The ascent of the Cruz de Juanar is a there and back walk starting near the Refugio de Juanar at quite a high level to begin with. The walk starts on a well defined track through open country with olive groves. After leaving this track there is an easy walk across a shoulder to gain a path. From here to the top is constant uphill for about 2 kilometres with occasional very steep bits. The footing is not great so be careful, especially if the ground is wet. The views are as good as you can get but keep an eye on the weather. The cloud takes only minutes to come up the valley and envelop the summit.
From your car, carry on up the track until you reach a gate. Pass through the stile to one side and carry straight on. You are surrounded on this stretch by mountains all covered with maquis. Ignore a sign on your right indicating La Concha and Istan. About 200 metres further on you will reach a left hand bend. There is an open space on your right and a rubbish skip. Looking between the trees to your right you will see that you are on the side of a shoulder that descends sharply to the left down towards Marbella and more gently to the right. You may see a wooden post with a yellow band that indicates the top of a path that takes you down the valley. If you do see this post then leave it to your left. Your way is straight across the shoulder to the foot of the mountain on the far side of the shoulder, neither ascending nor descending.
At the foot of the mountain you will see a fence leading up on your right and the beginnings of a narrow, stony path twisting off to your left up the mountain. Stay on this path as it takes you up between stands of fragrant rosemary and colourful gorse and broom. The path hair pins upwards, you gain height very rapidly and the views open up all around. Soon you are higher than the mountain on the other side of the valley and looking over it towards Malaga. To the east, on a clear day, you can see the snow encrusted tops of the Sierra Nevadas beyond Granada.
Part way up the path you will come across an unusual memorial inscribed ‘El Dia 2 De Mayo De 1993 Y Desde Aqui Alcanzo El Cielo A Los 70 Anos El ‘Romero De La Cruz De Juana’ Juan J. Aguilar Lopez’. I can think of no finer resting place. (On this day 2nd May 1993 and from here looking at the sky The Gypsy of The Cross of Juanar rests Juan J Aguilar Lopez)
There are all sorts of alpine plants on this walk normally found in rockeries. Sweet Alison (Lobularia maritime) finds a precarious home in the rocks, scenting the air with its sweet, musky aroma and attracting the bees from miles around. You will hear an almost constant background humming from the thousands of honey and bumble bees that take advantage of the flowering herbs.
On the upper parts the maquis thins to become heather and here you are likely to see red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus). As the Latin name implies they are native only to Scotland and northern England. These must be escapees from a nearby shoot. Their habits are the same as their northern cousins. Well camouflaged in the heather they will remain still and unseen until they are almost beneath your feet then they burst out of cover, their heavy bodies barely supported on frantically flapping wings rapidly reaching an unlikely high speed as they skim the top of the heather. They are a total contrast to the wagtails, both pied and grey, that flit gracefully between shrubs.
All nature’s wonders cannot really distract you from the arduous path as, towards the top, just when you think you are almost there, it becomes a goat track clinging to the side of the rock, takes a swing to the right and presents you with a short section that may require the use of hands as well as feet, a good scramble in any case and then, miraculously and with no warning, you are on the summit and it seems as if you can see most of Andalucia beneath you.
Start and Finish: Car parking area in the vicinity of the Refugio de Juanar.
Distance: 6 kilometres.
Difficulty: Medium to Hard.
Essentials: Boots, waterproofs, food, water, map (obtainable from the Refugio)