Many trails traverse the park, but unless you plan to spend several days exploring, you’ll probably stick to the better-known paths. Most are in good shape, though the trail from La Cumbrecita to the campsite is notoriously slippery and should be avoided by novice hikers, and the trail running down the Barranco de las Angustias can be dangerous in rainy weather. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
Signposting is generally quite clear. Although you’re unlikely to get really lost (and there are usually groups of hikers out on the trail to help you if necessary), you’re best off buying a detailed map, like the 1:25,000 Caldera de Taburiente Parque Nacional, for sale at the visitor centre. See also the excellent website www.senderosdelapalma.com for route descriptions and news on trail closures.
The Southern End
Most people access the park from either El Paso or Los Llanos. You’ll need a car, taxi or guide to cart you up to one of the miradors that serve as trailheads.
To get an overview of the park, there’s no better walk than the PR LP 13 trail, which begins at Los Brecitos (1081m). Get there from Los Llanos by following the signs first to Los Barros and then on to Los Brecitos. The path leads through a quiet Canary pine forest, past the park campsite, across a babbling brook and down the Barranco de las Angustias, crossing countless small streams along the way. Watch out for fascinating sights like brightly coloured mineral water that flows orange and green, intriguing shapes made by pillow lava and rock formations such as the phallic Roque Idafe, an important spiritual site for the Benahoaritas. This six-hour (22km) hike is popular and is suitable for anyone in average-to-good physical shape. Be careful if it has rained recently or if a storm seems imminent; the ‘Gorge of Fear’ can quickly become a raging torrent, and people caught in its fast-rising waters have died.
When the trail is fully open, the best way to tackle it is to park at Las Hoyas, at the base of the Barranco de las Angustias. From here, 4WD taxi shuttle services whisk you up to Los Brecitos and allow you to enjoy the descent back to your car without backtracking.
Mirador de la Cumbrecita to Pico Bejenado
Another option is to drive from the visitor centre up the LP-302 and then the Carretera Caldera Taburiente to the Mirador de la Cumbrecita (1287m), where there is a small information office. The 7km drive passes turn-offs for the Pista de Valencia and the Ermita del Pino, leading you through a peaceful pine forest to sweeping views of the valley. From the car park here, you can make a round-trip hike up to the panoramic views from Pico Bejenado; allow 2½ hours for the trek. Those with less time can take a 3km circuit trail to both the Mirador de los Roques and the Mirador Lomo de las Chozas; the final part of the loop is a flat, wheelchair- and stroller-friendly 1km trail between Lomo de las Chozas and the car park. The very best views can be had at sunrise or sunset.
Take note, though, that the trails leading off from the Mirador de la Cumbrecita are by far the most popular in the park and, due to overcrowding and limited space in the car park, park authorities have enforced a strict traffic quota. If you want to drive up to the mirador, you have to register online with the visitor centre just past El Paso three days before your visit and wait until your turn to drive up. Sometimes the wait might only be a few minutes but at weekends and in high season it can be over an hour. If you miss your turn, you must queue again.
Pista de Valencia to Pico Bejenado
A excellent, moderately difficult walk is the PR LP 13.3 from the Pista de Valencia parking area to the 1845m Pico Bejenado. This four- to five-hour (11.4km) return hike climbs up through some wonderful old pine forest before popping out on the caldera ridge for some terrific views. The trail is easy to follow and it’s a good choice for any reasonably fit walker who wants something less trodden and more challenging than the routes around the Mirador de la Cumbrecita, but not as demanding as the Los Brecitos trails. Along the route up the mountain you can take a fork for the Mirador de la Cumbrecita if you wish.
The Northern End
A string of rocky peaks soaring nearly 2500m high surrounds the caldera, and the trail running along these rock walls affords a thrilling vantage point from which to observe the park and the rest of the island. A narrow dirt trail, part of the long-distance GR-131, skims the entire northern border of the park, and shorter trails branch off it and venture down deeper into the park.
One of the most spectacular sections runs between the Roque de los Muchachos and the Pico de la Nieve, which is off the LP-4, a winding highway that branches off the LP-1 highway 3km north of Santa Cruz and snakes its way across the island, skirting the rim of the park and its northern peaks. Avoid backtracking by taking two cars and leaving one at the pico (the parking area is a 20-minute walk from the trail itself). Then drive (or get a ride) up to the Roque de los Muchachos, the highest point on the island at 2426m. The walk back down to the Pico de la Nieve should take four to five hours (approximately 9km).
Numerous miradors dot the LP-4 highway around the Roque de los Muchachos; even if you don’t hike the rim, the views from up here are worth seeking out. At night, this area offers unbeatable stargazing.