Sierra de las Nieves National Park

MALAGA – Finally a national park in the mountains of Western Andalusia, a ‘hotspot’ for plant diversity.

Hipparchia fidia Andalousie
Scilla peruviana Serranía de Ronda
emberiza cia Malaga
Abies pinsapo Sierra de Las Nieves

High Mediterranean mountain

Limestome bedrocks

Spanish Fir (Pinsapos)

Mountain parkland

Panoramas and mountaineering

Sierra de Las Nieves, mountain in the province of Málaga, dominates the hinterland of the Costa del Sol and Sierra Bermeja. Its 1,919-meter-high (6,295 ft) summit, Pico Torrecilla, is the highest point in the Western Betic Cordillera. This laborious access area forms a triangle between Ronda (North West), Marbella (South) and Yunquera (East). The mountain also gives its name to a natural park and a township.

As its name suggests, Sierra de Las Nieves is the sister mountain of Sierra Nevada, which is covered with snow and frost, and whitens in winter, but also the white mountain of limestones that give birth to superb small rivers: Río Guadalevin, Río Grande, Río Génal, Río Turón and Río Verde. This source rock favors the genesis of karst formations, cliffs such as the Tajo de la Caína and cavities such as the Sima GEM (-1,022 meters), the deepest well in Andalusia.

In altitude, above the forests of holm oaks (Quercus ilex rotundifolia) and pine forests (Pinus spp), nestles on the north face an extraordinary forest of Spanish fir (Abies pinsapo), with massive candelabra-shaped specimens (Pinsapo de La Escalereta). Even higher up, another surprise: a veritable dehesa of Boissier oaks (Quercus alpestris) which extends over dozens of hectares and finally gives way to a very particular high mountain ecosystem of hedgehog heath.

Sierra de las Nieves National Park, Torrecilla  peak

The ascent of Pico Torrecilla crosses the different types of vegetation of the high Mediterranean mountains.

Blue broom (Erinacea anthyllis)

The curious blue broom (Erinacea anthyllis) receives names as evocative as … nun’s cushion, shepherd’s seat or “cambron”.

 Serranía de Ronda,Boissier oak (Quercus alpestris)

The distribution of Boissier oak (Quercus alpestris) is limited to the high limestone mountains of the Sierra de las Nieves National Park, between 1,600 and 1,800 m.

Spanish firs (Abies pinsapo) require high humidity conditions, which are present only in a shady situation in the Andalusian mountains.

The Natural Park is a hotspot of botanical diversity in the Mediterranean basin with around 1,300 inventoried species.

In altitude extends a vast area of shared and public pasture, whose new vocation is the protection of the Mediterranean mountain.

Until recently, the collective unconscious relegated Sierra de Las Nieves to a second-class park (see note). This perception has changed a lot thanks to the requalification of the modest Natural Park into a flamboyant National Park, the 16th in the Spanish state, in compliance with very demanding scientific and technical criteria. Most interestingly, perhaps, this initiative was carried by the inhabitants, in particular with the aim of reversing a negative demographic trend and encouraging local investments.

Los Quejigales is an ideal starting point for an unforgettable excursion. It is also a stage of a wonderful Trek of the Serranía de Ronda.

 Note. Sierra de Las Nieves was a little known mountain. Its area of ​​just over 20,000 ha (200 km2) is modest compared to other natural parks in Andalusia. The declaration of the park was initially motivated by its floristic and geomorphological wealth, themes less “selling” than those of vertebrates. Moreover, Andalusia’s most famous Pinsapos forest is actually found in the Sierra de Grazalema, which has long “eclipsed” it. In the same vein, the summit of the province of Málaga (La Maroma) rises to more than 2,000 meters, and “shrinks” our peak. We can also mention the toponym, rather recent, since this territory was mainly associated with the Serranía de Ronda. Moreover, it should be noted that Andalusian natural parks generally bear the name of a small town which focuses attention and promotion (Cazorla, Grazalema, etc.). Ultimately, a young name, which has not benefited from active promotion until recently, the tourist industry having focused on the coast (which it has “sketched”), while the interior territories have been neglected and suffer from the loss of population.

Sierra de Las Nieves, mountain in the province of Málaga, dominates the hinterland of the Costa del Sol and Sierra Bermeja. Its 1,919-meter-high (6,295 ft) summit, Pico Torrecilla, is the highest point in the Western Betic Cordillera. This laborious access area forms a triangle between Ronda (North West), Marbella (South) and Yunquera (East). The mountain also gives its name to a natural park and a township.

Until recently, the collective unconscious relegated Sierra de Las Nieves to a second category park for several reasons (see end of page note). This perception has changed a lot in recent years thanks to a campaign that has allowed transforming the modest Natural Park into a striking National Park, the 16th of the Spanish state. The most interesting fact is that the initiative rests with the inhabitants themselves, concerned to reverse the demographic trend and encourage local investment. With the condition, of course, to meet very demanding scientific and technical criteria.

Note the importance of commons, used for grazing, which vocation is undoubtedly the protection of the Mediterranean mountain and its traditional uses.

Sierra de Las Nieves is the sister mountain of Sierra Nevada, covered with snow and frost in winter. It is also the white mountain of limestone rocks that give rise to magnificent small rivers: Guadalevín, Rio Grande, Genal, Turón and Río Verde. A huge mass of limestone that offers dazzling karst formations, such as the cliffs of the Tajo de la Caína, numerous cavities or the well of the GEM (-1,022 m / -3,353 ft), the deepest in Andalusia.

In altitude, above the evergreen oaks (Quercus ilex rotundifolia) and the pines, an extraordinary forest of Spanish fir (Abies pinsapo) grows hidden in the north face of the mountain, with some huge specimens such as Pinsapo de La Escalereta. Even higher, a surprise awaits us, an authentic parkland of alpine oaks (Quercus alpestris) that extends over hectares and gives way on the summit to a very particular ecosystem of high-mountain hedgehogs scrubs (or spiny pads). The Natural Park is also a hot spot of botanical diversity in the Mediterranean basin, with around 1,300 inventoried species.

Los Quejigales recreational area, accessible by car from the Ronda – San Pedro road, is an ideal starting point for excursions.

One stage of our Serranía de Ronda trek, which discover our region in a few days.

 

Note. Until recently, Sierra de Las Nieves was that isolated mountain that the majority of Andalusians did not know how to locate exactly on the map. It is not so surprising since it covers an area of ​​just over 20,000 ha (200 km²), a modest extension compared to other Andalusian natural parks. Its protection was motivated by its rich flora and geomorphology, issues that generally attract less public attention than more charismatic groups such as vertebrates. In addition, the most famous pinsapar in Andalusia is located in the Sierra de Grazalema, which “steals”, to some extent, the prominence. Along the same lines, the highest point in the province of Malaga, bordering the province of Granada, is La Maroma (2,069 meters), which belongs to the set of summits of more than 2,000 meters. Finally, for a long time, the tourist industry literally razed the coast and left the interior, whose villages continue to lose population. It is also interesting to note that many Andalusian natural parks are named after a town or small town that focuses attention and promotion, which is not the case of Sierra de Las Nieves.