Leaving Africa was like saying goodbye to a dear friend. As the ferry roared out of the El Hoceima port, we watched the foggy cliffs of the Dark Continent fade into the mist. But soon there was something new drawing my eye to the north—the high snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada range in Spain’s southern district of Andalucia.
There are countless options for off-road cycling routes in southern Spain. These include the Andalbike routes, the 2,000KM TransAndalus, and the many footpaths that traverse the country. We only had a short period of time in Spain before our flight home, so we opted to do a chunk of the 450KM Transnevada route in the steep and rugged Sierra Nevada National Park.
A scant 30 kilometers due north of the touristy Mediteranean beaches, the Sierra Nevada juts straight out of the Earth in massive spires of wildflower covered peaks. The autonomous range was designated a national park in 1999 and is the largest in Spain.
In 2011 a gnarly web of doubletrack, single track, gravel and footpaths were adopted by Andalucia Tourism and supported by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). The effort resulted in a well documented, and extremely well signposted, 450 kilometer route that encircles the jagged range in eight named segments.
Chunky rock descents, heart valve tearing climbs, and almost impassable hike-a-bikes make up a route that is as punishing as you make it. We were fortunate to land here right in the midst of a mild late spring when wildflowers were at their peak, the crisp mountain sky held back moisture from the sea, and chilly mornings made coffee extra special. The riding was epic.
From the ferry at El Hoceima… watching Africa fade into mist.
We arrived in Motril late, got lost, ended up staying at a Hostal in another town. A look back on the white city on the way out the next morning.
One great tradition that is still alive and well in the state of Granada, Tapas. With each drink ordered, you get a snack, gratis. We didn’t pay for a meal for over a week.
Nothing says welcome to Europe like a beer from a vending machine.
The ECR got naked and washed.
The very well put together map of the Transnevada route. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take it with us from the tourist center… I guess they were running low.
Before we got on the Transnevada in Trevelez, we did a lot of road climbing.
Navigating the tight streets in Trevelez.
The first part of the Transnevada we jumped on shared trailspace with the legendary GR7 footpath. The GR7 is part of the Senderos de Gran Recorrido and runs from Gibralter to Northern France.
Some wicked hike-a-bikes.
After I took this shot, I helped out… don’t judge.
Crystal clear bluebird days.
Watching a front roll in from the sea.
The big peaks of the Sierra Nevada range.
High altitude clouds are the best.
A long climb in the forest.
A snack near our campsite.
Sunset view from a good campsite.
Some fairly good options for out of site wild camping…
… next to an old ruin…
… with a view.
Getting an early start on a morning climb. Nice to see some spring.
Working our way up.
There are a lot of historic springs and fountains along the way. Oddly, some of them are marked not to drink.
A rest before a nice descent.
… that abruptly stopped and became one of the steepest hike-a-bikes I’ve encountered.
They even had a sign for it.
This went on for almost 1,000 feet.
Nice views though… wildflowers and blooming shrubs were in peak form.
Finally it got rideable.
A long traverse.
Giant versions of dandelions.
After 6 days in the Sierra Range (one that included a backtrack because of a loose bottom bracket), we make an early exit to get to Granada. I will be back to do the whole thing, for sure…
… but now it’s time to find this hamburger.
For more information on this route, including GPS and logistics, click here. Also, check out our growing list of bikepacking and dirt road touring routes.