Outdoor Activities in and around Madrid
Introductory information and contact details for anyone interested in skiing, hiking, mountaineering, cycling and other outdoor activities in the Madrid region. Who to call, where to go and how to get there...
The Province of Madrid has a varied environment with high peaks and low, agricultural lands crossed by rivers.
- The largest part lies in the southern sub-meseta and is relatively flat, with an altitude of around 650 metres
- To the west, the region rises into the Sierra de Guadarrama of the Central System. The highest point is Peñalara at 2,230 metres; the lowest is Alberche en Villa del Prado at 430 metres
- Other well-known heights are the Ball of the World (La Bola del Mundo) in Navacerrada, at a height of 2,258 metres, and the Seven Peaks, in Cercedilla, at 2,138 metres
The province has many open spaces and places worth visiting in the mountain ranges and in the plains of Aranjuez and La Mancha, surrounding Alcalá de Henares.
The Madrid region has facilities for several seasonal outdoor sports, such as skiing, trekking, camping, mountain biking and rock climbing. The lakes allow for of jet skiing, water skiing and windsurfing. Madrid also has several parks and gardens open to the public for sports and other activities.
Below find information on:
- Hiking and Mountaineering
- Cycling and Mountain Biking
- Caving and Potholing
- Horse Riding
The Retiro Park (Parque del Buen Retiro)
This park, the best-known in Madrid, is located in the centre of the town, between Calle Alfonso XII and Avenida de Menendez Pelayo. Originally, it was the garden of the Retiro Palace, built for King Philip IV in 1635. It was opened to the public in 1800.
People use the Retiro park for jogging, dancing, skating, juggling, singing, practising martial arts or simply to relax, especially at the weekends.
The park has a glass structure, the "Crystal Palace, and in the middle there is there is a lake and boats can be rented.
Metro: El Retiro.
Casa de Campo Park (Parque de la Casa de Campo)
The park is located on the right bank of the Manzanares River, to the west of Madrid. The park, which measures 1,800 hectares, was created in 1560 by Felipe II, who used it as a hunting ground. It was opened to the public in 1931.
Tennis courts are open to the public and there is an artificial lake for swimming or rowing.
Metro: Lago, Batán.
Juan Carlos I Park
Opened in 1992, the Juan Carlos I Park is located in Gran Vía de Hortaleza (M-40), to the South of Madrid, near the airport. Fishing and boat trips are organised on its small river.
Metro: Campo de las Naciones.
The Cumbre, Circo and Lagunas de Peñalara National Park (Parque Nacional de la Cumbre, Circo y Lagunas de Peñalara)
This park, situated to the north of Puerto de Cotos, at a short distance from the capital, has the Pico Peñalara as its highest summit. Its area is 768 hectares.
The Great Lagoon (Laguna Grande), originally glacial, is situated in the southern part. There are also several other pools in the park.
Access, via the Port of Cotos and along forest paths, is unrestricted. A path that runs parallel to the Lozoya river leads from Rascafría to the monastery of El Paular, beside the Visitor Centre.
- Parque Natural de Peñalara
At: Puerto de los Cotos, 28470 Rascafría
Tel: 918 520 857
Fax: 918 520 857
Embalse de Entrepeñas (Entrepeñas Reservoir)
About an hour from the reservoir is Alcarria Baja de Guadalajara, on the banks of the River Tagus. It is fed by the Tagus and other rivers. There are small villages on the reservoir banks. The area provides for walking, horse riding and quad biking, and has facilities for water-sports such as sailing, canoeing and water-skiing.
There are plenty of paths open to hikers in the Madrid mountains.
GR 10: Pontón de la Oliva - San Martín de Valdeiglesias
The GR 10 is a 200 Km path that enters Madrid from Guadalajara through El Pontón de la Oliva, starting its route along the service trail of the Isabel II Canal. Before reaching its end at the Arroyo de las Tórtolas, this path goes through several spots worth visiting, such as the monument town of Torrelaguna; La Cabrera village, located at the foot of the sierra of the same name; the 14th-century Convent of San Antonio and the majestic castle of Manzanares El Real, amongst many others.
Transportation services are available in many of the towns crossed by this path.
GR 88: Pontón de la Oliva - Cerezo de Abayo
The Madrid stretch of this path, 65 Km long, covers the Northern Sierra of Madrid. It begins at the Pontón de la Oliva press, now in disuse, and reaches the El Atazar village going through the valley of the river Lozoya.
The path rises higher and higher, until reaching Puebla de la Sierra and El Porrejón, then descends the Salinero mountain pass. It goes up and down once more before reaching Cerezo de Abayo.
Accommodation and supplies are available in La Puebla de la Sierra and Cerezo de Abayo; bars and restaurants in El Atazar, La Puebla de la Sierra and Cerezo de Abayo; bus connections at Cerezo de Abayo.
GR 124: The Royal Path
This 47-Km-long path, created in 1999, is an attempt to renew an old path used by Spanish monarchs when travelling around the Madrid Sierra. It starts in Pitis, with the underground and railway station. From there, bordering the wall of the El Pardo Mount, the path reaches Tres Cantos. Then, it follows the Tejada stream to arrive in Colmenar Viejo.
The landscape becomes rocky, and the high moorlands of Madrid are abandoned to enter the first sierras of Cabeza Illescas. Shortly afterwards, at the end of a forest, is Manzanares El Real.
The Royal Path features all types of services, such as transport and accommodation in Madrid, Colmenares Viejo, Aranjuez and Tres Cantos.
Further information for walkers
For information about mountaineering clubs, lessons and news, contact the Madrid Mountaineering Federation:
- Federación Madrileña de Montañismo (in Spanish)
At: Calle Ferrocarril 22, 1º, 28045 Madrid
Tel: 915 273 801
Fax: 915 280 931
- La Federación Española de Deportes de Montaña y Escalada (Spanish Mountain Federation) - in Spanish
At: C/ Floirdablanca 75, Barcelona
The centre of Madrid is very popular with tourists and Madrileños, many of whom find that bikes offer one of the most efficient ways to get around the Spanish capital.
The Madrid Green Cyclist Ring (Anillo Verde Ciclista), a lane reserved for cyclists and pedestrians, is currently 17 Km long. In 2007, when the construction works finish, it will be 60.7 Km long and will run all around the city.
Its six-metre-wide lanes are divided into two strips: one is two metres wide, for pedestrians; the other can be used by cyclists.
Outside the capital, there are trails and routes throughout the countryside: some are designed for the road bikes and others for the BTT (Bici Todo Terreno) mountain bikes.
For information about routes, cycling events and road safety in Spain, see:
- Real Federación Española de Ciclismo (in Spanish)
At: Calle de Ferraz 16, 28008 Madrid
Tel: 915 400 841
Fax: 915 420 341
- Information about cycling holidays in Madrid can be found on the Spanish Fiestas website: Click here
The Spanish are turning disused railway lines and quiet roads into cycling, walking and bridal paths. These gentle routes are known as the vias verdes and follow flatter terrain.
The project began in 1993 and has been a hugely successful way to redistribute tourism to the poorer rural areas, as well as winning a United Nations Best Practices Habitat International Award in 2000.
Information is available in English on the website, although to date most of the route plans available on the site remain in Spanish. Local tourist offices may have the routes in English on request.
Further information from:
- Fundación de los Ferrocarriles Españoles
At: Dirección del Programa Vías Verdes, Santa Isabel 44, 28012 Madrid
- For vías verdes: Click here
- For information in English: Click here
Madrid has facilities for kayaking, canoeing, flatwater racing and other water sports, especially in the Lago de la Casa de Campo de Madrid.
There are several canoeing clubs offering classes for amateurs of all levels.
- Lago de la Casa de Campo de Madrid
At: 28011, Madrid (closest metro station: Lago)
Tel: 915 888 790
For news, information about events and canoeing/kayaking clubs:
- International Canoe Federation
At: Calle Antracita 7 4th floor, 28045 Madrid
Tel: 915 061 150 / 915 061 151
Fax: 915 061 155
- Real Federación Española de Piragüismo (in Spanish)
At: Calle Antracita 7, 28045 Madrid
Tel: 915 064 300
The Madrid Sierra has many facilities for caving and potholing. For information, contact:
- Federación Madrileña de Espeleologia (in Spanish)
At: General Oraá 39, 28006 Madrid
Tel: 914 112 507
Horse riding is widely practised in Madrid. The Hipodromo de La Zarzuela hosts many international competitions. Jumping contests are held in the grounds of the Club de Campo.
- Hipodromo de la Zarzuela
At: Avenida Padre Huidobro s/n, 28023 Madrid.
Tel: 917 400 540
Fax: 913 570 801
- Real Sociedad Hípica Club de Campo
At: Carretera Madrid-Burgos-Irún (A-I) Km 26,400, 28707 San Sebastián de los Reyes
Tel: 916 571 018
Information about horse riding, licences to ride at federate clubs and horse riding disciplines can be found at:
- Real Federación Hípica Española (in Spanish)
At: Menorca 3, 28009 Madrid
Tel: 914 364 200
In Madrid, the skiing season runs from December to May.
There are several skiing resorts in the mountains of central Spain, close to Madrid, with green, blue and red pistes for skiers of all levels, and offering skiing lessons and renting gear.
The mountain range of Sierra de Guadarrama has ski resorts that are open all winter for everything from downhill to ice-skating and dog sledding.
The main ski resorts are:
- Puerto de Navacerrada (in Spanish)
At: Est. Telesilla s/n, 28470 Cercedilla
Tel: 918 521 435
- Valdesquí (in Spanish)
At: Puerto de Cotos s/n, 28740 Rascafría
Tel: 915 701 224
Fax: 915 710 780
Winter sports in Spain are managed by the Real Federación Española de Deportes de Invierno. It manages the resorts across the country and ensures that skiers in Spain comply with the FIS (Fédération Internationale de Ski), the International Ski Federation’s rules and regulations for mountain conduct.
For news about events, competitions and skiing schools, contact:
The Federación Madrileña de Deportes de Invierno is the local federation for winter sports in Madrid, with details of clubs and local weather and resorts.
Information about skiing resorts, skiing seasons and competitions at:
- Esquí España
At: Padre Damián 43-1º, 28036 Madrid
Tel: 913 591 557
Fax: 913 455 562
Further information can also be found in the following websites:
For those who cannot wait for the winter, Madrid has a Snowzone indoor ski slope.
For more information: Click here
There are plenty of facilities for paragliding and globe flying in Madrid. Aero Clubs and flying schools around the city offer flying lessons to beginners. Make sure to deal only with certified pilots.
Further information from:
Federación Aérea Madrileña
At: C/ Arroyo del Olivar 49, 28018 Madrid
Tel: 914 785 168