THIS easy circuit leads to the highest point of the Sierra Bermeja nature reserve, known as the Pico Reales.
Standing just eight kilometres inland from Estepona, this mighty vermilion massif rises to 1450m – that’s not far off the height of Ben Nevis!
From its antennae-topped peak there’s a dizzy, panoramic vista of a huge slice of Andalucia: north to the Sierra de las Nieves, east to the Sierra de Ojen, west to the Alcornocales Natural Park and south to Gibraltar and Africa.
And to add to that, the walk goes through the Pinsapar de los Reales, home to one of the few existing stands of the uniquely beautiful pine, Abies Pinsapo Boix.
This botanical jewel is only found in half a dozen places in the world.
Furthermore, there’s a second great viewing point on the walk, the Mirador de Salvador Guerrero, which entails a short diversion but which is well worth the extra effort.
And the drive up to the starting point is something of an adventure in its own right. To reach the trail head you’ll need to follow a snaking mountain road inland from the town for about 20 minutes.
But that’s all part of the fun.
Getting to the beginning of the walk
From Estepona take the MA8301 towards Jubrique (it begins next to the Mercadona supermarket on the north side of the town) for 15kms to the top of the pass, Puerto de Peñas Blancas.
Here turn left past a sign for Los Reales, pass a green barrier then continue for 2.75kms to a signboard to the right of the road marking the beginning of the Pinsapo walk, Paseo de Los Pinsapos.
From the signboard Paseo de los Pinsapos head down a narrow, rocky path which drops away from the road into the pinsapo forest.
75m after crossing a small concrete bridge you reach a junction. Cut left following a sign Los Realillos/Los Reales 2.2kms.
The path leads past a signboard about pinsapo pines then on past a ceramic sign of a poem by Lorca inspired by trees.
The path climbs steeply through dense undergrowth: as you climb higher Mediterranean pines begin to take the place of the pinsapos.
Careful! Some five minutes beyond the ceramic sign of Lorca’s poem you reach a junction marked by twin cairns.
Here cut hard left and continue your ascent, zigzagging up through the pines and the reddish rocks.
Passing a small breach in the rocks the path runs up to the top of the ridge where views open out to the southwest and the Bay of Algeciras. (30 mins)
Here the path bears left towards the transmitter antennae atop the Reales peak, through another swathe of pinsapo pines.
Marker posts help guide you up. Passing across another jagged ridge the path bears right and continues to climb.
Reaching a flatter area and bearing left it runs on up to the antennae.
Here, reaching a white hut, cut right right, pass a second hut then follow a narrow path up to the trig point marking the top of Los Reales (1450m). (50 mins)
This is a great spot to take a break and gulp in the incredible panorama that lies before you.
Leaving the peak retrace your footsteps back towards the first white hut which you passed earlier.
Five metres before the hut cut right on a narrow path which drops down to the track leading to the transmitter masts where you’ll see a signboard for Sendero de los Realillos.
Here angle right down a stony track which loops down the eastern flank of Los Reales, shortly passing by another transmitter mast.
Looping on down past a group of forestry buildings you reach a junction with another track and a plaque dedicated to Edmond Boissier who first catalogued the unique pinsapo pine. (1 hr 10 mins)
Here, cutting right for 100m you reach a picinc area, Área Recreativa, where there are picnic tables and, just beneath, the Mirador de la Costa del Sol.
There’s a tap with water to the right: a sign warns that it isn’t chlorinated but the taste is all the better for that.
Continuing on along the track you reach a turning circle and a sign Mirador de Salvador Guerrero.
From here continue along a narrow path to reach one of the Costa del Sol’s most spectacular viewing points.
After visting the mirador trace your steps back to the Boissier plaque then follow the track on for approximately 1.6 kms to return to your point of departure. (1 hr 55 mins)
Guy’s new book Coastal Walks in Andalucia contains a selection of 50 stunning walks close to southern Spain’s coastline from the Costa de la Luz to the Costa Tropical. The walks vary in length and difficulty. It is available at most bookshops as well as from amazon.co.uk. For details of Guy’s other walking guides check out www.guyhunterwatts.com