Great Sierra de las Nieves Path (GR 243). Stage 04. Tolox - Guaro
1. Access to the starting point
From the San Roque Avenue, the main access road to Tolox turns into Calle Erilla, where the stage begins.
2. Access to the finishing point
Camino del Arroyo street, next to the main road to Marbella (A-7100), at the crossing with the road that loops round Guaro to the west.
Connections with other routes
• PR-A 274: From Puerto Alto pass until Guaro.
• PR-A 279: For a section of 450m near Puerto Alto pass.
A Note of Caution
The route follows forest tracks and farm lanes throughout, which usually have little traffic. This makes staying aware even more important, especially close to Tolox and Guaro. The route’s profile is a typically jagged one, one of the so-called leg-breakers, climbing and descending constantly. Walking sticks and decent footwear will make it easier. Fruit should not be picked from the bushes along the route. Water can only be obtained from the Fuente de la Teja stream, as the rest of the watercourses are seasonal. The stage’s different environments favour spotting numerous birds, so binoculars are a good idea to spot the
We depart from Tolox along Erilla Street, past the village’s last houses and several commercial premises. A short distance further on we leave this road to Coín and turn right along the branch that heads to the ford crossing of the Estepera stream, which is lined with dense vegetation. We now face the Estepera slope, surrounded by vines and enormous Olive trees that are hundreds of years old.
Once at the top of the Albarejo hill, the track runs along the interfluve ridge between Las Viñas and El Negro streams, both tributaries of the Estepera stream. In view from this stretch, one of the route’s few flat sections, above the pine-covered Cerro Redondo ridge is the imposing massif of the Tolox mountain range. Its highest summit, Torrecilla (1,919 m) stands out high above. The panoramic view to the north is equally as pleasing to the eye and is rounded off by the Cabrilla and Prieta mountain ranges, and the town of Yunquera sitting just below. Its whitish tint reveals its sedimentary origin, just the same as the Sierra de Tolox.
Shortly before crossing the Viñas stream, the same track doubles as the border of the Sierra de las Nieves National Park. The Maritime pine stands out as the undisputed king of the forest. It is accompanied by magnificent shrubs such as Mastic, Juniper and Mediterranean fan palm. The Puerto del Rey pass signifies the first contact with the catchment area of the Fuente de la Teja stream, which flows all year round. While crossing this stream, it is possible to replenish our water supply from the stream-bed itself. It flows between huge slabs of peridotite rock, and in just over 5 km it flows from Aranda hill (1051 m) to its confluence with the Estepera stream, at 200 m above sea level.
The next point of interest is the Puerto de Chiribenítez pass (5.6km), an important crossroads and border between Tolox and Monda municipalities. The boundary of the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park makes a sharp turn here, taking us further away from the protected area. From a bird’s eye view of the landscape, there are three very different natural environments: the gentle slate hills covered in Olive trees, Vines and Almond trees; Pine forest on peridotites and the Mediterranean scrubland, with Holm oaks, Cork oaks and patches of Chestnut trees occupying the less accessible areas. For a short section, our route coincides with the PR-A 279 (Guaro - Chiribenítez), to then turn eastwards, around an elongated ridge with various peaks over 600m above sea level. This rise divides the catchment areas of the Estepera and Seco streams, both of which belong to the Río Grande basin. We soon come to the Puerto Alto pass, the route’s highest point. A stop-off here is much recommended, to take in the extensive views in the immense Guadalhorce Valley and the rugged profiles of the Canucha and Blanca mountain ranges. In their north-facing valleys, you can almost make out the silhouettes of some clumps of Pinsapo Spanish firs that, quite incredibly survived the forest fires. Just as miraculous, are the Cork oaks along the path edges, accompanied by Laurel-leaf rockroses and Spiny broom. This serves as an example of the mixed forest that once occupied these parts. The PR-A 274 pathway (Guaro-Puerto Alto) joins us from the south and stays with us until the end of the stage.
When the GR-243 route turns south (11 km), a steep slope takes us down to the Arroyo Seco stream, which as its name in Spanish indicates, dries up in summer. Up ahead are splendid views of the villages of Yunquera, Alozaina and Guaro, or the iconic Sierra Alpujata formed of peridotite rock. The slopes adjacent to the Arroyo Seco stream have recently seen a growth in the cultivation of tropical produce, particularly avocados. Some traditional arable farmland remains however, on the river meadows. The systematic abandonment of farmland of all types has led to a certain recovery of the riverside vegetation. There is an increasing number of Willow, Basket willow, African tamarisk, Oleanders and, above all the Cane reed, which is not autochthonous to these parts and clogs up some stretches of the riverbed. On the earthy banks, several nesting bee-eaters have been sighted.
For a stretch, we walk alongside the Arroyo Seco stream, between fallow fields and arable land or citrus cultivation. The final kilometre of Stage 4 opens out into terraced fields and groves of a variety of trees, as a clear reward for the effort of the ascent. We enter Guaro from the northern part, where the town has spread along the road to Monda.
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