Great Sierra de las Nieves Path (GR 243). Stage 03. Yunquera - Tolox
1. Access to the starting point
Los Patos Mill, reachable from the centre of town along Calvario and Agua streets.
2. Access to the finishing point
San Roque Avenua. Entrance to Tolox along the A-7250 road.
Connections with other routes
• SL-A 246: The first hundred metres of the stage.
A Note of Caution
It is prohibited to pick fruits from the private land alongside the pathway. Not only is this private property, but they are the livelihood and way of life of local residents. Although there is limited road traffic, stay aware of passing vehicles to avoid any accidents. It is not permitted to walk along the irrigation dams, nor along those linked with the hydroelectric complex. On rainy days, it is advisable to wear mid-calf length walking boots, as some sections of the track can get muddy. Despite the short distance and keeping to tracks, be careful not to overdo it on the steep sections on the climb from River Grande to the rise of La Pola. A pair of telescopic poles will help here.
At the end of Agua Street is the building of the old mill, Los Patos and several of its most significant elements, such as the double water channel and the aqueduct that crosses the street. It was used specifically for milling wheat, propelled by the waters of the river Plano. Upstream from this, is an interesting agricultural system made up of a web-like network of irrigation channels and terraces that follow the contour lines, held in place by thick dry-stone walls. Apart from the occasional vegetable garden, the terraces are home to Vineyards, Fig, Fruit and Citrus trees. In recent years tropical plants, especially Avocado trees, have become the crop of choice. It is a quite stunning setting; a seemingly masterful visual reading of an outstanding agricultural and cultural landscape. It combines well with the overbearing and harsh Sierra Cabrilla mountains and the white-washed village of Yunquera. Its travertine bedrock is subject to the raggedness of the slope’s ancient method of multiple cropping. Water, soil and seed in perfect symbiosis. This is the Andalusian concept of the vegetable garden. Now it is called sustainability. From this site, we can also see the installations of the Yunquera waste water treatment plant.
At the valley bottom, we cross the modest Plano River and continue along the track towards the Castaño pass. This a meeting point of paths and an interesting site to appreciate the external geological processes and the overthrust faults of varied rock formations, including sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks, such as the peridotites. We go straight over this crossroads, down a steep descent to the water’s edge of the River Grande. Before crossing over, it is worth taking the short detour to the right to see the San Pascual power station building (2.6 km).
The track climbs up the steep slope to bring the irrigation channel into sight on one side, which is well fenced off. In Yunquera they call it ‘the Dike.’ We move away from the river and climb high enough to contemplate the enclosed valley with few arable fields. The surrounding pine-covered slopes are completed with Olive and Almond trees. Due to less agriculture, Holm oaks, Wild olive trees and Carob trees are reconquering territory, accompanied by a thick undergrowth. Along the riverbeds, due to the humidity and less exposure to the sun, Gall oaks grow freely.
On one side of the path, we can vaguely make out the remains of one of the derelict canals, small dams and the interesting small bridges crossing over to the other side. Further on, you will see an old entrance to a tunnel that was later deepened by a local in search of riches, hence its nickname, ‘the Treasure Tunnel.’ Shortly before the GR-243 turns south and leaves the River Grande, take extra care when crossing of the Aguilera ravine, which is quite rugged and surrounded by abundant vegetation. From the track, you go down a short but steep trail to the canal which carries water to the abandoned San Augusto power station. Be careful, the descent is not recommended for sufferers of vertigo or those not comfortable on unsteady terrain. A viaduct crosses the stream that plunges down to the River Grande in several waterfalls.
Returning to the path, we continue between ridges covered with Olive and Almond trees, enjoying splendid panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. If we look closely towards one of the meanders of the River Grande, we can make out the attractive, reasonably large and country estate of La Puente, with an air of stateliness. Next to the main building there is a small chapel. Nearby, we can also see the beautiful bridge with a semi-circular arch over which one of the roads from Tolox to Yunquera used to pass, as shown on a map from the Geographical and Statistical Institute dated 1953.
La Pola ridge (6.9km), where we meet a crossroads and water deposit, marks the end of the climb. The reward is an enjoyable and easy track from here, following the gentler slope of the River Grande as it flows between farmed ridges towards the Guadalhorce Valley. To the south and west, the mountainous nature of the Sierra Parda persists, in stark contrast to the grey of the Tolox mountain range. Against this backdrop of green, reddish and earthy tones, the town centre of Tolox, our destination appears in all its splendour.
Before reaching the Avenida de San Roque in Tolox, we need to cross the Alfaguara River, which in this section and until it joins the river Grande in the area of Las Millanas, is known as the Almozara.
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