This is one of my favourite hikes in the natural park that sits just behind the world famous, Camino del Rey, the Paraje Natural Desfiladero de los Gaitanes.
This walk covers all the main peaks and the park’s most emblematic areas.
This is a circular route that crosses the Sierra de Huma. It starts just outside of the village of El Chorro, you then walk up the Escalera Arabe (the Arabic staircase), across to the Tajo del Estudiante, up to the Pico de la Huma, the area’s highest peak at 1,191m and back down via the Valle de Abdalajis and onto El Chorro.
A great hike, the last 7-8 kms of which is also ideal for running if so inclined.
You need to be fit and experienced to walk this.
There are several sections that are slightly technical. None that require equipment, but care does need to be taken.
There’s a gorge that involves some climbing/scrambling just beneath the Tajo del Estudiante and a very steep downhill section going back into the Valle de Abdalajis. This is not a suitable hike for children.
A family friendly alternative: the Arabic staircase
You can either come back down the way you came, or loop back following the tracks through the woods.
The Desfiladero de Los Gaitanes Natural Park: Sierra de Huma
This whole area is a paradise for anything outdoor related; climbing, mountain biking, running and hiking. The 2,016 hectare Natural Park of the “Desfiladero de los Gaitanes” is home to some of the best climbing in the world. With walls of over 300m.
It’s an area, that until recently, was only popular with climbers and mountain bikers.
With the opening of the new Camino del Rey and the hordes of tourists coming to walk it, this is beginning to change. Then again, few people venture off the set paths and go into the higher mountains. Which is good. And this particular walk is difficult enough to avoid most of them. Which is even better.
You drive through the centre of El Chorro, past the train station and the hotel on your right. Keep following the road (the MA-5403) as it winds around into the mountains. After approximately 1.4kms you’ll pass a farm with a large water deposit on your left. There’s a track that leads off to the left as well. Park anywhere you can. The walk starts and ends here.
If coming by train you can also start and end at the El Chorro train station, follow this route to the Arabic staircase and then the one above.
I recorded the first part of this track at night just before sunrise, you can avoid some of the initial zig-zagging through the woods by sticking to the main paths. It’s hard to get lost on this first section. Just keep climbing upwards, making sure the higher ridges are always on your left.
You’ll eventually come to a turning and a path that leads off into the mountains. This is the path that leads to the Escalera Arabe. Previously, it was quite hard to spot. These days it’s been cleaned and is easy to follow.
There’s usually a lot of climbers in this area as well. A lot of the easier walls are here. If you get lost, ask.
Going up the Arabic staircase
Keep following this path upwards. You’ll know when you are on the Arabic staircase. Although fairly steep in places, the views more than compensate any effort. They just keep getting better, the higher you go. Keep your eyes open for Ibex here. You usually spot them walking on some impossible looking cliff face.
This is also a great place to see griffon vultures and if really lucky the rare Bonelli’s and golden eagles.
Having got to the top of the Arabic staircase, keep following the path as it climbs up into the mountains. You’ll come to a ridge. There’s a farm on the other side of the valley. This is where we’re going.
Make your way as best you can to the waypoint marked – start of path to La Huma.
This section is known locally as the “la Falla de los Palmitos.” It is quite easy to miss and involves some scrambling. The rocks here can be slippery and there are steep drops, proceed with care. If you get disoriented look out for ‘hitos’ – the man-made triangular rock formations that you’ll find all over the Andalusian countryside.
The path is more defined and easier to follow at the top.
Pico La Huma – La Huma’s summit
Keep going upwards. This is the usual route up La Huma. But we’re turning off to the left and walking cross country towards the Tajo del Estudiante. If wanting to skip this section, just carry on climbing the mountain and following the path as best you can.
Following the track above, drop down leftwards and walk cross country. There aren’t any defined paths here (or none that I saw).
Keeping the cliffs on your right, walk along the ridge (I wouldn’t walk right at the base of them in case of falling rocks). After a couple of kilometres, you’ll come to a gorge cut into the mountain side – waypoint marked. This is the way up to Tajo del Estudiante.
You’ll need both hands here and if going in a group it’s best to spread out while climbing. There are a lot of loose rocks. Go slowly and carefully.
When you getting to the top you’ll come out just beneath the Tajo del Estudiante. On a clear day, this is one of the most spectacular places to be in the mountains. The views are breathtaking and completely 360.
From here it’s a very simple ascent to the Pico la Huma.
It’s important to remember that conditions can and do change at these heights. La Huma is renowned for bad weather. You can have blazing sunshine and hot weather just a few hundred metres beneath you and freezing fog and rain on La Huma. Bring suitable clothing and if unsure turn back.
The Pico de la Huma is marked and impossible to miss. From here keep walking along the ridge of the mountain towards the Valle de Abdalajis.
There’s a very steep downhill section that veers off to the left. Make your way down and follow the tracks that lead to a large farm, called the Cortijo de Campedrero. This is a public path and the gates should be unlocked. The last time I went, they were padlocked. Just walk around them as best you can.
There are several dogs here. The larger ones were tied up, the puppies and smaller dogs were loose but very friendly. I made a couple new friends and was joined for part of the hike by two mastin puppies.
You’ll pass a farm with a spring in front, but if wanting to top up on drinking water I’d wait until arriving at the Fuente de la Viuda – the widow’s spring, which is a few kilometres further along. Despite its rather worrying name, the spring is a source of fresh water and most people in the area drink from it.
As you walk along the track, keep your eyes open for ancient Roman tombs and walls. This whole area is full of them.
Keep following the track as it winds through the woods and back to where you started.
I hope you enjoy this route as much as I did!
You can download the complete track here.
For additional hikes in this area – see the family walk up Arabic staircase – Escalera Arabe and La Huma & Tajo del Estudiante via the Valle de Abdalajis.