The Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park (Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares) is one the largest protected natural areas in the Community of Madrid

Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park

  • Region: Madrid
  • Declared a Regional Park: 1985
  • Declared a Biosphere reserve: 1993
  • Park surface area: 42,583 hectares
  • Towns and Villages: Alcobendas, Becerril de la Sierra, Cercedilla, Collado-Villalba, Colmenar Viejo, El Boalo, Galapagar, Hoyo de Manzanares, Las Rozas, Madrid, Manzanares El Real, Miraflores de la Sierra, Moralzarzal, Navacerrada, Rascafría, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Soto del Real, Torrelodones and Tres Cantos.
Points of interest

The Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park (Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares) is one the largest protected natural areas in the Community of Madrid and now comes under the protection of the Guadarrama National Park.

It contains a valuable ecological landscape, is located in the northwest of the region and extends around the upper reaches of the Manzanares river on the southern slopes of the Guadarrama mountain range. There are numerous ecosystems and habitats such as pine and oak woodlands and various wetlands such as the two large reservoirs of Santillana and El Pardo

Monte de Viñuelas, which is located to the east of the park is also a Special Protection Zone for Birds (ZEPA ).

The area has also become famous as a starlight destination. The Starlight Foundation is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2009 to promote the protection of the night sky and the development of “astrotourism” and there is an ever growing list of starlight destinations in Spain to visit.

Find a hotel close to the The Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park


The remarkable variety of ecosystems, together with the excellent state of conservation creates a great biodiversity regarding the flora so the area is a botanists delight.

There are around 1,400 different plant species recorded within the park. Trees include evergreen and deciduous Oaks (Quercus ilex), (Quercus pyrenaica), Poplar (Populus alba, P.tremula, P. nigra), Alder (Alnus glutinosa), Birch (Betula alba), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), Stone pine (Pinus pinea) and Mountain ash (Sorbus acuparia).

Most well known are the low growing brooms (Cytisus purgans) that cover the slopes with fragrant yellow flowers in spring. There is an extensive range of gorse and brooms that inhabit these mountains such as Echinospartum barnadesii, Adenocarpus hispanica, Adenocarpus complicates, Genista falcate and Cytisus scoparius. Some hold special habitats such as the flat growing Genista carpetana that creeps over rocks, in oak leaf litter are Genista cinerea, Cytisus scoparius, Cytisus multiflorus or close to pines Genista florida.

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) grows in woodland clearings and Dog rose (Rosa canina) grows under the pine trees with herbs such as oregano, thyme and rosemary in open areas.

Singular trees

Within the Park there are several arboreal specimens included within the category of Singular Trees Ask in one of the visitor centres about…

  • The juniper in the Cerro de Valviejo
  • The Arizona cypress in Viñuelas
  • The Scots pine in Cadena
  • The poplar in Caño Viejo
  • The cork oak from Las Casiruelas


Mammals of the park include Beech marten, Wild cat, Otter, Pyrenean muskrat, Ávila snow vole, Pygmy shrew, Long-tailed shrew and Cabrera’s vole,

Raptors that can be seen are Golden eagle, Booted eagle, Short-toed eagle, Imperial eagle, Egyptian vulture, Goshawk, Griffon vulture, Black vulture, Montagu’s harrier, Sparrowhawk, Red and Black Kite, Hobby and Tawny Owl.

Other birds noted are White stork, Black stork, Black redstart, Rock thrush, Bluethroat, Alpine hedge sparrow, Ortolan Bunting, Stonechat, Citril Finch, Rock Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Turtledove, Water Pipit, Dipper, Yellow Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Iberian green woodpecker, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Wood Lark, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Dartford Warbler and Whitethroat.

Amphibians and reptiles include common Spade foot (Pelobates fuscus), Midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans), and European tree frog (Hyla arborea), Schreiber’s green lizard (Lacerta schreiberi), Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus), Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis hispanica), Ocellated lizard (Timon lepida), Lataste’s viper (Vipera latastei) and European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis).

Information/Visitors Centers

The Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park has two visitor centers that are now managed by the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park

Centro de attención de visitantes “La Pedriza”

The Center is located in the La Pedriza area, next to the asphalt track that connects with the Collado de Quebrantaherraduras with Canto Cochino, in the municipality of Manzanares El Real and two kilometers from the town. It is accessed from the M-608 road that connects Collado Villalba and Venturada, by the detour at kilometer 25,700. The center is located approximately 1.3 km on the La Pedriza road and about 200 meters before the access barrier.

The main building is the headquarters of the environmental education area of the Guadarramma National Park and has a permanent exhibition “Journey to the Sierra de Guadarrama“, with displays detailing the high peaks to the valleys of the Sierra, the fauna and flora encountered. In the outdoor enclosure, nine thematic areas show different natural aspects of the Sierra de Guadarrama.

The Visitor Information Point is a building located just after passing the barrier at the entrance to La Pedriza, it has brochures, route maps of the area and recommendations for the visit etc. It also has an exhibition area with temporary exhibitions.

Centro de attención de visitantes Valle de la Fuenfria

Located in Cercedilla, in the heart of the Fuenfría Valley. From the AP-6 / Madrid-A Coruña, exit 47 towards M-600 / El Escorial / Guadarrama towards Guadarrama and then the M-614 / Navacerrada-Guadarrama, once in Guadarrama take the M-622 to Cercedilla, and continue by the Ctra. de las Dehesas until Km 2.

The Center is surrounded by magnificent Scots pine forests, a unique enclave of the Sierra de Guadarrama, in the heart of the Fuenfría Valley. In this natural environment of great environmental value there is a wide network of trails and footpaths that run through the valley.

The permanent exhibition consists of a series of interpretive panels and an audiovisual on the Fuenfría valley and throughout the year there are several temporary exhibitions.

Outside there is a botanic garden with examples of local and endemic plantlife.

The official website for the Guadarrama National Park is here:

The Caminito del Rey

Find tickets for the Caminito del Rey:

Wildside Holidays – Spain

Take a trip on the Wildside! Discover the wildlife and nature of Spain, its Natural and National Parks and find the top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies.

Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *