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Guadalmesí: Breath-taking Riverbank Hike Surrounded by Ancient Forests

Rosario Pérez | Photos: Fran Montes

Guadalmesí | Photo: Fran Montes

Guadalmesí, Los Alcornocales Natural Park | Alder trees, gall oaks, laurisilva and spectacular views over the Strait, Guadalmesí is one of the most charming hiking trails in the Los Alcornocales Natural Park

Many thousands of years ago, most of the Mediterranean was marked by a humid, tropical climate with an abundance of mist which led to the proliferation of laurel forests, small trees with leaves similar to laurel, as well as ferns.

Guadalmesí Los Alcronocales Natural Park Hike Campo de Gibraltar
Guadalmesí, Los Alcornocales Natural Park | Photo: Fran Montes

Extreme climactic changes of the last ice-age transformed the now-globally recognized and iconic landscapes of southern Europe and nearly caused a complete disappearance of these misty forests in the Mediterranean.

And yet, against all odds, a handful of these magical ancient forests remain to this day within the Strait of Gibraltar, preserved in time and ready to explore thanks to the different trails and routes that cut through these woodlands.

Once such unmissable route can be found within the heart of the famous Los Alcornocales Natural Park, running along the Guadalmesí river in the ‘Sierra de Bujeo’ which lies between Algeciras and Tarifa. A trail so surreal that it feels as though you have been taken thousands of years back in time.

Guadalmesí Los Alcronocales Natural Park Hike Campo de Gibraltar
Guadalmesí, Los Alcornocales Natural Park | Photo: Fran Montes

Guadalmesí, a name of Moorish origin which translates to “River of Women”, is both the name of the river that carries water and from the Sierra de la Luna, as well as the path that cuts across the it. A pathway which will take you to its highest level, with some of the most spectacular views of the Strait.

As explained in some of the most popular hiking guides online, the typical trail will lead you up through the ‘Carril de Palancar’ trail, which you will then descend through the midsection of the Guadalmesí river bank – a leisurely walk through a beautiful “gallery forest” (a forest restricted to the banks of a river) rich in alder groves and gall oaks. You will then end your journey at the mouth of the river which flows into the Strait of Gibraltar, where the tides and flows Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean merge together.

Guadalmesí Los Alcronocales Natural Park Hike Campo de Gibraltar
Guadalmesí, Los Alcornocales Natural Park | Photo: Fran Montes

This riverbank trail, which is close to the “Bosque de la Niebla” (“Misty Forest”), is one of the most accessible in the Natural Park.

You can capture some of the most spectacular photos and enjoy watching the flight of different birds, both local and migratory species, which typically fill the skies while surveying their hunting grounds or simply migrating through Europe and Africa within the Intercontinental Biosphere Reserve.

Guadalmesí, Los Alcornocales Natural Park | Photo: Fran Montes

At this point of the trip, Griffon Vultures and other birds of prey would most likely been flying overhead the entire time. But the sky is not the only place to watch to discover the wildlife; its not uncommon to see Red Deer and Roe Deer throughout this location.

As for the variety of plant life, the beauty of the cork oak forests, with the low scrub and ferns that typically grow, can begin to dull your sense of direction. And, deep in the riverbank, with its winding gallery forest, is abundant in alder, gall oaks, laurel, durillos, moss and even, although in a lesser quantity, ojaranzos and rhodendrons.

Guadalmesí, Los Alcornocales Natural Park | Photo: Fran Montes

Added to the majesty of the location, the hike itself is classified as a “low-difficulty” walk, spanning 6.6 km each way, and can be completed in about one and a half hours to two hours, so taking the kids along with you will be no problem.

For the more adventurous hikers and mountaineers, the Guadalmesí trail links with another 20 km route which may take up to 8 hours, depending on how many rest-stops you take. This extensive circular route, which is recommended for exceptional hikers and which requires a permit to gain access the Bosque de la Niebla and the Llanos del Juncal, will lead you into the higher reaches of the park; Puerto del Viento, the Tajo de las Escobas and the Tajo de la Corza.

How to Get to Guadalmesí

Guadalmesí, Los Alcornocales Natural Park | Photo: Fran Montes

The trail begins at the ‘El Bujeo’ recreational area in Tarifa. If you’re driving from the direction of Algeciras, you can reach Gaudalmesí through a forest track that begins at the N-340 road, on the KM 95.

If you’re coming from Tarifa, you’ll need to make a U-turn later on in El Pelayo.

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