GR 249. Stage 20. Embalses del Guadalhorce - Estación de El Chorro (Álora)
The Viewpoints of the Paraje Natural reserve
After a kilometre and a half of service road leading along the banks of the Guadalhorce reservoir and quite near the quarries where aggregate composites were extracted for the construction of the reservoirs, the track turns right. Forest tracks are closed to car traffic as they lead uphill between Aleppo pines. In shady areas at high altitudes but also here and there amidst the pine trees, the native vegetation appears, struggling to regain its place. Good-sized Holm oaks, Junipers and Terebinth at times form small woods with the undergrowth of Mastic, Gorse, Buckthorn, Savin Juniper and Kermes oak, giving you an idea of the ancient splendour of the forest. Soon you reach a part of the track that affords a broad view of the entire complex of El Chorro, the Sierras of western Málaga and the beginning of the first gorge of the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes. Higher up, from an area with compelling underbrush of Esparto grass, Rosemary, and Cistus under the pine trees which have been contorted by the wind, you can see in all its grandeur the magnifi cent Savin Juniper forest of the Arroyo of Todosaires and the northern slopes of the Sierra de Huma.
Next you reach a great plain (km 4.5), la Cornicabra, with initial stages of reforestation and an extensive area of Thyme which is used by bees from the nearby hives. The road comes to a mountain pass which is a natural passage way between two rocky escarpments. It leads along a power line which you encounter fi rst at the border of Antequera and Campillos districts. The lower cliff is facing north and the higher one west, and both are famous as climbing areas due to the excellent quality of the rock and the many overhangs. The place is known as Desplomilandia (Overhang land) and the rock face above is called El Triángulo after the shape of the rock with some cattle corrals at the base.
The walk has been taking you northwards so far. The track leads downhill now and you pass by a junction to your left (km 6). Then you begin a long climb eastwards across a seriously deforested hillside above the impressive Tajo del Cabrito. This rocky escarpment is a truly insurmountable obstacle both for people and animals, hundreds of meters high and two kilometres long. At the Puerto de Ramos, 7 and a half kilometres into the stage you can engage in an enjoyable exercise of trying to imagine the tops of the high cliffs by examining the nearby karst formations on your left: rock pinnacles and piles of rock plates similar to the ones found at El Torcal de Antequera. The Savin Juniper grows in the narrow passages. In comparison, the slope on the right, a result of hillside landslides, has a less rugged appearance.
You start descending now, accompanied by the view to the plains of Antequera. The path is immersed in a very dense thicket of Savin Junipers, which has an appearance of a forest but is composed of shrub-sized plants. Pass by two junctions on the left and a flat area which is sometimes ploughed to be sown. (km 9.5). The path gradually veers southwest. A few meters ahead there is a detour that leads in a zigzag to the Sierra Llana.
Across limits of the Paraje Natural
Here the most physically demanding section of stage 20 starts. From kilometre 10 to 13 you need to conquer a continuous 300 meter climb. You will pass a junction on the left, Camino del Cortijo el Madroño, which goes through a rocky valley fl oor with another cliff to the right, the Salto de la Zorra. The climb becomes easier and takes you eastwards by the Cortijo de Campano farmhouse, located in a cultivated area, contrasting strangely with the wild surroundings. Ahead, there are excellent
views of the gorse-covered 1186 metre high Pico Capilla.
The maximum altitude reached during the stage is at the Puerto del Rosalejo pass, where the Roman city of Nescania was founded, at kilometre 14 and 845 metres above sea level.
From here the walk descends turning gradually southwards. On the left, away from the path, there are the Fuente de la Viuda natural spring and the Cortijo de la Rejanada farmhouse. The maximum altitude of these mountains is at the grey limestone summit of Huma (1,191 m) which the walk skirts around. In the area there are a few farmhouses below the path: Tajo del Palmito, Castillo and the Peñascales, which lends its name to the road that comes from the Valle de Abdalajís, from the MA-4401 road.
El Camino de los Pedregales
As the path arrives at the district boundaries of Álora (km 16.2), it connects with the GR-7 E-4 and assumes a south-west direction. La Pedrera farmstead, a group of houses between olive groves at the foot of the sierra, has a network of dirt tracks which you keep following up to the pine forest of the Arroyo del Chorro. Similarly to other reforested areas, the purpose of the pine wood is to prevent the siltation process of wetlands by strengthening the rocky slopes. Now, and virtually until the end of the stage, the track enters the limits of the protected Natural Area, the Paraje Natural.
