The Peñalara massif is one of the favorite destinations for hiking lovers from Madrid and Segovia, as it has the highest peak in this area. However, not all of us know this route well, so it is good to delve into the main characteristics of this mountain.
Right in the center of the Iberian Peninsula is a nature reserve called Sierra de Guadarrama. It is a mountainous alignment made up of the following peaks: the Risco de los Pajaros at 2,266 meters above sea level, and Hermana Menor and Hermana Mayor , which have altitudes of 2,269 to 2,284 meters above sea level, respectively. There is also the Risco de los Claveles at 2,387 meters above sea level and, finally, the Peñalara peak, which has an altitude of 2,428 meters above sea level.
But the height of the Peñalara is not the only important feature of this route. Most researchers agree that the term Peñalara comes from the Latin words penna (head) and lara (plain). In this sense, the meaning of the name would be flat heads, which can be easily related to the rounded silhouette of the massif on the cornice of summits, whether viewed from the west or from the east. If we take into account that the Latin “nn” became the “ñ” in Spanish, it makes sense that the mountain is called Peñalara.
How to get to the Peñalara peak from Madrid?
The good thing is that there are several ways to go to Peñalara. If you go by car, to get to the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park from Madrid you have to take the Northwest highway, better known as A-6, towards La Coruña until Collado Villalba. Then, it is necessary to access the regional road M-601, in the direction of Segovia. It is important to get to Puerto de Navacerrada and pay attention to take the C-604 to the right, just at the height of the Dos Castillas restaurant. This road takes us directly to Puerto de Cotos.
If you prefer to go by bus, you can use line 691 from the Moncloa transport hub, which covers the Becerril, Navacerrada and Valdesquí route. This bus stops at the Puerto de Cotos, so it is an easy and comfortable way to get there from Madrid, since you do not have to take different vehicles.
Now, if you like to travel by train, you should go to the Chamartín station to take the train to Cercedilla and from there use the C9 railway line that takes you to Puerto de Cotos.
The route to the summit of Peñalara
Climbing the Peñalara peak from Cotos is very simple. It all begins in the port car park, where we must walk towards the Peñalara Park information booth. You have to go up the meadow surrounding the Venta Marcelino restaurant, in order to take the Bernardino shortcut. In this way, it is possible to begin the ascent along the wide track in a northeasterly direction. On this path, we find the Cubeiro spring, which is usually dry. We must mention at this point the importance of carrying enough water, since on this route there is no way to recharge.
A section further on, you can reach the Mirador de la Gitanilla, where there is a sundial dedicated to the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca. At this point, you can see the Lozoya Valley and there is a privileged view of the Cuerda Larga mountain line, one of the most attractive areas of the sierra, where you can see the Cabezas de Hierro peaks. For this reason, local and foreign tourists often make a stop to take photos.
Continuing along the track, it is necessary to leave the shed on the right to access the Zetas of Hermana Menor peak. It is good to know that it is a section of medium difficulty and lasts approximately 2 hours, so it is good to have rested at the viewpoint. However, it is worth it for the impressive views that are on the entire ascent.
Laguna Grande and the peak of Peñalara
At the end of the Peñalara rope, it is possible to see the top of the peak in the background. That is why you must continue along the path towards Hermana Mayor, at a height of 2,384 m above sea level. However, you have to leave the path to access the geodesic, at the top of the rocks. Afterwards, it is necessary to go down a few meters to the right if you want to have a general view of Laguna Grande , known by some as Laguna de Peñalara. One of the trails leads to the Peñalara Refuge, which is located at 2,075 m above sea level.
It is time to return to the Peñalara route through an esplanade. At this point, you can always see the top of the mountain, so it doesn’t really matter too much if you choose the mapped path or go up anywhere else. Upon reaching the summit of the Peñalara peak, you can see almost the entire Sierra de Guadarrama and even part of the Ayllón massif.
The top is a rocky place where there is practically no vegetation. Here you can stop to rest, eat, drink water and recharge energy to later start the descent. It is possible to climb Peñalara from the port to the top of the peak in 2 hours, as well as return in the same time. Therefore, you can calculate 4 to 5 hours in total, but it can be 6 or even more depending on the stops.
Tips for doing the Peñalara route
Although it is a route for all kinds of people, it is important to take into account certain recommendations before starting the ascent to Peñalara. First of all, it is a good idea to leave very early in the morning, to return before noon, since in the afternoon the sun can be very intense, especially during the summer. Either way, you have to wear sunscreen .
Also, it is necessary to use mountain boots, but if it is winter it is preferable to wear cramponable footwear to walk safely on the snow. Also, you must have in your backpack a thin raincoat, a wool hat, gloves, a whistle and a canteen with enough water (1 liter or more). Also, it is good to have a multipurpose knife and an emergency kit.
Regardless of the time of year, it is important to check some predictions of how the weather will be in Peñalara, since the climate can vary a lot in this area. As for accessories, poles can be useful, especially for descents, as they help reduce the impact on the knees and allow you to train your arms at the same time.
Finally, it must be said that, although very few people have gotten lost on the Peñalara circular route, it is advisable to have a GPS or, in any case, a printed map and a manual compass. It is the safest way to be oriented at all times.