Friday, 17 January 2014

GR 7 Tramo Norte in Andalucia: Conclusion

The GR 7 splits into a Northern and a Southern variant in Andalusia. I had chosen the Northern variant for the simple reason that it is lower and I was hiking in winter. From what I could see of the Sierra Nevada in the distance this has been the right decision for me: there has been plenty of precipitation and therefore plenty of snow in the Sierra whereas I had not encountered any snow problems on the tramo Norte.

But other than in my special situation I would not recommend this Northern variant for various reasons: It is incredibly badly marked. Usually there is no marking whatsoever. Without a gpx track on your GPS you are lost. The GR 7 is not marked on the IGN paper maps. It is hardly marked on the ground. There are all kinds of markings for the brand new GR 249 and GR 247 which coincide with the GR 7 at times. These are great. A short bit coincides with the Camino Mozarabe which is also well marked. There are even some local trails that are marked. But not the GR 7. When I found a red and white marker I felt more like "Oh, where does this come from?". I was purely navigating by GPS and map.To make things worse the few signposts that there are are wrong half of the time. I usually got lost when I tried to follow a GR 7 signpost instead of listening to my GPS.

Also the landscape is not really that exciting: There are two good bits: Cazorala National Park and the little Sierra Magina National Park. And although they are very scenic you are hiking through them on forest roads. You are almost always on forest roads or dirt roads anyways. Plus the GR 7 in Andalucia has a high percentage on pavement walking. The roads are not very busy, but still bad for your feet. And you don't want to be on single file trail anyways because it is so neglected and overgrown that you won't find it. What you will see more than you ever wanted to see is olive trees. 28 million of them in the province of Jaen alone. Nothing against olive trees but two weeks of them is too much!

Even the cities are not that great: Alcala la Real and Priego de Cordoba are real highlights, but other than that the trail towns are nothing special. Not bad either, but nothing outstanding. I was much more impressed with the trail towns in Valencia.

Don't get me wrong: the tramo norte is not a disaster but if you don't have a compelling reason to hike it there are much better alternatives.

If you want to thruhike the GR 7, then choose the Southern variant.
If you want to hike in Andalucia in the mountains, I would highly recommend the brand new GR 247 "Bosques del Sur".
If you want to hike in Andalucia in winter and avoid high altitude, try the brand new GR 249 "Gran Senda de Malaga"
If you want to hike just one part of the GR 7, hike the section in Valencia. Much better marked, fantastic landscape and trail towns and a lot of single file trail.


Amy L said...

Excellent summary. Thanks for assessing the options.

German Tourist said...

Amy, you definitely chose the better variant. If you are planning to come back to Spain, check out the GR 247. I was really impressed with what I saw and consider hiking it myself.

Juan Holgado said...

What a pity Christine with the rain. I do not know if you are to continue the GR7 to Gibraltar. Anyway the last part of the trail from Antequera and Ronda is the best one in Andalucia.

German Tourist said...

Juan, I am going all the way to Tarifa. Good to know that there is some nice trail ahead.

John Hayes said...

Hi Christine - good summary of the problems of the northern route, it was wet and muddy when I walked through as well. The northern side of the Sierra's is apparently one of the wettest places in Spain. I went on it because, like you, I was worried about the snow, but now I've done the southern route, I don't think it would have been such a problem there. It's so dry and there are hardly any olives. Enjoy the last bit - the views to Africa from Tarifa are fantastic.

Best wishes John

andreas said...

Yea, the Alpuchara on the South is verry nice. And for the South rout you had only climbe two times above 2000m (Sierra de Baza - Pratos del Ray and crossing Sierra Nevada on Puerto de la Ragua). If this two passages are not to snowy, the rest is no Problem on the South-Rout.

> Enjoy the last bit - the views to Africa from Tarifa are fantastic.<

same from me.
It´s not well marked (Antequerra - Tariffa) but mostly very nice (If the Weather is with you).


sorry my bad english