Peña del Olivar Recreational Area – Segura de la Sierra Captura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 13.17.18

Distance: 19,5 Km

This stage of the Southern Woodlans Trail boasts a wide variety of landscapes within the low mountain areas of the natural park, where pine groves alternate with areas of Mediterranean understorey, olive groves and small villages and hamlets.

In the area surrounding Siles you will find a beautiful mosaic of pine and olive groves and you will enter one of the finest Aleppo pine woods within the natural park featuring two giant specimens of this species that are inscribed in the Inventory of Singular Trees of Andalusia.

We might approach the remains of the small Castle of Puente Honda, half hidden beneath the undergrowth of the woods, and stroll along a delightful bridle path that sets out from Los Estrechos recreational area, affording views of the Hispano-Moresque towers of Santa Catalina and the rolling fields of olive groves of the River Trujula valley.

The day’s outing could not draw to a close in better fashion: the stage finalises in Segura de la Sierra, a small village that has been declared a historical and artistic site, where visitors can enjoy the municipality’s privileged location, castle, which should form a part of any visitor’s itinerary, and traditional architecture.

Segura de la Sierra – El Campillo Forest House RefugeCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 13.50.37

Distance: 10 Km

This short stage, which, for the most part, travels along traditional paths, allows us to appreciate the transition from the low mountain landscapes bearing a strong human influence and the lush expanses of forest in the heights, becoming familiar with the three types of pine grove that displace one another as we gain altitude: Aleppo pine groves, black pine groves and maritime pine groves.

The route commences in Segura de la Sierra, a small white village perched on a hilltop boasting a restored Moorish castle that bears testimony to the fact that this municipality was once the administrative centre of the Sierra de Segura region. It descends amidst pines and ilexes to the enchanting Trujala valley and the village bearing the same name, which is spread over a wide area, wherein pine groves, limestone outcrops, mountain olive groves, gardens and small farms are combined in perfect harmony.

Passing close to the Puente Moro [bridge] and the Romillán Roman bridge, we ascend to the Dehesa de la Carnicera, changing our surroundings and entering a magnificent black pine forest, boasting an abundance of ilexes, gall oaks and juniper trees. The stage draws to a close at El Campillo Forest House, in the very heart of the black pine woodlands. From here we have various options, all of which entail signposted routes: continue towards Hornos de Segura via the GR 247 Southern Woodlans Trail; climb to the summit of El Yelmo; or descend into the enchanting River Madera valley.

This stage enables connection with alternative route GR 247.1. If you decide to take the alternative route, you can connect with stages 19 and 20 and subsequent stages. This will allow you to complete a shorter circuit than the main circuit, taking in the northern stages of the trail.

El Campillo Forest House Refuge – Hornos de SeguraCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 13.54.58

Distance: 16,3 Km

This stage joins the beautiful maritime pine groves of the slopes of El Yelmo with the historical and artistic site of Hornos de Segura, enabling us to enjoy a wonderful variety of environments, from natural woodlands to areas bearing a stronger human influence.

This stage commences along the beautiful asphalted forest track that climbs to the summit of El Yelmo, subsequently abandoning the slopes of this peak to traverse the slopes of its sister, El Yelmo Chico. We are afforded the opportunity of contemplating the mountain’s peculiar rock formations, featuring impressive cliffs, ravines and peaks with fanciful forms. The slopes of this mountain also afford magnificent and comprehensive panoramas, as the route in this area is almost circular. We will be able to contemplate El Tranco reservoir, the beautiful village of Hornos de Segura, the olive groves in the area surrounding Cortijos Nuevos, El Yelmo, the highest peak in the area, and the impressive dense forest masses of the ravine of Hornos.

From the enchanting village of La Capellanía, boasting a fountain-washing place that affords a viewpoint overlooking the ravine, the route descends alongside the stream known as the Arroyo de las Aceitunas, amidst Aleppo pine woods and old abandoned vegetable gardens, before finally climbing to Hornos de Segura through a mosaic of pine groves and small groves of mountain olives. This small village is perched aloft a rocky base, crowned by an old Moorish castle that has been restored as a planetarium and astronomical visitor centre. Strolling through the narrow streets of Hornos and the surrounding area is highly recommended, allowing visitors to contemplate the waters of the large reservoir of El Tranco, flanked by high mountain peaks.

The entire area facilitates the observation of birds of prey, including the golden eagle, and large mammals such as the Spanish ibex and the wild boar.

