Probably the most classical hike in Sierra Nevada is the mesmerizing Vereda de la Estrella. This path dates back to 1890 when it was built to connect Granada with the mines that you can still see the remains of on the trail. Back in the day, there was a rail connection for easier transportation, though there are no traces of it today.
Today, Vereda de la Estrella offers so much to outdoor enthusiasts; explore old mine tunnels, walk through the ruins of old stone buildings, gaze at the 3000-meter peaks making out the picture-perfect view along most of the trail. You might meet free-roaming cows on the trail or witness mountain goats elegantly run in groups up and down the valley.
The whole time, you’ll be followed by the rushing sound of the Rio Genil river flowing below you and if you peak down, you’ll see multiple rapids and waterfalls wrapped in thick vegetation.
Hiking Vereda de la Estrella in Granada is a must if you have the time for a day hike, but make sure you’re prepared for a long day. Even though there are no seriously steep ascents along this hike, it’s a long one that does take you continuously up and down.
You should be in good physical condition to venture out on this whole hike and that goes for children too. Only take kids that are used to hiking and that have adequate footwear.
That said, if the whole trail feels too long, it might be comforting to know that many people just do parts of the trail. There are many cool stops along the way and it’s seriously beautiful from the first moment, so don’t worry if you can’t make it to the end.
Continue reading for the complete guide to hike Vereda de la Estrella in Sierra Nevada. You’re about to explore one of Granada’s absolute best hikes!
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- Province: Granada
- Mountain range: Sierra Nevada
- Length: 21 km
- Time: 6-8 hours
- Elevation: 1400 meters
- Altidute: 1700 meters
- Route: Linear return
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Hiking season: spring and autumn
- Hiking with dogs: You can hike with dogs both during spring and autumn as there are no pine trees, thus no pine processionary caterpillars. There are not many natural water sources on this hike and they’re far apart, so you need to bring extra water for your pets and they have to be in a leash at all times as you’re in the national park. Read everything you need to know about hiking with dogs here.
How to get to Vereda de la Estrella, Güejar Sierra
The only way to get to Vereda de la Estrella is by car. First, you need to drive through the white mountain village, Güejar Sierra, and continue towards Rio Genil on narrow mountain roads along the left side of the ravine. The road takes you through a few narrow tunnels and ends by the trailhead at Restaurante Barranco San Juan.
You can put the name of the restaurant into the GPS (make sure it says Güejar Sierra) and it will take you straight there. I’ve tried to put Vereda de la Estrella into the navigator, but it stops long before you get there, so if you do that, keep in mind that you need to drive until the end. If you come early, you can park there.
Just before the end of the road, there is a parking area down to the right by the river that you’ll see from above. If this too is full, you need to drive back until you find a free spot in one of the pockets along the road.
And I mean the bigger pockets because the small ones should be kept free so that cars can pass each other. Because this mountain road doesn’t leave room for more than one car at a time. It’s pretty narrow, yes. And it goes straight down on the outer side.
Güejar Sierra is about a 30-minute drive from Granada, 1 hour and 45 minutes from Malaga, and 2 hours from Almeria. From Güejar Sierra to Restaurante Barranco San Juan it take 15-20 minutes to drive. You should drive slowly and carefully on these narrow roads so you get the chance to react safely when you meet another vehicle.
I’m not kidding when I say it goes straight down the side and there’s no way to fit two cars next to each other!
Just before the restaurant, there is a hiking sign where the hike starts. Cross the bridge and you’ll get to a big sign indicating that you’re at the Vereda de la Estrella. Here the trail goes left up a set of stairs made out of rock.
When is the best time to hike Vereda de la Estrella, Granada
Vereda de la Estrella hike is best done during spring and autumn when there’s no snow or ice, and when the summer heat doesn’t suffocate you.
Normally, you can hike from mid-September (some years even later) until November, but check the weather forecast if you go late in the season so you don’t find yourself trodding snow and ice as this can be dangerous if you’re not used to it and have the right equipment.
Some parts are narrow and the placement of the path on the side of the valley means it’s steep down the side, some places vertical. So just don’t underestimate the weather.
Also, if there’s ice and snow on the mountain road, it’s very dangerous to drive, especially without chains.
You need to take the same precautions in the spring. Wait until the snow is gone. As you ascend, if you see that the trail starts to become icy, snowy, or somewhat unsafe, turn around.
A good rule of thumb is to ask the locals if they know the conditions when you consider hiking in early spring or late autumn.
