Complete Mulhacen hiking guide: The top of the Iberian Peninsula!

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If you’re up for a true bucket list hike, Mulhacen, Spain is your peak! Being the highest mountain in Sierra Nevada, the second highest peak in Spain, the highest in mainland Spain, as well as the Iberian Peninsula, there is no doubt it’s worth the climb. This is one of the best hikes in southern Spain!

You can easily do a Mulhacen hiking trip in a day, but for the adventure seeker, there are various refuges to stay at and wild camp opportunities to consider.

You have several options for your Mulhacen hike and this is a guide for both a day hike and a two-day Mulhacen trekking experience. In addition, you will get tips about other alternative routes. Get ready for the best hike in Sierra Nevada.

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Mulhacen hiking in two days
Hiking towards Refugio de Poqueira from Hoya del Portillo

Hiking Mulhacen in one day

The one day Mulhacen hike is fairly easy with the park shuttle bus. However, the last section can feel tough due to the altitude, especially if you come straight from the coast in the morning. My feet felt like they were pulled to the ground and I could hardly lift them, though climbing Mulhacen in two days and sleeping at around 3000 meters of altitude didn’t give that sensation at all.

The one day Mulhacen hiking trail starts and ends at Mirador de Trevelez at 2700 meters of altitude, which you can reach by a park shuttle bus from Capileira. This is one of the most popular treks in Granada.

Views from the top of Mulhacen - the highest mountain in Sierra Nevada
Views from the top of Mulhacen

Practical information

  • Province: Granada
  • Mountain range: Sierra Nevada
  • Length: 11,5 km
  • Time: 4-6 hours
  • Altitude: 3479 masl
  • Elevation: 779 m
  • Route: Linear return
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Hiking with dogs: Allowed in leash. Dogs have to sit in a cage in the luggage department of the shuttle bus up to the trailhead. There are no natural water sources on this hike, so make sure you bring enough water for your dog too. You can read everything you need to know about hiking with dogs here.

How to get to Mirador de Trevelez

The trailhead for the one day Mount Mulacen hiking trip starts at Mirador de Trevelez. This is the highest point any vehicle can go, but not any vehicle. Private cars are not allowed, so you need to take the park shuttle bus from the village of Capileira. Unless you want to walk that stretch up and down from the village, which will easily add 7 hours to your hiking itinerary.

The park bus has to be booked in advance and only runs in the summer months. However, if the weather conditions don’t permit it, the bus won’t leave, so I recommend that you always call or write in advance to make sure it hasn’t been canceled.

You can find updated contact information for booking bus tickets to Mirador de Trevelez here.

Unfortunately, information is only in Spanish, but the phone number, email, and opening hours are easy to spot.

The park bus takes about 45 minutes from Capileira to Mirador de Trevelez where it will pick you up exactly 6 hours after drop off.

The top of Pico Mulhacen
The top of Mulhacen

How to get to Capileira

You can get to Capileira village either by bus or by car. However, the bus takes a long time and you might have to stay the night in Capileira before and after your hike. By car, you can make it a day trip from either Granada or Malaga.

By bus

Bus from Granada to Capileira takes 2-2,5 hours, but there are only a few departures a day. The same goes for the return.

Bus from Malaga to Capileira takes from 4 hours 15 minutes, with a bus change in Granada.

By car

It’s definitely easier to get to Capileira by car, no matter where you travel from.

From Granada to Capileira, it takes less than 1 hour 30 minutes by car.

From Malaga to Capileira it takes about 2 hours driving the A7 along the coast taking off above Motril towards Capileira.

It’s easy to find Capileira with the GPS, so you shouldn’t get lost. Parking in Capileira is easy along the road as long as you come early.

What to bring when hiking Mulhacen in one day

Though this is a fairly easy hike in one day, you are hiking at above 3000 meters of altitude and the weather conditions can change quickly. After all, you’re heading to the highest mountain in Sierra Nevada and the whole of mainland Spain!

For this reason, make sure you check the weather forecast as late as the same morning hour for hour to have an idea of the temperatures and wind strength you might encounter.

Whatever the weather forecast says, though, make sure you have the necessary layers of clothes with you. It’s not always accurate, no matter how close in time you check it. I have hiked this trail both in shorts and in long pants.

