Distance: 25 kms
Time Required: 7.5 hrs
Map(s): IGN 1:50000 Ronda 1051 (15-44)
Water: waypoint 6 @ 1 hr 10 mins
The longish twelfth day of the Coast to Coast footpath leads you on from El Burgo through a wild swathe of the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park to the hilltop town of Ronda, the largest settlement which you encounter between the two oceans. Much of the walk is by way of forestry and farm tracks yet until you get within a couple of kilometres of Ronda you'll encounter few walkers or vehicles. The first section of the walk entails a long, steady climb parallel to the beautiful valley of the Río Turón. You then follow a narrow footpath which loops down then crosses the Turón's upper reaches (at this stage little more than a stream) before angling up to the remote farmstead of Cortijo de Lifa. A final steep climb leads to the highest point of the walk, the Puerto de Lifa pass: @ 1169m it's nearly twice the altitude of your point of departure. From here the track drops down to the broad plain on Ronda's eastern flank which marks the boundary between the Sierra de las Nieves and the Grazalama sierras. Cutting through Ronda's burgeoning north-eastern suburb of San Rafael you arrive at the neural centre of the town, the small square next to the town's extraordinary gorge and Puente Nuevo.
Download the GPX files and instructions on how to load up files to BaseCamp.
The walk begins in the lower square of El Burgo, La Plaza de Abajo, just below Hotel Casa Grande del Burgo (1). With your back to the hotel exit the square at its bottom right hand corner along Calle Ronda. The street angles to the left as it becomes Calle Las Erillas then arrives at a roundabout. Turning left past an ironmongers you come to the junction of the El Burgo/Málaga road. Turn left following a signpost for Málaga (2). After 150m you cross the Río Turón. Just beyond the bridge (3) cut hard right. Passing a sign for Ronda G.R.243 - 23kms you pick up a broad track which runs along the river's left bank. Soon you reach a fork with the left branch signed towards La Fuensanta. Ignore this: carry straight on along the main track on the G.R. 243.
At this stage you could put these notes away: you'll be following this track, parallel to the river valley, for the best part of two hours. The track runs on between groves of olives and almonds past a number of smallholdings: as it narrows down the scenery becomes more abrupt as olive groves give way to pine trees. The track loops hard to the left (4). (30 mins) If walking this route in the hotter months it's possible take a dip by cutting right here and dropping down a path to a point where the river has been shored up. The track climbs on and passes a ruined cottage, Casa de Los Molinos, next to twin concrete posts set in pyramidal bases (5). (40 mins)
The track descends slightly as it heads towards the Cortijo de Hierba Buena. At a point where it becomes concreted for a short section you pass a spring (Water) to the left of the track (6). (1 hr 10 mins) The track soon runs past the Cortijo de Hierba Buena and its menagerie of goats, sheep, cats and dogs (7). Some 400m past the farm the track adopts a downhill course then levels as it runs closer to the river. Gently climbing once again you pass through an area of thicker pine plantation. As the pines thin out the higher peaks of the Sierra de las Nieves come into view to the south. Eventually, just beyond the point where the track passes beneath electricity lines, you reach a G.R.243 marker post by twin oak trees indicating Ronda 15,5 kms (8). (1 hr 45 mins) Here cut right down a stony dirt track. After descending for 40m cut left again (9) onto a narrow footpath which angles down through the pines. Careful! When you reach the next marker post (10) cut hard right onto a less clearly defined path which drops down to through the gorse and cistus to a (dry) streambed which you cross at another marker post (11).
Beyond the stream the path loops left and runs, indistinctly at this stage, parallel to the stream for 75m before cutting hard right (12) and climbing steeply. At this stage G.R. waymarking, orange arrows painted on the rocks along with a few cairns help guide you upwards. After angling right across a more open swathe of hillside the path swings once more left as it climbs up through the undergrowth then passes through a wire-and-post gate (13). (2 hrs 10 mins) The path, more overgrown now, runs towards a steep rock face where it arcs right, climbs steeply then angles once more left and passes 10m to the right of a pylon marked with red and white G.R. stripes (14). Here it adopts a course more or less parallel to the overhead electricity lines. Big views open out across the Sierra de las Nieves and up ahead you'll spot a ruined tower atop a pinnacle of rock. Eventually the path widens to become a track which loops past a ruin (15) then arcs left and runs up to a green metal gate (16) leading into the fenced enclosure of Cortijo de Lifa. Immediately beyond the gate turn right, follow the fence to the far end of the enclosure, then exit through an identical gate (17). (2 hrs 50 mins)
15m beyond the gate the path merges with a track leading down to the farm. Here bear right, pass by the farm's sheep and goat shed (18) then follow the looping track up to the top of the rise: you can cut corners. Crossing a first rise the track levels as it runs across an open swathe of land then, climbing once more, passes through a gate then crosses a cattle grid (19). A few metres beyond the grid you reach the highest point of the walk, El Puerto de Lifa, marked by a G.R. marker post Ronda 9 kms (20). (3 hrs 25 mins) * From here you'll be following the track to the outskirts of Ronda so you could return these notes to your pack.
The track descends through a second set of gates by a cattle grid as Ronda comes into view along with the peaks of the Grazalema Sierra. At this stage ignore any track cutting right or left: stick to the main track. To your left you'll soon spot the ruins of Cortijo de Peñon Verde. Eventually the track levels as it runs past a small farm with an enclosure surrounded by a thick stand of cypress trees (21). (4 hrs 25 mins)
Continue along the track following a line of electricity posts. At a four way junction (22) by another farm head straight on. The track crosses a rise then descends. Soon the dirt road reverts to tarmac (23) (5 hrs), loops right then left, crosses a bridge (24) (168) then runs along the boundary fence of the Ronda feria ground. Here the road swings right past a supermarket and reaches the first of two footbridges. Cut left and cross the first bridge, La Paserala de La Libertad (25). Beyond the bridge, passing a bank, you reach a junction with the Avenida de Málaga (26). Turn left along this main thoroughfare into Ronda. Continue on past a petrol station, then the Guardía Civil headquarters, to a junction by Bar Los Cazadores where, to your right, you'll see an underground car park (27).
Head straight on past Bar Los Cazadores down a pedestrian street, Calle Vicente Espinel (known to all Rondeños as Calle de la Bola). At the junction at the bottom of the street turn left (28). After 75m you reach the square in front of Ronda's most famous landmark, El Puente Nuevo, which spans the spectacular Río Guadalevín gorge (29). (5 hrs 40 mins)