With an area of 12,696 hectares, Sierra de Castril Natural Park is located in the north of the province of Granada, occupying part of the municipality of Castril. It has held the distinction of a natural park since 1989.
Sierra de Castril Natural Park is framed by Sierra de Castril to the west, with its highest point at Cerro de las Empanadas (Empanadas Hill) (2106 m), and Sierra Seca to the east, with its highest peak, Tornajuelos (2136 m).
With a spectacular karst relief, the result of the limestone origin of the rocks that make up the Sierra de Castril Natural Park, as well as the abundant rainfall that has given rise to numerous chasms, caves and galleries, making it a place of geological and speleological interest. Thus, places such as Barranco de la Osa (Bear Ravine) and caves such as the Cueva del Muerto (Death Cave) in Sierra Seca stand out, where you can see spectacular formations of stalactites and stalagmites. You will also be able to appreciate the Cueva de Don Fernando (Mr. Fernando Cave), the deepest and longest cave in the province of Granada and the second in Andalusia, with numerous galleries and rooms of incomparable beauty, such as the Colada Hall.
Also thanks to the karst relief of Sierra de Castril Natural Park, there are numerous springs such as Juan Ruiz spring, Tubos spring, Magdalena spring or Lézar spring.
Sierra de Castril Natural Park is crossed from north to south by the Castril River, which rises in the heart of the natural park, in a unique place of extreme beauty.
From the rocky walls of Castril River, its cold and crystalline waters flow permanently.
This river runs through a deep valley and is responsible for much of the appearance of Sierra de Castril Natural Park, as well as the main environmental value. On its way it flows through narrow gorges and steep slopes that cause waterfalls of great beauty, such as the Magdalena Waterfall, until it flows into Portillo Reservoir.
The vegetation of Sierra de Castril Natural Park is made up of black pine or salgareño pine, juniper and creeping juniper, among others. These species grow on the highest peaks, resistant to low temperatures and cold winter winds.
In lower areas of Sierra de Castril Natural Park, typical of a Mediterranean climate, there are holm oaks and pine forests of various species from repopulation, such as Aleppo pine. However, gall oaks, ash trees and maples, which grow in the most humid areas, are also common.
In the river parts, the gallery forest accompanies and surrounds the river course, made up of willows, poplars and elms.
Regarding the fauna, what makes Sierra de Castril Natural Park more remarkable has been its recognition by the European Union as a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA) due to its abundant bird fauna.
In the limestone walls of the natural park you can observe birds such as the griffon vulture, the peregrine falcon and the Egyptian vulture; while among pines and oaks forests live other birds of prey such as the golden eagle. In 2020 the bearded vulture was introduced.
On the other hand, in rivers and fluvial groves there are numerous species of birds such as the gray heron, the wagtail, the robin, the kingfisher or the water blackbird.
However, within Sierra de Castril Natural Park you can find other species of animals, such as mammals, among which the Spanish ibex, the mouflon, the fallow deer, the wild boar, the lynx, the wild cat and the marten stand out.
The fluvial areas are inhabited, in addition to the aforementioned birds, by otters and fish such as common trout.
Sierra de Castril Natural Park gives you the option of knowing and obtaining information on all its protected natural space in a detailed way thanks to Sierra de Castril Natural Park Visitor Centre, located 500 meters from Castril de la Peña. This centre also has a permanent exhibition where you can learn more about the main characteristics of natural park and the species of flora and fauna present in these mountains, with an emphasis on Castril River. It also contains an area for the sale of products, among which are publications of both books and brochures. You will also be able to find out about trails to follow within the natural park and see a reproduction of the partial skeleton of a mammoth found at the Fuente Nuevas site in Orce.
The hiking routes that Sierra de Castril Natural Park offers you not only make up an entertainment activity, but also an opportunity to enter the natural park and appreciate all its beauty and its singularities already described.
Crowning the pico del Buitre (Vulture peak) (2020 m), one of the highest levels of Sierra de Castril Natural Park, you will find Cerro del Buitre Trail. On this route you can see the nests of the griffon vultures on the steep peaks. On the tour, you will also have the opportunity to see the pine forests of the high mountains, as well as broom and thickets of its peaks, in many cases exclusive to these mountains. From the pico del Buitre you can contemplate Sierra de la Cabrilla, which delimits the neighboring Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas Natural Park to the east, as well as Sierra de la Sagra, Sierra de Orce, Sierra de María, in the Almería province, Sierra de Baza and Sierra Nevada.