Hornos de Segura – Los Parrales Recreational AreaCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 13.57.23

Distance: 8,7 Km

This stage traverses the low mountains of the interior of the natural park, amidst a landscape that is a mosaic of pine groves, small groves of holm oaks, villages and hillsides blanketed with olive woods. The route commences in the beautiful village of Hornos de Segura, declared a historical and artistic site, which affords a view of a large portion of the important territory taken in by the Southern Woodlans Trail. The village’s castle has been renovated and now serves as a planetarium and astronomical visitor centre.

The olive groves that we traverse afford the landscape a distinct personality, growing on steep slopes and continuously intermixed with patches of forest. These olive groves are of vital importance in terms of the economy, traditional culture and day-to-day lives of the peoples within the park. The area at one of the extremities of El Tranco reservoir is a traditional resting place and stopping point along a droveway for transhumance. The beginning of June and December mark the points of ascent to and descent from the high mountain pasturelands.

This stage draws to a close at Los Parrales Recreational Area, affording one of the best views overlooking El Tranco reservoir, which covers what were once the meadowlands of Hornos and, boasting a capacity of almost 500 cubic hectometres, is one of the largest in Andalusia. It is a delight to contemplate the calm waters that reflect the woodlands on the slopes of the mountains that surround the reservoir.

This stage is very short, affording a leisurely stroll close to the banks of the reservoir along a signposted path, with little or no gradient and amidst surroundings of great beauty.

Los Parrales Recreational Area – Hoya de los Trevejiles Forest HouseCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 13.59.52

Distance: 17, 5 Km

Throughout this stage we are afforded spectacular views of El Tranco reservoir and panoramas of the Sierras of Segura and Las Villas.

The route commences close to Los Parrales Recreational Area, an excellent spot in which to contemplate the magnificent landscape formed by the reservoir and the surrounding mountains. The trail traverses extensive maritime pine woods that shade a dense Mediterranean understorey composed of junipers, Phoenician junipers, several species of cistus and aromatic shrubs, such as rosemary, thyme and marjoram.

A small section of this stage brings us closer to farming culture and the hardships of the transhumant shepherd as it runs along a droveway. The shepherds of the municipality of Santiago-Pontones still use the droveway to move Segura sheep from the high mountain pasturelands of the natural park to the eastern spurs of Sierra Morena, in the region of El Condado, on an annual basis.

Just before we reach kilometre 7, there is a signposted detour running for 1.4 kilometres that leads us to the summit known as the Risca del Guijarrón (or Quijarón), a climb that should form a part of any itinerary as the views are unforgettable.

The stage draws to a close at the Hoya de Los Trevejiles Forest House, which is certain to cause an impression as, in its heyday, it was once of the most luxurious in these sierras, to which its size, garden areas and swimming pool (no longer in use) attest, featuring a distinct pop style. These features, combined with an abundance of water and magnificent views, make this a perfect resting spot following the walk, although it must be borne in mind that the refuge is not fitted out and attention should be drawn to the contents of the section focusing on overnight stays, camping and bivouacking in the chapter entitled “Enjoying the GR 247 Woodlands of the South Trail”. Visitors are encouraged to acquire information in relation to accommodation in the surrounding area.

Hoya de los Trevejiles Forest House – Fuente de los Cerezos Controlled Camping AreaCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.02.54

Distance: 14,7 Km

This stage passes through the natural park’s lowlands, at an altitude of 550-950 metres. The terrain is steep, with extensive views along the entire itinerary. Attention should be drawn to the wealth of plant and animal life in the area. We set out from the Hoya de los Trevejiles Forest House, which, given its location, state of conservation and architecture, is one of the finest forest houses in the natural park. We descend to the lowest part of the River Guadalquivir valley, visiting the Charco del Aceite Recreational Area with its outstanding bathing area of cold, crystal-clear water before crossing the Agustines bridge, one of the few entrances to the Sierra of Las Villas. Winding through mountain olive groves and forests of pine, walnut trees, strawberry trees, lentisks, holm oaks and kermes oak, the trail leads to the natural balcony of Ermita de la Hoz. From there, we can gaze over the vast expanses of olive groves stretching out towards Iznatoraf, whilst contemplating the Picos del Guijarrón (or Quijarón) and the summits of Beas, Poyo de Andaragasca and Lancha del Tosero.

The vertical limestone rock faces impose a winding itinerary, along which large griffon vultures follow our steps from overhead while we come across deer, wild boar and mountain goats in some of the most beautiful spots in this area. We will also become familiar with the age-old lifestyle of the sparse population of these mountains, where, for centuries, the locals have painstakingly striven to gain land from the rocky terrain in which to grow olive trees, orchards, vegetables and grain.

Fuente de los Cerezos Controlled Camping Area – La Parra Forest House RefugeCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.05.14

Distance: 14,3 Km

This stage traverses the isolated, rugged terrain and steep slopes of the Sierra de Las Villas. We are greeted by large geomorphological formations featuring the profiles that are so characteristic of this area, such as Piedra del Enjambre, Lancha del Tosero and Caballo de La Albarda. This geological landscape, known as a nappe structure, is one of the most striking areas in the natural park. The compressing forces that formed the Baetic Cordillera did not cause the strata to fold and curve, as is the case in other parts of these mountains. Rather, they fractured and overlapped each other, giving rise to a succession of oblique slopes and sheer vertical cliffs.

In some places, such as at the rock formation known as El Tosero, we are afforded magnificent panoramic views looking towards La Mancha or towards the spectacular heights of Las Lagunillas, within the Sierra de Las Villas. Griffon vultures and Spanish ibex abound.

The short ascent to Caballo Torraso – described in diversion 3 of the Southern Woodlans Trail – leads us to a spot that affords one of the best views within the natural park. It is an absolutely essential complement to this stage that should form a part of any itinerary. The route ends in the old forest house of La Parra, which has been fitted out to serve as a refuge set within an idyllic setting.

La Parra Forest House Refuge – Majalserbal RefugeCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.07.29

Distance: 12 Km

The landscape we traverse in this stage features geological formations of tightly folded nappes, with limestone formations and dolomites that make very rugged, steep slopes. This area deserves its renown as one of the most spectacular stretches of the trail due to the sheer rock faces, rocky outcrops and level platforms that mark the way all along our trail.

We start the itinerary at La Parra forest house, which has been fitted out to serve as a refuge where trail users can spend the night. In addition to the breathtaking scenery in the area of the cave El Peinero and the San Ginés gorge, we follow part of the Aguascebas Grande and Aguascebas de Gil Cobo, two spectacular mountain streams that gush through narrow gaps in the rock in a succession of waterfalls. The area boasts two excellent recreational areas.

The botanical diversity is remarkable, with forests of pine intermingled with other species that grow in greater profusion here than elsewhere in the natural park: Phoenician junipers, box trees, a large number of common junipers and a few ancient yew trees. The highlight of the itinerary is the gorge known as Cerrada de San Ginés, which is home to several endemic botanical species.

Towards the end of the route, we ascend to an altitude of 1440 metres onto the flat rock table known as Lancha de la Escalera, on more rugged, treeless terrain. Here the view opens onto the Perenoso pass, and the Pedro Miguel and Agrión peaks, among other landmarks. We can spend the night in the byre in Majalserbal, fitted out as a refuge for hikers in a solitary spot with unforgettable views.

Steep terrain, rich in plant and animal life adapted to water and crags, such as amphibians, fish, and small birds and mammals, as well as a great many deer and wild boar in the densely forested areas.

Majalserbal Refuge- La Zarza Forest House RefugeCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.09.11

Distance: 12,95 Km

This stage traverses a sparsely populated area that allows us to appreciate a landscape full of contrasts. From the precipitous headwaters of the Aguascebas de Gil Cobo we climb to the magnificent Lancha de la Escalera, from where we will be able to contemplate a large section of the Sierra de las Villas, the Loma de Úbeda, the Sierra de Cazorla and even Sierra Nevada. We traverse the Llanura de Jabalcaballo, a plateau at an altitude of 1400-1500 metres, with few trees, which constitutes one of the most unique and harshest environments ever settled by humans in their search of fresh pastures. From the summits of Piedras Rubias we initiate the descent, walking along an old Roman road until we come to the densely forested slopes of the Guadalquivir valley where La Zarza forest house is ensconced.

The most important heights that mark our route are Morrón del Cerezo, Peña Corva, El Pardal and Caballo de La Zarza, with altitudes ranging from 1477 to 1587 metres. The forests of black pines and maritime pines are intermixed with ancient groves of gall oaks, junipers, Phoenicean junipers and a few short stretches of box woods. In this area, renowned for its wealth of wildlife, in addition to vultures and other birds of prey, we can spot deer, fallow deer, Spanish ibex and wild boar.

