GR 249. Stage 33. Mijas - Benalmádena
To the Puerto de la Cantera pass
Taking the necessary precautions as you cross the A-387 from the street that leads to the Viewpoint, note to your left the first sign of the walks of Mijas and a plaque that commemorates the late author of a publication on the natural values and walks of the sierra.
From here follow a path that coincides with a Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross pilgrimage path); there is a bench at each station of the Cross. Although the path takes a turn to the right a little before, it is worth a detour to see the Ermita del Calvario chapel, visited during the fi fteen stations of penance. This hermitage is under the patronage of the Virgen de la Peña and was erected by the Carmelite monks for the time when they withdraw into prayer, then, of course, there was no road and access was more complicated.
Pass the chapel on your left and the path which coincides with stage 32, and continue climbing. The adaptation of the Stone pine trees to fire shows well in these fi rst steps since the fire damage barely remains visible other than slightly blackened trunks. The vegetation in this first part is composed of Esparto grasses, with European Dwarf Palms, Blackthorns, brambles, Lavandula multifida, Dianthus and Staehelina dubia. Along the hilltop path the views of the Costa del Sol are not blocked by any obstacles, except the more dense groves of pines.
There are paths off to the left and right leading to the Cantera del Barrio and the Cañada de Gertrudis respectively, and when you have travelled 1,900 meters you will join a track.
Here turn uphill onto the Ruta Azul (blue walk) aiming for the Puerto de Málaga pass while the dirt track levels off toward the east. Now walk around the headland of the Arroyo del Nacimiento stream leaving the Cerro del Chaparral hill and the Pico de Mendoza summit on the left.
At each one of the bends you pass a run-off channel and as you get to the edge there is an opportunity to admire the aggregate quarries from above. The rounded and shiny tops of the Stone pine trees offer a stark contrast with the sharp profi les of the open-pit mine and its white terraced hillsides, which fortunately are being replanted with native vegetation.
At the foot of the walk, the slopes offer the sight of the emaciated rocks with their strikingly eroded forms and the pink sand that slips between the rock plates, proving the instability of the terrain and the ease with which runoff water can erode the mountains.
The only effective remedy against this pernicious phenomenon is the vegetation cover. Those plants that can colonise this surface, with almost no soil, appear in the nooks and. crannies, and some of them are very striking such as Alyssum serpyllifolium and Echium albicans which has a limited distribution. In the last section of the track there is an excellent vantage point that allows views along the ridge of the Sierra de Mijas which you will walk to the Cerro del Moro, crowned by telecommunication antennas.
The shoreline is very close to the mountains at that point. Immediately after this, the vegetation changes substantially thanks to the protection of the mountain, numerous Holm’s oaks appear between the Aleppo and Stone pines with Kermes oak, Juniper, Rosemary and brooms of good size but also a diversity of smaller plants.
One fi nally gains access to a junction that marks the Puerto de la Cantera (km 4.8) in which you take a better quality forest track, veering right. This track rejoins the GR with the PR A-171 Mijas-Benalmadena, coming from the west.
Along the line of summits
The northern orientation of the fi rst few meters of the new track means that the Aleppo Pines are much more developed, and so dense that they hardly allow other plants to grow. As testimony to the fact that we are near quarries, on the right there is a disused green coloured reservoir which is property of the Compañía General de Canteras S.A (General Quarries Company Limited) for supplying water to the Cantera de los Arenales quarry. At the Puerto de la Media Luna pass, when the track describes a wide curve toward the north, it enters for the fi rst time in the district of Alhaurin de la Torre and a new copse of Holm’s oaks appears, emerging from between the planted conifers.
In an instant you have spectacular views over the Guadalhorce Valley, the Central Limestone Arch and even the limestone mountain ranges around the Sierra de las Nieves, the Tajo del Aguila, a high escarpment, closing the panorama to the left. Thus we get to one of the most emblematic places in the Sierra de Mijas, the Puerto de las Grajas, where a landmark tree known by walkers and mountain bikers as The Pine (a good specimen of Pinus halepensis) points to a cross roads. The lateral tracks go to the lowland areas (the one on the right represents a good escape road). However, you continue straight on, aiming for a dead-end track (km 7.8) signposted as sin salida (without exit) for vehicles. During 1,400 meters it passes along the flank of Cerro Jorado getting narrower between lush vegetation joined now by terebinth, Lentisc, wild olives, cistus, phlomis, abundant creepers and Bupleurum gibraltaricum.
A true footpath begins in the largest Maritime pine woods of the day, with tall examples that can hardly be sustained by their roots due to how closely they have grown.
After a steep climb you walk along the limestone ridge with views over the bay of Málaga, walking between abundant indigenous shrubs and Joint Pine (Ephedra fragilis) until passing through the fi rst col (or saddle), the Puerto de las Tres Caleras, and a second called Puerto del Cerial, both areas with grand examples of Black Pines and Aleppo Pines. To the south the path joins with an asphalted road that could be an alternative to shorten the walk, you will also fi nd it again near the access road to a sign-posted viewpoint on Cerro Castillejo. The telecommunication antennas are visible on top of the Cerro del Moro, with its 939 meters of altitude, is also a good place for 360-degree panoramic views. Both this possibility and the Route 5 of the Mina de la Trinidad remain to your right until you reach a junction that turns back towards the east (km 12 and highest point of the stage).
