GR 249. Stage 29: Casares - Estepona
Attention please, there are some changes regarding this stage
Finished project. The approval from the Town Council is pending and so the application for the financial support in kind. The road from Peñas Blancas was removed from the route.
El Arroyo de los Molinos
The long and demanding itinerary starts at Calle Carrera, where the birth place of Blas Infante is, and passes through Plaza de España, with its curious 18th century Carlos III fountain.
You then walk down Calle Juan Cerón and leave the village through Calle Molino, in the south part of the white village of Casares which boasts a few viewpoints. The first intersection of the tracks is in a somewhat deteriorated area due to an old mine which used to take advantage of the local dolomite rocks, leaving little passage ways and holes behind, now occupied by stacks of unused materials, a slaughterhouse and lots of opportunist vegetation.
The Cerro de la Horca (noose hill), an unfortunate name reminiscing the actions of the Spanish Inquisition and similar events later in the history, is a limestone hillock on top of which the new cemetery is being constructed, circular in shape and similar to the famous Castillo de Casares. This is an intersection of the tracks from where some of the recommended local walks depart; to the right towards Jimena de la Frontera and el Río Guadiaro, and to the left the PR A-163 (Casares-Estepona).
The walk heads direction south and coincides at the beginning with the PR A-162 (Manilva Casares, Ruta de los Molinos). In a very short section you transit from the typical of Casares dolomite terrain to the “bujeo” clay type soil which is a result of the intrusion of the “Flysch del Aljibe” rock. Exactly where the two types of the rock meet a tiny water source emerges called Fuente de Santa Catalina. Sheltered by the water there are some surviving water reservoirs from many different eras and the solid stone block walls with brick finish belonging to the old barracks of the Carabineers, which had been a Convent prior to that.
The landscape is dominated by sandy soil where Wild olives, Lentisc, and Carob trees thrive as they are specialists in struggling against such terrain, plus a fi g tree here and there and a couple of almond trees. The piles of rock called “majanos” (piles remaining after clearing the land) are mainly boulders of “aljibe” sandstone which gives you a good hint of the genesis of the surrounding slopes. At km 2 where there is a sign-posted PR A-164 to Estepona, turn east and leave the wide track for good (which leads to the recommended PR walk to los Baños de la Hedionda). According to the paperwork available at Federación Andaluza de Montaña, this sign contains an error: the PR A-164 is the one which ascends Los Reales from Estepona and the walk Casares-Estepona does not pass through here; instead it stays around Cerro de la Horca, as mentioned before.
Next you arrive at a privileged site, el Arroyo de los Molinos, the first forerunner of Río Manilva. Out of translucent waters, and coming out of karstic enclosure there is an irrigation channel which fl ows into the nearby Molino de Arriba, which boasts a few water outlets, and is well preserved. The channel continues to the next water mill but the walk crosses it above the mill and starts a climb where the path penetrates the thick scrub growing in the clay soil where the usual species are enriched by Spiny broom, Mediterranean Dwarf Palm tree and Broad-leaved Phillyrea or privet (Phyllirea latifolia).
The Cortijo del Robledal, an extensive country estate mainly dedicated to pure Spanish blood horse breeding keeps the walker company for a while on both sides of the path until the first ford in the Arroyo de Pocas Libras, with its abundant brambles and tamarisks and normally dry streambed. Another ascent takes you by old mines which now have been converted into landfills.
The wind generators on the side of the A-377 and the white hamlet of Casares are coming into view again. Between the junction which marks the direction to Cerro de los Higos and another which leads to the main entrance of the Cortijo del Robledal the track which coincides with the GR is the PR headed for Estepona, which runs in the opposite direction along Loma de Matute.
This string of hills have track on top which goes to the north, with country houses and gardens on both sides, little Cork oak woods and abandoned working fi elds taken over by the scrub. Thus you reach the kilometre marker 9 and the MA-8300 road amongst pine trees made up of Stone pine and Gum cistus with some mature Cork oaks.
You need to walk along the road for about a kilometre, but there is a must-do stop at the Mirador de Peñas Blancas, where you have a global view of the middle part of this stage which runs through La Acedía and skirts the Sierra Bermeja. There is an information panel which helps you locate the surrounding landscape to the north and east. The circular walk “Pasada del Pino-La Acedía” leads through the area, coinciding with the GR-249, it is sign-posted as two distinct PR walks despite not being officially catalogued and its main interest lies in the “muladar” which is a feeding station for carrion eating birds.
The steep slope which takes you down towards La Acedía and a good number of luxury residences at the bottom of the valley, were the reason behind paving this section of the track, which used to be an old dirt track.The winding track enters a promising-looking wood of young Cork oaks with Portuguese Cork oak and a varied scrub which lasts until the ford in the Arroyo Vaquero, featuring willows and reeds. It has sufficient water volume to support Barbels and Chubs in the deepest pools.
Leaving behind the cultivated subtropical trees and gardens you embark on a climb along dirt tracks, which are less and less busy as you progress through Monte Público de La Acedía. In general these woods consist of Cork oak; there are some large specimens at the beginning. However the scrubland takes the centre stage in areas with fewer trees, creating a tangled mass of Tree heath, Gum cistus, Wild olive, Mock privet, Gorse and Spiny broom. In the shade or where there is more humidity there are Portuguese gall oaks and Strawberry trees.