La Zarza Forest House Refuge- La IruelaCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.11.04

Distance: 20,82 Km

This long stage traverses the natural park’s westernmost mountains. The itinerary passes through two very different landscapes. The eastern stretch takes in the valley formed by the headwaters of the River Guadalquivir, which flows northward. It is a very important section from an ecological point of view, flanked by massive, densely forested limestone mountains that soar to a height of over 1500 metres. To the west lie the farmlands of the La Loma region and the valley formed by the River Guadalquivir as it turns south, beyond the borders of the natural park. These vast expanses of rolling hills and distant horizons are covered in a sea of olive trees.

The entire first part of the itinerary follows a forest track until it reaches Las Palomas Pass. From there, re-opened paths alternate with reforestation tracks leading up to the summit known as Cuerda del Viñuela. From there, we continue along one of the most rugged bridle paths in the Southern Woodlans Trail, featuring stone walls, dry-stone paving and impressive dry-stone works, until we reach Virgen de la Cabeza Chapel, not far from La Iruela y Cazorla.

It should be remembered that the intersection with the alternative route GR 247.2 –Stage 2– is at the beginning of this stage. It affords an optional itinerary that connects to the valley and, on the second day, with Stages 16 and 17.

In the vicinity of Las Palomas Pass, the route traverses an extensive area that was destroyed by a forest fire in 2001. Despite this, we find an astonishing amount of outstanding botanical species and wildlife here. Forests of black pine and maritime pines, holm oaks, gall oaks, common and Phoenicean junipers, terebinths, hawthorn trees, maple trees and undergrowth densely interspersed by box provide the ideal conditions for large herbivores, birds of prey, scavengers and numerous insectivorous birds.

At the end of the route, upon arriving at Virgen de la Cabeza Chapel, we have the option of ending the stage at La Iruela or entering Cazorla via another signposted trail: the GR 7. The two towns are listed as historical and artistic sites and boast a broad range of tourist facilities and services that afford an enjoyable break before we continue on our way. Cazorla is the starting point for another two stages of the Southern Woodlans Trail: Stage 11, which leads to the Collado Zamora Forest House Refuge; and Stage 1 of the GR 247.3 alternative route, which would lead us to the Sacejo forest house refuge next to the Parador de Cazorla (a state-run hotel in a historical building).

Cazorla – Collado Zamora Forest House RefugeCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.16.53

Distance: 13 Km

This itinerary traverses the westernmost area of the park. It commences in the town of Cazorla, a historical and artistic site, and goes uphill, rapidly gaining height until it opens on to expansive views over the surrounding countryside and the towns of Iznatoraf, Chilluévar, Villacarrillo, Santo Tomé, Peal de Becerro and Quesada.

The GR 247.3 alternative route starts near the beginning of this stage, where the river Cerezuelo enters the town of Cazorla, as explained in the relevant chapter of this topographical guide.

Leaving Cazorla and the Castle of La Yedra behind us, we soon come to the castle known as the Castillo de las Cinco Esquinas [Castle of the Five Corners], or Salvatierra Castle, a 12th century defensive tower built on top of a steep, treeless hill. Another important point along this stage is the Montesión monastery, which belongs to the order of the hermits of San Antonio and San Pablo. For many years it was inhabited by a single person, Brother Antonio, who led a life of daily prayer and seclusion.

The small clusters of Aleppo pines of the beginning give way to holm oaks, maritime pines and, towards the end, black pines interspersed with terebinths and hawthorn trees.

The cliffs known as the Cortados del Chorro, half-way along the stage, constitute one of the best places in the park for the observation of griffon vultures, birds of prey and corvids. In summer, we can even observe the occasional pair of Egyptian vultures who find in this area a restful stopover before making the return flight to spend the winter in sub-Saharan Africa.

We can appreciate the rocky folds that rise up near Collado Zamora, forming striking shapes that demonstrate the forces of nature and the relative youth of these mountains. They are made up of layers or strata that emerged from the seabed millions of years ago, as evidenced by the presence of marine animal fossils, which are relatively easy to find.

The view when we arrive at Collado Zamora is stunning, for we can make out the Béjar Ravine, Frío Hill and Leganillo Ridge, the Guadiana Menor river basin, La Magdalena Hill, Vítar and the Sierra Mágina massif, another natural park in the province of Jaén. When visibility is good, we can also contemplate Sierra Nevada National Park, in the province of Granada, which boasts the highest peaks on the Spanish mainland.

Collado Zamora Refuge – Belerda Captura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.18.35

Distance: 17,8 Km

A long, 18-kilometre stage during which we descend for more than 700 metres to traverse the southernmost area of the natural park. During the first part we can contemplate sweeping views over the countryside in the provinces of Jaén and Granada, as well as the Sierra Mágina and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. The landscape is rugged and steep, with large rocky outcrops and limestone cliffs that determine our direction along the entire itinerary. Pine forests predominate until we arrive at the Tíscar Pass, after which the landscape bears a stronger human influence.

