The best excursions in the Montseny

The Montserrat natural park is the oldest in Catalonia and with its more than 50,000 hectares offers a lot of hiking routes for all tastes at a very short distance from big cities like Barcelona, Vic or Girona.

The massif extends over three Catalan regions, especially the Vallès Oriental, and offers an arrogant presence with its more than 1700 meters of height between the softest surrounding reliefs, the Maresme coast and the nearby Costa Brava.

Walking around the Santa Fe swamp in winter

The orography of Montseny is structured by the Calm, the peak of Matagalls and its mountainous nucleus of Les Agudes and the Turó de l’Home, its highest point at 1706 meters. Valleys, hills, the river Tordera and beautiful lakes such as the Santa Fe reservoir run between them.

Any time of the year is special to visit the Montseny. Autumn offers those reddish and orange tones that few forests are able to transmit thanks to its varied Mediterranean vegetation. In winter it usually snows on more than one occasion and gives the opportunity to get close to the snow in just one hour from Barcelona. In summer, some of its routes offer thick vegetation in which we can walk under green tunnels that protect us from high temperatures. In spring the natural park blooms and explodes with its characteristic colouring.

Analyzing the map of the Alpina del Montseny publishing house: more essential than the shoes

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When I came back from my stage living in Ireland, I felt a bit uneasy and, before starting to chart a new course in my life, I decided to settle down for a few days in a hotel in the village of Montseny to devote myself to daily excursions in the nature park. I have great memories of those 5 days and with the experience gained from the successive family, sports and technical excursions I have made through the natural park, I offer you below the best excursions we can do in the Montseny.

Viladrau: El Castanyer de les Nou Branques

One of the largest chestnut trees in the Montseny Natural Park

Starting from the same town of Viladrau, a simple four-kilometre circular excursion opens up to us, with very little unevenness. This route takes us to one of the largest chestnut trees in the Montseny Natural Park, with its 23 metres in height, six metres in perimeter and currently seven of the nine branches it used to have. Depending on the time of year, the ground looks like a carpet full of chestnuts.

The route follows the green and white PR marks indicating at all times the route of the Castanyer de les 9 Branques. Along the way we will find several natural springs, some of them quite popular with the residents of Viladrau.

A balloon ride over the Montseny

Although the excursions on foot give us a particular vision of the Montseny Natural Park, contemplating its entire extension from the air is a whole new experience. There are companies that offer hot-air balloon flights over the region, usually departing directly from Barcelona. They will give you all the details of the landscape we fly over in Spanish and include a glass of cava and a pica pica to enjoy this unforgettable experience during the flight. They also come with very good recommendations from their users.

Details of the hot-air balloon ride over the Montseny

Arbúcies: The Castanyer Gros dels Roters

Leaving Arbúcies in the direction of Castanyer Gros dels Roters

We are still looking for large chestnut trees in the Montseny. On this occasion we are heading for the area to the east of the massif, near the town of Arbúcies. This part of the natural park is less crowded than the areas of the large peaks (Matagalls, Agudes and Turó de l’Home) and offers spectacular vegetation, with leafy forests with a great variety of chestnuts, cork oaks and beeches.

There is a path that takes us from the village of Arbúcies itself to the Santa Fe reservoir in the heart of the Montseny. The route is a little more than 9 kilometres long and is usually covered in about four hours. However, on this route we make a circular route around Arbúcies to reach the Castanyer Gros dels Roters and return to our starting point.

We have done this route a couple of times with the great excuse of opening up a little hunger and have a real feast in one of our favorite restaurants in Montseny: El Moli de les Pipes.

The top of Montseny: From the Santa Fe reservoir to Turó de l’Home and Les Agudes

Les Agudes from the Santa Fe reservoir

This route implies a little more effort and is that, after all, we are climbing two of the great watchtowers of the Montseny, the Turó de l’Home and Les Agudes. The effort is rewarded by spectacular views.

The route starts at the Santa Fe reservoir car park and you must follow the yellow signs of the PR-C 208. The path begins with a non-stop ascent through a deep beech forest.

A zigzagging path takes us to the Coll Pregón where we already have the summit of the Turó de l’Home with its refuge within reach. The Turó de l’Home is the summit of the Montseny with its 1706 meters of height and after its ascent it is a little bit frustrating to observe that a road reaches its summit.

From here comes the most beautiful part of the excursion, the views from the top of the Turó de l’Home to the whole Montseny natural park are splendid and from here we follow the ridge that brings us closer to the Peak of Les Agudes, the second highest peak in the massif. Once here the path descends to the Santa Fe reservoir. It does so amidst ferns and beech trees through areas that are sometimes tortuous and full of stones that will ask for our attention to avoid possible ankle sprains.

The magic of the deep forests of Montseny: from Riells to Esquei de Morou

The Riells stream inside Sot Llobater

This is a little-frequented route that will give us an image of the thickness of the forests and the abundant vegetation that hides the humid underbrush of the easternmost Montseny. It is a circular route of about 5 hours that starts from Riells to reach the reservoir of Santa Fe and rises to the top of Esquei de Morou at 1290 meters.

In between, we find the beautiful beech forest of Pla del l’Escala (1029 meters) before arriving in Santa Fe. From the reservoir we continue to ascend through the interior of the forest until we reach the Esquei de Morou where we suddenly stand on a large granite rock with spectacular 360-degree views.

The top of the Esquei de Morou

This itinerary implies a little more knowledge in mountain since the orientation becomes a little confusing in some sections. It is essential to use the map and compass.

Matagalls from Coll Formic

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The colors of the Matagalls in autumn

The Matagalls is the third highest peak of the Montseny with its 1698 meters and one of the most frequented peaks of the park. The most habitual route to accede to him is through Coll Formic where a parking and restaurant exist. From this point we obtain the most direct route to the top of the Matagalls.

