Mountain Journeys

Seven days of trail running in Costa Blanca

Trail-running-Costa-Blanca-mountains-serra de la carrascal-parcent

Atmospheric cloud whilst on our run over the Serra del Carrascal de Parcent

This mountainous area of Spain is idyllic for runners and walkers alike with its abundant paths and tracks through pretty valleys, over high passes and up into the spectacular mountains.  The mediterranean is always on the horizon and a welcome visit for a well-earned rest day.  To top it all the winter climate in this area is fairly perfect for runners, low rainfall, plenty of sunshine and enough warmth to make it enjoyable without overheating!

Our runs took us on a variety of routes much of it close to our accommodation. Steph ran nine routes in the seven days she out in Costa Blanca with us, whilst I ran seven with her. This was to be a winter training week for her but also a bit of a holiday too!  Being a Cumbrian fell-runner, Steph was comfortable with navigating and so on the days she ran on her own I was able to point out the routes on the map, add a few extra points of information, drive her to the start, collect her from the finish and she was happily able to complete the runs solo.

Day 1: Serra de Bernia circuit (9km –  300m ascent - 1 hr 25 mins)
This popular route both for walkers and runners alike makes a classic high level circuit of the Serra de Bernia ridge.  This spectacular ridge can be seen for miles around from all directions, a long chain of jagged, rocky peaks and cols.  The route circumnavigates the ridge by going under the mountain at its eastern end, through a natural rock tunnel, the ‘forat’, which is only about 1 metre high for a short section!  There’s lots more of interest on this run if you feel the inclination to stop, including the ruins of the Fort de Bernia and prehistoric wall art.  The paths are mostly good tracks, whilst some are narrow mountain paths, often rocky and sometimes crossing rocky scree, with one short scramble down a rocky step.

Day 2: Penon d’Ifach (3km –  340m ascent - 1 hour)
            Serra de Olta (9km – 440m ascent - 1 hr 40 mins)

We headed for Calpe today on the coast, where the weather was better than in the mountains.  In the morning we ran up the Penon d’Ifach, the huge rocky sea stack which dominates the coastline. The first section is on good paths which are popular with tourists.  Then we go through the tunnel and the path becomes rocky and a little slippery in places as it traverses, then climbs steeply to the summit (332m).  Today it was just us and the seagulls on the summit with fantastic views from here of Calpe and inland to Serra de Olta (our route for the afternoon)!

Olta is the lovely little hill behind Calpe – it has a flat top and viewing it from Calpe marina it looks like a mini Table Mountain.  We parked at the camping area and followed good tracks up past the Ermita until we reached the rocky gully leading to the summit plateau, which is mostly limestone pavement. The route then heads back down a valley and continues to make a circuit of the mountain.  Except for a short rocky section of path towards the end, it is mostly good wide runnable tracks.

Day 3: Serra del Castell de la Solana and Castell de Aixa (15km – 500m ascent - 2 hr 18 mins)
Steph ran this route from our accommodation on her own.  From our house, you can see much of the ridge and the summit of Castell de Aixa is directly above us. The route follows a mixture of terrain from good tracks to steep rocky mountain paths, to a lovely runnable paths down the ridge. There are several fonts (wells/springs) on route, usually herds of cows and goats (bells ringing!), the remains of an old Moorish fort on the summit and views of Montgo the big elephant shaped mountain on the coast between Denia and Javea.

Day 4: Puig Campana (9km – 800m ascent – 1 hr 53 mins)
After a morning of Via Ferrata, we were tempted by the sight of the Puig Campana which was constantly in our view. This is the second highest mountain in the region  at 1408m and famous for it’s pyramid shape from the north and huge limestone crags to the south. So in the afternoon we set off for the summit, starting high above the Font de Moli at Finestrat, passing the Refugio Vera Catral before reaching the Coll del Pouet.  The good runnable tracks to here continued a little further until we were naturally slowed down as the path crossed scree and rocky steps whilst winding it’s way up the mountain.  On reaching the col below Roldan’s Notch we then traversed along, gradually ascending to the summit whilst having awesome views over the surrounding mountains and across to the coast and the skyline of Benidorm below! The sun was starting to go down so a quick retreat back the way we had come was our best option on this day.  For fell-runners this is a route which is excellent for some technical descending –  and for putting a smile on your face!

Day 5: Pedreguer and Font d’Aixa circuit (12km – 500m ascent – 2 hours)
 A lovely little circuit close to our accommodation on good tracks and small paths.  The route starts and finishes up the barrancs (narrow valleys) above Pedreguer, a lovely town sat at the bottom of the Muntanya Gran (Big Mountain!), gently ascending and descending several times whilst passing several ancient fonts (springs) which are commonly found in these areas of dry landscape. It was a quiet day out except for some Spanish mountain bikers who would pass on us on the downhill only for us to pass them again on the uphill!

Day 6: Vall de Laguar – 10,000 steps! (16k – 900m ascent – 2 hours 20 mins)
             Les Arcs and circuit of Raco Roig (12k – 450m ascent – 1 hour 55 mins)

A morning run for Steph on her own – giving me time to rest my legs!  This is an awesome route in the Vall de Laguar follows ancient stepped trails which descend into dry steep sided river beds three times and pass old wells and ruined buildings of old hamlets.  The running is good and only gets very steep on one of the ascents.

In the afternoon we drove further into the mountains, above Castell de Castells.  After a tough run in the morning for Steph we opted for a gentler run in the afternoon.  We start high up in the mountains which cuts down on the ascent and the tracks are mostly wide and very runnable - most of the ascent was in the second half of the route on the far side of the Raco Roig.  We took an out and back track to view the awesome Les Arcs – a huge limestone arch and well worth a visit!

Day 7:  Serra del Carrascal de Parcent (15km – 825m ascent – 2 hours 45 mins)
Our legs were a little tired by now but this was the last day so we headed for the nearby Serra del Carrascal which had been tempting us all week.  A lovely run winding its way gradually up small mountain paths to the rocky summit ridge – we scrambled along it but there are paths below for those not inclined for this.  At the main summit are radio masts and a fire watchout post and then a concrete road zig-zags down to the famous Col de Rates (cyclists use this as a time trial and one can clock in and clock out for the 7km route up from the town of Parcent).  To finish the week we had a lovely fast descent winding down the hillside from the Col de Rates back into the valley, taking 20 minutes!  Fitting in as much as we could in a week, we then had an afternoon of rock climbing at nearby Alcalali before Steph had to return to Alicante airport.

Thanks Steph for a great week of running!


Panoramic view from Serra del Castell de la Solana with Serra del Carrascal in the centre.



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