In this post you will learn about the best hikes in Madrid.
Madrid is an entire region, there is much more than a city to explore.
With that being said, you don’t have to travel too far from the city center to visit these hiking routes.
Right now, everything is blossoming so it’s the perfect way to go outside, see something new, and do something different.
If you love the outdoors and don’t mind a short trip, then you’ll love this actionable post.
In this post you’ll learn:
- how far these hikes are from Madrid city
- duration of the hikes
- history and what to expect in the location
- lots more!
Lets dive in.
Hikes in Madrid
There’s lots to do here in Madrid, especially if you are into the outdoors. With national parks, mountains, and more right close by, you have access to a quick city escape.
You have a lot of accessibility to easily do a day trip being located in Madrid.
These outdoor options have worked out perfectly considering these never ending covid restrictions have paused everyones travel plans within Spain.
Hikes in Madrid are doable and most aren’t exceptionally difficult. No professionals needed here!
That means there’s something for everyone. Even if you don’t like hiking but want to make a quick city escape, make sure you stick to the end where I share more options on outdoor fun that doesn’t involve walking.
You can get to these places by public transportation but renting a car or going with someone who has a car makes for a shorter trip and is 10x easier to plan.
Laguna Grande de Peñalara
First up is Laguna Grande de Penalara, a glacier lake located inside the Sierra de Guadarrama national park. The hike starts at Puerto de Cotos. Cotos is a very common starting point for hikes in the area.
You can stop at the vistors center there if you have questions about routes and the area.
To get to the door you can search Puerto de Cotos in your navigation, for the parking make sure you put “aparcamiento de los cotos.”
From Madrid to the parking lot, the total driving time is 1 hour and 7 minutes.
There are 350 parking spots, the next parking area is a bit far away so ideal to get parking early to avoid even longer walks to the car.
If you are taking public transportation, you can take the suburban railway. Take the C8 to Cercedilla and then transfer C9 to get off at Cotos. The entire journey from Madrid to Cotos is about 2.5-3 hours.
This is a ball park estimation and your travel time can be differerent hence your starting point. Plan your trip independently using google maps and Madrid transportation apps.
You have more hiking trails outside of Laguna Grande de Penalara but this is a nice option to start with since it is easy.
A lot of Madrilenos come with their kids and their dogs so it’s a walk everyone in the family can do. Feel free to go at your own pace, there’s no rush.
Laguna Grande de Peñalara details
The distance from parking to the big lagoon there and back is a little over 5 kilometers and will take a little over 2-2.5 hours. Depends your pace, we finished in 2.5 hours, including the stop at the lake for a good 30ish minutes.
You can go up and down the same way, but if you’d like a change of scenery you can go around the refugee “refugio zabala” and then back down towards Puerto de cotos.
Though it is relatively easy , it is important to mention there are some minor hills along the way to the lake. My easy might be different than your easy.
Regarding what to wear, bring the right shoes that are durable for mud and rocks. For apparel bring comfortable lightweight clothes. It is rocky even if it isn’t wet so I would recommend shoes that have a good grip.
Through out the hike there are poles that indicate where the trail is. This is so people stay on track and follow the yellow signals on the routes. You will notice the wooden trail as you get closer to the big lake too.
There are over 200,000 visitors a year so keeping things protected and clean is ideal. Once you arrive to the lagoon, take a moment to appreciate the scenery and the glaciers that have been there for ages.
It is a beautiful view. If you have questions a long the way, feel free to ask a park ranger. They have distinct gear you will be able to spot them out if they are close.
Feel free to pack snacks and water you can enjoy once you arrive at the lagoon, that’s the time to enjoy and take a break.
Laguna de los Pajaros
You can continue walking from Laguna grande de Penalara to see Laguna de los Pajaros. The parking and starting point is the same, Puerto de Cotos and Aparcamiento de Los Cotos.
To get to Puerto de Cotos to Laguna de los Pajaros is a total of 4 hours and 29 minutes, 13km or 8.2 miles.
Upon arrival to the lake, you will see the “Risco de los pajaros” which stands for bird cliff in English. Though this route isn’t short, it’s worth the effort. The cliffs and the water right next to it makes it worth the work to get to the view.
Not a light route, this is definitely one of the more extensive hikes in Madrid. Worth it if you like a challenge.
You can also keep going a bit longer to reach the Risco de los Claveles which stands for cliffs of the carnations.
Majority of the park is supposed to stay protected so you’ll notice the lakes closed off with rope in a lot of the parks.
If you feel like you are getting out of breathe, the park in general has higher altitude so that is perfectly common. Make sure you pack water and applicable resources to get yourself through the hike.
Cascada del Purgatorio
Cascada del Purgatorio is one of the most famous hikes in Madrid. It is located within the town of Rascafria inside the Madrid region.
The starting point of the Cascada del Purgatorio hike is the Monastery del Paular. If you are driving by car, it takes 1 hour and 12 minutes to get to the the Monastery from Madrid city.
There is street parking by the monastery or in the other parking lot “Las Presillas” down the road.
Street parking is free, to park in the lot, it costs 9 euros for the day. No exceptions on pricing, they don’t do hourly rates or half days. They take cash and card payments.
For public transportation, you can take the bus at Plaza de Castilla. You’ll need to take the 191 bus in direction of Buitrago and get off at Lozoyuela – Prados Quemados 10. Next you’ll need to transfer to bus 194 and get off at Paular. Total travel time is 2 hours and a half.