The ascent leaves the woods behind and the path is open with beautiful views if the day goes by. With hardly any loss, the path saves about 600 meters of height and to return we must retrace the same path made.

In winter it can be an ideal ascent to start in the world of rackets.

Matagalls from Sant Bernat

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Coll Pregon, with a tribute to the musician Pau Casals included

Another usual route to ascend the Matagalls is from Sant Bernat. In this case we find more vegetation when we go into a forest of oaks and it offers some more varied visuals during the whole route. However, this route is more demanding since it has about 10 kilometers and an ascent of about 1000 meters high. In this area, as it is less crowded, it is very likely that you will find wild boars in the wild.

Halfway there is Coll Pregón, an ideal place to rest and prepare a good picnic.

Matagalls from Sant Marçal

The Matagalls Cross (c) Pixabay

We offer a third alternative to reach the Matagalls, one of the best viewpoints of all the Montseny. In this case we start from Sant Marçal and you will see that it is a slightly less frequented route but not less spectacular.

We can leave the car parked on the Col de Sant Marçal and follow the GR5.2 signs (red and white marks) that will take us through beech woods until we reach the Coll Pregón where we connect with the road that comes from Sant Bernat.

El Pla de la Calma: From Coll Formic to the summit of Tagamanent

Ferns in the Pla de la Calma facing the Matagalls

La Calma is a large plateau that extends in front of Coll Formic. As its name indicates, if you are looking for a quiet, serene walk, with a desire for introspection or to enjoy good company, a walk through La Calma will give you what you are looking for.

Santa Maria de Tagamanent Church

From Coll Formic there are several routes we can take in La Calma. You will see that there are many paths along its plain. I propose to extend to Pedres Blanques (one hour and a quarter) and finish the excursion at the peak of Tagamanent at 1056 meters. However, this excursion is only one way and we will have to make the return journey.

Ascent to Tagamanent from Aiguafreda

Wide track on the ascent to the Tagament

From the town of Aiguafreda, this path leads to the church of Santa Maria de Tagament at the top of the peak of the same name (1056 metres). The ascent is mostly along a wide track along which we enjoy beautiful views of Bertí’s Cingles, which open up behind us.

Views of Bertí’s Cingles from the Tagamanent

The circular tour follows the south-western slope of the Tagamanent along narrower paths and through thicker pine and alder woods.

Ascent to Les Agudes from Sant Marçal

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David halfway between Turó de l’Home and Les Agudes on an excursion we did together (with Quique) in 2009

This is probably the most difficult and most spectacular route of all. This route starts in Sant Marçal and follows Els Castellets, a rocky ridge that can be seen in the northern part of Les Agudes.

We are facing a very aerial route with all that that entails: spectacular views and a high degree of vertigo if you are prone to it. Following the profile of the Castellers you will have to climb on some occasions although the route does not involve too many technical complications.

Without a doubt, the ascent to Les Agudes from Sant Marçal is one of the most fun and impressive routes of the Montseny.

The descent is made through the sector of Santa Fe. A small path goes down to Pla de l’Espinal and Coll de Te. The return journey continues between forest tracks with beech woods that are not very frequented and of great beauty.

How to get to the Montseny

The moss that devours the Montseny’s underbrush

By car

The Montseny Natural Park is flanked by a triangle of major roads and motorways that make up the AP7, the C-25 and the C-17.

If we are heading to the Santa Fe reservoir area and Turó de l’Home from Barcelona, we must follow the AP7, the Mediterranean motorway, and leave it in Sant Celoni to follow the BV-5114 secondary road. The journey takes approximately one hour and twenty minutes.

If we go in the direction of Coll Formic from Barcelona the best thing is to follow the C-17 to Tona where we turn to take the BV-5301 road and in less than an hour and a half we are planted at the 1142 meters of altitude of Coll Formic.

The C-25 will serve us well if we come from Girona or the Costa Brava and want to approach the western side of Montseny through Arbúcies, Riells or Viladrau.

By public transport

There are two train lines that leave us near the park. On the one hand, the R3 line towards La Tour de Querol has stops in La Garriga, Figaró and Centelles. On the other hand, the R2 line from the airport to Massanet-Massanes has stops in Llinars del Vallès, Sant Celoni, Gualba or Riells among other towns near the massif.

There are also combined tickets with Renfe to reach the park by bus, valid on weekends and holidays. The route goes from Barcelona to Sant Celoni by train and from there a bus takes us to Santa Fe or to Fontmartina. You can see the details of the timetables on the Montseny Natural Park website.

Where to stay in the Montseny

The Santa Fe Reservoir in winter

Throughout the municipalities and rural areas of Montseny we can find all types of accommodation. From charming rural houses to campsites and hotels of all kinds. There is a more suitable option for each type of escape depending on whether we are travelling as a family, alone or as a couple.

Rural house Ca l’Agnès: If you are going alone, in couple or with friends with the determination to walk, I recommend you to stay near the town of Montseny. Ca l’Agnès is a beautiful rural house with a capacity of 4 bedrooms that you will never want to leave.

Hostal L’ou de Reig is another great option in the town of Montseny. The rooms are overlooking the green which throws us suddenly into the park, offer a very familiar and close service as well as a quality homemade cuisine.

The campsite in Gualba is an ideal option if you are going with children and you are planning to stay for a week, with wooden bungalows, swimming pool and a short distance from the Montseny for hiking. Also, the Costa Brava is relatively close to alternate beach and mountain during the holidays.

Waterfall leaving the town of Riells in the direction of Santa Fe

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