Rather central to the range is the road pass / ski centre of Puerto de Navacerrada / Puerto de Cotos, where the main branches of the range join. The range stretches from Puerto de la Paradilla and Puerto de la Cruz Verde in the south all the way to Puerto de Somosierra in the north-east and Puerto de la Morcuera in the east. Its highest mountain is Peñalara (2428m), a popular and rather easy summit. The subranges can be summed up as follows:
Sierra de Guardarrama forms a barrier between the plains of Madrid in the south-east and Segovia in the north-west. With Puerto de Leon it is home to the most importand road pass in the area, which has lost significance after the Guadarrama motorway tunnel has been built. Much of the range separates the province Castillia & Leon from Communidad de Madrid. The border was also one of the battle zones during the Spanish Civil War and along the border you can find occasional bunkers and positions dating back to the 1930s.
The range is made up from granite, most obvious among the domes, towers and spires of La Pedriza. Here the granite formations have broken the surface and offer some of the best climbing on the Iberian Peninsula. Elsewhere smooth slopes dominate, almost completely covered by Spanish Broom, with granite summits peeping out on top. Elsewhere still, mainly on Mazico de la Peñalara and Montes Carpetanos one side of the mountains has been nibbled away by erosion forming massive walls of several hundred metres height.
Except for La Pedriza and certain parts of Siete Picos most summits can be quite easily reached. There are lots of hiking routes, a veritable net of them, all across the range. The main attraction of Sierra de Guadarrama’s fauna is the gredos ibex (Capra pyrenaica victoriae), which has returned from the brink of extinction to form big flocks oblivious of any hikers and climbers. A frequent visitor is the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), one of the largest birds of prey in Europe. Even bigger but rather rare are the cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus) with an imposing wingspan of nearly 3m. Experiencing one of these giants unfold its wings is a truly impressive experience.
This subrange, located in the north-east of Sierra de Guadarrama and sometimes called La Somosierra, basically is a single ridge which stretches from Puerto de Somosierra in the north-east to Puerto del Reventon in the south-west, where it connects with Mazico de Peñalara, which stretches in the same direction. The highest summit, Nevero, is located to the west of Puerto de Navafria, a road pass in the centre of the range. The summits of Montes Carpetanos are mostly round topped, with some serious granite rock faces, mainly on the southern sides. There is a hiking trail, which connects both ends of the subrange, running close by or across all of the main summits.
As Peñalara is the highest mountain of Sierra de Guadarrama, this subrange is one of the most frequently visited of the range. There are only few summits as the mazico is rather small. In character Mazico de Peñalara is similar to Montes Carpetannos but for the direct environment of Peñalara. Risco de los Pajaros, Risco de los Claveles and Peñalara form a frequently climbed rocky ridge. The scramble is often extended into a loop touching on the many alpine lakes beneath the south faces of the mountains. Mazico de Peñalara stretches between Puerto del Reventon in the north-east and Puerto de Cotos in the south-west, the common trailhead for most hikes in the range.
This subrange is the counterpart of Mazico de Peñalara, stretching east to west along a ridgeline across Valle de Loyoza. Here you will find the highest summits beside Peñalara, with the two Cabezas del Hierro (2381m, 2376m) the highest among them. Again, this range is a single ridgeline with the exception of La Maliziosa, a promontory to the south. The west of Cuerda Larga is Madrid’s ski region with two areas at Puerto de Navacerrada and Valdesqui. One of the finest hikes of Sierra de Guadarrama is the traverse of Cuerda Larga from Puerto de Navacerrada or Puerto de Cotos to Puerto de la Morcuera in the east.
La Pedriza is one of the most impressive areas of Sierra de Guadarrama. Here you will foind hundreds of granite rock formations of all shapes and sizes. The area is an El Dorado for climbers and hikers alike. It stretches from Manzanares el Real and the reservoir Embalse de Santillana in the south all the way to the Cuerda Larga Main Ridge near Asomate de Hoyos. A listing of all summits is impossible, therefore be directed to the La Pedriza Page.
Siete Picos, not unlike La Pedriza, is an area of granite rock formations. As the name implies there are seven rocky summits, six of which are located on a level ridge with the first one, Cerro de Malajasna located separately in the east of the bulk of the subrange. There are several other additional summits on the outskirts of Siete Picos which are added to the listing here. The eastern summits are part of the Puerto de Navacerrada ski area.
Beyond Puerto de Fuenfria, the single ridge of Siete Picos splits in two, one headin south (see below) and one heading towards the west. In fact, this ridge has some minor summits to the north as well, thus forming the quarter of a circle from north to west. The northern part is known as Mujer Muerta, as it looks like a lying woman, when seen from Segovia. The western part is named by its outlying summit, Sierra de Quintanar. The most popular summits are Monton de Trigo, La Piñareja and Peña del Oso, all of which can be climbed together in a single day.
I’m not aware of any separate name for this subrange / ridgeline. It starts at Cerro Minguete and heads south-southwestward towards its end at the road pass Puerto del Leon. The mountains on this ridge are rather unspectacular with the exception of La Peñota, a three peaked granite mountain with a wonderful south-west ridge route. There is a hiking trail across all summits starting at Puerto de Fuenfria and ending at Puerto del Leon.
Beyond Puerto del Leon, strretching southward, there is a long ridge of mountains which ends at the road passes Puerto de la Paradilla and Puerto de la Cruz Verde. Again, a hiking trail connects the passes across the whole range with the border between the province Castilla & Leon and Communidad de Madrid accompanies it. A wall separates the two provinces for much of the subrange. The most important mountains are Cabeza Lijjar and Cueva Valiente in the north as well as Abantos in the south. From the latter you have a fine view of El Escorial Palace in San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
There’s lots of accommodation around Sierra de Guadarrama, especially close to the ski centers. Finding it online is a bit more difficult and you might have to visit commercial sites especially if you don’t speak Spanish. On the other hand – Madrid is just 50km away so you’ll be able to get all kinds of accommodation within an hour of the trailheads.