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Canyon Hike & Wild Swimming in Rio Verde

19 August 2016 | Mri Grout

The Parque Natural Sierras Tejeda Almijara y Alhama, located only an hour south of Granada, is home to some of the most breathtaking canyon hikes in Spain, with our personal favourite being the trail along the Rio Verde. The Spanish name translates to Green River, a name that can easily be understood as soon as you lay eyes on the stunning green and blue hues of its numerous wild swimming holes. However, despite how paradisial and welcoming the Rio Verde hike looks, we would highly recommend that you get back to your car before dark. For on our visit here, nearly $10,000 of our outdoor gear was stolen and they even took the sun visor, baby wipes, and food bag...

But please don't let our mishap be the reason you skip hiking the Rio Verde. Misfortune can happen anywhere and we're honestly already planning on revisiting this magical place...albeit without a full car. Lols.

Driving Directions

directions from Granada to the paradisial river hike called Rio Verde
location and trail of the paradisial river hike called Rio Verde

GPS Coordinates: 36.861627, -3.723823

This marker is placed at the official start of the trailhead, as well as the place where we got massively robbed in our 2016 trip through Spain. The road is fairly quiet, even during the peak season in the middle of the day, so as I said before, I would highly suggest that you get back to your car well before dusk. And maybe hide passports and cards under the floor mats just as an added precaution.

Trail Directions

  1. After parking your car, head downhill about 50m until you see a trailhead board on your left. The path is very easy to follow and will eventually lead to a Y split. The one on your right will go slightly uphill and to a small, but gorgeous cave that's definitely worth detouring to, especially given how little said detour is. The other option will cross a river and waterfall (which is still stunning when dry). This is the continuation of the hiking trail for Rio Verde.
  2. After crossing the river continue to follow the trail, stopping at whatever swimming hole(s) you fancy. Eventually you'll get to a dirt road (the same one you saw in the distance at the big waterfall). You can take this dirt road back to the tarmac road where you've left your car or you can continue down the hiking trail to some even prettier views and deeper wild swimming holes. The first option will turn the hike into a nice loop. The second will be a return hike.
  3. If you've taken the loop back to the car, skip to step 4. If not, keep reading this one. The trail from this point on gets a bit trickier as we were fairly lost on this half. Anyway, keep following the trail down the river until you cross it once again at one of the most amazing swimming holes you've passed yet. On the other side there will be a T section and you should take the left. We have no idea where the right branch goes. Continue on down the left and you'll eventually hike upwards, only to then go back down towards the river near the merge point of another canyon. The trail is marked by blue arrows when it starts to get difficult, so follow those until you get to a medium sized clearing on the left hand side of the river. At this point the blue arrow will point backwards even though there's a trail that still goes forwards. At this point turn around and make your way back to the dirt road mentioned in step 2. We have no idea where the blue arrow points at that part, but if you continue down the other path and to the dam, you will more than likely walk 20km only to be stuck by a gate at the end.
  4. Follow the dirt road away from the river until it gets to the tarmac and then take a left until you see your car. PLEASE NOTE: We have not walked this loop of the Rio Verde hiking trail either and it's not uncommon for Spanish maps to be completely wrong (like the one we followed on our visit here), so we are not sure if this section is actually as easy as Google Maps says it should be. If you're not willing to take this chance (and smartly so if there's little light left), then ignore the dirt road and instead follow the hiking trail the whole way back from whence you came.

Tips for Hiking the Rio Verde

  • Before going on the hike, tip everything out of any bags you're leaving in the car. Put the least valuable items on top, but make it look like a natural mess that's not worth breaking in to. The biggest reason I say this though is that if you do get robbed (though hopefully you won't), you'll have a higher chance of being left things that are only valuable to you: second pair of clothes, toothbrushes, jackets, blankets, etc.
  • The further you hike along the Rio Verde, the more beautiful and deeper the wild swimming holes get.
  • Again, try to make sure you get back before dark. I know I've mentioned the robbery a lot here, but I really want to make sure even those that skim pages manage to see something about it because $10,000 worth of gear is a freaking lot.

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Have you hiked or gone wild swimming in the Rio Verde near Granada?