It won’t take long once you’re in Spain to learn of one of madrileños’ favorite pastimes: ir a la sierra, that is, going to the mountains. Unfortunately, the beach is typically too far away for just a weekend, but it is very easy to head to the sierra for a few days or even a day trip. Also, this is possible virtually all year long, whether it be during the winter or the summer months; you can enjoy hiking in the snow and/or skiing when it’s cold, or escape the August heat. Whatever the case may be, visiting the mountains outside Madrid city is an excellent way to get away from it all, even if it’s just for an afternoon.

Rascafría, sierra de Madrid

Rascafría

The aptly named Sistema Central is the mountain range that runs from central Portugal in the West to Castilla-León yCastilla-la Mancha in the East. This range is divided into many sierras, the most well-known in Madrid being the Sierra de Guadarrama. It is in this section of the Central System where madrileños often venture, in particular to the municipality of Rascafría. Located on the border of the Comunidad de Madrid with Segovia, Rascafría is the fourth largest municipality in the region, measuring around 150 square kilometers (approximately 58 square miles). Despite occupying such a large land mass, the population is only about 2.000 inhabitants, resulting in a considerably low population density. It’s elevation is about 1.100 meters (roughly 3.600 feet) above sea level.

 

Some plans in Madrid mountains

 

Walking Trails

One of the main activities undertaken by those who visit Rascafría is none other than walking. Although some might believe that the only way to enjoy the scenery is to go on strenuous hikes through the mountains, this is not the case; there are a number of walking trails in the area that are certainly worth experiencing. The first of such trails is the one that connects the town center of Rascafría to that of Oteruelo, a historic town which has formed part of the municipality of Rascafría since 1975. Originally a drovers’ road, this three kilometer round-trip path passes through fields surrounded by stone walls and hedges. Starting on c/Egido in the Rascafría town center, the route ends at the Plaza de la Fragua in Oteruelo.

Another emblematic walking trail is the one that leads to the Monasterio de El Paular. This, too, is an old drovers’ road and provides a scenic route containing greenery such as hundred-year-old trees, making for a nice walk through the countryside.

 

Hiking

Monasterio del PaularFor those who are looking for a bit more of a challenge, there are also many hiking trails in the area, among which are the scenic rutas verdes — a series of trails that traverse different sections of the El Paular Valley. Although there are several trails which all deserve being mentioned, there is one in particular that is especially noteworthy: Ruta Verde 4. This particular trail stands out in that it connects Rascafría with the La Granja in Segovia via the Reventón mountain pass. This is a difficult and isolated trail due to snow and other possible inclement weather, the elevation, and the length — 15.5 kilometers (over 9.5 miles) and an approximate time of five hours and twenty minutes to complete. During this trail, hikers view breathtaking landscapes, historical buildings such as the Monasterio de El Paular and El Real Sitio de La Granja de San Ildefonso, remnants of the Spanish Civil War, and much more.

 La Granja de San Ildefonso

 

Natural Swimming Pools

Whether walking or hiking is your thing or not, you’ll most certainly enjoy another outstanding aspect of Rascafría: the Las Presillas Natural Swimming Pools. This recreational area contains three natural pools which are filled with water from the Lozoya River. Free and open to the public, this is an excellent place to spend the day and escape the hustle and bustle and excessive summer heat in the capital. The pools are surrounded by green grass and trees and have a stunning view of the sierra’s highest peak: Pico Peñalara. The facility is open from 9am to 10pm daily in the summer, remaining so up through late September, weather pending. It’s possible to reach Las Presillas via bus or by private car, in which case visitors must pay five euros per car, per day.

 

Head for the Hills

With July in full swing, it won’t be long until temperatures reach well above 40ºC (104ºF). A trip to Rascafría is an excellent way to combat the heat while enjoying beautiful scenery and all that the mountains have to offer.