Madrid isn’t really known for its lush forests: a drive in just about any direction will include loads of rolling hills covered with patches of oak trees, and even orchards of olive trees — but not lush, tall, vibrant-green forests. Within the larger Community of Madrid, though, you will find an exception to this rule in the Hayedo de Montejo, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The relatively small 250-hectare forest is located on the fringe of the Sierra de Ayllon mountain range, just outside the village of Montejo de la Sierra, and near the border of the Guadalajara region. Perhaps you’re thinking, It’s a forest, what’s the big deal then? The big deal lies especially in the wilderness area’s abundance of beech trees. Forming amber-leaved canopies, the trees seasonally shift shades, especially during autumn, when they turn this regular forest into a natural wonderland exploding with color.
The Hayedo de Montejo is also pretty noteworthy in terms of its unlikely existence, which it owes to a unique microclimate that benefits from exceptional shade and humidity trapped by the mountainside. As such, while these kinds of beech trees are more common in the north and the rest of Europe, their presence this far south in Spain isn’t, making the Hayedo a mighty special sight.
A visit to the Hayedo de Montejo can include one of three routes, each ranging in difficulty and length of time (from about 75 minutes to 90 minutes). Whichever route you choose, though, note that you must acquire a pass beforehand at the Community of Madrid office located in the village of Montejo de la Sierra (a worthwhile stop for a paseo and lunch).
While options for getting to the forest are limited (hope you’ve got a rental car!), its location not far off the A1 freeway heading north means that you can make an easy stop there while heading to places like San Sebastian, Bilbao or La Rioja wine country. Looking for other great day trips from Madrid? Consider visits to cities like Segovia and its Disney-like castle, or the walled-in town of Avila.
- Contributed by Erin Ridley