Mountains up to 3500 meters altitude, the mighty Pyrenees and trails alongside the turquoise Mediterranean. Sounds good right? This, in combination with the rough alpine terrain and lush forest trails makes Spain a great mtb location. Add to that, the typical Spanish laid-back atmosphere and you have found the ideal mtb holiday destination. I mean, what more could you wish for? In this post, I will share with you the top 5 best mountain biking locations in Spain.
Strange enough Spain is still an undiscovered and unknown mountain bike destination for most mountain bikers. But did you know that Spain has more* trails than the traditional mountain bike havens like France or Italy? It’s also a year-round destination due to the mild winters and alpine summer spots. But where and when to go on your next mtb holiday in Spain?
The best mountain biking locations for your mtb holiday in Spain
I’ll share with you what I believe are the best mountain biking holiday locations in Spain. From the Southern Sierra Nevada near Malaga and Granada all the way down to the Spanish Pyrenees in Catalonia. At each destination you will encounter the best Spanish trails for both cross country and the more adventurous enduro trails.
Spain is one of the biggest countries in Europe. The country has a multitude of mountain ranges, 14.000+ trails* and not to be forgotten: almost 5000 km of coastline. Therefore, finding the best mountain bike area can be quite strenuous. Personally, I believe an ideal mountain bike destination should have more than just trails. Additionally, the scenery is equally important, trails should be varied, the weather sunny and I do appreciate some sightseeing and/or beach time. Also, the mountain bike area should be easily reachable, as you don’t want to spend your precious time traveling.
Without further ado, in random order: the best mountain biking locations in Spain:
- Zona Zero (Aínsa) – Spanish Pyrenees
- Val d’Aran – Spanish Pyrenees
- Girona region (& Costa brava)
- Sierra Nevada & Malaga
- Sierra de Madrid/ Sierra de Guadarrama
The Spanish Pyrenees like its French counterpart offer exceptional mountain bike opportunities. The mountain range stretches from the Bay of Biscay in the west, down to the Mediterranean Sea in the east. This horizontal mountain range extends for more than 400 kilometres and acts as a natural border between Spain and France. The Spanish Pyrenees offer incredible mountain bike opportunities. It is therefore no wonder, that two of the five best mountain biking locations in Spain are located in the Spanish Pyrenees.
The weather in the Spanish Pyrenees
Whereas many people associate the Pyrenees with the French side, you actually can’t compare the Spanish Pyrenees with its neighbour. The main reason is the difference in weather conditions. The weather varies significantly across the Pyrenean range. The general rule of thumb is that the west (Basque country) is wet and the eastern part is much dryer. Next to this, the Spanish Pyrenees are considerably warmer than the French side.
For example, the average annual rainfall in Bilbao and San Sebastian (both Basque country) is respectively 1200 and 1500mm. In the middle (Ainsa, Zona Zero) and in the east (Figueres) it’s around 660mm. So if you want to lower the chance of a rainy day I would advise you to plan your trip to the middle or eastern Pyrenees.
For me, and I guess most of us, a mtb holiday in Spain should contain plenty of dry days, sun and a moderate temperature. So therefore I focus on the middle and eastern part of the Pyrenees. Sure, don’t get me wrong: the Basque area is beautiful, green and has a rough coast with plenty of trails. But the weather can change instantly, it can be cold(er) and the chances to get soaked to the bones is higher, so why take your chances?
1. Zona Zero / Aínsa
Let’s start with the best-known mountain bike destination in Spain: Zona Zero with its base in Aínsa. Aínsa is a small picturesque town at an altitude of 500m and is the perfect base for your next enduro mtb holiday. It has plenty of hotels, campsites, Airbnb’s and the town has the typical tourist outdoor vibe. Everywhere you look you’ll see mountain bikers, hikers and active families looking for their next adventure. Zona Zero is with ease, one of the best mountain biking locations in Spain.
Mountain biking in Zona Zero
What makes Zona Zero so special? Well, it’s the fact that it’s one of the few places in Spain with a dozen well marked enduro routes leaving directly from the village. Shuttles can bring you to the higher located trailheads, starting at around 2000m. Combine this with the awesome scenery of the lower and higher Pyrenees and you have a formula for success.
For more information: visit the zona zero website.
2. Val d’Aran
Despite the somewhat secluded location of Val d’Aran – and the time needed to reach it – I still want to include this hidden gem in my list of best mountain biking locations in Spain. Maybe the “hidden” is already a bit outdated as this enduro mountain bike spot has appeared on the radar of an increasing amount of magazines.
