In this week’s Tuesday Treats we get to know Cool Sierras MTB Guiding, what they do, and how they can offer you an amazing MTB holiday in the sun.
Cool Sierras MTB Guiding.
We’re a small MTB and Road guiding outfit. Small as in personal, catering for small groups and keeping things intimate! We ride mostly in the Cazorla National Park, Spains largest, wildest, most dramatic national park. It’s much less visited than its more popular destination to the south, which means the trails are mostly deserted, giving a real sense of solitude, tranquillity and adventure. No manicured trails here…all-natural.
Cazorla National Park? Never heard of it!
Yea, few have! The Spanish know it well, but even they rarely go beyond the campsites at the side of road in the valley bottom. It was made famous by Spain’s equivalent of David Attenborough, Felix Rodrigues de la Fuente. He made this iconic wildlife series in the 70’s set in the park, it really showcased the beauty and drama of the forests and mountains and was instrumental in bringing in lots of protective legislation: he basically saved the park from industrial logging, indiscriminate hunting and environmental desecration.
So how did you find it?
I blame Watneys Red Barrel! I think Monty Pythons description of Spain gave me a visceral reaction to anything near the coast, or near an airport, so on my first trip to Spain with a mountain bike, I looked for somewhere with mountains that was miles from the coast. I found the Cazorla National Park and after that, I was hooked. Moved out a few years later to live and ride here. Its been 15 years now and I still explore new routes and paths, some have a bit too much portage so I don’t take clients on those, but I love exploring new corners of the park.
What’s special about the Park?
Well, for me, it’s the variety of landscapes we ride through and the sense of wilderness and solitude that you get when riding its trails. Its Spains largest, (about the size of the Lake District…but drier!) and although there are large urban areas on the perimeter, there’s huge areas of nothing in between. You can ride all day and never see another soul, you feel like you’re the only person in the entire park…. No intrusion of modern existence at all, maybe, just maybe, a flock of sheep and a shepherd, that’s it.
So what’s your favourite trail in the park?
Really? That’s like asking who’s your favourite child! Although.. one section climbs from an old fort built by the Moors about a 1,000 years ago.., It goes up a narrow trail that leads through steep-sided valleys covered in thick Pine forest, these trails were used by the Maquis, the resistance to Franco after the civil war. Its a tough trail, and knowing who traipsed these trails just 60 years ago makes the trail feel even more atmospheric as if the ghosts of the fighters are watching you struggle up the same paths they did…
What’s the best bike to ride the park?
Lightweight full sus 29er is probably ideal, but for me, full sus is too much faff. We don’t do gnarly downhills, well, the descents are gnarly, but we take it steady, so a hardtail is fine. It’s not a bike park, and once we leave the access Caminos, the trails are pretty much untouched and abandoned, so nature is reclaiming them, making them a delight to ride. No “trail maintenance crews” turning them into pavement.
And what do you ride?
First rode here with Maverick ML7, great bike, then had an Independent Fabrication Ti Deluxe, a hardtail, loved titanium, transitioned to a Scott Scale RC900 for my first 29er. Just replaced that with a titanium Firefly.
So what’s the best way to experience the park?
We run a “Tour of the Park”, 7 days of challenging mountain bike riding, doing a loop of the park. 350km of adventure riding. Singletrack, big climbs, broad open plains, forest routes, castles, eagles, wild boar, it’s a proper adventure. It’s a real challenge, but well worth it. We start and finish at a “luxury” gastro-restaurant and hotel, just to ease folk in, after that its wood cabins, bijou self-catering, a dorm in a hostel, and we spend a night in a Refugio way up in the mountains, so a sleeping bag is needed! Fully 4×4 supported so no lugging of gear.
Most Interesting Fact about the park?
Hmm.. The park has a long history and a unique biosphere, so there’s loads of interesting stuff, to me anyway! Like even though it’s about 150km from the coast at its closest point, it was a “Maritime Province”. They used to log the Oak Trees in the park, float them down the river Guadalquivir to Cordoba and Sevilla to the shipyards there. The Oak from the park built the Spanish Armadas. When you see the rivers and the ravines, you understand what a massive undertaking this was…
Special for Singletrack Readers?
We’re promoting a 20% discount on the MTB Tour twixt now and December. It’s even quieter and conditions are near perfect.
Head over to Cool Sierras for more.