Geology hikes

Refugio ZabalaNational Park nature is clearly influenced by its abundance in mountains, which is reflected in the vegetation, in its fauna and its landscapes. But there are three principal topics on the geology of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains: the particular granitic landform at La Pedriza, the Seven peaks (Siete Picos) and the glacier geomorphology at the Peñalara Massif, a legacy thousands of years old, from the time in which perennial ices covered its summits.

We suggest three hikes, which will help you to get firtst-hand knowledge on these three unique sites of the National Park.

Should you want to get more information on other hikes in the Community of Madrid, please look at You can also refer to the website of National Parks Agency (Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales) or the one from National Centre for Environmental Education (Centro Nacional de Educación Ambiental), to get information on Mounts of Valsaín hikes.

Geology hike areas:

Peñalara Massif

Los Cotos to the Zabala Refuge area

This hike will take you to one of the best sites to contemplate Peñalara Massif glacier geomorphology. The trail starts at the Peñalara Visitors Center (Centro de Visitantes Peñalara), whose staff will provide you with information and documentation on the National Park and its hikes. The trail climbs up to La Gitana viewpoint (Mirador de la Gitana) and the deposit hut; you should leave both at your right, and then follow the forest track. Further to a couple of bends on a trail which ascends continually, you will find a track going to the right.  Go straight, without deviating, and climb up a steep slope to the Height 2.100m.

At this point a crossroad leads to the Peñalara peak, or to the Zabala Refuge area if we take the trail on the right. From this point, the Zabala area can be easily accessed. There we find a small shelter open since 1927, and dedicated to one of most relevant mountaineers at that time. It stands on a shelf from which it is possible to overlook the Peñalara Circus and Lagoon. This is an excellent point from to interpret the complexity of the Peñalara glacier and to admire its landscape.

Difficulty: Medium
Time of year: All, except in the winter
Start: Los Cotos Pass
End: Los Cotos Pass
Waymarking: White Symbols
Time to walk: 2 h 30min (Round Trip)
Distance: 4,8 Km (Round Trip)
Summit: 2.080 m
Lower altitude: 1.855 m
Recommendations: This high mountain trail is not suitable during the winter for non-experienced mountaineers. It requires technical and specific knowledge as well as material. Visiting the Peñalara Massif needs complying with some specific rules and regulations (group visits, leashed dogs etc.), you should learn about.

Siete Picos

Hike to Siete Picos (Seven Peaks)

Itinerary by the ridge of the Sierra del Dragon, the former name of Siete Picos Massif, evoking its toothed skyline. It holds singular geological formations known as "tors" due to granite outcrops weathering and erosion.

It starts in the Cogorros military area, which does not have an authorized parking lot; it is then recommended to leave your vehicle in the one enabled on top of the Navacerrada Pass. The trail ascends by the cross-country skiing track, during 1,5 kilometres; then it follows the branch at the left side leading to the Peña Hueca col, between El Telégrafo peak and the Siete Picos. From this point, the itinerary runs by the range of Siete Picos, across a mosaic of rocks grounds, broom groves and mountain meadows. Finally, it follows the trail that goes down to the right, in North direction, between the second and the third peak, taking you to the Collado Ventoso prairie. To get back to the Navacerrada Pass, take the trail that starts at your right, in East direction. This is the Schmid trail, with yellow circle marks.

Difficulty: Medium-high
Time of year: All, except in the winter
Start: Cogorros military residence (Navacerrada Pass)
End: Cogorros military residence (Navacerrada Pass)
Waymarking: Yellow symbols in Camino Schmidt. The rest of the trail is not marked.
Time to walk: 4h - 4h 30min
Distance: 8.5 Km
Summit: 2.138 m
Lower altitude: 1780 m
Recommendations: This high mountain trail is not suitable during the winter for non-experienced mountaineers. It requires technical and specific knowledge as well as material.

La Pedriza area

Shapes of La Pedriza trail - Long

La Pedriza is located on the slope of the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park belonging to the Madrid province. It holds a granite landscape with an impressive geomorphology. The granites are plutonic igneous rocks, made of magma which started a slow cooling process inside the Earth’s crust, millions of years ago.

Walking along the trail, we can recognize landform features as rock pile formations, domes and ridges, and smaller ones which had been created by the erosion, such as tor formations, the Cueva de la Mora cave or vein structures as the ones on the Aleta del Tiburón.

The erosion has also caved bizarre forms in the rocks; several like animals, as "the seal", "the turtle", "the little pig" and "the bird", while some other evoke milestones as "the tolmo".

Furthermore, in the distance you will glimpse off more landforms, as the Cancho de los Muertos crag, the dome of El Yelmo and the crests of Las Torres.

There is a variant of the journey, called short trail, more suitable for families with younger kids (1.5 km).

Difficulty: Medium
Time of year: All
Home: Canto Cochino parking lot
End: Canto Cochino parking lot
Waymarking: blue circles
Time to walk: 4 h
Distance: 6.8 Km
Summit: 1.244 m
Lower altitude: 1.006 m
Recommendations: In summer, avoid the middle of the day. The recommended route to perform with children is the short path of 1.5 km in length

More activities in the park

Hiking areas suitable for kids

Relatively short routes with little slope.

Botanic Hikes

Routes through the most interesting botanical sites in the national park.

Walking routes

A selection of trails to discover different areas of the national park.

Winter ascents

Discover the main sectors where you can practice all types of alpine winter ascents.

Nordic skiing and snowshoeing

Snowshoeing and Nordic skiing are becoming increasingly popular and are one of the most interesting ways of getting to know the peaks of the Sierra de Guadarrama in winter.

Geology hikes

Routes to discover the outstanding geological sites of the national park.

Ornithology hikes

Routes to enjoy birdwatching.

Escalada en roca

La Sierra de Guadarrama, y especialmente La Pedriza, es una de las escuelas y zonas de escalada más importantes del país.