In 1966, Sierra Nevada was declared a National Hunting Reserve, in 1986, UNESCO declared it to be a Natural Biosphere Reserve under the aegis of the Man and Biosphere programme. In 1989, the Andalusian parliament declared it a Natural Park and finally, in 1999, it was declared a National Park by the national parliament, becoming number twelve in the Network of National Parks of Spain and the one covering the greatest area. As a consequence of these declarations, the National Park is subject to higher levels of protection. Its territory comprises the nucleus of the Sierra Nevada and reaches the high summits. Around this the Natural Park is situated, bordering it at lower altitudes in what is called the medium and low mountains.
Only a few kilometres inland from the Meditrerranean coast, the Sierra Nevada mountains are said to provide winter sports in the morning and sunbathing in the afternoon. The centre of activity is a small town, variously referrred to as Sierra Nevada, Sol y Nieve or Pradollano, just 9 kilometres northwest of Mulhacen, the highest peak on the Spanish mainland,