Pico del Veleta

Pico del Veleta, the highest paved road in Europe

Pico del Veleta is a high mountain peak at an elevation of 3.369m (11,053ft) above the sea level, located in the region of Andalusia, on the boundary between the provinces of Granada and Almeria in Spain. It's one of the highest roads of Europe. At an altitude of some 3,000m road conditions become significantly worse.

Can you drive to Pico del Veleta?

Set high in Sierra Nevada mountain range, the access road to the summit is 13.3km (8.26 miles) long starting at Sierra Nevada ski resort. It is mostly paved. Only the last meters are unpaved. The road was built after the creation of the Sierra Nevada National Park. In 1999, the road was closed to general traffic beyond Hoya de la Mora, just above the ski station. However, the road is still used by ski station employees, national park rangers, cyclists and walkers, and there is also a microbus service that takes hikers up to Posiciones del Veleta, a viewpoint at 3.100 metres above sea level. At 2,600m a barrier represents the end for public motor traffic. The road conditions up to this barrier are excellent as the entire route from Granada was newly asphalted in late summer 2007 and thus provide a paradise for road bikers. Behind the barrier the conditions significantly become worse. Pot holes and rock slides do not significantly impede on the ascent but constitute problems on downhill ride. At an altitude of some 3,000m road conditions become significantly worse. The altimeter shows 3.267m when the road conditions do no longer allow to ride the route with a race bike. Thus, you have to push your bicycle the last 900m. On last 10m you even have to shoulder the bike. The road ends at approximately 10 metres below the summit and it’s the highest paved road in Europe.

Is the road to Pico del Veleta steep?

Starting at Sierra Nevada ski resort, the ascent is 13.3km (8.26 miles) long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.232 meters. The average percentage is 9.26 %. The first few kilometres are tough with sections at 14%, 15% and 17%, but the scenery is fantastic and there is almost no traffic on the road. Last 8 km get harder though. The final meters are simply brutal, hitting a 26% of maximum gradient. The climb has never actually featured in the Vuelta España race, because it’s simply too long, too high and too tough for a Grand Tour.

Is the road to Pico del Veleta open?

It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging. Do not try to do this in summer - it is a beast of a climb and with the heat it will not be at all enjoyable. Very similar to the Alps weather conditions can become worse within only few minutes. Suddenly rain clouds can appear behind the Pico and temperature decreasing more than 20 degrees Celsius down to only few above freezing point. From November until April there is likely to be some snow near the top which means that you will probably only be able to get as far as the service road at 2700m (which is a hard enough climb!). May, early June, late September and October are the best months to tackle the climb. There is less traffic and the top should be free from snow - just remember to take a jacket because you can still get cold on a 40km descent even if it seems nice and warm! It's one of the highest roads of the country.
Pic: David Stolarsky

 

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