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About 50 kms away from Madrid stands Sierra de Guadarrama, that isn’t really a “Sierra” (mountain range) but a system of several divides that joints around Siete Picos. So, it is generaly accepted that this mountain and the valleys around form the core of Sierra de Guadarrama. This route don’t include the highest summit of Siete Picos (Seven Peaks); only two of its secondary points, the Second (2,093 ms) and the First (1,934 ms).
The route consist of walk along the whole crest around one of the valleys that surrounds Siete Picos: Valle de la Fuenfría (Valley of the Cold Source, which takes name from a watersource close to the pass in its head). This is a little valley, about only 6 kms long but very nice, covered by a pine forest and surrounded by peaks higher than 2,000 ms. The crest around is wide and rounded, allowing to walk along easily, enjoying the views around. Apart from the two points of Siete Picos above mencioned, the route passes by some other secondary summits:
As can be expected in a so nice place, close to a city of 5 million people and beside a well-accessible town, the valley is full of paths and trails conveniently marked... and always full of people. The hike along the crest allows you to enjoy panoramic views, to get an idea of the complete mountain area and to have a quiet day, far from the crowds the most of the time. The price for that is more than 1,700 ms of elevation gain (and loss, don’t forget) accumulated along about 22 kms. A non-negligible physical effort. Logically, there are shorter options, covering only a part of the crest in a day, reaching or leaving it in any of the intermediate passes, and dividing the whole crest in several outings. But it's not the same.
This route is feasible throughout the year, having in every season a different charm, but I especially recommend to do it when the snow appears in fall or persits in spring. In those occasions, the days are not as short as in winter and the slopes are not only white but also green and gray. Take only in account that there is to add to walking time the many stops that we will do to look the landscape. Thus, those theoretical seven hours walking will be easily converted into 10 or 12.
The route begins in Cercedilla, a town about 60 km. away from Madrid. It has a population of about 7,000 inhabitants and all kinds of services. The access from the capital are varied and fast and it’s possible to reach Cercedilla in 50 minutes.
By car: There are two options for reaching Cercedilla from Madrid. Both paths have similar distances, choosing one or another depending on the point of departure in the capital:
Leaving Madrid by A-6 freeway, take exit 47 to the town of Guadarrama. Once there, take M-614 road until Cercedilla.
Leaving Madrid by M-607 (Colmenar road), go until its end (55 km.) and continue straight on by M-614. After a few hundred meters, turn to the right and take the M-622 to Cercedilla.
You can see the most convenient route from your point of departure in the Michelin website.
By bus: The service is provided by Larrea company (line 684). First bus in the day leaves Madrid (Intercambiador de Moncloa) at 6:30 AM and the trip takes just under an hour. There is a bus every hour on weekends and even more frequent on weekdays. You can see updated timetables, fares, etc. in the Larrea company website (only in spanish).
By train: You can reach Cercedilla by train from Madrid between 60 minutes and 1h15, depending on the departure station. The line is C-8b, first train in the day leaves Atocha Station at 7:00 AM and the trip takes 1h15. There are trains every hour. You can see updated timetables, fares, etc. in the Renfe (Madrid suburban) website (only in spanish).
Once in Cercedilla, you have to go to where the road to the Valley of the Fuenfría goes. This point is 200 ms away from the railway station (blue X in the map) or 800 ms from the bus stop (red X).
Come out of Cercedilla by the road which goes to Valley of Fuenfría. After 300 meters, leave the road and take a dirt track on the left (NW), which then crosses River of La Venta. Upon arrival at the sight of a gate, take a footpath that goes to the left (W) and enter the forest. Soon, you will be on another track; take it to the right (NW) and, a few meters away, near a bridge, turn to the left, crossing a fence for a wicket and continue going up by a blurred footpath under the trees, leaving a ravine to the right. So, you will get to the esplanade of Campamento (camp) de La Peñota, large meadow at the foot of a wooded hillside. Cross the meadow and, near a building, find a footpath marked with red paint disks that enters into the pine forest. Follow it, until reaching Colladillo del Rey, actually a shoulder that makes the southeastern ridge of La Peñota. There you'll find the end of a dirt road. Follow it for a few meters until seeing on the left (NW) the cairns that will guide you to overcome this slope. The climb is steep and alternates sections of walking with areas of scrambling by rocks, where the cairns indicate how to pass easily.
When you finally leave the pine forest, you will be faced with the rocks which form the eastern peak of La Peñota. There is a small pillar of stone on the highest one. Beyond to the west, you can see the main summit. Five or ten minutes are enough to reach it but isn’t needed; our path is to the north.
To the east, in the other side of the valley, the end of the route can be seen: a long hill that gently downward from the left (W) end of Siete Picos toward Cercedilla. But to get there, you still need to surround this valley. To begin, go to the north, taking a trail that goes along the divide and is marked with red and white paint. In Europe, this is the sign of GR (long distance trail); this is the GR.10, that goes from Lisboa to Valencia. Faced with you, the next targets: Peña del Águila, Cerro Minguete and Puerto (Pass) de la Fuenfría, head of the valley.