Good footwear is also important for this hike, whether you wear hiking boots or hiking shoes.

If you struggle with knee pain, trekking poles or a hiking knee brace is a good idea for this hike. You can also read my complete list of hiking gear here.

Mulhacen hike
Ayla and I on our one day Mulhacen hike

Read my complete guide to finding the best sustainable day hiking backpacks here.

Here are the minimum of things you should bring for a one-day Mulhacen hike:

  • water
  • windbreaker
  • caps/hat
  • lunch
  • snacks (fruit/nuts, etc)
  • sunscreen
  • neck gaiter/buff
  • camera
  • portable mobile charger

Here are my top Amazon picks for a day hike to Mulhacen:

Mount Mulhacen: hiking in one day

The actual hike from Mirador de Trevelez to Pico Mulhacen is fairly easy and the path is easy to follow. Starting by following the broad dirt track you came with the bus for the first couple of kilometers, until you get to a junction.

Here you’ll see a sign to Refugio de Poqueira to the left. You need to take the path to the right, which is the one you keep following until the top.

First junction on the one day Mulhacen hike - take the path on the right
First junction on the one day Mulhacen hike – take the path on the right

The last part is a bit rockier, though still easy to follow. You might notice the altitude once you get higher if you’ve traveled straight from the coast in the morning. I definitely felt it in my legs and could hardly lift them – so heavy. Other than that, I had no issues.

Once you get to the top and the path continues on the ridge towards the right, there are only a few hundred meters left to the top of Pico Mulhacen.

From the top, you can see all the 3000-meter peaks like Pico de Veleta (3398m), which is the second highest in Sierra Nevada, but also El Chullo peak (2613m), which is the highest in Almeria’s Sierra Nevada.

On a clear day, you can see the Mediterranean coast as well as Malaga’s highest peak, La Maroma (2066m).

After you’ve taken in the mesmerizing views of the surrounding peaks, return the same way back to the bus. You should leave the top at least 2 hours before the bus is picking you up.

There's a big chance of seeing mountain goats when climbing Mulhacen Spain
There’s a big chance of seeing mountain goats when climbing Mulhacen

READ: Best gift ideas for hikers


Climbing Mulhacen in two days

There are various options to climb Mulhacen in two days. This guide is for hiking from Hoya del Portillo, which is the highest you can get by private vehicle and requires that you have your own car.

You can walk from Capileira to Hoya del Portillo, but that will add at least 4-5 hours return.

Views on the hike to Refugio de Poqueira
Views on the hike to Refugio de Poqueira

Practical information

  • Province: Granada
  • Mountain range: Sierra Nevada
  • Length: 24,5 km
  • Time day 1: 3-6 hours
  • Time day 2: 6-9 hours
  • Altitude: 3479 masl
  • Elevation: 1334 m
  • Route: Circular
  • Difficulty: Medium to demanding
  • Hiking with dogs: Allowed in leash. I recommend paw balm or paw socks on the two-day trek. There are also limited natural water resources on day one, and none on day two. So make sure you bring enough water for the dogs too, and fill up in the morning on day two so you have enough for the rest of the day. Here is everything you need to know about hiking with dogs.

How to get to Hoya del Portillo

The only ways you can reach Hoya del Portillo is by car or as mentioned above, by foot. as the highest point, you can get by private car, Hoya del Portillo is at an altitude of 2145 meters.

It’s easily reached by driving through Capileira and continuing up the dirt trail. By adding it into the GPS, it might try to get you up a shortcut where you’ll easily see that you can’t get up by car, so just keep following the dirt track your on and the GPS will redirect quickly.

The drive takes less than 30 minutes and the track is in good shape for a regular car to drive on. Once you get to a roadblock, that’s where you have to park and the trail starts to the left of the roadblock. There is space for quite a few cars, though I do recommend you get there pretty early.

What to bring when trekking Mulhacen in 2 days

Trekking Mulhacen in two days means you need a bit more hiking gear, including provision for two days. There are natural water sources on the first day, and if you camp at Refugio de Poqueira or set your tent up along the river, you can fill up water for the second day in the morning. Because after you leave the river, there are no more water sources.

This hike is also heavy on your knees, so if you tend to notice pain on long hikes, make sure you bring knee support. Lightweight or even ultralight trekking poles are also recommended here so you don’t carry too much weight, but the support is definitely useful.