Pass along the joining line between the Arroyo del Palo and a tributary, the latter you follow while you ascend. On the northern slope there is a wood of Maritime pine mixed with Cork oaks, with Villa Bermeja on the left. Go up a track which allows you to see on the other side of the valley the ruins of Casa del Teniente, with its water source in form of an arch.
The southern side of Sierra Bermeja
At km 11 you abandon the track and take a path which leads now to the east. You are in the midst of Sierra Bermeja, the rock faces are quite devoid of trees, with a few pine trees occupying the repopulated terraces. Keep walking down until you get close to the Vertedero Comarcal (landfi ll); you will be walking close to the fenced area after having waded through a stream which feeds a reservoir higher up. The great extensive mounds of residue are striking, hidden in many layers with ventilation tubes sticking out to help air the fermenting organic matter. The landfill is being expanded and some Cork oaks are being moved to another location. Hundreds of gulls fl y over the facility.
There is an isolated forest further away which is a survivor of of the last forest fire which has really ravaged the area, then you pass a couple of ruins and immediately have a view of an industrial estate on your right, just before you need to ford Barranco del Infierno and go up to a natural viewpoint. Pass by an access to the Parque de Los Pedregales on your right. This is a good point to marvel at the Park which has evolved as half-forest and half-garden. This is also the last opportunity to stock up on water or retrace your steps still quite easily.
The real climb to Sierra Bermeja begins. Whatever traces of old traditional paths have been lost; you are walking along tracks and service roads which had been used to put up the electricity towers. This type of walking continues until you reach the enormous ravine of headwaters of Arroyo de la Miel. One thing is certain: you get the best views of all of this stage from the vicinity of an electricity tower just before a junction, the views reach towards the Bay of Estepona and Straits of ibraltar. From ere onwards you need to climb along the path until you reach the maximum altitude of this stage (515 m, km 16.2) and then go down again till another electricity tower, where you find some dirt tracks again, at which point there is very little traffic.
The presence of Maritime pine woods is only nominal along the path, with the rock fields of the red peridotite supporting thin bushes of Kermes oak, gorse, broom, Esparto grass, Purple Phlomis and White Leaf Rockrose. However, the surviving trees have unique, are gnarled shapes as a result of growing in such hostile environment created by the rock coming from the deep layers of the Earth. At the ravines of Los Polvitos, Las Minas and El Guadalobón, above all in areas which are less exposed to the sun and at the bottom of the ravines, a pine wood managed to survive, at times quite dense.
The Guadalobón is the only permanently flowing river you will cross but all the torrential gullies do fill up with water in rainy season which results in a spectacular show of contrasts between the red of the rocks and the white of the cascading rapids. Before the river, just as you catch the first glimpse of it; note how the cut in the rocks caused by the track has exposed the bare rock, fractured by deposits of natural asbestos and serpentine-type rocks, greenish in colour. The multi-directionality these crystalline dike intrusions present are a clue to the magmatic nature of these rock formations, whose rich metal contents upported an insipient mining industry in the past.
A steep descend (after the intersection with the PR A-164) takes you up to the MA- 8301 road which climbs up from Estepona to the Paraje Natural de Los Reales of Sierra Bermeja. At this intersection there is another geological surprise, a lime kiln which used to be fed with the white rocks which are visible all around, the marbles which had been created by the pressure and heat upon contact with magmatic peridotitic intrusions.
The Río de la Cala Valley
These marbles remain visible as you walk along the road until you take the junction at km 22.5 of the walk, but, little by little schist is taking over the terrain. This change in terrain causes the appearance of the acid soil specialist: the Cork oak with its entourage of fi re-resistant bushes, especially the gum cistus.
You ford the Arroyo de la Cala for the first time in the vicinity of a small excavated pool and at the point of the river where it can support populations of fish. The GR climbs a little along a track which turns into a path until arriving at the main track which descends along the Loma de la Pontezuela. Pass a Cork oak which looks like an island surrounded by a circle of dirt, and through pine woods with heath and myrtles which you pass by on your left in Valle del Padrón, very open and flanked from the east by thick pine woods of the Loma del Nicio. There is an Arabic fortifi cation there with the same name.
Along the first bends there are a few country houses mixed with animal enclosures, until you reach another intersection where a tiled marker onfirms you have been walking along the Camino del Puerto de las Palmas. You arrive at Río Padrón (km 26.8), which you do not cross. The walk leads towards the slope which separates this river from Arroyo de la Cala.
First mills appear on your right, between traditional gardens, abandoned houses and second residences. Arroyo de la Cala has to be crossed three times in a little valley which keeps getting very narrow but then it opens up again next to a garden shop/ nursery and one the second mill, which has been converted into a private home.
The last section leads along a tarmac track which takes you uphill, just after you cross the Arroyo de Marimacho, and over the upper part of Estepona. A short walk along the streets passing by the school Colegio Público Sierra Bermeja, leads the traveller to the destination which is the footbridge at the Paseo Marítimo where you meet again and for the last time the Arroyo de la Cala.