For its part, the Barranco de la Osa Trail runs through the area of Castril River, beginning at Cortijo del Nacimiento (Source Farmhouse), near the source of Castril River. With 8 km one way and the same ones back, the route will impress you because, depending on the rain regime, its flow ranges between 1,000 and 12,000 liters per second, which fall in a waterfall, after sprouting through the different cavities. From here the ascent continues until it reaches Barranco de la Osa, with an eminently karst relief, and continues along the ravine through a very well equipped path with steps and protected with steel cables. At the end of the ravine you will find an imposing centenary yew tree and, continuing the ascent in a zigzagging way, you will reach a hill, next to Cortijo de la Puerca (Pig Farmhouse). At that point the descent to the starting point begins.
The Cerro de las Empanadas Trail is the most demanding of all those marked in Sierra de Castril Natural Park. It is a linear path where the distance to be covered is about 18 km, with an accumulated unevenness of about 1400 meters. The initial section until reaching the Barranco de la Osa is common with the previous path, from here and after crossing the Chinar de Túnez (Tunis Squeak) hill and ascending the channel of the ravine of the same name, the valley opens up and reveals some small orchards and a hut that was the home of a mythical character from Sierra "El Maestrillo". An intellectual bohemian who gave elementary classes to the children of the farmhouses of these mountains and who lived at the bottom of this ravine, at an altitude of 1600 meters until his health allowed it. The path continues ascending until it reaches Loma de los Tres Mojones (Three Milestone Hill), the point where the municipalities of Cazorla and Santiago-Pontones, in the province of Jaén, and the municipality of Castril, in Granada, converge. From here you will have to continue until you reach the top of the geodesic vertex of La Empanada at an altitude of 2106 meters. The path is tortuous and affected by the passage of cattle and meteorological agents, however its execution will allow you to contemplate an abrupt and spectacular landscape.
Another trail that you can take is the Cerrada de Lézar Trail, which is dominated by the figure of this impressive limestone mass with vertical walls. It is a 1.8 km one-way trail with a low difficulty. During the journey you will enjoy beautiful views of Castril River Valley, in which, to the north, the Macizo de Suerte Somera (Shallow Luck Massif) rises and the access to the interior of the Barranco del Buitre (Vulture Ravine) gorge, through which a small stream runs with water. It will not be difficult for you to spot a specimen of griffon vulture.
From Cortijo del Nacimiento to Prados del Conde (Count Meadows), there is a signposted path that runs along most of its route along Castril River, until its source, in the heart of Sierra de Castril Natural Park. It is a path of just over 12 km one way that will allow you to discover this river with clean waters, flanked by wickers, twill, ash trees and poplars, and into which a multitude of streams pour their waters that dig deep and majestic ravines, topped in its mouths by narrow wagonload. From here, a demanding uphill path begins but with a beautiful route to the upper part of the natural park, whose highest levels, reached by the peaks of Mojón Alto (High Milestone) and Cerro de la Laguna (Lake Hill), flank the mountain meadows, where, between spring and summer, most of Castril's cattle ranch grazes.
To finish with the hiking routes in Sierra de Castril Natural Park, the Hoyos de Moreno-Barranco de Canalejas Trail will allow you to discover these two ravines, the Hoyos de Moreno (Dark Hole)and the Barranco de Canalejas (Canalejas Ravine), the most beautiful and spectacular in Sierra Seca. It is a path of just over 8 and a half km one way, with a medium difficulty, where the karst landscape has opened canyons between the rocks, through which the ravine passes, giving an image of a beautiful wild mountain range. During the tour, you will have the opportunity to contemplate the flight of vultures, a pair of eagles or the recently reintroduced Egyptian vulture from the heights.
In addition to the hiking routes, Sierra de Castril Natural Park gives you the opportunity to do cycling routes of varying difficulty, from a comfortable walk around Portillo Reservoir, located near the Castril town, to the ascent to the higher peaks, of enormous difficulty.
An example of a route of great difficulty is the Sierra Seca Circular Route, starting from Castril and passing through the Peñón del Toro (Bull Rock) La Laguna (The Lake), Tornajuelos, Morro del Buitre (Vulture Snout) the source of the Castril River, to finally return to the starting point.
Another cycling route is the one that departs from Castril to Cerrada de La Magdalena (Magdalene Hill) along the Camino de los Madroñales (Strawberry Tree Road) and back through Cortijo Martín (Martín Farmhouse) which is somewhat less difficult.
Finally, there are specialized companies within Sierra de Castril Natural Park that offer you other types of activities, such as canyoning, kayaking routes in the Portillo Reservoir, caving taking advantage of the karst relief, in the Cueva de Don Fernando, and even astrotourism, since the southeast of the peninsula, where Sierra de Castril and Altiplano de Granada are found, is one of the few areas of the European continent where night skies can still be seen with very little light pollution. This, together with the average height of the terrain, allows you to carry out astronomical observation activities, which, through powerful telescopes, will show you the stars and the Milky Way as you probably have never done before.