by Katie Goldstein
Possibly one of the best things about Madrid is the ease with which you can get away from it all.
The lovely Sierra de Guadarrama lies to the north and northwest of the city, offering great train-accessible hiking. But the closest bit of mountainous wilderness to Madrid is in the southern foothills of the Sierra—in La Pedriza. Just a 45-minute bus ride from Plaza Castilla, La Pedriza is a granite paradise for hikers and climbers, complete with a river (the famed Río Manzanares, or the river-that-runs-through-Madrid-though-you-might-not-know-it because the local government has been busy messing with it to build an underground highway).
Regardless of the condition in which the river reaches the city, it’s still pristine in La Pedriza. There are some lovely swimming holes (I can proudly attest to have bathed there twice in warmer months) and many kilometers of hiking trails through the rocky wilderness. Armed with a good map or one of the handy route descriptions available at the visitor’s center, you can spend a day walking and breathing clean mountain air far from the madding crowd.
The green interurban bus 724 travels from Plaza Castilla to Manzanares el Real at least once every hour and costs 3.10 euros one way. The bus leaves you in the center of town, meaning you have to hoof it several kilometers to reach the park, via either Avda. de la Pedriza (which follows the river north) or the (very helpful) visitor’s center at the western edge of town.
Visitor’s center: 91 853 99 78. La Pedriza is about 50 km north west of Madrid, see map below: