Hiking through Castellón - Day 6 to Penyagolosa

It’s possible to take ‘place-to-place’ walking too literally and go crashing on to the next town missing out on local treats.  At Vistabella del Maestrazgo, with Penyagolosa on the ‘doorstep’, this would be madness, you just have to take ‘a day off’ and walk up what is Valencia’s most iconic mountain.
The full circular
Last time I walked the GR7 (on my E4 - Tarifa/Budapest trip) the weather was poor and I hardly saw the mountain. I  was down on the coast and long past it when it revealed itself for the first time and but its importance to the locals was immediately apparent.  In good weather you can see it for miles, it stands out like a sore thumb.  The mountain (Peñagolosa in Spanish - Penyagolosa in Valencian - golosa derived from collossal) at 1813m is not the highest in Valencia (pipped at the post by Cerro Calderón - 1838m) but it’s by far the most prominent.

Approaching Penyagolosa through the forest

The mountain’s southern face includes a 300m vertical cliff which both gives it a distinct appearance and makes it a popular destination for climbers.  Fortunately, you don't need to be a climber to get to the top and on the northern side there is an easy path.  The views from the top are enormous but in the spring /summer you need special weather conditions to get a completely clear day.  If lucky you should get to see Mediterranean coastline and the Ebro delta and inland the aforementioned Cerro Calderón (covered in snow in April when we were there).
On the top of Penyagolosa

Depending on energy levels you can either do a Vistabella del Maestrazgo Penyagolosa circular (a 9hr - 25km walk) or persuade Ramón (see Day 5) to give you a lift to Sanctuary Sant Joan de Penyagolosa, walk up to Penyagolosa from there and then follow a forest road back to Vistabella del Maestrazgo.  The circular walk involves a partial repeat of Day 5 and Ramón didn’t actually need to be persuaded so armed with one of his picnics we took the easy route.
Nervous scrambling
Ramón dropped us off just to the south of the Sanctuary Sant Joan de Penyagolosa and we joined at path that follows a shallow valley through an ancient forest of Black Pine, Scotch Pine, and Pyrenean Oak emerging at a car park at the foot of the mountain.  The serious climbing then starts and although the path is fairly gentle it involves 350m of ascent. There are two summits at the top with slightly higher one playing host to a little shelter.  The attractions for climbers are immediately apparent and looking south it’s a sheer drop from the top.
The cliffs on top

Descending from the top back to the car park the route follows a forest road east and then north all the way back to Vistabella del Maestrazgo.  To be honest, it’s not the most exciting walk.  Mid-way along it crosses the GR-33 which has come up from Castellón on the coast and finishes at the Sanctuary Sant Joan de Penyagolosa.  There are good views of Chodos, a town in the valley to the east, which is visited by the GR-33.
Vistabella del Maestrazgo

The best part of the walk back to Vistabella del Maestrazgo is the last stretch where the gravel forest road is finally ditched and an original stone path is followed through ancient terraces.  The path swings around the south of the town and for the first time its defensive location, sitting on top of cliffs, is revealed.  There are seats for the locals along the path and it’s good place to stop and watch huge vultures as they patrol the sky.


  1. John,
    I'm enjoying your posts for Castellon which I agree had some of the best walking on the GR7. All the towns you've just visited were fascinating. I walked right past Penyagolosa so having read your account I have a good reason to return, there are several other areas on the GR7 to revisit in a more leisurely mode. 'thanks for the memory'

  2. Hi John, glad you're enjoying it. Working on the 'galley proofs' for the GR1 at the moment so it looks like publication is really going to happen