View of the Vulture's Canyon on stage four of the Via Serrana

Walking the Via Serrana – Stage Four

Again I was walking this stage and then returning home at the end of the day. However, this time I was walking stage five immediately afterwards before catching my train.

If you’ve read my account of stage three you’ll know that I very nearly didn’t make my connection thanks to me missing some yellow arrows and losing the trail on more than occasion!

Was I making the right decision to do two stages in one day?? Read on to find out.

If you’re planning to just walk from El Colmenar to Cañada del Real Tesoro there’s some accommodation in and around Cortes de la Frontera at the end of the stage.

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Stage Four. El Colmenar to Cañada del Real Tesoro

Date: Saturday 27 April 2024
Start Point: Estacion de Gaucin, El Colmenar
End Point: Parroquia de San Juan de Dios, Cañada del Real Tesoro
Distance Walked: 8.49 miles (13.67 kms)
Time Taken: 4 hours 20 minutes
Weather:
Rainy

Map showing the route and distance walked on stage four of the Via Serrana between El Colmenar and Cañada del Real Tesoro

It was still dark, but dry, when I caught the train from Estacion San Roque – La Linea. My weather app gave a 30% chance of rain between 8am and 11am so I was cautiously optimistic that I wouldn’t need my rain gear that I’d packed just in case.

Less than an hour later I got off the train at Estacion de Gaucin. Day was just breaking and I could tell that it was going to be cloudy and overcast. As I pulled my backpack on, another walker passed through the station, his hiking poles clicking – it looks like I wasn’t the only person mad enough to be up and on the road at this hour.

I was barely five minutes on the trail when the first raindrops fell. I was wearing a light rain jacket and thought I would just see how bad it got before getting my rain poncho on. As it turned out, those few light spots of rain soon turned into a downpour. I hadn’t even reached the turnoff to the Cañon de las Butreiras yet so this was going to be an interesting hike!

The Cañon de las Butreiras, or Canyon of the Vultures, is considered to be a challenging part of the Via Serrana so walking it in heavy rain would be an experience – let’s just hope I was fit for the challenge.

Suitably attired with my rain poncho I got back underway. From the railway station it’s well signposted and it wasn’t long until I reached the beginning of the hike through the gorge.

The Guadiaro river flowing between the walls of the Vulture's Canyon on stage four of the Via Serrana

The path was very narrow and uneven and, at times, was very close to the edge of the hill. I was thankful for my hiking poles, particularly in the rain.

A yellow arrow on a tree next to a narrow path through the Vulture's Canyon on stage four of the Via Serrrana

The path eventually leads down to the edge of the river for a stretch before it starts climbing again over bigger rocks, eventually arriving at a suspension bridge over a stream.

A rocky path through the Vulture's Canyon on stage four of the Via Serrrana
A suspension bridge over the river in the Vulture's Canyon on stage four of the Via Serrrana

I’m really not great with heights but, thankfully, it’s a short bridge and wasn’t too high over the stream. I survived walking the Caminito del Rey so this was a doddle!

There were some steps down from the suspension bridge and then it was a case of simply following the path. No yellow arrows needed at this point so no chance of me getting lost on this stage!

Even in bad weather this is a stunning hike – towering cliffs sliced in half by the Guadiaro river which I caught occasional glimpses of. A shimmering blue despite the rain. High above the river there’s a railway tunnel – I’d be passing back through the canyon later on my way home – just in a lot more comfort!

The Guadiaro river flowing between the walls of the Vulture's Canyon on stage four of the Via Serrana

The path was stony underfoot and pretty narrow but not too difficult to navigate, although at times it did get very close to the edge of the hillside. To be honest, I was starting to wonder why all the reports I’d read on this stage said it was so challenging.

I soon found out when the path started to climb and the small stones underfoot became larger. In parts, wooden steps made of old railway sleepers have been put in place to make the climb easier. Unfortunately, I have quite short legs and these steps were quite high so it was hard going at times.

A yellow arrow painted on some rocks on a rocky uphill path on stage four of the Via Serrana
Wooden steps on the path on stage four of the Via Serrana

Further on I had to scramble up a really steep rocky path but used my old trick of stopping to catch my breath and, at the same time, admire the view. And what a view! Even in miserable weather it has to be said that the views down the valley were outstanding. The only thing missing were the vultures who give the canyon its name – obviously when its raining they have the sense to stay in their nests.

The Guadiaro river flowing between the walls of the Vulture's Canyon on stage four of the Via Serrana

The path does eventually reach a plateau but I have to admit, it was a tough hike and I was glad to reach the top and be able to get my breath back before the descent started.

The downhill path was pretty steep at times and, thanks to the rain, the rocks and stones were getting slippy. At least it hadn’t rained overnight or it would have been much more muddy and unstable.

A snail next to a yellow arrow painted on a rock on stage four of the Via Serrana

As it was, I made it down in one piece and, before long, I’d reached a tunnel. The tunnel gets lower the further in you go – even at 5’3” I had to stoop to get through it and my backpack did scrape the roof so, if you’re any taller – mind your head!

The opening of the tunnel that leads to Puente de los Alemanes at the end of the Vulture's Canyon in El Colmenar, Andalucia
Inside the tunnel that leads to Puente de los Alemanes at the end of the Vulture's Canyon in El Colmenar, Andalucia
Inside the tunnel that leads to Puente de los Alemanes at the end of the Vulture's Canyon in El Colmenar, Andalucia

The tunnel comes out at the Puente de los Alemanes which, despite the name – Bridge of the Germans – was actually built by Belgians in 1918.

View of Puente de los Alemanes from the tunnel at the end of the Vulture's Canyon in El Colmenar, Andalucia

From the bridge there’s an amazing view of the gorge at probably it’s narrowest part.

The narrow gorge in the Vulture's Canyon in El Colmenar, Andalucia viewed from Puente de los Alemanes

Crossing the bridge it’s another climb where a staircase has been carved into the stone and there’s a metal handrail to help. After some of the steep inclines to get to this point, not to mention the rain had made the rocks quite slippery, I have to say I was very grateful for the handrail.

Steps cut into the rock at the end of Puente de los Alemanes, Vulture's Canyon, in El Colmenar, Andalucia

The path carried on through some bushes until I reached the ruins of an old farmhouse, the Casa del Conde or Rancho de las Butreiras. The path widened at this point so I knew that the hard part was over!

It was still drizzling but the path was a pleasant walk. I could see the Guadiaro river below and the railway line running alongside it with wispy clouds hanging low between the cliff walls.

The Guadiaro river flowing between the walls of the Vulture's Canyon on stage four of the Via Serrana

At one point a mongoose ran across my path – this was a big one, much larger than the ones I’ve seen near my home. He was just too quick for me to get a photo though.

After passing a group of pigs snuffling in the long grass the rain was starting to ease off. Even though it was wet it was warm and my poncho was starting to feel like a sauna so I was glad to finally take it off.

Wild pigs in a field on stage four of the Via Serrana

The road I was on now, the Camino de los Puertos, was nice easy walking through farmland before eventually reaching the outskirts of Cañada del Real Tesoro. By now the sun was on its way out so today was going to be a real day of two halves – stage four in pouring rain under grey skies, and stage five under blazing sun!

Blue sky appearing through the clouds on stage four of the Via Serrana between El Colmenar and Cañada del Real Tesoro

Just beyond the church of San Juan de Dios on the main street through town I found a small square overlooking the Guadiaro river where I stopped for a breather before starting the next stage to Jimera de Libar.

Exterior of the parish church in Cañada del Real Tesoro

Highlights of Stage Four of the Via Serrana

The hike through the canyon, despite being tough, was just wonderful. The only sounds were the patter of rain, the birdsong, and now and again the roar of the Guadiaro as it flowed through the valley.

The steep cliffs of the Vulture's Canyon in El Colmenar, Andalucia on stage four of the Via Serrana

Lowlights of Stage Four of the Via Serrana

The rain. I can only imagine what this hike would be like on a sunny day (and, obviously, I now have the perfect excuse to come back and do it all over again).

Despite the rain though, this was still an enjoyable hike – and maybe next time I’ll actually see some vultures!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this – I’ll be adding more updates as and when I complete each stage so watch this space or, even better, sign up below to receive them directly to your inbox.

Happy hiking!

Stage Three: Jimena to El Colmenar

Stage Five: Coming soon

                                              

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Everything you need to know about walking stage four of the Via Serrana between El Colmenar and Cañada del Real Tesoro

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