In the following paragraphs there is some basic information, from the very origins of hiking to the knowledge of the signs or the ‘MIDE’ method that all hikers must keep in mind.
In Andalusia, and, above all, in the Province of Málaga, hiking is getting more and more popular, as there are more hikers and the number of hiking trails is continuously increasing. In this region, there is only one type of officially approved paths, which are certified by the Andalusian Mountain Federation. This organization as well as trail developers follow determined security and quality standards, compatible with the European ones, when they open, adapt, maintain or promote paths.
As explained below, the Province of Málaga has Long-distance Paths (LD / GR in Spanish), Short-distance Paths (SD / PR in Spanish), Local Paths (LP / SL in Spanish) and other paths, trails or pathways, such as the Mozarabic Pathway of Málaga (Camino Mozárabe de Málaga, which is actually the Camino de Santiago that stretches from the south to the north of the province) and the paths which belong to different towns in the province. Although some of the latter lack official certification, this does not necessarily mean they are not in perfect conditions.
These are footpaths that are indicated, that is to say, there are signs on them, such as milestones, arrows, panels, paint marks, etc., and are supposed to stretch, whenever possible, away from asphalt roads and traffic. The Great Málaga Path signpost –GR 249 (Long-distance 249).
There are three groups of signposted footpaths:
These paths are longer than 50 km and connect points that have a great distance between them. They stretch across beauty spots, areas, regions, or countries that are far away one from another. These trails are normally divided into stages.
The 249 Long-distance Great Málaga Path (GR 249 Gran Senda de Málaga) is the longest registered and approved path in the province. It is 650 km long and it is circular. There are other six long-distance paths in Málaga that are connected with this path or they share the same stretches.
The E4 Long-distance Andalusian Path (Tarifa – Athens), which goes through the province from the east to the west and gets divided into two ways, and the Mediterranean Long-distance Path (GR 92 E 12), which is being built at the moment, are two international paths.
Moreover, there are two long-distance paths in the western mountains. These are the 141 Long-distance Path, called The Serranía de Ronda´s Great Path, which was also developed by the County Council of Málaga and has recently been prepared for its use, and the 243 Long-distance Sierra de las Nieves Path.
The 242 Long-distance Sierra de Tejeda - Almijara Path forms part of the Eastern Mountains and, in this case, contains two possible ways.
The sixth path is the 248 Long-distance Guadalhorce Path, which faces south, and goes from El Caminito del Rey Path to the mouth of the Guadalhorce River at the last stage of the Great Málaga Path.
The right way along a long-distance path is marked by two horizontal and parallel white and red stripes. They form a cross to indicate the wrong way.
If a long tour path goes throught three or more European states, it becomes an international path, and it is signposted with ‘E’ letter.
Which are between 10 and 50 km long, go through specific areas or lead to a particular village or town, or other destination, and can be done in a day. PR-A indicates a short-distance path in Andalusia.
There are little more than 80 short-distance paths in Málaga. These normally stretch between two neighbour villages or towns or they go towards a mountain top or some other landmark.
The stripes which are used to mark them are white and yellow, and the classification used on signs is, for example, PR-A 266 Alfarnate – Las Pilas (SD-A 266 from Alfarnate to Las Pilas). When these paths are close to the Great Málaga Path, which is not very common, they connect to it, cross it or make it longer.
These paths can be 10 km long, and have minimum difficulty.
There are almost 40 local paths in this province. According to the federal hiking trail signalization, if there are two or more paths that intersect, the sign for a long-distance path should be placed above the others, and local path signs go below on the same post.
Natural Protected Areas consist of the Nature Park Network, Nature Monuments, Nature Reserves and Natural Beauty Spots among others, like National Parks, which still do not exist in Málaga.
The format of the signs that are used in these areas are determined by the Environmental Department and are equal in the whole Andalusian Region. Public Rights of Way are paths which public can legally access and that are used for completing some circular routes. Sometimes they go across the official paths, like the path that starts at the Nerja Caves. The signs used to mark these routes are start information boards, interpretative trail signs and wooden posts with white arrows that show the right direction on the bevelled top.
One of the trails that forms The Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James) goes through Málaga. This is the Mozarabic Pathway, which stretches from the south to the north of the Province of Málaga, and, occasionally, it comes across some other paths.
Here the yellow arrow marks well-known trails, whose management and use are totally different from the above mentioned ones.
Lastly, many town councils have put to use their own network of paths, which can be in perfect conditions although they lack official approval. Nevertheless, signs and symbols, as well as their format, are quite unlike and are difficult to apply to any other place. For instance, there are towns, such as Mijas, Torremolinos and Benalmádena, which share the same mountain range, but each of them has pathways that are differently signposted, and they do name things the same way nor use the same hiking symbols or marks. Although, there are maps at the beginning of the trails, sometimes a path is marked with pink colour in one town and green in other, so the hiker can get lost or confused. In some places, such as the Sierra Blanca in Marbella, a well-signposted trail crosses pathways which are not certified. As a result, the same paths can be differently marked.
Long - distance and short-distance paths are meant for people who like walking, nature, watching the landscape and discovering the surroundings during the walk. This activity is compatible with some other hobbies, such as photography, drawing, and interest in animals and plants.
It is not necessary to be specially fit nor to be certain age, or a member of a club (although the latter is advisable). Considering that the trail is signposted, it is difficult to get lost, and it is appropriate for families.
Signposted routes can be done in any direction and you can take as long as you wish to end it. Sometimes, there are footways that lead towards monuments or some places of tourist interest. (e.g. Direction Sign. Path that leads to Salares).
On long - distance paths, after some kilometres, there are villages where you can buy food or stay overnight. Thanks to this, it is not necessary to take a lot of weight on the trip. On the other hand, short-distance paths are prepared for short walks, half-day, day-long or weekend excursions.