Mountain hiking at Laguna Grande de Peñalara

Laguna Grande de Peñalara is a glacier lake, part of Sierra de Guadarrama natural park (Madrid, Spain). The lake lies directly under Almanzor mountain, the highest peak of Sierra de Gredos with 2,592m. 

We started our walk at Puerto de Cotos (1,830m), a very popular stop for mountain hikes. From here we could choose between several routes, from simple ones (approx. 2h) to more complicated (approx. 6h until the Peñalara peak). We did a mix of two different routes: RV3 until the Lake (the one that goes to Zabala refugee) and then RV7 from the Lake until the end. Putting together these two routes we created a circular one, instead of doing the same route to go up and down. In total we did approximately 7km (280m elevation gain).

Sierra de Guadarrama trekking

We left the car at the parking space and we started walking through Bernardino shortcut, a wood walk until the Visitors Center. This is the place to get informed about all the routes in detail, including the weather forecasts, average time for each route and number of quilometres. Since we started this walk around 2pm we had a quick lunch here, before going up. 

RV3 - Walking to the Zabala Refugee

After 1km walking we stopped again at Mirador de la Gitana (Gipsy viewpoint). From here we could admire some of the mountains around, including Cabezas de Hierro peak. A few meters above we passed Cobertizo del Deposito, the common stop between these two routes we were doing. We turned left to follow RV3 and then turned right where we made the biggest ascent of the route through several zigzag paths until the peak of this route (2,100m). To the right we stopped at Refugio de Zabala (2,075m), a good place to appreciate the mountain and lake views. 

Views from above

From here we started going down. Through several rocks we arrived into the Laguna Grande, where we stopped to eat a snack and drink water.

Laguna Grande de Peñalara

Most of the pathways around the lake and until the woods (last part of RV7) are in wood in order to protect the vegetation. We also passed a small body of water before starting our walk through pines and more dense vegetation. This part was probably the one where we saw more people since it is the easiest and common to other routes. We finished the route at Puerto de Cotos, passing again but not stopping (since we did it at the beginning) at Cobertizo del Deposito and Mirador de la Gitana. 

RV7 - Wood pathway

This is an easy to moderate route where the most difficult part is the hill to Refugio de Zabala and then going down through the rocks to the lake. We did it with our dog (part on a leash) but since she is a small dog we had to help her to pass the rocks part. There are several small children doing the RV7 walk but we didn't see them at the RV3 - I would say they just did the RV7 to go to the Laguna Grande and return using the same route (you avoid the most difficult parts).

RV7 - Walk through the forest

Looking for more hiking routes? Click here to discover other walks we did in the past. 

Practical information

  • Sierra de Guadarrama National Park official website here (English & Spanish)
  • How to arrive? We went by car until Peñalara Centro de Información parking space (65km / 1h driving from Madrid city center). If you don't have a car maybe it's a good idea to integrate a trekking group since public transports are not very frequent or almost inexistent here.
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