Los Lavaderos de la Reina via Picón de Jerez

A demanding mountain route in Sierra Nevada in snowmelt time

The snowmelt creates waterfalls and ice tunnels in Sierra Nevada

Waterfall and ice tunnel in Lavaderos de la Reina

Without a doubt, hiking in Sierra Nevada is one of the most requested activities for trekking lovers that visit Andalusia, in Southern Spain. From TrekkingSpain we particularly offer you the Lavaderos de la Reina trekking route. That place is a valley where ice smelts from the peaks creating a fascinating landscape of ice tunnels and lagoons. There are lots of possibilities to go there, but we suggest you start the route from the “Postero Alto” shelter and climb the “Picón de Jerez” mountain.

Postero Alto shelter in the Sierra Nevada, a good start point to go to Los Lavaderos de la Reina

“Postero Alto” shelter, on the slopes of Sierra Nevada.

This route is highly recommended to be done in mid to late May when there is still more snow. We did it in June, so the thaw was already more advanced. Even so, at this time of year, the scenery is still astonishingly beautiful.

Starting at dawn from the Refugio de “Postero Alto”, where we slept the night before, this hiking route starts by climbing up a firebreak, followed by a steep climb up a beautiful slope full of flowering bushes. Already in the first few metres, small streams of icy water start to flow over the ground, coming from the last snow caps that we could still see on the nearest peaks.

Nice ascent between streams, flowers and cows

Cow grazing on the Alhorí River meadow

Cow grazing on the Alhorí River meadows

On our way, we came across numerous cows grazing on the fresh green grass sprouting all along the way. The ground, due to the humidity of the streams, was getting softer and softer, so be careful and be sure to watch out for cow droppings! Sometimes dodging them was almost a game of mines. But it’s worth getting close to them and taking a good photo. Good trekking poles are essential!

During the ascent to Picón de Jerez, and once crossed the Barranco del Río Alhorí, the grass disappears and the ground becomes dry and stony. Good trekking shoes are essential to avoid sore feet. At that point, we followed the river to its source, a spectacular stretch of the route. As we ascend, the path becomes blurred and we almost have to go cross-country, over the rocks, to the top. In this area, we can observe groups of raptors that nest on a promontory in front of the peak, and take advantage of the air currents to glide. The wind in this area is normally very strong, and the temperature plummets, so it is essential to wear warm clothing.

Reaching the peak

Picón de Jerez summit in the way to Los Lavaderos de la Reina

Climbing the Picón de Jerez summit is the most challenging part of this hiking route to Los Lavaderos de la Reina.

The Picón de Jerez has an altitude of 3090 metres and is the first three thousand metres on the northeast face of Sierra Nevada. At the top, next to the geodesic vertex, we found some stone shelters, where we could stop to rest and eat before descending the mountain.

If the ascent is difficult, the descent is no less so, as at the same time looking for the best path among the stones, you have to make sure you don’t come across a block of ice or a stream that cuts you off, so you often have to go back until you find the best way down. This year, 2022, the snow was stained brown, due to the haze that months ago shook the Iberian Peninsula, coming from the Sahara desert. That’s why, the ice sheets had streaks of different shades of white and brown, as can be seen in the attached photos.

Wonderful descent with waterfalls and ice tunnels in Los Lavaderos de la Reina

After descending a few metres, we find the first waterfalls, which form tunnels in the ice as they fall, as well as lagoons. Some downhill sections are between rocks, so you have to jump or slide between the stones. Once down in the meadow, take the Sulayr path to the east, crossing two rivers that lead to meadows full of Sierra Nevada daffodils (narcissus nevadensis), a delicate yellow flower with a sweet scent.

After passing a hill surrounded by these yellow flowers, called the “Piedra del Soldado” (Soldier’s Stone), the route continues through an irrigation channel, whose water constantly floods the path. For this reason, it is sometimes necessary to leave the path to avoid getting your feet too wet, as there is still a long way to go. There are several farm gates along this route, but they are easy to open. Don’t forget to close them as you pass, as their function is to prevent the cattle from getting out.

Ice patch in Los Lavaderos de la Reina
One of the latest ice patch stained by the haze.
The haze made different layers white and brown in Los Lavaderos de la Reina
Snow layers of different colours made by the haze.
Sierra Nevada daffodils and lagoon after Los Lavaderos de la Reina
Sierra Nevada daffodils and lagoon.
Cow grazing close to a river.
Cow grazing close to a river.
Cow on a meadow in Sierra Nevada
Cow on a meadow in Sierra Nevada.
Cows in between daffodils
Cows in between daffodils.
Piedra del Soldado surrounded by 'narcissus nevadensis'
Piedra del Soldado surrounded by 'narcissus nevadensis'
Irrigation channel guides water to cultivation areas from Los Lavaderos de la Reina
Irrigation channel.
Lagoon made by the snowmelt in Sierra Nevada
Lagoon made by the snowmelt in Sierra Nevada.

To sum up, the last part of the route to Lavaderos de la Reina is very different from the rest, as it passes through a thick pine forest with ascents and descents until you come out again at the initial firebreak that leads to the “Postero Alto” refuge. In conclusion, this is a very demanding route, which combines many different landscapes, so the beauty of the scenery compensates for the accumulated fatigue. In addition, the feeling of self-improvement upon reaching the summit or returning to the refuge is indescribable. A very difficult trail, but highly recommended for mountain lovers. Indeed, one of the better hiking routes in Andalusia.

Nearest cities to overnight close to Los Lavaderos de la Reina

Apart from the “Postero Alto” shelter, you can also overnight in Guadix, a medium size town at 16 miles from the route start point. This town in the province of Granade is well-known for its baroque Cathedral and its astonishing troglodyte caves, where people use to live. The main feature of these caves is that they keep almost the same temperature all over the year, so they are warm in winter and fresh in summer. Most of them are rented as rural houses for tourists, so it will also be a good option for your accommodation to explore this area.

This region is also well-known for its badlands, a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded. They are characterized by steep slopes, minimal vegetation, lack of a substantial regolith, and high drainage density.

Near Guadix, you can also visit La Calahorra Castle, a stunning Renaissance fortress, which has been used as background in the series Game of Thrones.

Guadix Cathedral
Guadix Cathedral
Guadix Townhall
Guadix Townhall
La Calahorra Castle
La Calahorra fortress

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