1. Initiation Stage:
Access Starting point: Casares is very close to the coastline with its motorways Autovías A-7 y AP-7. You can arrive directly using the motorways via the MA-8300 road or connecting from Manilva, the A-377 which goes to Gaucín and then taking the A-7150. Estepona can be reached from Casares directly via a road with no official number which splits off the MA-8300
and passes through Los Pedregales.
Finish point: A little footbridge of Paseo
Starting point: Calle de la Carrera, very close to Plaza de España, in the village of Casares.
Enjoy the walk safely: A stage of this length and diffi culty level needs to be carefully planned. Fortunately, and as stated above, there are many escape routes and also a possibility of dividing the walk into two legs.
The two road sections are short, without too much traffi c and generally the visibility is good. This doesn´t mean you shouldn´t take care when walking along theses sections. The country tracks have even less traffi c. Perhaps the Acedía and Valle del Padrón can possibly get a bit busier.
The many streams you need to cross do not tend to pose any danger and any bigger watercourses are rather token ones. There is
no possibility to stock up on water unless you take a detour to Parque de Los Pedregales, a public area of Estepona. What you do need to address is the possibility of sunstroke in Sierra Bermeja, which faces south and is virtually devoid of shade along the deforested areas.
High voltage power lines, which keep the GR company in the sierra, could be potentially dangerous. You must not touch the electricity towers under any circumstances, especially during rain or thunderstorms.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: The relevant roads are Autovía A-7 and the Autopista de Peaje AP-7, there is also a direct road from Serranía de Ronda which arrives in the centre of Estepona coming from Jubrique and which is used by the Gran Senda de Málaga during one section, the MA-8301.
Finish point: A little footbridge of Paseo Marítimo de Estepona over the Río de la Cala, in the eastern part of Playa de la Cala.
Possible "escape routes”: It is worth knowing that the 29, being such a long and hard stage, has good escape routes on both sides of the roads it crosses. Towards Casares you proceed to the left on the fi rst section of the tarmac. The second section of the tarmac takes you down to Estepona. In the middle, the best point to abandon the walk, also proposed as possible point where you can divide the stage in two, is the Parque de Los Pedregales (km 13.5).
No return point: The only section to keep in mind is the Sierra Bermeja, given the abovementioned escape routs. There, once you have gone up the highest point of the itinerary, it still doesn´t matter if you continue or go back. Once you arrive at the track again it is recommended that you continue. In the fi nal section, however, once the tracks start leading downhill again it is best to continue, following them to the end, as they get you closer and closer to Estepona.
Connections to other footpaths and trails: From Casares there are many walks towards Sierra Crestellina, which do not affect this stage, and towards Río Manilva and los Baños de la Hedionda, which are below the pueblo. The latter coincide with the Gran Senda de Málaga entirely or in parts.
The GR leaves from Casares the same way as the PR A-163 Casares-Estepona. Up to the Cerro de la Horca, just as you start walking, they coincide, but then the walk which connects the villages splits off to the left and comes back to the GR at Loma de Matute, sign-posed as leading to Cortijo del Robledal and then as it leads below it is marked with an information panel of Cerro de los Higos, in the opposite direction to the Gran Senda. This PR passes through la Puerta de los Pedregales, which
makes it one of the circular options.Again at the beginning of the stage, it is sign-posted as SL 8 la Ruta del Camino deJimena, which leads to the right from Puerto de la Cruz. Right at the beginning there is an information panel for the suggested walk.
The PR A-162 Manilva-Casares leads downhill on a track from the last village and the GR-249 abandons it close to the ford of Arroyo de los Molinos, at a gate, when the two walks have covered 2.1 km together.
This gate has a sign explaining a local programme to sign-post walks; one of them continues together with the GR. It is called Ruta 2 Arroyo Hondo-Los Molinos and it is described in the opposite direction to the GR. There are other similar walks, 9 of them in total. One of these walks also leads to Arroyo Hondo (northwards) and coincides with the GR at the road access.
The next advertised walk is called SL 3 Pasada del Pino-La Acedía. Like the other 8, it hasn´t been offi cially approved by the Federación Andaluza de Montañismo although it uses a similar colour scheme for signposting.
In this case the proposed walk is circular and coincides with the Gran Senda when it runs along the Barranco de La Acedía;
however they are also described in opposite directions. The two walks separate at the end of a forest track in the Monte Público de La Acedía, turning into paths.
The PR A-164 is the code for Estepona- Los Reales walk and it starts where the PR Casares-Estepona ends. It crosses the Gran
Senda along a ridge which ascends boldly from the coast after you ford the Guadalobón. Both itineraries meet at km 20.
Finally, the GR-92 E-12 Senda del Mediterráneo leads from Almería to Málaga along the coast and as you are fi nishing this
stage, willy-nilly you will cross that path. This gives the GR-249 walker the possibility of covering the only part of the Costa del Sol, eastwards, which is not described in the main itinerary, the section corresponding to the districts of Casares and Manilva up to Punta Chullera.