The area Val d’Aran is well-known within the skiing scene. However, in the last few years it’s also making a name in the mountain bike scene. The 2 main hubs are the towns of Vielha and Baqueira, which are situated at around 1000m altitude. And as to be expected from an established skiing area, the towns host plenty of bars, restaurants and your local bike shop. But back to mountain biking…
Mountain biking in Val d’Aran
The main reason to visit this area are the views and the feeling you’re in a hidden valley. As around 30% of the Val d’Aran is above 2000m altitude. Adding to this, it’s surrounded by the highest peaks of the Pyrenees providing amazing panoramic views. The highest peak of the Pyrenees, the Aneto (3404m), is just around the corner and is the third highest mountain of Spain. As mentioned, the region is actively expanding their reputation and adding new trails each year as they started their own trail association: AranBikeParks
The signature trail is the Entecada trail, running for almost 7km with a vertical drop of more than 1100 meters! If you start from Vielha you can paddle up, but a shuttle would be recommended. Even with the shuttle you still need to paddle for about 500m vertical meters, making the descent even more deserved. It’s a classic alpine route. The descent starts at a narrow trail running through a grass field with stunning panoramic views. Soon enough it becomes more technical with rocky sections and some exposure. The final part is more flowy and runs through the forest, this trail has all the ingredients you could wish for.
The two main areas are called “Val d’Aran Mountain Bike Park” and “Enduromies”. These two areas can be visited/connected in a single day.
3. Girona region & Costa Brava
My take on the Girona region is that it will grow into a known mountain bike destination in the upcoming years. While still unknown to the masses, this province hosts without a doubt one of the most diverse mountain bike areas in Spain and Europe. Here you can combine the high Pyrenees, medium size mountain ranges and Mediterranean trails all within a week’s holiday. Fancying an alternating day between climbing and descending: there are multiple possibilities for 300m ascents and descents. Want to have long descents of 800+ meters? No problem, the Pyrenees are around the corner.
Mountain biking in the Girona region & Costa Brava
Around the city of Girona you will find enough trails to keep you busy for a few weeks. This is mostly thanks to the Les Gavarres at the doorstep of the city. Furthermore, to the east you will find the Cap de Creus peninsula, a protected natural reserve with jaw dropping views. In the north and within just an hour from Girona, the Pyrenees start. The lower Pyrenees is where you find the European Enduro World Series stages of Les Salines. Just a bit further down the road, the rougher alpine feeling starts.
The weather in the Girona region & Costa Brava
It won’t come as a surprise that in the Girona region you can find a huge variety of different surfaces and conditions. Depending on the season and weather conditions you can always find perfect trails. The Girona region is ridable all year round, winters are mild with around 12 degrees. What makes this region so appealing is that during summertime you can escape the heat by staying in the Pyrenees. The ideal season runs from early March to end of June and September to end of November. The attractive climate adds to Girona’s appeal as one of the best mountain biking locations in Spain.
Girona beyond the trails
You won’t be disappointed by the cultural and dining options around Girona either. For instance, the inner city has a beautiful medieval old town with plenty of small cobbled alleys and picturesque squares all packed with restaurants and bars. The old cathedral even appeared in a few episodes of Game of Thrones. To explore it’s beauty you can check out the Girona street Instagram account. In addition, the Mediterranean Sea is just 30 minutes away. Also, if you feel like going on a big city tour: Barcelona is just 40 minutes away by train
In conclusion, the power of Girona is found in the abundance of options in the area. From the city centre you ride into Les Gavarres filled with off the beaten path trails. For some variety you can also take a trip to the Pyrenees or head down to explore the beautiful coastline. With Girona as your base, there is no doubt you will have an awesome time mountain biking in Spain. But the best thing about Girona is that it is not just about amazing trails. You can also enjoy a day relaxing on the beach, sightseeing and not unimportant: get a taste of the Spanish lifestyle with a nice cold caña (small glass of beer) and some tapas. Add a large selection of accommodations to the mix and it is clear why Girona is an excellent choice for your next mtb holiday in Spain.
For more information on Girona, check out our blog on what to do in Girona.
4. Sierra Nevada & Malaga
Close to the Mediterranean and a perfect winter destination; this South Spanish mountain bike destination packs it all. Located around the highest mountain peak of the Iberian Peninsula – the Mulhacén at 3.482m – the Sierra Nevada provides all kind of trails, from beginner to expert. Nature varies depending on the altitude you are at, from lushly forests to alpine wastelands. In winter time you will be biking more near Malaga and the lower sections of the Sierra Nevada. Obviously, because of its location, the “greenness” of the surroundings is way less than of e.g. the Girona and Pyrenees area. Nevertheless, this region deserves to be in the list of the top 5 best mountain biking locations in Spain.
The weather in the Sierra Nevada & Malaga area
The region with its mild winters and warm summers is a beloved destination for sun lovers. However, for your mountain bike adventure I would advise the lower areas around Sierra Nevada between November till the end of April. The season for the higher Sierra Nevada routes run between May till the end of October. This area is a bit less accessible as you will need your own transport or uplift shuttle assistance.
Although these are the recommended seasons, if you ask me arriving back into the oven after a day of riding does not sound appealing. As most mountain bike bases are located on a lower altitude, it is not uncommon for these areas to reach temperatures of 35°C or more around the summer. So in my opinion the south of Spain is best suited for biking in December, January and February. However, if you want to explore the (higher) trials around Sierra Nevada it is best to stick to the recommended seasons. As this is also a famous skiing destination with plenty of snowfall and icy temperatures during winter.
It will be somewhat difficult to plan your own trip as there is little information available on trailforks and wikiloc. So, to make most out of your winter trip you will need to contact a local mountain bike agency.
Perfect mix of mountain biking and sightseeing
It’s also a culturally interesting destination as it has influence from the Moors and Berbers, which led to the beautiful Alhambra and the small picturesque villages located in Las Alpujarras. When visiting the area, you will most likely fly into Malaga. This famous tourist destination is nice to visit for a day, as there is plenty to do here. Visit the amphitheatre, relax in a beach club or even go for a relaxing bike ride along the boulevard. To experience a more authentic Spanish vibe, head over to the cultural city of Granada. The historical old centre and the Alhambra make Granada worth a visit. Especially outside of high season, this is an incredible place to discover the true Andalusian vibe and hospitality. The combination of great trails with plenty to do in the area makes this region a great choice for you mountain biking holiday in Spain.
5. Sierra de Madrid / Sierra de Guadarrama
Huh, is there a major mountain bike area near Madrid? Yes, it’s one of those locations only known by locals and it’s one of the better semi year round mountain bike destinations in Europe. Sierra de Madrid consists of various connected mountain ranges, among it is the Sierra de Guadarrama. Ideally located, at less then an hour drive from Madrid.
Mountain biking Sierra de Madrid/ Sierra de Guadarrama
The Sierra de Madrid consists of various valleys and mountain peaks that are quite far apart from each other, creating a great variety of terrain and trails. Moreover, it’s packed with scarcely used trails where you will feel as if you have the entire national park to yourself .If you don’t feel like paddling and want to avoid an uplift shuttle, there is even a special train you can take. From the little town of Cercedilla you can ride through with the panoramic nature train to Puerto de Navacerrada ski station, located at around 1900m and taking about 40 minutes. You can also combine the natural unshaped trails with a day in the nearby Pinilla Bikepark, which is located within 30 minutes to an hour drive, depending on where you stay.
The weather in Sierra de Madrid/ Sierra de Guadarrama
During the scorching summer it’s a perfect escape from the heat in in Madrid as the mountain bases are located around 1000m and most peaks above 2200 meters (highest: the Peñalara at 2428m). Some of the areas are designated as a national park, providing a home for deer, wildcats, boars, wolves, eagles and vultures. So safe to say it’s a beautiful spot for your mountain bike holiday in Spain. In spring and fall, the weather is most agreeable as the temperatures range from 10 to 20 °C with an average of 8 days of rain each month.
During winter I wouldn’t recommend going here as it can be very cold and there will be snow in the mountains. So only the lower trails will be available. Summertime could be an option, if you like warm weather and the occasional heat wave. On average temperatures are around 20 to 25 °C in the mountains and 28 °C at the mountain base.
Don’t miss out on the cultural hotspots in the area
If you have the time and are in need of a rest day, then I would advice you to visit one of the cultural hotspots in the area: The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial and the old city of Segovia. San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a historical residence of the King of Spain and a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. Segovian has a scenic 11th century fortress and an ancient 1st century Roman aqueduct.