice of accommodation in El Pelayo, cross the bridge, head back up the hill and after 300m turn left at a sign for Huerta Grande. The hotel is about 200m down the hill and is well signposted.