Most of the stage runs along a lonely forest track in the El Garbanzal ravine, which was used to transport wood out of these forests in the 20th century. We cross the Béjar Stream, the streams at the cave known as Cueva de Jaén and in El Moro ravine, and the river Extremera. We also walk along a striking passage known as Pasada de Bosques, under the vertical cliffs of Picones de Fique, where the track is so narrow that there is hardly room for a vehicle to pass. It was turned into a forest track thirty years ago owing to the persistence and tenacity of a forest ranger whose surname was Bosques (Woods). With imagination and an enormous amount of masonry work, he managed to widen the old bridle path to provide a quick evacuation route in the event of a forest fire and for other purposes, thus avoiding the need to make a long detour.

At the Tíscar Pass we can contemplate the Tower of the Infante Don Enrique, a round 16th century watchtower whose entrance is set high above the ground to fulfil its purpose of keeping a watch over the troops towards the Nasrid kingdom of Granada. Further on, the Tíscar Sanctuary and its watchtower, located between the peak known as Peña Negra and Caballo Hill, hark back to the days when it was a borderland for nearly two centuries after the Christian reconquest in 1319. The Sanctuary is also evidence of the fervour professed to the Virgin of Tíscar by the inhabitants of Quesada and the surrounding area. Close by we come to a striking cave known as the Cueva del Agua (Water Cave), where the river Tíscar has sculpted the rock of Mount Caballo, forming a singular cave that we should not be miss visiting.

The villages of Don Pedro and Belerda, whose deep-rooted traditions and customs have stood the test of time, are set among limestone peaks and crags that indicate the end of a stage that is full of contrasts.

Belerda – El Hornico Nature Study CentreCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.20.56

Distance: 20,26 Km

This stage of the Southern Woodlans Trail traverses the southernmost area of the natural park: Sierra del Pozo, to be precise. We will walk through the mountains that served as a refuge for the last guerrillas in Jaén who fought against the dictatorship during the Spanish civil war in 1936-39. These paths, included in the Route of the Maquis of Quesada, are the same ones the maquis used until 1952, the year the guerrilla Manuel Calderón Jiménez, alias El Ramiro, was killed by the Civil Guard. After that, the last members of the resistance movement in Jaén were dispersed.

The route traverses a natural balcony between two different worlds. One is the river basin of the Guadiana Menor, a major tributary of the river Guadalquivir that is 152 kilometres long and flows through the provinces of Jaén and Granada. The river basin constitutes a semi-arid desert with scarce precipitation and an accelerated natural erosion process that forms ravines in a highly degraded landscapes known as badlands. On the other side of the great plain, two massifs are easily distinguished: Sierra Mágina in the foreground, to the west, which is another of the natural parks in the Subbaetic mountains of Jaén; and in the background, much further away and to the south, we contemplate the Sierra Nevada massif.

The depressions and ravines in the mountains we are traversing plummet down to the arid plain. These are rugged mountains with summits that soar to an altitude of more than 200 metres of grey and ochre rock combined with lush vegetation of varying hues of green.

The itinerary climbs uphill to a summit at an altitude of 1595 metres, close to Puntal del Gato, and goes downhill from there to the plain known as Llanos de la Puerca, very close to El Hornico nature study centre. In addition to griffon vultures and other birds of prey, we can also observe thrushes and small insectivores, as well as Spanish ibex, mouflons, fallow deer and wild boar, who find this terrain propitious.

To the poceños, as the townspeople of Pozo Alcón are known, La Bolera is an emblematic reservoir with a capacity of 55 cubic hectometres and surface area of 240 hectares. It lends a northern atmosphere to the southern landscape and boasts many highly attractive places, – the most notable of which is Hoyo de los Pinos –, as well as a dam, pier and bathing areas. The Botanical Collection in El Hornico, a garden featuring many of the most representative species of flora within the natural park, is also to be recommended stop for visitors.

El Hornico Nature Study Centre – Fuente Acero Forest House RefugeCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.23.07

Distance: 21,41 Km

Most of this long stage traverses Sierra del Pozo, with the river Guadalentín running through its centre. It links El Hornico and Fuente Acero, with a gradient of just over 500 metres in between. This provides an opportunity to discover very diverse landscapes, from the temperate pasture lands near the stage’s starting point to the purely mountain environments at the end.

