At the end of March 2023 Brian hiked the Gran Canaria GR131 then took a ferry to continue with the Tenerife section of the same trail.
Tenerife GR131 I hiked about 67 miles in 5 days (guidebook route is 58 miles). I again was armed with a guidebook, Cicerone’s Trekking in the Canary Islands as a kindle app.
The GR131 crosses from coast to coast on most of the Canary islands but in Tenerife it terminates inland at both ends. Possibly this is due to Tenerife being heavily populated around the tourist coastal fringe and creating a scenic trail in these parts is more difficult.
Anyway the boat landed at the biggest town on the island, Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the north east, and I then hopped on a bus down to the southern tip at Los Cristianos before getting a connection to the trail’s southern start at Arona.
It was pretty hot again – maybe 28 to 30C – here at 4pm in the small town of Arona 600m above sea level. But it was going to get cooler as I set out up the arid, cactus landscape to the north. After collecting water to do me til tomorrow morning I set off and crossed a couple of dry barrancas which looked like old lava flows before climbing up to an attractive craggy hillscape around Roque Imoque. The air was really hazy again as in Gran Canaria so I lost sight of the coast but the hiking was on great trails and I soon entered shady pleasant pine forest causing the temperature to dip nicely.
I found a campsite on a rocky ridge in trees overlooking Barranco del Rey pleased with today’s travel progress and well established on the hike.
I continued the next day with pleasant undulating walking across pine clad hillsides on the southern slopes of El Teide, the island’s volcano high point at 3715m. I passed a concrete water tank where it would have been possible to collect water using buckets lying around and then remarkably some water potholes under a cool stone bridge. There was a running race about to start in the town of Vilaflor as I arrived at 10am and it was pretty vibrant and noisy as I bought some food and water for a few days then sat down for a coffee in the shade. I even managed to bathe my feet in town waterfall feature!
From there, the good trail climbed a bit more steadily to the edge of the treeline with views to raw lava hillsides above. I took a minor trail away from the GR131 rounding the west side of the hill of Guajara to get to the National Park centre at Parador. This looked an interesting route in itself and meant I avoided doing a part of the GR131 twice to get to Parador (purple line on map below).
I was now climbing steeply up a valley on open lava slopes with feint trail and cairns. I followed a tiny (now broken) aqueduct line before coming upon a strong water flow emerging from a pipe into a concrete tank. Probably the best water source I saw on either of the islands!
After a lunch stop in the shade of a pine tree I pushed up to the col at 2,450m to views of El Teide at last! From the col there was a better trail zig zagging down to the valley below and Parador car park and visitor centre where I collected some more water for the night.
Leaving the crowds of tourists, I headed back east to the GR131 on jeep tracks past a cool looking climbing area of surreal volcanic pinnacles. The air temperature was now more pleasant higher up and the walking was scenic. I decided to climb up to another col to the south on the GR131 to camp to the east of Guajara and found some flat spots to pitch the tent. This was Degollada de Guajara, at 2,390m, the highest point on the GR131 in the Canaries I think.
First thing in the morning I hiked up Guajara the hill beside camp with views across to El Teide and thankfully a bit less haze than on previous days. The ruins of an old observatory adorn the summit (see banner picture above), seemingly the first high altitude observatory. Returning back to the trail there was a long flat section on jeep track skirting the south of El Teide around the lava fields and I saw a few other hikers and runners here. I headed to the road at El Portillo Alto which had a couple of busy cafes so I hiked on down the road for a mile or so to El Portillo Visitor Centre. I wanted to pick up water but the taps at the toilet had ‘Non Potable’ signs up. Since this was likely my last chance for water before tonight I hiked back to the first café and sat down for a sandwich and chips and filled up on water there. Probably a 5km round trip….but worth it!
Next I descended north away from El Teide, down into pine woodlands on a track covered with ‘No Cycling’ signs but obviously ignored as there were deep rutted berms from mountain bikes all the way. At about 5.30pm I found a rocky river bed to cook up pasta and tea as a nice relaxing stop. The forest changed from pine to ‘laurisilva’ which is a mix of scrub and pine with some flowering giant heather trees. Unfortunately for me it didn’t provide camping spots but I lucked out by coming across an open wooden shelter with a table and a micro spot for the tent. Phew!
The dawn chorus in this forest was tremendous and I was away early in the cool air traversing across forested slopes to the recreational camp area of La Caldera. With high hopes of a shower, charging my phone, washing and a pleasant café I was a little disappointed. The café was closed, the power sockets were dead and about 6 buses of screaming school children arrived just before me! I did get a good wash though and treated the water ready for another dry camp that night.
From El Caldera I climbed about 2,000 feet up in pine forest to reach a well crafted trail undulating round very steep sided hills – reminiscent of the Pacific Crest Trail in southern California. It was here that I met Toby coming the other way. He was hiking all the islands on the GR131 and had the tiniest backpack I think I have ever seen, using a poncho to double up as a tent. After an interesting chat about trails covering everything from Arizona to Sweden we departed on our ways with the temperature cooling nicely in the late afternoon. I stopped at the wooden shelter of Las Canales to cook up dinner with the luxury of a table and benches.
From here I left the pine forest and trail to hike along a less interesting managed forest on a dirt road. Camping options looked less attractive as well, but I was saved just before dusk when I saw a sign to a recreational camping area at Las Calderetas about 1/2 mile north of the GR131. It turned out to have good camping platforms at the edge of the forest and I happily plonked down in the dark after a good 20 mile day.
All that remained was a short 4 1/2 mile potter to the northern terminus of the trail at La Esperanza the next morning. I got a bus straight away down to the larger university town of La Laguna and form there a second bus to Santa Cruz de Tenerife for a much needed hotel shower and good food before flying back to Scotland!
Thoughts on Tenerife GR131
Another really nice short backpack taking 3 full days and two half days at either end. The southern part is more arid with lava flows whilst the north mainly consists of good, well crafted trail contouring round mountain sides in sparse pine woodland akin to the Pacific Crest Trail in southern California. As per Gran Canaria, there was almost no running water so I had to plan out picking up water at recreational campsites, cafes and towns.
Again, a downside was the amount of toilet paper alongside the trail- carry it out please folks!!