The Barranco del Quejigal ravine
The steep slope, the very sandy terrain and perhaps the path being used for other means, has made this fi rst section a place where good care must be taken. Surrounded again by dense pine woodland, the path soon meets with a couple of sign-posted crossings for the Ruta 4, you are now in the district of Benalmadena. The landscape now opens towards the coastline of this town in a deep ravine along which the path takes you.
While leaving to the left the Tajo de la Sabia, not visible from the walk, the terrain becomes increasingly sandy until reaching a third junction. The branch leading straight on is what the Stage 34 uses to go to Calamorro. But for now you have to fi nish what is at hand, descending through the habitat for the local endemic and protected plant Linaria clementei, in dolomite sands. Thus we get to the bottom of the ravine to make a detour toward the west looking for the Tajo del Quejigal, one of the most famous escarpments of the sierra, being close to Benalmadena and for the interesting fl ora that is protected by the shade of the gully.
When the path crosses the Regajo del Quejigal (km 15.4) between oleanders and reeds you will have passed by a kind of rest area with benches and a fountain without water, here is located the fi rst of the cabins that accompanies and marks the way until the end. The walk climbs slightly where the vegetation continues adding numbers of species and gaining in luxuriance. The plant life installed in the cliffs of the disused quarry is very interesting, here the terebinth prevail. GR-249 turns progressively towards the west and approaches the autovía del Mediterráneo motorway, which it accompanies from where it is joined on the right by the Ruta 4, bright pink, which you have encountered higher up. A second junction constitutes another path offering this alternative. Following the inspection covers and rubber pipes that appear from time to time, pass below the AP-7S through the tunnel of Arroyo Hondo, which ends at a small Park at Luis Cernuda Street and leads to the end of stage in the Avenida Juan Luis Peralta in the area north of Benalmadena.
1. Initiation Stage :
Access Starting point: There are two access roads to Mijas from the coastal motorway AP- 7S, taking the A-368. In addition, there is the above-mentioned road from Coín and Alhaurín el Grande.
Starting point: The Mijas ring road, actually the A-387 which connects to Coín and Alhaurín el Grande through the Puerto de los Pescadores pass. There is a place for parking, direction Coín, at the end of Calle Mirador street.
Enjoy the walk safely: During the entire walk, therefore you must be prepared. Normally there should be no problems in finding the path during the course of this stage, but you should have clear ideas of where you are if you intend to make detours or use any
of the numerous alternatives to shorten or lengthen the walk.
In the steepest areas loose stones on the path can cause slipping, but the sections of greater diffi culty for walkers are the areas of deep sand, from the pint where you leave the asphalted track going to the antennas, up to the immediate vicinity of the Tajo del Quejigal.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: There are various access ways into Benalmádena Pueblo fromthe Autovía del Mediterráneo, but the most used coincides with the old road, the already mentioned A-368.
Finish point: At the Plaza Castillejos on the Avenida Juan Luís Peralta de Benalmádena, close to where it joins with the Calle Luís Cernuda street which comes down from the sierra.
3. Alternatives :
Possible "escape routes": Out of all the paths that turn off f the one taken in the main part of the walk, the best for a possible escape is the one which heads south from the Pino del Puerto de las Grajas. The others, going toward the northern slopes, are much longer.
Another point of escape is the asphalted track that leads up to the Cerro del Moro, a small number of cars pass by here. This track, which goes to the telecommunication antennas, leads up to the eastern access to Mijas where it joins with the possible escape described before.
No return point: In this stage it is not too relevant, given the closeness of the start and finish points. It is not advisable to continue when you have finished walking the forest track after the Pino del Puerto de las Grajas. From there the path is very mountainous and more demanding on the walker, but not for long. Once you arrive at the junction between Ruta 6 (blue) with 4 and 3 the best thing to do is to go down because it is more complicated to retrace your steps.
Connections to other footpaths and trails: The towns of Mijas and Benalmádena have each designed their own network of paths, described using colours and you link here with Ruta 6 / blue, which is called Puerto de Málaga in Mijas and Cazadores in Benalmádena. It goes over the watershed and connects several others along the highest point. Thus, the walks described in Stage 32 Ojén-Mijas for the western area, are joined at this stage by three other paths, as well as the walk to the Ermita del Calvario hermitage (also called Virgen de la Peña).
The GR-249 uses in principle the blue walk, but only until it arrives at the track where you leave the path as it continues to climb. But before this point, there are two other options which go off in loops: the white path or the Cantera del Barrio, going towards the west, and the yellow path or the Cañada de Gertrudis that leads in opposite direction.
In Benalmádena the scheme is repeated at the Cerro del Moro. Firstly, you can leave the asphalted track, on Ruta 5, Mina de la Trinidad, identifi ed by the bright pink colour, leading down, and along the border between Mijas and Benalmádena. Then, also heading south, but coming from the eastern fl ank of the peak, there is the green path, number 4, of the Tajo de la Sabia (with two branches) which you ignore, and the pink Ruta 3 or Quejigal, which coincides with the Great Path of Málaga.
Alternatively, there is a short distance walk, the PR A-171 Mijas- Benalmádena 16.4 kilometres long, which coincides almost point by point with the GR-249. In other parts this very path appears under the name of PR A-171 Mijas-Puerto de las Ovejas, 12.1 km long. Either way, the described path separates between kilometre markers 1.9 / 4.8, where the GR leads runs along a track the PR goes up to the Puerto de Málaga pass (999m) and then pick up the ridge to the Puerto de la Cantera from where it follows the ridge.