Taking a short detour, we can walk along the waterfalls known as Cascadas del Guazalamanco and continue from there along the renowned Pescadores Trail up the river Guadalentín. In Cerrada de la Herradura we will see how the river Guadalentín flows through a narrow gap between high rock cliffs. Further on, we pass by the ruins of some old farmhouses, such as the Tontos farmhouse and El Puntal de Ana María forest house, where we can appreciate evidence of the traditional life style in these mountains. At the same time we enjoy stunning views sweeping all the way to the summits of Sierra Nevada mountains.

Further on, we are able to contemplate the Guadalentín Ravine from above. From there, we initiate the descent along the historical droveway called Cañada del Mesto and walk along the river Guadalentín, following the river banks on the longest stretch of the GR 247 trail. After a break in the quiet spot known as Vado de las Carretas, we arrive at Barranco del Guadalentín Forest House in a spectacular setting presided by the jagged Poyos de la Carilarga cliffs.

Along the route we traverse Aleppo pine woods; one of the best clusters of terebinths in the park; beautiful holm oak forests; and a magnificent oak grove; as well as box woods, tall old black pines and very well-preserved riverside vegetation at different points. Vultures, birds of prey and the park’s characteristic large mammals (including deer, fallow deer and Spanish ibex) are frequently spotted all along the trail.

The end of this stage connects to the GR 247.3 alternative route. If you decide to take it, you can link up to stages 10 and 11 directly.

Fuente Acero Forest House Refuge – Rambla Seca Refuge Captura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.25.40

Distance: 11,42 Km

This short stage in the southwestern part of the park traverses areas of great ecological importance. In fact, the Navahondona-Guadahornillos Reserve is always on the left side of the trail. It runs through the park at a considerable altitude of 1500-1600 metres, along a forest track over nearly flat terrain.

The areas we travel over are part of the extensive kingdom of black pines, of which we will have the opportunity to appreciate some notable specimens. The black pine known as Pino Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente is particularly outstanding. Its name is a tribute to the unforgettable exponent of the natural world in Spain in the 1970s, who chose these locations to film one of his most renowned nature documentaries.

The route never loses sight of the high elevations of Sierra de La Cabrilla, a massif with the highest concentration of 2000 metre peaks in the natural park, including Alto de La Cabrilla, Pico de Las Covachas, Cerro de Los Tornajos and Empanadas. The latter, soaring to a height of 2107 metres, is the tallest peak in the park. On clear days, we can see all the way to Sierra Nevada. The path also affords a glimpse of the spectacular Guadalentín valley along some stretches.

A detour of 4.5 kilometre provides an opportunity to discover Valdeazores lake, one of the most beautiful spots in the park. It is a detour worth considering, in view of the short length of this stage.

The fauna is one of the main attractions of this stage. If we pay attention, it is very common to spot wild boar, fallow deer, mouflons, deer and Spanish ibex. The stage ends in the ravine known as Rambla Seca, where we are surprised by a radical change of scenery: the world of trees gives way to pastures and sweeping panoramic views over treeless, rough terrain of stirring beauty. It is the beginning of the Campos de Hernán Perea plateau.

Rambla Seca Refuge – Campo del Espino RefugeCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.27.35

Distance: 13,60 Km

This stage of the Southern Woodlans Trail traverses one of the most grandiose and authentic locations in the natural park: the plateau known as Los Campos de Hernán Perea. The terrain is almost level, yet full of dolines and chasms that are so characteristic of a karstic landscape, and flanked by the park’s highest peaks, such as Empanadas, Puerto Lézar and El Banderillas. Extended over more than 5000 hectares, Los Campos has sometimes been described as a moonscape, in which the funnel-shaped dolines would be the craters.

This is a livestock route, because part of the trail traverses droveways. It is home to most of the livestock in the natural park, which is best represented by the Segura sheep, a race well adapted to these mountains. In fact, one particularity of the area we are traversing is that it is the only area in the natural park where the population’s main source of income is from sheep herding, rather than the olive growing.

We will have a very different impression of this itinerary, depending on the time of year it is when we traverse it. In winter there are heavy snowfalls, whereas in spring the pastures are green pastures and there is plenty of water. The landscape is harsher and drier in summer and autumn, but that is when it is at its liveliest, with thousands of heads of cattle grazing here. This stage is essential at any time of year for those who want to explore the entire natural park.

At the end of the stage we have two options. One kilometre before the end we come to the starting point for derivation 5, which leads to the summit of El Banderillas. The starting point for the alternative route GR 247.2 is next to the Campos del Espino refuge, along a steep, breathtaking path leading down to the Guadalquivir Valley.

