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Natural areas near Madrid

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I am studying abroad and living in Alcalá de Henares, a suberb of Madrid. I am originally from the mountains of Flagstaff, AZ, and am feeling homesick for nature! I like to hike and just be able to escape into nature, and I was wondering if there are places near Madrid that are easily accessible for day trips to get out of the city and into the natural world. Thanks for any suggestions!

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    The Guadarrama mountains are probably the closest, and there are lots of good hikes there.

    What I would do if I were you is google "club senderismo madrid" on google.es You will see there are tons of groups that get together for walks on the weekend. Actually, Alcala is big enough to have its own hiking clubs, so try that first. I bet you'll find a group of two that has day hikes and overnight hikes leaving from Alcala, and these groups usually have a range of difficulty levels.

    When I lived in Madrid back in the early 90s, there were fewer options and we did some hikes and hiking trips with a group called haciendohuella.com They are still around, but they are pretty much a "hiking light" kind of club. Very nice people, great walks, but nothing too strenuous.

    I have walked a lot of Caminos de Santiago, and there is one day on the Camino de Madrid that is in the mountains and very do-able if you have access to the cercanias RENFE line. Spend the night in Cercedilla, the next day walk over the pass of Fuenfria and into Segovia, where you can get a train back to Madrid in 26 minutes. The walk between Cercedilla and Segovia is beautiful for all but the last 5-8 kms, but you go on Roman road segments, across a Roman bridge, it's really nice. Once up at the pass, you spend a few kms along the ridge line and there are great views. Total about 31 kms.

    I don't know how fluent your Spanish is, but I think this is also a great way to break out of that English-speaking bubble and meet people. Good luck with this, I think you'll find lots of opportunities.

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