Thursday 30 March 2017

La Cumbrecita Trail Running Route, La Palma, Canary Islands

Click here for route map
Length 3 km (1.9 miles), terrain: rocky, a steep climb at the end, gain of 109 meters

I gave up looking for fairly flat running routes on La Palma. This is a very vertical island! So here's one of my favorite spots on the island, even if it has a lot of ups and downs.

La Cumbrecita is an outlook along the southern edge of the caldera, the huge crater dominating the northern half of the island (it's the biggest volcanic crater in the world!).
Ravens enjoying the view of the caldera from La Cumbrecita
But Cumbrecita feels more like being in the High Sierra in California rather than being on the edge of an island volcano. It has pine trees everywhere, with several peaks rising around you through the woods. It's peaceful, and provides some amazing lookouts into the gigantic crater and the nearby cliffs.

La Cumbrecita is in Taburiente National Park, at the end of a paved road rising up to the lookout along the edge, 1,300 meters above the surrounding Atlantic. Parking is limited there, so you have to make a reservation at the park visitors' center at the beginning of the road, in El Paso. You could also take one of the waiting taxis to the top from the visitors' center. Usually, after 4 p.m. there are no more restrictions on cars driving up there.
The La Cumbrecita parking lot
This short run has a lot to it: open vistas, quiet valleys full of wonderful pine fragrance, cliffs, amazing vistas and a few (probably dry) streams. So, if you're interested, get yourself to the end of the road, at the Mirador de la Cumbrecita. The little parking lot has its own great lookout, frequented by ravens looking for a free lunch.

We'll follow the main path westwards, towards the Mirador Lomo de las Chozas. The path is wide and easy to follow, and well-marked.

So turn westwards and follow the path. Soon, you'll see another path heading upwards towards Pico Bejenado, but ignore it. After an initial rise and nice lookout vistas to both sides, the trail then goes downhill all the way to the Chozas lookout, at the 1-kilometer mark. The trail will gradually curve northwards towards a rocky point sticking straight into the caldera. 
At Mirador de Las Chosas
Just before Chozas, the trail splits as it goes around the little peak. Just stay on the right side the whole time.

At Chozas, there is a main lookout, and also another small lookout on a side-trail just below the main one. You can get a better view from there, so run out there if it isn't too crowded.

Now turn around and run back around the other side of the peak. Just when the trails rejoin, you'll see another trail heading downhill into the valley to the left (eastwards), with a sign pointing to Mirador de Los Roques. That's the more interesting way back than just retracing our way out, so let's take it!
The trail after Chozas
You'll find yourself heading downhill along a gently sloping hillside, and then zig-zag around a few ravines. There will be various short up- and downhill stretches, too. You'll cross a wooden bridge, then continue heading eastwards.
The wooden bridge
After the two-kilometer mark, you'll see some imposing cliffs in the distance that you are running directly towards.
Heading up the switchbacks
You'll then cross another wooden bridge and switchback your way uphill to a spot where a spring is captured in a pipe.
The waterworks for the irrigation pipe
This is where you'll see the trail split. To the left it dead-ends at the Mirador de Los Roques in just a hundred meters. The other way switchbacks upwards to the La Cumbrecita parking lot. Let's run to Los Roques first, because it's the best lookout of the whole run!
At Los Roques: what a spot!
So enjoy breathtaking Los Roques (right at the 2.5-km mark) and then turn around and follow the trail all the way back to La Cumbrecita, zig-zagging upwards in front of that cliff-face we were running towards earlier.
The uphill way back
In just a while (just 500 meters from Los Roques) you'll be back at La Cumbrecita, much happier that you got to experience this beautiful corner of La Palma and the world. And enjoy the rest of the island!

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