Hiking around Madrid

Madrid is a city of fine dining, fine wines, and fine-looking Spaniards. Because of this many visitors never get out and see the beautiful countryside of the surrounding Comunidad de Madrid. Another obstacle has been the lack of English-speaking hiking groups.

Luckily that’s changed. A new group called Hiking in the Community of Madrid has been started by avid expat hikers Beau Macksoud and Cynthia Kane. Last Sunday I joined them in La Pedriza, a beautiful jumble of low mountains sculpted by the elements into bizarre shapes. It’s located outside the town of Manzanares el Real just a 45 minute bus ride from Madrid. The whole area is crisscrossed by trails and the cliffs are a big draw for rock climbers as well.

While our hike was only 8.5 km (5.3 miles) we still had an invigorating day. First we had a tough slog up a steep slope under a strong sun, followed by a scramble over strange rock formations that looked like dogs, camels, and sleeping people. We got sweeping views of a lake and castle far below, sightings of Spanish ibex, and a visit to a cave that used to be a hideout for guerrillas during the Civil War, and more recently by a group of murderers. The last part of the hike was a swift descent and a pleasant ramble along a stream back to town.

I found the hike well organized and the guides friendly and flexible to the needs of the various hikers. They have an expert knowledge of the region and have completed the first English-language hiking guide to the Comunidad de Madrid. It includes 18 towns easily reached by public transport and details hikes for each of them. They’re currently seeking publication.

Beau and Cynthia plan to run hikes every weekend. They may also run weekday hikes and intercambio hikes, where English and Spanish speakers practice their language on each other while enjoying the great outdoors. Costs vary, but are generally about 20 euros and includes a packed lunch and an information sheet about the area.