Depending on if you sleep in the guarded or ungraded refuges or if you opt for wild camping, you need different things for the night. Refugio de Poqueira sells single-use sheets, so I recommend bringing your own for the sake of the environment. The unguarded refuges don’t have any accessories, so you’ll need everything you bring tenting except the actual tent.

Nights can get pretty cold. A tip I got from a fellow hiker before I went on the two-day trek was to bring an emergency blanket for the cold night (we had below zero and I only had a summer sleeping bag.) So I wrapped myself in the emergency blanket before slipping into the sleeping bag and I was sooo warm that night! Obviously with good layers of warm clothes on too.

Mulhacen trekking

What to bring when hiking Mulhacen in 2 days:

  • water
  • water purifier
  • food (think lightweight energy-filled food)
  • windbreaker
  • neck gaiter/buff
  • hat/beanie
  • gloves
  • thermal underwear
  • warm socks
  • first aid kit
  • tent (if you opt for wild camping)
  • sheet (if you stay at Refugio de Poqueira)
  • sleeping pad
  • sleeping bag
  • headlamp
  • cooking stove and utensils
  • portable charger for your phone

My top Amazon picks for a two day Mulhacen hike:

Mulhacen hike: Day one

Once you’ve parked at Hoya del Portillo, you need to take the path going upwards through the forest beside the stone hut. This means, if you stand on the dirt road looking at the road barrier, you turn left (upwards and not down).

The forest trail opens up after about half an hour and shortly after that, you get to a junction where you continue straight ahead towards Poqueira. If you want, you can do a detour a few minutes to the right to a viewpoint and back.

Continue straight in the first junction towards Poqueira
Continue straight in the first junction towards Poqueira

After the junction, the trail follows open areas and eventually it passes a lot of livestock, constantly accompanied by the picturesque 3000-meter peaks on your left side.

Keep following this trail (there is a path to the right a bit down the road – don’t follow it) until it descends towards a farmhouse and you get to a junction where you get on to a wide dirt road.

Take the left here and keep going – the farmhouse will stay on your left as the road continues past it towards the right – until you get to Refugio de Poqueira.

You’re now at 2500 meters of altitude and at the first accommodation option. If you’re not staying here for the night, keep walking straight past it until you get to the river. The trail follows the river on its left side. There are a few nice, flat spots to set up your tent by crossing the river.

Alternatively, you can keep hiking up for another hour or so past a couple of steep ascents before you get to a junction, looking up the steep west flank of Mount Mulhacen. A couple of hundred meters to your left, you’ll see the humble Refugio Caldera.

Read more about where to stay below so you can choose the right accommodation for you.

Hiking towards Refugio de Poqueira on the way to Mount Mulhacen
Getting close to Refugio de Poqueira

Where to stay

There are a few options on where to stay on your way up to the mighty Mount Mulhacen, depending on your preferences.

Note that the guarded refuge, Refugio de Poqueira, doesn’t allow dogs and they were pretty unpleasant to me on the phone when they pointed out that I couldn’t expect using their toilets either.

The park rules say that you can’t set up the tent closer than 500 meters from a guarded refuge.

Refugio de Poqueira

Refugio de Poqueira is the only guarded refuge along this hiking route to Mulhacen. They have a cafe and restaurant so you don’t have to carry as much food as if you choose any of the other options.

You need to bring your own sheet to the refuge, though, or you can buy a single-use one. I recommend that you bring your own, even though it’s extra weight (think what you save in food, cooking gear, and tent!), the environment will thank you.

You find prices and other relevant information on their website here.

Refugio de Poqueira
Refugio de Poqueira

Refugio Caldera

Refugio Caldera is situated right below the last, steep climb up Mulhacen’s west ridge at 3050 meters of altitude. Walking up along the river from Refugio de Poqueira, it probably takes an hour or so to reach. You’ll see the little stone refuge to the left when you reach a junction where you can turn left or right – or continue straight up Mulhacen’s steep west ridge.

This refuge is free and houses about 10 people. I haven’t slept there myself, but I hear it fills up pretty fast in the summer and it’s recommended to get there as early as possible to secure a place.

If you sleep in Refugio Caldera, you don’t have to walk back down to the junction where you took left the night before. You can walk straight up from the refuge.

