GR-48 Sierra Morena
The GR 48 Sendero de Sierra Morena is the long-distance route that allows you to cross this mountain range from west to east. There are 590 km of signposted and conditioned itinerary that starts in the Portuguese town of Barrancos, on the border of Andalusia with Portugal, and from there it takes us on a journey through the provinces of Huelva, Seville, Cordoba and Jaen, ending in the municipality of Santa Elena, opening the door to the Despeñaperros Natural Park.
The entire route has been defined in 28 linear stages and a circular variant in the province of Seville, all of which are accessible for a day's walking. These stages begin and end in the municipalities where the trail runs, or in places where it is possible to eat and spend the night, such as the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Cabeza in the Sierra de Andújar.
In the province of Jaén the GR 48 is defined in 5 stages, among which we have some of the longest in the whole of the Sierra Morena, although without detracting from the rest of the itineraries that run through the other three provinces, they are the most appreciated by walkers due to their singular beauty.
Along the route of the GR 48 in Jaén, the mixture of landscapes stands out, in which we will find alternation between the typical pasture of Sierra Morena, where the cattle graze, and the steep slopes of the mountains of the Sierra de Andújar and the foothills of Despeñaperros, where the gorges, ravines and average altitudes define a landscape beauty evocative of high mountain latitudes.
The path in the Sierra Morena de Jaén is structured in 5 stages, the route of which will take us from Marmolejo to the urban centre of Santa Elena, bringing us closer to important landmarks in this sierra, such as the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Cabeza, the great historical heritage of Baños de la Encina or the mining meadows around La Carolina, All this through changing landscapes, where the Mediterranean pasture melts with the most abrupt nature, in a mixture of spectacular landscapes, changing in colour throughout the year, and which have their peak in autumn and spring.
But not everything on this route is landscape. The lack of major urban centres in the heart of the sierra has allowed for an exceptional state of conservation, where bird and mammal watching is more than affordable at almost any point along the GR 48 route.
The great biodiversity of this territory gives us the opportunity to contemplate unique species, both fauna and botany. Let's not forget that this area has one of its last strongholds, the Iberian Lynx, in the Sierra de Andújar, as well as other protected species such as the Black Vulture or the Golden Eagle. It goes without saying that, as this is one of the most important hunting areas in Spain, the sighting of large mammals is more than frequent, almost habitual (deer, fallow deer and wild boar). Large cattle pastures with herds of wild bulls are another attraction, more frequent on the path towards the northeast of the province, on the stretch between the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park and the Despeñaperros Natural Park.
In addition to the species mentioned, herpetology enthusiasts will find a good community of amphibians along the Jaén route of the GR 48, with the presence of species exclusive to the Iberian Peninsula such as the Iberian pintojo toad, Iberian newt and the Iberian midwife toad.
The vegetation we find on this walk is the typical Mediterranean forest and scrub, with a predominance of holm oak groves with rockroses, mastics and wild olive trees. All of this is complemented by examples of conifer forests from the mid-twentieth century, pine forests distributed mainly around the Sierra de Andújar and the surroundings of Santa Elena, in Despeñaperros. In the courses of the streams and rivers through which the GR 48 runs we can also see riverside forests, such as the Los Santos stream in the first stage, the Jandula river in the second and the Campana river in the last.
In order to travel the GR 48, it must be taken into account that the stages are long and ideal for full days. Every starting and finishing point of the stage is a refreshment point, but especially in the longer stages, it is advisable to take plenty of water with you, as the Sierra Morena is typically dry and there are not many springs to quench your thirst. Furthermore, you must take care of the time of year for your journey, as the summers in the Sierra Morena are quite hot, reaching high temperatures in the summer season, which means that you must plan your schedule carefully, alternating walks with rest, if you wish to walk the trail in the summer months, especially July and August.
Apart from the pleasure for the senses that walking this path entails, each of the stages takes us to very interesting enclaves that show us the rich heritage that the different civilizations have left in our province. Along the path we will find enough reasons to make a little detour and get closer to the Antiquity with the different archaeological sites and cave paintings, to the Middle Ages with the fabulous Medieval Heritage of Baños de la Encina or the proximity of the battlefield of