Mountain biking in Sierra Nevada has somehow managed to slip under the radar which is great as it offers world-class trails without the crowds.
Nestled above Granada, just three hours from Malaga lies one of Europe’s best-kept secrets: a network of incredible natural singletrack nestled within the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The slightest mention of the word Malaga seems to always be met with the negative connotations attached to the overdeveloped Costa del Sol region of Spain. A vision of cramped apartment blocks, Full English breakfasts and lads on tour instantly springs to mind.
It was hard to believe that in a matter of hours I would somewhere far removed from the madness.
As I wedged myself right in the middle of an over-enthusiastic hen party at 7am on a Thursday morning, the smell of Jagermeister and Red Bull caused my stomach to lurch. It was hard to believe that in a matter of hours I would somewhere far removed from the madness.
Leaving Malaga airport and the gaggle of golfers, hen and stag parties behind, it was not long before we were driving on quiet roads, steadily climbing the hillside getting closer and closer to Sierra Nevada. The further inland we went, the more sparse the development and the more vast the vista became. Every so often we would pass through a small rural village, each smaller and less populated than the last, until finally we reached our destination, Bérchules.
Bérchules is no metropolis but it does have all of the ingredients you need for a successful mountain biking holiday
Nestled right in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and with a population of just over 800, Bérchules is no metropolis but it does have all of the ingredients you need for a successful mountain biking holiday – incredible riding on its doorstep, panoramic views across the mountains, a couple of good eateries and a bar!
The riding in Sierra Nevada:
Home to Mulhacén, mainland Spain’s largest peak which stands 3,480 metres above sea level with no such thing as an uplift service, fitness is a key element to riding in this neck of the woods. Long climbs on fire road are par for the course. But fear not, the incredible views of the snow-capped peaks set against the backdrop of a clear blue sky are more than enough to distract one from the task at hand.
And as the saying goes, what goes up must come down. And boy does it come down.
And as the saying goes, what goes up must come down. And boy does it come down. The entire landscape is littered with a web of goat’s tracks that handily enough form some of the nicest singletrack I have ever ridden.
Steep rocky technical sections, switchbacks that open out onto wide alpine slopes before sweeping back through pine forest, farmland and semi-arid Mediterranean scrub keep life interesting as you weave down the mountain side.
Sierra Nevada lends itself perfectly to a long day in the hills. Small rural villages punctuate the landscape with regularity offering much-needed sustenance and a break from the beating sun mid-ride.
There is something very therapeutic about riding in Sierra Nevada. Unlike the more well-known mountain biking spots in Europe it seems that you could pedal away for days here without coming into human contact.
Route planning in Sierra Nevada:
Do it yourself:
There is plenty of literature available to assist with route planning thanks to the areas long-standing popularity with walkers. Online resources such as Strava (find the names of some local mountain bikers and check out the routes they have been logging) and ViewRanger can also be great for discovering routes that you can then upload to your GPS device.
Join a group: If it is your first time in the area, it might be worthwhile hooking up with a guide. British run company, Pure Mountains, is located just above the village of Bérchules and offers a full-service option taking care of transfers, accommodation, food and fully supported all day guiding.
If you are a fan of the hand holding experience then I cannot recommend them highly enough – they even set up chairs on the roadside complete with a glass of juice and cereal bar mid-morning!
Hosts Tim and Jenny know the area inside out so are definitely a valuable resource when it comes to finding the best trails Sierra Nevada has to offer. Their guesthouse which accommodates 10 people can be rented in its entirety or you can book to join an existing group. The only downside with the latter is the fact that your week’s riding will often be tailored to suit the needs of the entire group. On the plus side, the likelihood of you meeting fellow mountain biking fanatics and future riding buddies is high!
A week-long stay at Pure Mountains costs €995pps and includes transfers, accommodation, breakfast, trail snacks, afternoon tea and some evening meals.
Ride Sierra Nevada, located 8km from Granada also offers mountain biking holidays. Prices start at €490 and include transfers, accommodation, breakfast, guiding and snacks out on the trails.
Where to Stay in Sierra Nevada:
Sierra Nevada offers a wealth of basic accommodation in the small villages nestled within the mountain range that will allow you to pedal right out of your door. I would highly recommend basing yourself in the village of Bérchules. Hotel Los Bérchules offers double rooms from €57 per night, a secure spot to house your beloved bike at night and some pretty decent home cooked grub in the evenings at a reasonable price.