The picture below is taken from the trail looking down. You see the tiny structure to the right of the little lake, that’s the refuge. In the picture, you can clearly see the path where all the people walk (this is where you come from Refugio Poqueira and the river) and the path from the Refugio Caldera. They both lead up the same incline to Mulhacen.

View of Refugio Caldera
View of Refugio Caldera – the tiny structure to the right of the lake

Wild camping

Wild camping in Sierra Nevada National Park is allowed as long as you notify the national park authorities. I had a difficult time finding the right phone number and the right email address, but after being in touch with different offices, I finally got a response at the following email address (yes – it’s loooong):

pnsierranevada.usopublico.dtgr.cagpds@juntadeandalucia.es

They will provide you with a form that you need to print out, fill out, and send back. If you don’t have a printer, you can go to a Papeleria store and they can print it out for you. Once you’ve filled out the form, take a picture with your phone and email it back.

They will also email you all the things you need to know about wild camping in the national park, like leave no trace, where you can and cannot set up your tent, and how to protect your food at night.

If the above-provided email address doesn’t work, they will be able to help you at the tourist office in Capileira – you can also call them, but I’m not sure how well they speak English.

We camped on the left side of the river (we crossed it) a good walk past Refugio de Poqueira. Further up, it might be harder to find a flat spot that’s sheltered.

You can read my complete guide to wild camping in Sierra Nevada here.

Wild camping in Sierra Nevada
Sunset from our wild camp spot

Mulhacen hike: Day two

Day two of the Mulhacen hike is the hardest, especially if you’re carrying your camping gear. Depending on where you’ve slept, if you start by following the river from Refugio de Poqueira or if you stay at Refugio Caldera or camp in between, the toughest stretch comes after you get to the junction (before turning left towards Refugio Caldera).

You’re going straight up the steep, seemingly endless hill. You’re heading up Mulhacen’s west flank. It’s unforgiving, steep, and consists mainly of loose rock, so watch your step.

Climbing Mulhacen - half way up the west flank
Half way up Mulhacen’s west flank

Once you’ve reached its top, you see Mulhacen peak about 50 meters to your left. You’re finally there!

After taking in the breathtaking views of the surroundings, walk back down the same first 50 meters from the peak where you came from. But instead of turning right to return back down the west flank, keep going straight along the ridge on the path in front of you.

You’ll have the trail you walked to reach the peak on your right side for a few hundred meters before the trail starts winding down towards the left.

If you struggle with knee pain after the ascent, you can opt for the longer route instead, by taking the wider track down, as it’s not as steep. This track will be visible to your left before you start the descent on the trail. It will eventually meet up with the trail, at least it looked like it when I walked it.

I ended up crossing the field to the trail near the bottom as I wasn’t sure if it would actually meet up or how much longer it would turn out to be.

A mountain goat on the alternative road down from Mulhacen
A mountain goat on the wide track down from Mulhacen

If you opt for the actual trail, just keep walking past the wide track and follow the cairns down towards the left and you won’t get lost.

The path is well marked with cairns, easy to follow, and continues zig-zagging through the rocky landscape for a while before it turns greener and you eventually get onto a dirt road. Keep walking straight on this. You’ll soon enough get to a junction where there are signs to Poqueira to the right, but you just keep walking straight. This is the same road where the park bus drives day hikers.

Eventually, you’ll get to Hoya del Portillo. The descent from the peak to the car takes around 3-4 hours with breaks.

The way back down from hiking Mulhacen - tha trail meets the dirt road
Where the path meets the dirt road – follow this road all the way to Hoya del Portillo

Other options for reaching Pico Mulhacen

There are numerous routes to climb Mulhacen and here are a few other options for reaching the peak.

From Trevelez

Trevelez is the highest village in Sierra Nevada, sitting at 1486 meters of altitude. You can start the hike to Mulhacen from the village, but it’s a long hike to do in only a day. You can expect a 10-12 hours hike return, though, with almost 1900 meters of elevation, this is not a beginner hike.

An alternative is to sleep at Refugio Caldera and either return up the west flank of Mulhacen in the morning to return to Trevelez or hike down to Refugio de Poqueira and head to Trevelez from there.

If you’re up for a through-hike, you can hike back down to Capileira village or past Pico Veleta to Hoya de la Mora and to Sierra Nevada (the village).