This is just an estimate and can vary on your location. Make sure you are planning your trip appropriately so you get a better idea.
The start of the hike starts right after the Monasterio del Paular, at the bridge of forgiveness. You’ll quickly see signals for the route after walking for a few minutes. The straight road splits and to the right you should see yellow signs that say Cascada del Purgatorio.
The hiking trail is relatively easy and mostly flat, sometimes rocky. You will see farms and probably cows along the way, Rascafria has a lot of farmland.
Once you get closer to the waterfall, the trail path ends and you will start to walk parallel to the stream. You are going the right way just be careful with the rocks and follow the route signals.
There should be yellow and white hiking signals (they look like equal signs), this indicates you are still on the hiking route. Regarding the rocks, it is not a long part of the hike, maybe 10-20 minutes.
From the Monastery to the waterfall is 8 km and about 1 hour and 50 minutes going. Its a little under 4 hours round trip.
Upon arrival of this hike, you will see a beautiful waterfall and natural water area where you can continue hiking or stop and hang out by the water. Do note, if you keep walking it is a bunch of rocks.
Regarding the waterfall you are not supposed to swim in it. There’s signs all over but you’ll unfortunately probably see unruly people in the water. We did.
There is a lake/natural pool in the beginning of the route. It is named Las Presillas Piscinas Naturales de Rasca Fria. If you want to swim, swim in that lake! Thats what is it there for. However dro note, all lakes are currently closed entirely due to covid at this moment.
Pico de la Miel
We went camping in Pico de La miel last summer for my birthday and really enjoyed this area. The camping ground was nice, super clean and moderately empty. (looking at you covid)
La Cabrera mountain range is not too well known and is a perfect alternative considering Rascafria gets insanely packed. Not to meniton, it’s a shorter drive! It’s perfect for hiking lovers and climbers. There are lots of rocks.
Pico de la Miel is located in the Cabrera in Madrid. There is the Pico de la miel (honey peak) and the Cancho gordo (fat court) on this route. It is a 10.6 kilometer loop.
This route is one of the more challenging hikes in Madrid. It is definitely not for someone looking to take an easy stroll. Reason being, trails are rocky and there is a good amount of loose sand. You kind of have to climb rocks at some point too.
It’s hard to feel like you have a good grip walking up certain hills. Bring proper hiking shoes.
With that being said, it is worth the hassle and is a beautiful opportunity to try something new.
The signals aren’t as good as the other routes so try to leave in the day time and follow your steps so you don’t get lost.
To get to Pico de La miel, it is a 5km and about 2 hours hike time from the parking. If you want to keep going feel free to make the circular route that is 10 kilometer and does the loop. To get to Pico de La miel by car it is a 45 minute drive from Madrid city.
There is free parking spots all around the hiking routes. Since this is a hidden gem, you most likely won’t have any issues finding parking.
For public transportation, you can go to Plaza de castilla and take the 194 bus in direction Rascafria and get off at La Cabrera. Pico de La miel is then a 7 minute walk from the bus stop.
Camino Schmid has to be one of the easiest hikes in Madrid. It is completely flat and literally anyone can do this hike, it is labelled easy with the Madrid tourism board.
The hiking route starts after the highway M-601 and right next to the restaurant Dos Castillas. If you see the ski station you are in the right place.
To get from Madrid city to Camino Schmid is about 1 hour 15 minutes. There is tons of parking there so make sure you leave you car in an appropriate spot. Parking is free.
To get there by public transportation, you can take the c8 railway to cercedilla and then either take a cab to the starting point or a bus and then a cab. Walking is extensive, plan ahead for that if you are taking public transport.
Going on the hike is about 4.25 km and takes 1 hour and a half.
You can do this hiking route so many ways. The scenery doesn’t tend to change too much so if you feel like walking back after 40 minutes, do it. We have done that during our lazy days.
We have also walked for longer times and found different routes. To hike the entire Camino Schmid it is a little over 12 kilometers.
It is all about preference and how much you feel like moving.
The Finland forest in Rascafria does not have to be a hike if you don’t want it too.
If you google this route, you’ll find that theres information that says its a 2 hour hike or so. That is hiking after the forest, the actual forest starts right after the Monasterio del Paular.
The beginning of the forest is a great place to stop at. There is a lot of green space and grass where you’ll frequently see people relaxing and having picnics.
If you don’t like hiking or walking for a long time, this area could be of interest to you.
Again, it is found in front of the Monasterio Del Paular. On the contrary, if you do want to go for a hike, you can keep going. The walkway is flat and is super easy.
Hikes in Madrid conclusion
Today you learned all about the best hikes in Madrid for you to go outside and enjoy the day. Spain surely has a little bit of everything when it comes to scenery.
You have learned about the following hiking routes: Laguna de Penalara, Laguna de Pajaros, Cascada del Purgatorio, Pico De la Miel, and Camino Schmid. We also discussed the hiking times, what the hiking route is like, and where you can find these hikes.
There is something on this list for everyone no matter what fitness level you are at. Whether you do or don’t have access to a car, these city breaks are a sure way to cure your wanderlust and see something NEW. Stop making excuses and go outside!
Disclaimer: All photos have been taken by me. Do not take any of these photos without my permission. *****