The trail between La Peñota and peña del Águila, passing by Collado (Pass) de Cerromalejo, has an average slope and a good floor, apart from being well marked. From the vast summit of Peña del Águila, you can see on your left the crest of La Mujer Muerta towering Garganta (Gorge) del Espinar.
Continue to the northeast by the ridge, always on the same trail, and go to Collado (Pass) de Marichiva prior to Peña (Rock) Bercial. In that pass, the GR.10 trail, that you have been following from La Peñota, leaves the crest to continue horizontally across the eastern (right) slope. So, let the road after crossing a stone wall on the ridge, and go along it to the left and by its eastern (right) side until find some cairns marking a path that climbs the southern slope of Peña Bercial. Follow them to reach the top of this hill by the most convenient path among the bushes.
Upon arriving near the summit rocks of Peña Bercial, the footpath turn to the right to avoid it, reaching the ridge halfway between that point and Cerro Minguete, where you will come in a few minutes. Cerro Minguete is a secondary peak but a superb viewponit; a good place to take a break and looking back to the covered ridge from La Peñota.
To the other side, you will see the next peaks in the route: Cerro Ventoso and Siete Picos. First, go down to the east, following cairns-marked footptah, up to Puerto (pass) of Fuenfría, head of this valley. Go up directly by the ridge of the opposite hill. There is a footpath in the right side but is unnecessary to follow it because this slope is a open woodland not very steep, nice to walk. Soon after leaving back the pine trees, you will reach the summit of Cerro Ventoso, a wide and elongated ridge with its highest point at the western end. There, you will find the footpath above mentioned. Take it and walk towards the other side, with the crest of Cuerda Larga as a background.
When reaching the eastern edge of the hill, the path goes down to Collado Ventoso. Cross the pass and look for some cairns marking a path that goes up to the south, toward the western edge of the summit crest of Siete Picos. When trees let behind, you will be at the foot of the summit rocks of Segundo Pico. To your back, you can see Cerros Minguete y Ventoso under the peaks of Mujer Muerta y Montón de Trigo.
From the gap between the second and third peaks, go up to your right (SW) to another gap, between the two points of Segundo Pico. The higher one is the southern (left in the photo) and, from there, you can climb it easily by a gully and some stacked blocks (UIAA I / 5 ms). This peak is not a true summit but is the highest point in the route and another great viewpoint. To the east, you can see the summit crest of Seven Peaks and the heights of Cuerda Larga. To the other side, Valle de la Fuenfría under the western ridge, first part of the route. At your feet, the first peak of Siete Picos, also called Majalasna, next stage of the route. If you want to climb to the Siete Picos main summit (the easternmost) you must go to the East along the crest, following a footpath that avoids the succesive rocks, for about half an hour or 45 minutes. If you want to achieve the complete route, take it in account that the time will increase in one or two hours.
Go back up the gap between the peaks 2nd and 3rd and take a footpath marked with cairns that goes down southward, entering among the pine trees. This is a very winding trail, that leads by the easiest path through a steep and rough slope, among rocks, bushes and small trees. Upon arriving at Majalasna, you can see at your back one of the most classical perspectives of the Guadarrama mountain area: the Segundo Pico rising over the pines. You will also see, to the other side, the First Peak beyond a small meadow. It is not compulsory but, if you want to climb it, it's easy by the gully that appears in the photo in the middle of the rock and then a few meters to the right by stacked blocks.
From the prairie, cross it southward following some wooden stakes that lead to the pines limit and to a road that begins there. It cross the forest and is marked with orange discs painted in the trees, following closely the hill ridge by its left (E) side. This trail goes up to another meadow, called Navarrulaque, where you will find the so-called Road of the Republic, a failed project, now closed to traffic and turned in a paradise for bikers and walkers. Takes it to the left, walking in the shadow of Seven Peaks.
Upon arriving at a lookout point, take a footpath marked with yellow paint that leaves the road toward the left (SW) through a landing known as La Concha, before going into the pine forest. Later, this footpath joints Vereda de Enmedio and the paint color changes, but there is no doubt, always following downward the painted signals, you will arrive to a pass called Las Eras. Then, leave the trail and climb soutward the slope on the other side, which is soft and covered with pine trees scattered on the grass. When leaving back the trees on the top of this hill, you can look back to see the path from Navarrulaque and the beautiful south side of Siete Picos. After passing the highest point of this small hill (point 1,378), continue to the south. There is no road and the scrub closes but the passage is short and you will arrive in a few minutes at Collado de los Burros. Once there, leave the ridge, turning to the right (NW) to take a footpath that goes down to the valley. Soon after, when reaching a wider trail marked with blue discs, take it to the left (S). It gently leads to Cercedilla under the pines, entering the town by a street that, taken to the left leads to the town center and, to the rigth, to Fuenfría road.
No technical equipment is required. Only the adequate clothes and other individual elements for medium / high mountain hiking in temperate areas. In winter this is a very good route for snowshoes.
Regional mountain weather forecast: Spanish government weather agency.
You can find additional information about Cercedilla (tourism, accomodations, etc.) in this links:
Town Hall Website.
Cercedilla in pueblos-net.
If you don't understand completely the text on this page or you want to practice another languages or simply you are a little eager, you can find the original issue in Spanish in the website Pirineos3000.com (La versión original en español de esta página se encuentra en Pirineos3000.com)