GR 249. Stage 11. Alfarnate - Villanueva del Rosario
Up to the Puerto del Quejigal
The first steps of Stage 11 are fl at, across the working fields of Alfarnate leading towards the sierra. There is a steep slope where traffic is banned, but it used to be a well-known path of Escariguela, which today is almost lost. These sunny mountain slopes are being gradually planted with oak, but they are dominated by gorse with some Terebinth.
The landscape is made interesting by the whimsical karstic modelling in the Puerto de Quejigal, even with temporary pools. The track improves greatly as it leads downhill in search of Villanueva del Trabuco, which you can catch a glimpse of among planted Aleppo pine woods ahead, after passing the entrance to a country house
Pits and flatlands of the Quejigal
The walk turns sharply at the Parque de Arborismo and Aula de Naturaleza buildings, whose buildings, almost finished, occupy one of the best areas of pasture and cultivation.
There are a couple of adventure circuits of different levels of diffi culty built among the trees. The journey continues and arrives at a hollow called Hoyo Virote, surrounded by good specimens of Aleppo pine, very dense oak and great examples of Terebinth, beside the Portuguese oaks (Quejigo) that lend their name to the entire area. Locally, glens are called “vagas”, such as the one here which leads the walker down into a labyrinth of thick forest of erect trunks of Portuguese oaks. A new fl at area appears, where you starts feeling the altitude and you reach a fence (previously mentioned in district boundaries) that leads the hiker to the left Juan Moreno threshing circle (km 6.9), a proof of the agricultural activity associated with these remote areas.
If you turn around you can see a spectacular view of the mountains of the Central Limestone Arch blocked to the north by the rocky mass of the Sierra de Loja.
The glen which The Great Path of Málaga climbs is placed between la Sierra de Jobo (with its peak, Morrón, sometimes just called “peak” by locals), del Chamizo to the east and the Sierra Gorda to the west.
The dimensions of this second limestone mountain are hard to fathom from this position, unlike from Villanueva del Trabuco where it raises behind the village. The walk reaches the highest point of all the GR in an area with several sinkholes, where also the Fuente de Toma y Bebe located. Above, on the left, there is a shelter that is widely used, with protective masonry walls.
La Dehesa de Hondonero
From the Puerto de Quejigo and the Llano de la Cueva (km 8.3 and 1,385 m altitude) there starts a descent where there are views towards Dehesa de Hondonero. The objective is to use the trail to reach the Mirador de Hondonero, passing by impressive tamarisk bushes interspersed with some impressive maple specimens.
At the Mirador (km 9.5) take the wide track with vehicle access from the village which is the destination of this stage. The environment of this viewpoint is privileged because of the amphitheatre of rugged mountain ranges that surround it, but also the extent of the views to the north, towards the extensive plains of the two Villanuevas.
The itinerary which starts at the Mirador follows various information panels that have been placed (described in reverse to the Great Málaga Path direction). The panels let the hiker discover the very diverse aspects of the Dehesa de Hondonero, such as the geology and facts related to karst lakes and water sources.
The area is frequented by walkers and tourists as the place evidently attracts people. Mountain walkers and climbers in search of the via ferrata come through as well, so do cyclists. The walk is still mostly heading west, but to get to the village it turns slightly north where there is a detour towards the Tajo de Madera, an imposing ginger-coloured rocky cliff located about 500 metres to the west.
What´s left to do now during the Stage 11 is to walk discovering successive water springs among farms, holiday homes and orchards, while olive trees are taking over the landscape again. Arrive at the chapel of our Lady of the Rosary (km 14.1). From the broad plain that there in front of this bright building there is an access to El Chorro, a short and recommended detour. The walk then passes between the incipient valleys of the Arroyo de Cerezo, which originates in the aforementioned source, and along the Canaleja stream, which gets closer and closer to the path until you come to a little bridge that gives access to Villanueva del Rosario, where Stage 11 ends.
1. Initiation Stage:
Access Starting point: From the A7, from Vélez Málaga direction Periana and on the MA-155 to arrive to Alfarnate. There is another access from Colmenar and the A-6100. From the Puerto de Alazores, coming from Loja, the connection to the MA-155 is on the A-341.
Starting point: Plaza del Puente de Alfarnate.
Enjoy the walk safely: It must not be underestimated what altitude can mean at this stage. To the average elevation you must add the maximum height and mountain pass character; weather conditions can be very typical of mountains. The path sometimes has a stony surface and you may be walking directly on limestone pavement. You must wear the right footwear for such conditions.
It must bring appropriate footwear. There are no watering points until Hondonero, and even so it is not treated for human consumption.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: From Málaga, the A-92 M, exit 20 toward the A-7203. From Granada, the A-92 exit 177 to the MA-92 direction Málaga and exit 16 to the MA-231 towards Villanueva de el Rosario.
Finish point: Villanueva del Rosario, at the intersection of Calle Arroyo with the Camino de las Lomas.
3 . Alternatives:
Possible "escape routes": The best chance for escape before climbing the highest mountain pass is retracing your steps the abandoned campsite (vehicle access) then down to Villanueva del Trabuco, which is very close. From the pass downwards, go to the Mirador de Hondonero, where there is car access and use the forest track to access Villanueva de el Rosario.
No return point: La Fuente de Toma y Bebe or the Llano de la Cueva.
Connections to other footpaths and trails: In Alfarnate there are three PR walks (Pequeño Recorrido or short-distance), the well-known PR A-268 Bosque de las Morillas, PR A-267 Pico de Vilo and that one which is most closely related to this stage, the A-266 PR de Las Pilas which starts at the Morales stream.
Access to climbing sectors of Darrin and Toriles are marked at the entrance to the abandoned campsite. As far as right-of-way
trails, the climb at the start of this stage is actually a part of Vereda de Archidona, which turns towards Villanueva del Trabuco and
changes name to Realenga de Alfarnate. The second part of the stage coincides with the Vereda del Camino de Alfarnate but only up to the forest of maples as it climbs to the highest mountain pass. Then, from the entrance to the Tajo de Madera there is another Vereda, del Camino de Riogordo, which you walk downwards, though the Vereda then continues to the top of the Sierra de Camarolos and veers to the destination town.
In the area of Hondonero, Villanueva de el Rosario authorities have prepared a circular 10 km route that follows the same
path as the GR, passing by the Chapel and the Tajo de Madera, and it is called Ruta del Nacimiento. At the church there is a sign pointing to the Nacimiento del Chorro which isn´t too far way. The last route can be done even by car and leads to the viewpoint of the Alto de Hondonero, with a large number of interpretive panels due to the complexity of environment and heritage of the area.