Bikepacking the Transnevada in Southern Spain

  • Distance

    302 Mi.

    (486 KM)
  • Days

    7

  • % Unpaved

    99%

  • % Singletrack

    ?%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    7.5

  • % Rideable (time)

    95%

  • Total Ascent

    41,687'

    (12,706 M)
  • High Point

    7,688'

    (2,343 M)
Chunky rock descents, 4,500' heart-valve tearing climbs, and almost impassable hike-a-bikes make up a route that is as punishing as it is beautiful. A must for any self-loathing bikepacker’s bucket list.
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A scant 30 kilometers due north of the touristy Mediteranean beaches, the Sierra Nevada juts straight out of the Earth in massive spires of wildflower covered peaks. The autonomous range was designated a national park in 1999 and is the largest in Spain.

In 2011 a gnarly web of doubletrack, single track, gravel and footpaths were adopted by Andalucia Tourism and supported by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). The effort resulted in a well documented, and extremely well signposted, 450 kilometer route that encircles the jagged range in eight named segments.

We were fortunate to land here right in the midst of a mild late spring when wildflowers were at their peak, the crisp mountain sky held back moisture from the sea, and chilly mornings made coffee extra special. The riding was epic.

NOTE: Although we didn’t have time to ride the whole route (only about a quarter of it from Trevelez toward Granada), I included the GPX for the whole route. If anyone has insight on the section from Granada to Tevelez (clockwise), let me know! I will be back to do the whole thing, one day.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Las Alpujarras (the quaint white towns scattered on the hillsides of the Sierra Nevada)
  • Tapas: In the province of Granada, they still practice the tradition of free tapas with the purchase of a drink. We almost didn’t pay for a single meal during our time here. Just order a beer and get a snack!
  • The alpine scenery of the Sierra Nevada range
  • I recommend visiting in the spring when the wildflowers are in full swing and the sky is crystal blue
  • For alcohol stoves, the only option id pharmacy grade rubbing alcohol. Kind of pricy, but works well. There are small pharmacies in most of the Alpujarras.
  • There are plenty of opportunities for wild camping in the Sierra Nevada.
  • We also found a couple campgrounds in the Alpujarras.
  • Plenty of food options in all of the all of the Las Alpujarras… both shops and restaurants. Load up on beer and tapas.
  • There are quite a few streams, springs and historic fountains along the way. Most, if not all, need filtering though.

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • mike

    Anyone know where I can get gpx from without having to sign up to ride?? Thanks

  • Hi Mike, Thanks for reminding me… I plan on setting up a downloadable link on each route for the GPX, but I will email you this one shortly…

  • OK, just sent it. However, for others reading this, I did see where you could download it without signing up for RideWithGPS. It’s a link on the right of the screen called ‘export’. Once you select that it will give you the choice of GPX or KML downloads…

  • John Freeman

    Hi Logan,
    I’ll be touring in Spain, Portugal and possibly Morocco Dec-Mar and this ride looks like great one. I checked out the app and without paying I didn’t see a way to export the .gpx file. The sidebar you speak of is for info only.

    Thanks for posting this

  • Hmm. Are you viewing on a mobile or laptop. When I use a unsigned in browser and click ‘view full route’ it takes me to ridewithgps. Then I can click export on the right and select GPX to download the file…

  • Koen

    Thanx for sharing, looks a really great adventure! I added this one to my bucketlist. The tracks look really steep at times. Did you have to push a lot?

  • Thanks Koen. There are definitely a few hike-a-bike sections, but not too bad… we encountered two; the worst we was the section from the photo of Gin pushing…

  • Lewis

    Hi Logan,
    So a couple of us are planning on doing this route in early June this year(2016). (Just booked our flights!) We have been scoping out the gps route, and using a map we have found of the area, we have managed to get an idea of the route. But the maps not the clearest, do you have any recommendation for a physical map provider/publisher? Or is the route so clearly marked the gps would be sufficient? Im a fan of paper maps as a solid reference though!

  • Hi Lewis. Sweet! On another note, we are posting the GR247 next week (it’s a really great route that’s a little more remote). A GPS should be fine and the trail is actually well marked (at least the 1/3 of it that I’ve ridden. On this past trip we rode the section after Trevelez up to the pass and it was mostly a pretty tame gravel road, FYI. If you are interested in more ountain biking style riding and singletrack, there are a few offshoots up there as well. In regards to maps, they may have them at a tourist center in one of the Alpujarras. Maybe Caplierra?

