Bikepacking Southern Spain (part 4): Unexpected

Our journey from Cadiz to Valencia is in the books. The route didn’t pan out exactly as we’d planned prior to leaving the U.S. But, as with everything else in life, the experience along the way changed our course.

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Our intention was to follow the GR7 footpath from the southernmost point in Spain to somewhere between Valencia and Barcelona. But instead of relying on one well-established route, ours became an exploratory one, a patchwork of trails, piste, and dirt roads of all shapes and sizes. We used the GR7 as a hearty backbone, but spun in other established tracks, including the GR242, GR249, and GR247 as well as the TransAndalus, Ruta de Don Quixote, and the numbered BTT trails in Valencia. We took advice from locals, studied maps, and kept a keen eye on weather forecasts, but, ultimately, our course was most dictated by happenstance and instinct.

Bikepacking GR66, Murcia

  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia
  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia
  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia
  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia
  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia

As our time in Spain was coming to a close, it was just such an example of happenstance that brought us to a most enjoyable stretch. While perusing the Gaia topo map, in hopes of directional inspiration, we noticed a long, serpentine gash in the landscape, swelling from west to east. The feature had narrowly spaced contour lines rippling to its north and south, evidence that it was a fairly large canyon with a river at the bottom. We were at a crossroads in our trip, and at the last minute decided to set off and explore this unknown set of contours via a series of dotted lines that danced in and around it. This would be the last notable leg of our southern Spain traverse.

Bikepacking GR66, Murcia

  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia
  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia

This eye-catching map feature was the Rio Jucar, a river formed by headwaters in the Serrania de Cuenca to the north, flowing south, then eastward toward the Mediterranean Sea in the autonomous community of Valencia. The Júcar is a beautiful river, nestled in a magnificent and deep canyon formed by millennia of erosion. Its water is a milky teal color due to the runoff from the calcium rich limestone that the river flows in and through.

  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia
  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia

Bikepacking GR66, Murcia

  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia
  • Bikepacking GR66, Murcia

Once in the canyon, we were pleasantly surprised that a fair percentage of the dotted lines we had spotted just days prior were indeed singletrack. And really good singletrack at that. It turned out that we were following a numbered mountain bike specific route in the BTT series (bicicleta todo terreno). For a couple of days we explored the rocky tracks that made up this route. Some of the riding was reminiscent to that of western Colorado, rocky and loose with the occasional forested section of good dirt. We passed through scenic towns that stood on the riverside cliffs like sentinels guarding the its banks. The tracks changed from singletrack to rough Moab-like jeep roads adjacent to cliffs studded with embedded dwellings used by farmers and shepherds.

Ultimately, we climbed out of Rio Jucar and made our way to Valencia on a neverending series of flat farm roads that threaded olive and almond groves. As an appropriate finale, and a reminder of where we started, we met back up and had one last rendezvous with the familiar red and white trail markers of the GR7.

Note: The photos above are from the GR66; the photos below are from the Ruta De Don Quixote and Rio Jucar.

Bikepacking GR66, Murcia

  • Bikepacking Ruta de Don Quixote
  • Bikepacking Ruta de Don Quixote

Bikepacking Ruta de Don Quixote

  • Bikepacking Ruta de Don Quixote
  • Bikepacking Ruta de Don Quixote
  • Bikepacking Ruta de Don Quixote

To wrap things up, here is a running list of magical moments from this trip, and further below, a few more pieces of our favorite gear we brought along…

Being charged by an unbroken stallion. Looking over our shoulders to see three distinct ranges we’d crossed/ridden in the last 24 hours. The way cheap beer tastes amazingly awesome after a tough day in the saddle. Watching the sun rise over places you’ll be riding that day. Thinking that ‘tuna surprise’ made with off-brand Laughing Cow cheese is some sort of culinary masterpiece. Accepting a stranger’s generous offer of a warm place to sleep only to later realize that she had just been translating a magazine article with my name in it. Fully appreciating (and maybe even fighting over the tail end of) a liter box of wine that cost a buck. Watching a fox attempt to steal our cook kit. Rounding a corner to come face to face with a giant umpteen point buck, breathing thick steam in the winter air. Depending on the sun’s warmth. Not caring how far we made it in a day. Picking almonds leftover from the harvest. Finding ripe cherry tomatoes scattered on the ground, and having an amazing impromptu picnic. Being given a bag of walnuts and realizing a week later that it was priceless. Thinking a twin bed in a crappy hotel is incredibly comfortable. Shaking a strangers hand and thanking him for directions. Having a dog wag its tail like he’s welcoming us home. Getting a dessert on the house because we look like we need it. A 20KM downhill. Ripening our semi-curado cheese between grocery stops. The smell of unfamiliar plants. Being told that there was a dangerous bull that could have killed us a few miles back. The warmth of a fire. Getting a surprise snack. Having a 1 week old lamb think you are its mother. Carrying all of your possessions that matter. Being a long way from where we started. Finding a stretch of singletrack that forces laughter. Sitting on the forest floor. Really dreaming.

Bikepacking GR66, Murcia

  • Bikepacking Ruta de Don Quixote
  • Bikepacking Ruta de Don Quixote
  • Bikepacking Ruta de Don Quixote
  • Bikepacking Ruta de Don Quixote
  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT

Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT

  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT
  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT
  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT
  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT
  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT

Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT

  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT
  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT
  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT
  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT, Marin Pine Mountain 2
  • Bikepacking Rio Júcar, Spain, Valencia, BTT

Bikepacking Rio Jucar, Graffiti

More Gear Favorites

On a few of the posts in this series, we’ve highlighted various equipment that has impressed and endured. Here are a few more. Click on each for comments…

Porcelain Rocket Camera Slinger, camera bikepacking

I had the opportunity to try out a new Camera Slinger prototype by Porcelain Rocket. The design uses a flip lid with a quick release strap and clip. So far, it’s great for easy camera access.
  • Bedrock Bags Honaker Hydro Bag
  • Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp, Bikepacking
  • Mission Workshop, Acre, Hauser 10L
  • Jamis Dragonslayer, 27.5+ Bikepacking, Bedrock Bags Framebag
  • Marin Pine Mountain 2 Review, Bikepacking, Revelate Bags
  • Lovely route!

  • Constantin

    Are you going to upload a “route” for this adventure?

  • Hola Logan, I’m glad to see Porcelain Rocket’s Camera Slinger prototype now has a flip lid :)

  • mikeetheviking

    sick.

  • multisportscott

    Logan, thank YOU so much for this ongoing trip report, for the beautiful images, the fantastic insights and reviews, and mostly for allowing me to dream of faraway places. Keep up the incredible work. You need to come and visit New Zealand soon :-)

  • David B

    The last paragraph. Yup.

  • Thanks! I’d love to visit NZ… hopefully one day soon!

  • Yeah, it’s a good one!

  • Yes, as soon as I can get it together. I will be posting the GR247 route (one we did along the way), next week…

  • Thanks!

  • Logan, My little family and I are riding in Northern Spain in April. At the moment we have a bike conundrum. The current plan is 3 different wheel sizes. 27.5plus for my wee wife, 29erPlus for me (not that much taller) and 26×4″ for our custom toddler trailer? Is this balmy? From your experience in Spain thus far, would 27.5plus for the adults be a better choice? Your amazing photos are certainly increasing the household excitement for the journey ahead. Cheers!

  • Depestel Christ

    Mmmm , Grimbergen , fine Belgian beverage :)

  • Oh man, sorry for the delayed response. I must have missed this. I personally am in the camp that families/couples should travel with one size… you never know what could happen. That said, there are plenty of bike shops in Spain, and you’re never far from shipping… so it really shouldn’t matter that much. Wow, 4″ tires for the tyke-mobile?! Thanks!

  • Thanks anyhow Logan, I came to the same conclusion myself after a while and we are going Bplus (27.5+) for the adults bikes and keeping the 4″ tyre for the tyke-trailer as its the only suspension the wee one has. We have things sorted so that an adults front wheel can be used in the trailer if misfortune occurs. Keep up the great work and fantastic photos. Cheers.

  • Thanks, you guys have a great trip! Send a photo of that fat tyke hauler… Cass will love that: pedalingnowhere at gmail dot com

  • Will do Logan, the tyke trailer is a prototype at this stage, I’m lucky that my brother is a machinist and a bike nut. It will be a great trip as its been a few years in the making. Bikepacking.com is a great resource, I don’t know if people thank you guys enough. A source of Stoke, knowledge and amazing photos!

  • Awe, thanks… and thanks so much for the encouraging words!!

  • Ian TheMusette Walton

    Hi Logan

    As a few have said, thank you! For the resource, the inspiration and as much as all that, the way you approach the countries you visit – open and wanting to learn and get the local culture. It’s how we all should, though it isn’t always the case.

    Anyway, I digress; I’m thinking of doing the 247 loop soon and was pondering getting the train to Albacete (from home in Barcelona) then unsing this route section to get to Siles for the 247 loop.

    Just wondered about that section and ride-ability? I’ll be on a gravel bike on 27,5+ (or whatever) so
    I should be able to cope with most stuff, just wondered on what to expect.

    Also, sorry for multiple questions, the refuges on the GR247, you reckon I could get away with just a sleeping bag for the whole route and keep things as light as possible; i.e. No tent for the whole loop?

    Thanks again.

    Ian

  • Maurits Polak

    Hi Ian, did you have a go at the GR247 yet? I am getting enthusiastic of riding it myself in 2018 as soon as weather permits. And I am interested in your experience. I’m going to ride it on a 29″ singlespeed mountainbike.

  • Hi Ian, Sorry I missed this!! Thanks for your kind words.

    I imagine at this point you already did the trip, but it not, I will add that much of the riding from Albacete to SIles is on a Via Verde Sierra de Alcaraz, so it’s pretty easy. However, after Alcaraz, there is some climbing, and a few challenging bits. From Albacete to Siles could take a solid two days unless you are riding really fast as it’s mostly climbing.

    Re refugios. You could probably get away with just a sleeping bag if you plan on staying somewhere between Albacete and Siles, or you are just really fast. You should run the risk of being stranded though, in the event of rain (the mud can get really sticky and unrideable up there).

  • Ian TheMusette Walton

    Hi Logan!

    Thanks for the reply, no worries about missing it, and pleasure re the kind words ;-)

    I didn’t get around to it. Life got in the way – photo shoots came up and they are feast or famine so I had to feast while they were there. GR247 is pencilled in for early next year as soon as the weather warms up and dries up post usual spring rains here.

    I ended up squeezing in a ‘micro-adventure’ from my door near Sitges up into the Penedes vineyards and a bit beyond. Staying in hostels for a few nights. 3 days and two nights squeezed between work managed to sate my urge to escape after canning the GR247 unit next year.

    So, thanks for the additional tips. Exactly the info I wanted. I will add to the portfolio. Much appreciated Logan!

    ian

  • Ian TheMusette Walton

    Hi Maurits.

    In end I didn’t manage it. As my reply to Logan just now, above, mentions, work got in the way so I did a more local mini escape.

    I am aiming for post spring rains in 2018 also now. So, apologies, I can’t add to the words of Logan but if I do it before you in 2018, I will let you know ;-) Maybe we will cross paths on the trails.

    All the best.

    i

  • Adrien Colin

    Hey! Sounds a nice area to cross! I’m planning to travel through Spain for something like 10 days with a friend.
    Was thinking about going from Madrid to Barcelona, so I would be really interested if you now have upload a GPS route somewhere… :)
    Also wondering how doable it would be for my friend riding a CX with tires around 40mm wide?
    Cheers.

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