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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
GPS track of the route (Puricelli trail plus Camino del Agua) here.