  • Rob

    Hey Logan, I too am planning on riding this route in the late spring of this year. Thanks for your dope photos and write-up. Just wondering what the word is on bush camping. Most of the literature I’ve found is pretty hush on camping outside of the designated sites, but for one guy with no intention of having a fire, should I expect a park ranger to come knocking on my hammock? Thanks again.

  • Thanks! We had no issues wild camping. Usually we found a spot in the forest or abandoned farmland, out of site… no problem.

  • steeldave

    Lewis & Logan, just thought I’d let you know me and two mates are doing this loop in June 2016 also. We’re planning to ride from the coast near Mojacar via Almeria to the loop, complete the loop and return to Mojacar via Almanzorra and Albox, we think this will take us about 12 days. I’m familiar with the area around Mojacar and the Sierra Cabrerra. Lewis – as for maps have a look at https://tiendaverde.es/ they have 1:50,000 maps of Spain, looks like you we will need 15 maps for our route ( 4 euros each plus 17 euros p&p) the web site can be made to read in English. Dave.

  • steeldave

    Lewis – Take a look at http://www.stanfords.co.uk/ they sell a 1:25000 map of the Sierra Nevada park, it covers the entire route and looks ideal. I have ordered one. Dave.

  • Jerry Griffiths

    Hi Logan, A friend and i are booked and heading to do this route in May. We are getting amped now but I’ve got a few queries i hope you could help us with…
    1. We have physical maps, but i was hoping to add the GPS route to my iphone. Do you (or anyone reading this) know of a map app where we could get digital Spanish maps that the GPX route can be added to?
    2. What month were you there and how cold was it at night? did you take down sleeping bags/jackets/thermals? how high up were you camping roughly?
    3 Is it better to go clockwise or anticlockwise? do the route markers face both ways or is there a preferred direction of travel for the route?

    Thanks, Jerry

  • Hi Jerry. Yes, May could be cold; we camped at 6,000-8,000 ft elevations. Bring a puff jacket and some thermal bottoms and you should be OK; a rain jacket just in case. I use Gaia GPS. You can load a GPX as a ‘folder’ in your account and it will show up on the app that you can use ‘offline’ … it works really well. Route markers face both ways, and I don’t really know which way is better… I have only done a little over half the route. You may consider the GR247 as well; it’s pretty amazing.

  • Rose

    Thanks for the write up. I downloaded this route a long time ago from wiki, but your write up made me decide to go this year. Only 2 weeks before we set off ?
    Cheers Rose

  • Nice! Enkoy it… while you are at it, check out the GR247 (on this site also)… that’s a really good one as well.

  • Lewis

    hey, yeah I have this! its a little confusing to read. but has been useful for checking against the gps for our water/food stops!

  • Lewis

    thanks, ill check out the site. I think the gps and the way markers on the route should be enough. But ill check out the recommendation! Ive just come back from hiking in northern spain, around the Picos de Europas, and the various trails for hiking and mountain biking were very well marked and easy to follow. They use the same markers across Spain which is great, and should be as well marked in the Sierra nevada (as Logan has described already) good luck with your trip Dave! We are flying out on the 7th of June! Cant wait!

  • Rob

    So how many people did this route this spring? My therapist tells me that talking about it will help heal the damage done…

  • LOL!

  • Katie McSwiney

    I can second that this is an awesome route. Although many of the fountains on route do not need to be filtered as the water is naturally filtered through the ground and rock. I’ve drank from all of the fountains on route during various trips and nobody has had a tummy upset. They normally run all year round, but a concern is that they can and do dry up later in the year if there hasn’t been a tonne of snow during the winter.

  • CB

    We just completed the entire Transnevada a few days ago. We used this site to get ready and I thought that we would contribute back what we learned.

    > We could not find paper maps in Granada before we left so we used 2 iphones for navigation, with a 15W solar panel to charge them. We had Viewranger with purchased 1:25000 maps of the Granada province, AllTrails with the regular maps, Strava and Goggle Maps. We ended up using AllTrails 99% of the time as the maps and readability were very good and Viewranger was a massive power hog.

    >We did not use the “official” rest points for the Etapas. We found that the best places to camp are either the highest points for the day or at the ends of downhills just before climbing back up the other side (the best places to find water – see later)

    > Water was our main issue. Most of the streams and “official” water points were dry and we had to carry a lot of it for most of the trip. It may be better earlier in the season.

    > We took side trips (takes some planning to do it) to a few villages to buy food and water (the only villages directly on the itinerary are during Etapa 1 and Etapa 6). Although the villages may look close on the map, any of these trips add 10 to 20 km and a lot of vertical to the day

  • Cool, thanks for the feedback!

  • Kosmický Nomád Gaučo

    Thank you for the article and inspiration. I biked from Barcelona to Malaga this summer and made also TransNevada from Granada to Orgiva with addition of climbing up to Veleta with bike and to Mulhacén w/o bike from Refugio Caldera. It was amazing experience and my first bikepacking ever. I can recommend to anyone, it’s physically demanding but worthy the effort. Cheers!

  • Bicycle Junkies

    Hi, do you think this route is doable in January?

  • That’s a good question. It really depends on their snowfall. If you have someone there you could ask, or perhaps a bike shop if your Spanish is OK. Also, there are a few MTB tour companies run by expats who might be able to fill you in on the current weather. I would guess yes, as long as you are willing to be in some cold weather and potentially snow should it arise…

  • Lovelo.at

    Hello.
    We are in Granada just now and would like to go at least some part of the route starting tomorrow. We will let you know as soon as we can.
    Jiri

  • Awesome. Enjoy it!!

  • Hello, we went in the end of December and it was quite good doable. Only on one place there was a lot of snow, so we had to push the bicycles up for a couple of kilometers.

    We were almost three weeks in Andalucia until the 9th of January and we have always had a good weather. The only problems were the temperatures in the evening and in the morning (below zero in the mountains, so you just don’t want to leave the tent so fast) and with the short days. Sunset around 18.00, sunrise at 8.30.

    But I would recommend to go. The most beautiful part on the south of Sierra Nevada was between Nigüelas and Dílar and also the road from Trevelez to the east.

    Jiri

  • S E

    Hi, we are planning to do this route late spring this year. How well (or bad) would a hammock work?

    I’ve done the CT last year with a hammock and liked it a lot over a tent. From the pictures it looks like a hammock might be a stretch here – I would not mind decending a few 100 meters to the tree line or sleeping on the ground occasionally, and we can use the bikes to pitch a tarp.

  • Rob

    Hey bud, did this route last summer with a hammock and didn’t have any problems. I half expected to have to just use the hammock bivy style if I didn’t find ideal trees, but in reality it was not a problem at all.

  • S E

    Thanks Rob – Now we’re all set and will have to wait six more weeks to go. :)

  • Lewis

    Hey CB,
    I realised that we never wrote up our trip…which may have been useful, so ill add a few point here.

    so we set off early June 2016 aiming to do the route in 6/7 days… It turned out that we arrived in a early heatwave which meant the temperature was in the mid 30’c instead of mid 20’s! This made it brutal! with exposed long climbs in the heat we got through water quickly and covered distance slower than anticipated due to more frequent rest stops.
    On our second day, we met a local rider in Aldeire who informed us that due to the heat the snow melt had dried up many of the springs and streams further to the east, this is where the gap between resupply towns gets much longer, so with this in mind we cut off the route from here and headed up to the top of the road pass where the trail would loop back around and we could re join. It made our trip a little shorter in distance but much more enjoyable as our time frame became much more relaxed pace.

    Water was still an issue at times, and a small purification pump would have allowed us to use some slower flowing streams along the way.
    There are many water fountains along the route, but some were non flowing and they are spaced rather randomly and can have long gaps between.

    We spent our time around mid day relaxing in the shade out of the heat and planned a little more strategically with our resupply points so to avoid some of the long decent and then accents just to visit towns for food.

    Most little towns have small supermarket shops, but they are not open all the time, in the smaller villages they are likely to close after lunch time, so if you miss them its either no food, or an extra ride down to the next nearest village in hope that somewhere is open. So we found ourselves trying to camp out of town, so by the time we rode through town the shop would be open in the morning or lunchtime and we could refill! before relaxing at a bar for Fanta Lemon and a beer….

    Will write up our trip properly at some point and put a link on here.

    Also make a point of staying in the campsite in Trevelez! Its run by an amazing family of adventurers and if your lucky the swimming pool will be filled!

  • knewbs

    Hi Logan, thanks for the write up. I have a couple quick questions… is this track/route synonymous with GR240 that travels around sierra nevada? I am slightly confused. The GR240 is 300 km. I just completed the GR247, a MOST excellent adventure. Are rating this one as more difficult for the climbing and loose rocks?

  • Jules Humphreys

    Hi guys, looking a planning a solo trip in next few weeks, looking at this route I wondered how people who did not do full circuit found transport back to granada, I only have 5 days available, and unsure how much ground will cover.

  • Whoops, completely missed this comment. I don’t recall a correlation, but it’s been a couple years since I ride a segment of it. Let me know if you got an answer. As far as rating, there is one crazy hike a bike that gave it this rating.

  • I don’t have an answer for you, unfortunately. There are many mountain bike guides in the area though, so you might try and find one to ask, perhaps they offer shuttles…