What to bring
Vereda de la Estrella is a long hike, so make sure you bring enough food, water, and snack like nuts, dates, energy bars, fruit, etc. I find it perfect with a 3-liter water bladder for this hike. It’s better to have too much than too little, though there are a couple of natural water sources along the way, you’ll need to filtrate the water before you drink it.
You can either use purifying tablets, a Lifestraw water bottle, or a SteriPen to purify the water before you drink it. I use a SteriPen Ultra with a wide-mouthed bottle so that I can stir well enough for it to purify all the water. I then pour it over to my water bladder.
As mentioned before, you should wear comfortable hiking shoes or boots for this hike. Other hiking gear that you need to bring is a good hiking backpack for day hikes and a headlamp. Both for venturing into the tunnel, which is pretty cool and long (I haven’t gone all the way in, but I went solo and felt safer turning around after a while) and for safety in case it becomes dark before you get back to the car.
Since this is such a long hike, you should also bring extra clothes in your backpack in case the weather changes. You might also notice a huge difference in temperature between sun and shade. As the trail is mostly in the shade, you’d be well off with hiking pants that convert into shorts by taking off the legs. This way, you can easily “change”. And a windbreaker should always be in your backpack unless you’re wearing it.
You should also bring a buff, beanie, and mittens when it’s closer to the winter season than to the summer season. better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
While I don’t feel the need for hiking poles on this hike, I usually meet people that have them and I think they might be good to lean on during such a long trek.
THINGS TO BRING:
- fruit or other snack
- water (2-3 liters per person)
- external battery charger
- extra clothes for weather changes
Where to stay
The best place to stay when hiking Vereda de la Estrella is Granada. It’s close driving to the trailhead and you have the luxury of being in one of the most beautiful old towns in Spain, close to one of the most popular attractions, La Alambra, and a vivid area of tapas bars serving you some of the best local cuisines.
Hotel Santa Isabel La Real is situated in the heart of Granada’s old town. The refurbished historical townhouse is traditionally furnished and you can relax in the cozy courtyard. Check availability here.
Hiking Vereda de la Estrella, Sierra Nevada
Starting the hike from Restaurante Barranco San Juan, cross the river across the little wooden bridge and you’ll soon see a sign to Vereda de la Estrella. The trail takes you up a set of stairs made out of rock and continues above the river, slowly ascending making the rushing sound of water to your left disappear farther and farther away.
The path is easy to follow as it winds along the right side of the valley, up and down, through chestnut forests, past a 21-meter high centenary chestnut tree named “El Abuelo” which translates to “The Grandpa”.
There’s only one place where the path divides into a trail winding steep down the valley or continuing straight ahead. Make sure you continue straight ahead or you get a mean ascent later on when you realize you’re on the wrong path.
The next point of interest is the lookout, Mirador Viso de las Nortes. This is where you get the first good glimpse of the 3000-meter peaks in front of you. You can make out several peaks, among them the Alcazaba and Mulhacen.
The view of these immense peaks will follow you for a long way. Not far after the viewpoint, you get to the first remains of the old mines, Mina la Probadora. This is where you can enter a long tunnel into the deep unknown of the mountain, so make sure you have your headlamp ready if you want to venture in there.
The next mine remains, Mina de la Estrella, are situated right where the path winds towards the right and you soon see a bridge crossing the vivid river cascading down in small falls. This is the point where most hikers turn around, of those who made it this far.
In my opinion, one of the most beautiful parts of the trail!
Crossing the river, the trail ascends on the other side and soon turns into a narrower trail wrapped in thick vegetation, evidence that not that many hikers continue this far. But you’re still up for a treat.
The La Justicia mine remains are still to be passed, and there are two mesmerizing waterfalls on the other side of the valley that are worth the while.
The trail ends at a picnic spot by a newer built wooden bridge and the return is the same way you came from. It’s possible to continue along the river, though the trail is disappearing a bit more in the vegetation towards Cueva Escondida, translated Hidden Cave.
Reflections on La Vereda de la Estrella hike
There is no questioning, Vereda de la Estrella is one of the most beautiful walks in Sierra Nevada. It’s also one that you can easily do without any technical challenges and the impeccable views around every corner makes it easy to keep walking.
If you’re used to doing more strenuous hikes, La Vereda de la Estrella is actually a great variation. Especially autumn is incredibly pretty when the fall colors pop up in between the green throughout the valley.
Vereda de la Estrella is a true bucket list hike you should do at least once!
Other epic hikes in Sierra Nevada: