Day Hike from Madrid, Start to Finish
For those of us who would love to take a day over the weekend to go for a hike in the mountains, but would rather not have to bother with looking up train departure times or staring cross-eyed at page 483-IV of the Handbook issued by the National Institute of Geography in Spain, or even worse, forget the whole mess and end up wandering aimlessly through an unfamiliar mountain forest hoping we'll run across a major highway at any moment, let me put your mind at ease with a simple 5-step plan to hiking for a day in the Sierra de Guadarrama just outside Madrid.
1. Take two trains from Madrid to el Puerto de Cotos
All I ask is that you find your way to the Nuevos Ministerios Train Station in Madrid (Metro Lines 6,8, and 10). From the train station, I'll cover everything else you need to know.
Once you're at Nuevos Ministerios Train Station, you will need to find the Cercaní?as Ticket Office and buy a round-trip ticket to Cotos.
"Quiero un billette ida y vuelta a Cotos."
"I want a ticket round-trip to Cotos."
If you have a monthly transportation pass (abono), it may help reduce the price of your ticket. Otherwise, the ticket is 5,60?.
Once you've purchased your ticket, find Platform 1 and take the Cercanías train C-8b headed to Segovia, and get off the train at Cercedilla. At the Cercedilla train station, follow the signs to the platform for the C-9 train to Cotos. It will only be 7 to 9 minutes, depending on the time of day, before the train leaves for Cotos. Take the train from Cercedilla to Cotos, which is the last stop on the line. Stop to finish, the trip from Madrid to Cotos is roughly two hours and fifteen minutes.
Here are the timetables for the C-8b and C-9 trains both to and from Madrid.
Timetable: Madrid to Cotos
Timetable: Cotos to Madrid
For the most up-to-date information, visit ctm-madrid.es. On the home page, select "Cercanías Renfe". When the next page loads, select "C-9 Cercedilla/Cotos" and then "Horarios Ida" and/or "Horarios Vuelta".
2. Walk to the Tourist Information Center in Cotos and get a map
Once you've stepped off the train at Cotos, you will see a small train station in front of you. Inside you will find a small restaurant where you can pick up a snack or a coffee. There are also bathrooms in the train station, although if you prefer using a toilet with a lid, I would suggest waiting 5 minutes until you reach the Tourist Information Center up the road on the left. Neither bathroom has toilet paper.
Starting again from the door of the train, turn to your left and follow the rest of the hikers up the road away from the train station. Within only a minute or two you'll see a restaurant on the left-hand side of the road, and a few other buildings also on the left-hand side of the road, but set back a bit. Find the building marked as the Casa del Parque Los Cotos. This building is the Tourist Information Center.
Inside the Casa del Parque Los Cotos you will find all the information you need for your hike. There is a person working at the desk who can provide you with anything you need, including a free map of the 7 marked routes in the area. You can also download a copy of the free map by clicking here (size 650k)
The Casa del Parque Los Cotos is also an exhibition hall with a number of informative displays about the area and how it developed. There's also a touch-screen computer with more maps, a history of the area, and local information about restoration projects and the environment.
3. Choose a route
Now it's time to choose a route, and between the 7 well-marked routes, there's something to please almost anyone, whether you're looking for a short, pleasant walk to a place where you can have a picnic and read a book to a 2,5 hour hike to the top of a mountain peak. The person behind the desk at the Casa del Parque Los Cotos can help you choose a route if you have any questions.
4. Have a picnic
Reward yourself after you've hiked your way up into the mountains with a relaxing afternoon with a few snacks from your backpack, a good book, and a nap. Cotos is a hot spot for the city crowd, so don't be afraid to hunt around a bit to find your spot away from everyone else. After all, a few hours of solitude is a lot more realistic here than it is at la Puerta del Sol.
5. Take the train back to Madrid
When you're finished, make your way back down the mountain and take the train to Madrid in the same way you came. The wait time between trains at Cercedilla is again only 7 to 9 minutes, so you should be back in Madrid in just over two hours.
There you have it. A day in the mountains, start to finish.
A Suggested Itinerary
10:08 Take train from Nuevos Ministerios to Cercedilla
11:35 Take train to el Puerto de Cotos.
12:16 Hike Route 3 (1 hr, 15 min.) to the Laguna Grande de Pe?ñalara.
13:00 Enjoy the afternoon in the mountains and have a picnic
16:15 Hike back to the Cotos train station
17:43 Take train from Cotos to Cercedilla
18:35 Take train from Cercedilla to Nuevos Ministerios
19:42 Arrive at Nuevos Ministerios
International life in Spain - Kelly Crull also writes a highly readable blog on international life in Spain.