The track is steep and it levels out with the fi rst bends at the beginning of Escalera Árabe (km 18) and a second more pronounced zigzag where you have a broad view of the area of El Chorro settlement, Las Mesas de Villaverde and the fi rst part of the next stage. There are remarkable sheer cliffs that the track passes to the right. Aid (sport) climbing and classic climbing are done on the rock faces. The sector is known among climbers as the low, medium and high Frontales (Bajas, Medias and Altas and contains a legendary cave route called Poema Roca (The Rock Poem).
The track enters pine woods almost devoid of any shrub vegetation due to its density, and then crosses the ravine twice in areas protected by retaining walls. First houses appear, then you arrive at the little neighbourhood where you can wander a while through its streets and arrive at the end of Stage 20.
1. Initiation Stage:
Access Starting point: From A-357 road between Campillos and Ardales take the A-7286 then exit, following the signs to Pantanos on an unmarked road. Coming from Ardales take the MA-5403 to the Puerto de la Atalaya. There, the
described service road leads to the reservoirs. Take the road leading downhill, the MA-4400, to get to El Chorro.
Starting point: Reservoirs of the Guadalhorce and the Guadalteba, where both dams meet.
Enjoy the walk safely: The total of ascents and descents, the length of the route, the walk´s altitude and its solitude require planning this stage in detail. The road at the beginning of the stage has very little traffic but it is narrow and sometimes offers little visibility.
There is no possibility of stocking up on drinking water. The water from the Fuente de la Viuda spring has not been treated for consumption. The area of pine forest is very dense. Also, here you must take extra precautions to prevent forest fi res. You will cross the Arroyo del Chorro stream bed twice, but it is so unlikely that it will contain any water that there was no need to mark these crossings as fords on the corresponding icon of this stage.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: From the Puerto de la Atalaya, access as described above. From Álora, take the A-343 and turn off at the Valle de Abdalajís to follow the MA-4401 or directly from the MA-3401.
Finish point: The train stop at the Estación deEl Chorro.
Possible "escape routes": In the fi rst section the “escape plan” is clear: down the network of tracks to the dam of Guadalhorce. There is a tarmac track along its left bank leading to the starting point. However, once you are at the highest point of the stage, the best option is walking down the track to kilometre marker 16 to the Valle de Abdalajís.
No return point: From the Cortijo Campano it is best to keep moving forwar
Connections to other footpaths and trails: Relatively close by, at the dam end of the Conde de Guadalhorce reservoir, there are a
couple of paths which have been adapted for walking and which lead along the edge of Embalse del Gaitanejo reservoir and some sandstone areas. These paths are highly recommended and comfortable.
This stage has been designed using the network of service paths for the management of the protected Natural Area and livestock or forestry farms. These tracks coincide, most of the time, with the limits of the Paraje Natural and are well-known stomping grounds for cyclists attracted by the easily accessed, mountainous circular route.
At km 10, on the right, there is a junction with Camino de Sierra Llana which leads uphill to an area of dense Savin juniper and planted pine woods. Five hundred meters ahead you start walking along the very steep Camino del Cortijo del Madroño, until kilometre 12.5 where this Camino branches off to your right (the farmhouse is a little further up). Head for the Cortijo Campano.
From km 14.5 km you will be walking along the Vereda del Tajo de la Pedrera. Ignore the track which leads towards the Valle de Abdalajís, called Camino de los Peñascales, which doesn´t belong to the Great Path of Málaga. The best known public path here is the Camino de las Pedreras, leading from the Cortijo under the same name up to the Estación de El Chorro. That route is also described on an information panel at the train stop as Haza del Río. One of the most frequented walks used to climb the Huma is called Escalera Árabe (Arab staircase). It splits off in the area of las Pedreras at kilometre 18, westwards and then northwards.
In this same section, between kilometre markers 16.2 and 22, our walk meets the GR-7 E-4 coming from the east. This is stage 7 of GR-7 E-4, slightly over 10 kilometres long and named El Chorro - Abdalajís. The middle part of Stage 20, in any case, is certain to have coincided with the path that had been used from the Neolithic period to link the Guadalhorce Valley with the Vega de Antequera by the Puerto del Rosalejo pass.