Near the start of the Puricelli Trail in Spring
There are many celebrated trails in the central Guadarrama area, but surely one of those you must begin with is el camino Puricelli – the Puricelli trail. It starts in Cercedilla, right out of the train station, and meanders up the Fuenfría Valley for about three kilometers and barely 200m of ascent as far as the Hospital de Fuenfría.
Looking back towards Cercedilla train station..
..and forwards to where the trail kicks off
After several short switchbacks right at the start, the trail basically heads straight up the Fuenfría Valley, ascending very gradually in general – sometimes it seems almost flat – and always easy to follow. You can see regular trail markers, dark blue circles, on trees and rocks. The predominant tree in the first part of the route is the rebollo or melojo, Iberian (or ‘Pyrenean’) Oak, Quercus Pyrenaica.
Notice the blue circle trail mark on the tree trunk to the left
As you advance into the territory of the Wild (or ‘Scots’) Pine, Pinus sylvestris, you will notice that the path is generally quite wide, in fact it’s more like a forestry road than a trail..and this has to do with its origins and the name of l’ingegnere Puricelli, an Italian engineer who was indeed hired to build a road.
View towards Siete Picos from the Santa Catalina stretch
Apart from the width of the path, this road reality is given away by the elaborate banking that you can often observe – usually on the right or valley side – plus the obviously calculated gradual ascent, designed for motor vehicles. Until a certain point just after the second kilometer that is, when the trail abruptly changes character and ascends more steeply over relatively rough, more natural terrain for a few minutes.
The point where the trail suddenly steepens
After about one hundred meters of somewhat less regular – less engineered – and steeper travel, the trail joins with the Campamentos Forestry Track (Camino de los Campamentos) for the last stretch before the Hospital. The dominant floral presence continues to be the Wild Pines.
On the Campamentos Forestry Track
For a part of this last section you walk alongside a finely built stone wall on the right-hand side and there are several cerezos silvestres or Wild Cherry trees to be seen. If you pass by here in Autumn they can sometimes offer quite a spectacle.
The wall and the Wild Cherry trees in Autumn
For those really into flora, there is also a fine example of a mostajo or Whitebeam, Sorbus aria, a little further along this wall. By now the end of the trail is nigh, as we round a long bend the huge building that is the Hospital de Fuenfría appears above the trees.
Hospital de Fuenfría finally in sight!
Within five minutes you are at the Hospital where there is a café open to the public should you be in need of sustenance. At this point there are several options to continue: you could just return the way you have come, or take the public minibus (stops at the entrance to the Hospital) back along the Fuenfría road to Cercedilla, or also walk back along the road which has a generous sidewalk all the way. Alternatively if you want to walk some more, you could cross to the other side of the valley – passing by the Fuenfría Valley Visitor Center on the road about 200m down from the Hospital – and take the ‘Water Way’ (Camino del Agua) back to town. More serious hikers could continue upwards from the Fuenfría Hospital (1345m) along the ‘Old Segovia Way’ (Camino Viejo de Segovia) to the top of the valley and Puerto de Fuenfría (1795m).
The Puricelli trail is an all-year round option, many sections offer generous shade in Summer and even in the most rigourous of Winters it’s rare to see more than 20-30cm of snow on the ground.
Evening in Winter among the tall pines on the Puricelli
Puricelli in the fog
Puricelli in the snow
GPS track of the route (Puricelli trail plus Camino del Agua) here.