Declared a Natural Park: (Fuentes Carrionas and Fuente Cobre-Montaña Palentina Natural Park) 1992
Renamed and expanded: (Montaña Palentina Natural park) 2000
Park surface area: 78,360 hectares
Towns and villages: Aguilar de Campoo, Brañosera, Castrejón de la Peña, Cervera de Pisuerga, Dehesa de Montejo, La Pernía, Polentinos, Triollo, Velilla del Río Carrión, San Cebrián de Mudá
Points of interest
The Montaña Palentina Natural Park (formerly called Fuentes Carrionas y Fuente Cobre-Montaña Palentina Natural Park) is a protected area located in the north of the province of Palencia. The Palentina Mountain range is home to the Fuentes Carrionas and Fuente del Cobre which are the sources of the Carrión and Pisuerga rivers.
This is a space of great natural, landscape, fauna and botanical value. It has the most northern mass of junipers in Europe, together with endemic species from the Cantabrian Mountains such as the Cantabrian Artemis and the Echium cantabricum.
It is a refuge for the emblematic and endangered brown bear. Also, The Cantabrian Capercaillie became extinct in the natural park at the beginning of the twenty-first century and since 2010 the European Union’s LIFE programme has supported a recovery plan for this bird.
This area is also a national hunting reserve, the Reserva Nacional de Caza de Fuentes Carrionas, and this was in existence prior to the designation of the natural park. It now forms a regional hunting reserve within the park boundaries. With an area of almost 50 thousand hectares the reserve covers a large part of the natural park.
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Also in the area
The Cueva del Cobre : Interesting cavity, not only because it is the source of the Pisuerga river but because of the formations and dimensions of its galleries. The route to the cave is simple but takes around 5 hours (13 kilometers.) The route starts in the Palencian town of Santa María de Redondo. (Entering the cave system is for experienced cavers with proper equipment)
The Sel de la Fuente sinkhole: In the Sierra de Híjar there is a cavity that collects the waters of the glacial cirque of the Valdecebollas peak but also this is an incredible alpine meadow and has been a summer pasture area for the cattle and horse herds of the Redondo valley (San Juan de Redondo and Santa María de Redondo) for millenia.
The Brown Bear Foundation interpretation centre (Centro de Interpretación del Oso Cantábrico)
The emphasis across this region of Northern Spain is, of course, with the Cantabrian brown bear and there are four interpretation centres run by the Brown Bear Foundation.
These centres provide a fantastic opportunity to learn about the life and conservation problems of the brown bear, and its relationship with the humans with whom it shares territory. In all the Houses you can enjoy a documentary, about twenty minutes long with exhibits about the life and customs of the Cantabrian brown bear and its habitat.
Local towns and villages El Arenal, Arenas de San Pedro, Bohoyo, Candeleda, La Carrera, Cuevas del Valle, Gilgarcía, Guisando, El Hornillo, Hoyos del Collado, Hoyos del Espino, Los Llanos de Tormes, Mombeltrán, Nava del Barco, Navalonguilla, Navalperal de Tormes, Navarredonda de Gredos, Navatejares, Puerto Castilla, Santiago de Tormes, San Juan de Gredos, San Martín del Pimpollar, Solana de Ávila, Tormellas, Umbrías, Villarejo del Valle, Zapardiel de la Ribera and San Esteban del Valle.
Points of interest
The Sierra de Gredos Regional Park is situated in the southern part of the province of Ávila and encompasses the highest altitudes of the mountains. The highest point of the Sierra de Gredos and also central Spain is the Pico Almanzor at 2,592 metres.
The Sistema Central mountain chain, predominately of granite rock, cuts east to west from Madrid province to Portugal. The Sierra de Gredos is a part of this formation which stretches for nearly 140km running through the provinces of Madrid, Ávila, Salamanca, Toledo and Cáceres.
This once glaciated region has been gradually eroded and molded by the action of ice and water. At lower altitudes deciduous and evergreen forests move up to slopes covered in broom, to alpine meadows and higher still to exposed rock which grows lime coloured lichens, often snow covered. The range of habitat types covers alpine meadows, glacial cirques, glacial lake, moraines, rocky crags, river gorges and sub tropical slopes.
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There is an array of flora and fauna to suit each of these habitats. The southern side of this protective band enjoys a milder climate where they are able to grow peppers and citrus fruits. There are planted orchards of Cherry, Fig, Sweet chestnut and Walnut trees in the valley to the north.
Snow can cover the high ground from November lasting on the peaks to May or June and so the many streams flow with fast clear water.
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.
Endemics to Gredos mountains are the Snapdragon (Antirrhinum grosii), Centaurea avilae, Dianthus gredensis, Armeria bigerrensis subsp. bigerrensis, Saxifraga pentadactylis subsp. almanzorii, Jasione laevis subsp gredensis, Sedum campanulatum, Santolina oblongifolia, Scrophularia bourgeana, Sedum campanulatum and Doronicum kuepferi.
The numerous Western Spanish Ibex or Gredos Ibex (Capra pyrenaica victoriae) roaming here are an isolated subspecies of Spanish ibex the latter can be found in many mountainous regions throughout Spain.
Iberolacerta cyreni is a lizard endemic to the Sistema Central mountain range. It is a montane species found close to the tree line in damp, rocky habitats from 1,300 to 2,500m. (Formerly treated as a subspecies of Lacerta monticola).
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 within the park 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 (Lacerta lepida), Lataste’s viper (Vipera latastei) and European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis).
Two other endemic animals of the park are the Almanzor salamander (Salamandra salamandra almanzoris) and Gredos toad (Bufo bufo gredosicola).
Also in the area:
The caves called “Cuevas del Águila” contain spectacular concretions and can be visited in the Tiétar valley near Arenas de San Pedro and Ramacastañas. Web: https://cuevasdelaguila.com/?lang=en
At El Raso just south of the Sierra de Gredos Regional park, there is an Iron-age hill fort from the 3rd – 2nd Century B.C. The site is roughly 20 hectares and was once protected by a wall that in places was 3m wide. The Romans ordered this wall to be demolished and now only parts of it remain. There are two reconstructed houses to demonstrate structures of these times. Visit the tourist office in the town of Candeleda (Oficina de Turismo of Candeleda) for more information.
There are also excellent Neolithic cave paintings which can be visited, near El Raso called “El Collado Braguillas“.
Casa del Parque de Sierra de Gredos (zona norte) ‘Pinos Cimeros’
Located in the town of Hoyos del Espino, in the southeast of Ávila.The best way to access it is through Av-941 that connects the N-502 with the town of El Barco de Ávila. It is located on Av-931 that leaves from Hoyos del Espino to the Platforma.
This is a fantastic interpretation centre with all the information that you need. There are interactive maps, exhibitions and detailed information on the geology, fauna, flora and ethnic history of the area.
This video give an idea of what to expect.
Casa del Parque de Sierra de Gredos (zona sur) ‘El Risquillo’
From Madrid you can come along the C-501 (Alcorcón-Plasencia road) to Arenas de San Pedro, and from there take the 5 km provincial road that reaches Guisando. You can also go along the A-5 to Talavera de la Reina and through Arenas arriving at Guisando. From Salamanca and Valladolid you can get to Ávila and from there take the N-502 to Arenas de San Pedro and Guisando.
Another excellent information centre well worth the visit with all the information you need, exhibitions and very knowledgable staff.