This route incorporates one of the classic hikes of the Sierra Nevada, the Vereda de la Estrella, but rather than going out and back the same way, it forms a circuit using a higher path on the other side of the valley, giving you a more open view of the rugged north faces of the three highest peaks in the mountain range – Mulhacén, Veleta and Alcazaba. A long walk, but well worth the effort. The scenery in this deep valley is stunning, and the Vereda de la Estrella path, originally built to access the Estrella copper mine, is a feat of engineering. If the full walk seems too much, it’s still worth considering going part way along the main path.
Level Due to its length and the vertical height difference along the route, this has to be considered a tough walk in terms of the physical effort required. However, paths are generally good, and navigation is fairly straightforward, apart from the section between the Refugio de la Cucaracha and the river, where the path becomes rockier and less distinct. If the river is very high, it may also be difficult to cross it, as at the time of writing, there was no bridge. You can avoid these issues by going out and back on the main Vereda de la Estrella path.
When to go This walk is best in spring, summer or autumn, when there is less risk of bad weather and/or problems with snow. The combination of autumn colours and early season snow on the high mountains is particularly beautiful.
Water We recommend taking enough water for the whole walk, although you can top up from mountain streams along the route. Drinking river water is not recommended.
Location: NW Sierra Nevada, Güéjar Sierra The walk starts from the Barranco de San Juan, just upriver from the village of Güéjar Sierra, along the route of the old Sierra Nevada tram.
By Car: From Granada, take the A-395 towards Sierra Nevada. Take the exit marked Pinos Genil, Güéjar Sierra, Dúdar, Quéntar and follow the road under the A-395 and across the river Genil. Turn right, and after 2.5km turn left for Güéjar Sierra.
When you enter the village (after 8km), take the right turn signposted Río Genil, Río Maitena. Follow the road round until you get to a set of wooden signs for accommodation and places of interest. Bear left, marked towards Sierra Nevada, Río Genil. At the next junction, turn right (signed towards Maitena, Charcón, Sierra Nevada) then go straight on (signed Maitena, Barranco San Juan, Sierra Nevada). After reaching the bottom of the valley, turn left through a tunnel (signed Vereda de la Estrella, Barranco San Juan). You will go through two more tunnels and cross the river twice before you reach the end of the road and a car park.
By Bus: This walk is not easily accessible by bus. It is possible to walk from Güéjar Sierra to the trailhead, but this would add quite significantly to the length of the walk.