Campo del Espino Refuge – PontonesCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.29.22

Distance: 15,15 Km

This is one of the stages that traverses the breathtaking plateau of Los Campos de Hernán Perea, at an average altitude of 1600 m. Historically, this vast territory was deforested to clear pastures for Segura sheep. The sweeping views are stunning, surrounded by tall mountains, such as Calar de las Palomas on the right and Pinar del Risco on the left. In winter, the area is covered in snow. In spring, it boasts alpine meadows. Year round, it is home to an age-old livestock raising tradition that is worthy of the highest recognition. Griffon vultures and kestrels wheel overhead as we travel along the track.

The stretch that traverses Los Campos has almost no trees, but the barrenness is compensated by distant horizons and a profound impression of being in one of the most remote, authentic and little-known areas of the Andalusian mountains. Actually, the impression of solitude is not quite accurate, because it is very common to come across the shepherds who are tending their herds of Segura sheep in this eminently livestock farming area.

We will discover one of the most distinctive characteristics of the natural park: the source of the river Segura, which seeps from a spectacular pool of crystal-clear water. The water flows from a cave that forms part of an underground system that collects the heavy rains that fall on the Campos de Hernán Perea plain. Nearby, the rock paintings in the caves known as Abrigo de La Cañada de la Cruz are evidence that humans found these mountains hospitable thousands of years ago.

This stage begins next to the starting point of the GR 247.2 alternative route. Derivation 6 of the GR 247 starts near the source of the river Segura. A short walk further on, it leads to the Juan León viewpoint overlooking the Segura and Guadalquivir river valleys.

Pontones – La Toba
Captura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.30.59

Distance: 19,10 km

Beyond doubt this is one of the stages that boasts the greatest contrasts of the entire Southern Woodlans Trail. It is the third and last trail that traverses the stark livestock farmlands of the extensive municipal area of Santiago-Pontones and ends by plunging down to the Segura river valley, where there is plenty of water and the scenery is forest again.

The inhabitants of the town of Pontones, at the starting point of this stage, are known aspontoneros, and they are livestock farmers by tradition. They are an excellent source of information on the secrets of their land, because Segura sheep that graze here have been the mainstay of their economy for centuries. They also remain strongly attached to their customs and traditions.

Most of the stage traverses pasture lands that feature few trees and have an average altitude of 1400-1600 metres. Despite the height, the abundance of shrubs and the presence of a few crops along the trail mitigate the stark environment traversed in the preceding stages. These are solitary landscapes, but traces of human presence can still be perceived in the form of shepherds, flocks of sheep, byres and small farmsteads.

The route ends in a descent to the Segura river valley, down a slope that bears the meaningful name of Cuesta de Despiernacaballos (literally, Horse Legbreaker Slope). Further on, under black pines, we can appreciate a view of the steep Poyos de la Toba, which are rocky formations of stunning shapes. Toward the end of the itinerary, we traverse an area of lush vegetation and can hear the river Segura in the background. The stage ends in the village of La Toba, were hikers can enjoy the views overlooking the Segura river valley, which boasts many springs and a rural atmosphere.

La Toba – Prado Maguillo (El Bodegón Forest House Refuge)Captura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.32.34

Distance: 9,6 Km

This stage is short but intensive owing to the number and variety of its attractions, which fully compensate hikers’ efforts. Traversing this route we enjoy broad views overlooking the highest peaks, immense forests of black pines and small hamlets with white houses, hidden in the mountains, that are the true pillars of traditional life in Andalusia’s alpine mountains and still inhabited, such as La Toba (which boasts a gushing water source in a cave), Fuente del Esparto, Los Anchos and Prado Maguillo. The latter two are in a lovely valley that has been photographed a thousand times, where the local architecture is fairly well preserved.

The route traverses the Segura river valley and enters the narrower and more isolated valley of Los Anchos. After crossing the river Segura, we arrive at tiny hamlets, some of which are now uninhabited. Next, we go uphill, traversing pine woods with common vultures and golden eagles wheel overhead, until we come to the spectacular Paso de la Viga, a narrow passage in the rock that opens on to an unexpected natural balcony overlooking Los Anchos valley.

From there, we go downhill to traverse peaceful farmlands, many of which have been abandoned, dotted with clusters of poplars that add a warm touch of yellow in autumn. The hamlets of Los Anchos and Prado Maguillo seem suspended in the past. In them we can observe many details of the traditional mountain architecture and take the time to gaze at the view of this quiet valley nestled between tall mountains. It is interesting to visit the amazing Alma Serrana [Mountain Soul] Ethnological Collection, located in a highly scenic area, that houses an endless list of objects belonging to all the traditional trades.