Hike from Capileira

The hike from Capileira is popular, though it’s an elevation of more than 2000 meters. Most people head to Refugio de Poqueira for the night and walk up to Mulhacen in the morning. You can either return down the same way or take the easier descent on the east ridge as described in both my one day and two-day hike in this guide.

You can expect to hike for 10-11 hours on day two to get all the way back down to Capileira if you stay at Refugio de Poqueira.

Looking down the west flank nearly from the top when trekking Mulhacen
Looking down the west flank from close to the top

From Hoya de la Mora

Another beautiful alternative is to hike to Mulhacen from Hoya de la Mora across Pico de Veleta (3398m) or just hike around Veleta. But why skip the second highest peak in Sierra Nevada National Park if you walk just a 20-30 minute hike below the peak?

This is a possible day hike (9-11 hrs), but there are a few unguarded refuges you can stay at before climbing Mulacen’s steep west flank. Just as you walk past Pico Veleta, there is one that you’ll see easily. This is Refugio Vivac la Carihuela.

Continuing on the trail, there is one more before arriving at Refugio Caldera, that I’ve been told is hard to see, as it’s in the middle of a turn in the path. This makes it less popular than the others, simply because fewer people see it. I still haven’t walked this route myself, so I can’t confirm exactly where it is.

Refugio Vivac la Carihuela
Refugio Vivac la Carihuela below Pico de Veleta

When is the best time to climb Mulhacen

Mulhacen is best to hike between July and September when it’s less chance of snow but can be done without a guide from late spring to early autumn. You just need to check the weather conditions, especially if you plan on climbing the west ridge. This can be dangerous in snowy and icy conditions without adequate gear. Some years there’s snow as late as July, others it disappears in May.

It’s worth noting that the bus service from Capileira to Mirador de Trevelez only goes in the summer months.

Make sure you turn around to take in the views when you hike Mulhacen
Make sure you turn around to take in the views

Where to stay when hiking Mulhacen

Here are a few alternatives for where to stay in Capileira and Trevelez when you go hiking Mulhacen.

Capileira

If you take the bus to Mirador de Trevelez for a day hike or if you hike straight from Capileira, you definitely want to stay here. But even if you hike from Hoya del Portillo, it can be convenient to stay the night in Capileira.

Hotel Rural Real de Poqueira

This is a beautiful mountain hotel with astounding views in the center of the village. It has a pool in the summer, has a bar, and serves breakfast.

Hostal El Cascapeñas de la Alpujarra

In the main street in the village, you find this hotel with a roof terrace boasting spectacular views. There is a bar below serving breakfast and tapas.

Trevelez

If you opt for the Mulhacen hiking route from Trevelez, this is the place to stay. There are also a lot of other spectacular hiking routes from the village.

Hotel Rural Pepe Alvarez

This is hotel is centrally situated in the village of Trevelez. It has rooms and a with mountain views, breakfast and a bar.

The trail from Refugio de Poqueira towards the river
The trail from Refugio de Poqueira towards the river

Reflections on Mulhacen hiking

Mulhacen is one of the absolute must hikes in Andalucia and one the locals will respect you for climbing. There are so many different ways to conquer it in one day or several days. Some are hard while others are easier. Depending on your physical state (and mental – persistence is key up the west flank), it might be harder or easier than what I experienced.

The absolute toughest part for me, was definitely the climb up the west ridge of Mulhacen, hiking it over two days. My backpack was super heavy and the top never seemed to get closer. But walking down that trail would probably have been harder. I’m not sure if I want to try that.

Altogether, both the day hike and the two-day hike were memorable hikes that I totally loved doing and I recommend anyone that loves the mountains to try at least one of these routes.

Other hikes in Sierra Nevada:

2 thoughts on “Complete Mulhacen hiking guide: The top of the Iberian Peninsula!

  1. Anthony says:

    I remember passing by the Mulhacen hike trailhead in Trevelez and resolutely decide to ignore it, hehe. Well, I wasn’t geared for a hike anyway. Instead, I went for a Mulhacen craft beer on the main square.
    Thanks for this comprehensive post – now I know what to expect next time!

    • Linn Haglund says:

      Awesome! I still haven’t had a Mulhacen beer;) But planning on a hike from Trevelez this summer, so I’ll update the post with more info then.

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