Located some 60 km. north of Madrid, Parque Nacional Sierra Guadarrama is really a perfect daytrip destination for anyone spending more than just a few days in Madrid. This is especially so during the months of July-September (especially August), when the temperatures in the city rarely drop below 36 or 37C and one starts to feel… well, somewhat uncomfortable.
Hopping on one of the many buses leaving from either Moncloa or Plaza Castilla or a Cercanias train from Atocha or Chamartin, will get you in about 60-75 mins. to towns/pueblos that are some of the most important entry points to the Park. These include Cercedilla (Fuenfria visitor center is located just outside of the town); Navacerrada and Rascafria (Penalara visitor centre). These metropolitan buses and short-distance trains leave (and return) on hourly basis and cost about 5 Euros each way; a discounted rate is available for those with a monthly Abono.
Once in the Park, the options are many, depending on the time of year (yes, there’s snow every winter), your interests, time and budget available, etc. For most visitors, hiking, mountain biking, skiing and rock climbing are some of the most popular activities. For me personally, being able to spend the day out in the fresh mountain air, walking while being surrounded by nature and some truly amazing views (there are look-out points on almost every trail) are the biggest draws.
So is the ability to escape Madrid’s infamous August heat; as I’ve already mentioned, the city is difficult to maneuver when the mercury rises to nearly 40C and most Madrilenos leave the capital during the high summer months, sometimes giving the impression that the city is half-empty or populated only by tourists during that time. It is truly amazing that after just an hour journey by train or bus one finds himself in a completely different environment, with green pine forests, much more manageable temperatures and a sense of crispiness or freshness in the air that one can only dream of during the summer in Madrid.
It is true that some of the most popular and easily accessible Park trails can get rather busy on the weekends and during the high summer months, however, they rarely become so full that it interferes with the enjoyment of the experience. Moreover, if you go with someone who knows the Park and the Sierra well or, even better, an experienced guide (and our Chief Guide, Cesar, certainly falls under that category), it is easy to find trails and hikes that appear to be nearly completely deserted, regardless of the date and time of the visit. Also, the difficulty level of trails varies from very easy to difficult ensuring that, despite your level of fitness, you will be able to find something perfectly suitable.
There are also few small towns/pueblos serving as entry points to the Park that are worth a stroll and offering some decent lunch or dining options. After spending several hours maneuvering the mountains (and burning the calories), you will earn the right to a hearty meal; however, try to stay away from the “tourist traps” that usually fill the main town’s square (often serving pre-cooked or defrosted dishes). Don’t hesitate to explore some of the more secluded alleyways and side streets where much more authentic/interesting gastronomical options can be found (again, being accompanied by someone who knows the area helps). Finally, it is always a good idea to bring some light lunch options with you since there’s nothing better than an al-fresco lunch in a pine forest while admiring the mountain views.
In short, I’d again emphasize that if you are staying in Madrid for more than 3 or 4 days, or if you already know the city well, and do appreciate nature, especially mountains, a day escape to Guadarrama is definitely worth your time and won’t disappoint. Don’t hesitate to contact us should you wish to obtain any more information or organize your visit to the Park and the surrounding areas.