At the start of the stage, you can also take the opportunity to enjoy derivation 7 of the GR 247, which runs along the banks of the mysterious Las Anchuricas reservoir. The end of the stage coincides with the starting point of the GR 247.1 alternative route that connects to stages 1 and 2 in Segura de la Sierra in two days.

Prado Maguillo (El Bodegón Forest House Refuge) – Era del Fustal RefugeCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.34.34

Distance: 17,35 km

This stage traverses the northeastern area of the park and most of it runs through woodlands where the predominant black pines are of the sort that grow in the flattened limestone mountains, known as calares, that are so frequently found in the northern area of the natural park. The stage starts in Los Anchos, one of the most picturesque valleys in the park, with charming hamlets that still preserve the traditional architecture.

Most of the stage is designed to make use of forest tracks, which is only logical, considering that we traverse an area rich in forests that have been exploited for timber for time immemorial. La Cañada del Saucar is the only hamlet we will come across. It is the starting point for diversion 8 of the GR 247 trail that climbs up to Puntal de la Misa, in the great Calar del Cobo, which constitutes one of the best viewpoints in Sierra de Segura.

The route traverses several points that afford a privileged position for contemplating stunning panoramic views, such as the Góntar Pass, El Ventano Pass and Poyo de la Víbora. Very close to the Góntar Pass, although off the track, we find La Raja, a tall, very narrow crevice that we can pass through.

We should also mention the ecological importance of most of the area traversed by the route, which runs through the El Espino mountain, in the Acebeas-Nava del Espino Reserve, an especially protected area that is home to plant species that grow in very few places. Some of the species are even in danger of extinction.

Maple trees and holly line the trail at certain points. We also traverse tranquil spots that were once inhabited, such as the charming little valley at the headwaters of Fuente del Tajo stream, where fallow deer and other deer are attracted by the old fruit trees that are no longer cared for. Large wild animals proliferate throughout the area traversed by this stage, where it is a common occurrence to observe the flight of golden eagles and hear the bellows of stags in the autumn rutting season.

The stage also enables access to derivation 9, one of the most attractive paths on the Southern Woodlans Trail. It climbs up to Calar del Espino, in the heart of the reserve, where we can discern the vast horizons of the provinces of Jaén and Albacete. We highly recommend taking the diversion because the trail’s short circular loop at the top of the mountain gives the exhilarating impression of walking on a huge balcony that opens on to all four directions.

The protagonists of the stage you are about to discover are the forests of black pine and the flattened limestone mountains, known as calares, that are so frequent in the northern area of the natural park. There are very few hamlets and homesteads, but the botanical species in the reserve are very important. It is Nature at its purest and most unspoiled.

Large wild animals proliferate throughout the area traversed by this stage, where it is a common occurrence to observe the flight of golden eagles and hear the bellows of stags in the autumn rutting season.

Era del Fustal Refuge – Peña del Olivar Recreational AreaCaptura de pantalla 2014-02-21 a las 14.36.12

Distance: 12,45 km

Along this stage we enter one of the most singular nature sanctuaries in southern Europe: Las Acebeas holly forest. Most of the route is along narrow traditional paths, most of which will captivate us with stunning panoramic views.

The route passes by a curious well known as Pozo de la Nieve, once used to store snow for use in the summer. Further on, a delightful path traverses flat terrain under the striking geomorphological formation of Piedra del Agujero. In the distance we can discern Calar del Mundo. Toward the end of the stage, we enter another superb Mediterranean forest called the Bucentaina wood, where strawberry trees grow in rich profusion. At the Peña del Olivar recreational area, where the stage ends, we can eat, take a break and even have a good swim, as well as paying a visit to its interesting botanical collection.

Siles, a peaceful mountain town, is very close to the end of the stage, at mid-point between the olive groves and pine woods. Many excursions start in this town at the northermost tip of the natural park, of which the trips to Puntal de la Ajedrea, Siles Lake, Calar del Mundo and the Tus Valley are the most outstanding. Siles is close to the popular Source of the river Mundo and Los Calares del Río Mundo y de la Sima Natural Park, in the adjacent province of Albacete, which is traversed by the magnificent GR 66 Tres Calares trail.

Stage 21 can be complemented with a 3.1 kilometre ascent to the limestone mountain of Navalperal, along diversion 10, where we can contemplate very extensive panoramic views.

GR-247 Trail Map