Upper Basin of the Manzanares Regional Park

  • Pets allowed
  • Suitable for children
  • Natural heritage

Our first area of natural protection

Its inclusion as a protected area was the culmination of years of struggle to defend our natural environment, an area shared and conserved by several municipalities, which reflects our identity as a region.

What we know today as the Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares (Upper Basin of the Manzanares Regional Park) is a very rich natural environment characterised by its own development and its symbiotic relationship with the populations that once lived and continue to live in it.

There are many municipalities in the north of the Community of Madrid which depend on this space, that have expanded thanks to it and live in harmony with the environment it provides us with. Its own brand has made us very similar, sharing common origins and taking pride in being a region.

This beautiful green corridor, so close to Madrid, is the perfect gateway to nature, to leave the big city behind and walk up the paths in fresh and clean air uplands to reach the Guadarrama Mountain Range.

Great natural and human variety

This Park, which, of course, also deserved to be a Protected Natural Area and Biosphere Reserve, went through many vicissitudes until it was given the protection it enjoys today.

The year 1930 marked a watershed in Madrid’s natural heritage. After decades of mountain lovers and rediscoverers of the Sierra de Guadarrama, our environment obtained from a recognised entity its first protectionist definition, being declared a Sitio Natural de Interés Nacional (Natural Site of National Interest) with Royal Order 213. Considered the precursor to the Protected Natural Spaces, this designation meant a paradigm shift that could only lead to guarantee its conservation for the future.

The next step in the protection of the area influenced by the Manzanares River was taken in 1978 when, by Royal Decree, the Cuenca Alta del Río Manzanares Natural Park was created, which extended the protection margins of part of the Guadarrama Mountain Range, including La Pedriza. This protected area would be the real precedent of the Regional Park that was officially established with Law 1/1985, of 23 January 1985, on the Declaración de Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares (Declaration of the Regional Park of the Upper Manzanares River Basin).

After two extensions of the protection zone, in 1987 and 1991, and being a Protected Natural Area and a Regional Park, there was only one step left to definitively guarantee its conservation and natural importance: its declaration as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO on 9 November 1992.

All of these declarations and regulations are essential to correctly regulate this enormous and extremely important space whose surface area covers 42,583 hectares and 18 municipalities, and completely includes under its protection the population centres of Manzanares El Real, Hoyo de Manzanares and Tres Cantos.

The fact that the Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park is a Protected Natural Area implies that it contains natural systems and elements representative of its landscape, endemic, which may be threatened or fragile, but which are of special interest and the conservation of their diversity must be guaranteed. Their relationship with the human populations that have developed and adapted to their environment, modifying their landscape to make it worthy of protection, is also essential.

As a Biosphere Reserve, its international regulations ensure its biological conservation, the conservation of its traditional systems of human use and its natural, economic and educational management. To this end, UNESCO conceives three protection zones which guarantee this symbiosis: the transition zone, where the controlled development of the population centres bordering this natural space is permitted; the buffer zone, subsequent to the previous one, where only activities compatible with the conservation of the natural environment are allowed; the core zone, the furthest away from urban settlements, where the greatest protection of the biosphere reserve is established.

Parque Regional - acordeón 1

The wide extension of the Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park means that its geological, edaphological, faunal and botanical diversity is truly admirable. Despite its typical Mediterranean climate, life developing here is very heterogeneous and is adapted to the different habitats offered by the diverse environment in which we find ourselves.

In the Regional Park there are three areas marked mainly by their orographic differences. Thus, the highest areas stand out for their granite and gneiss formations, with vegetation adapted to the rocky soils such as lichens, mosses, supra-arboreal grasslands, junipers, brooms, fruit bushes such as blackberry, and aromatic plants such as rosemary or wild lavender. The fauna in this area, also adapted, is characterised by small mammals that find sufficient food in this environment, as well as shelter, with the exception of the mountain goat, which is perfectly adapted. The black vulture and the griffon vulture are the great stars of the avifauna in this area, and a rich herpetofauna that finds in this niche one of the few places to survive, such as the ocellated lizard or the mountain lizard.

The mid-altitude zone of the Regional Park is occupied by the Sierra del Hoyo, close to population centres such as Moralzarzal, Galapagar, Hoyo de Manzanares and Torrelodones. This demarcation is characterised by less elevated mountains and smoother contours, with richer, earthier soils than the previous area, where holm oaks, juniper forests, oak groves, cypresses, mountain and reforestation pine forests, cork oaks, and a wide range of Mediterranean vegetation such as gum rockrose, rosemary, thyme and lavender, proliferate. Here the variety of fauna whose food and shelter is in the trees increases, so we find rabbits, roe deer, squirrels, weasels, fallow deer, genets, wild boar and foxes, for example, as well as birds of different sizes and habits, such as the cuckoo, the great spotted woodpecker, the golden eagle, the eagle owl, the booted eagle, the red kite, the goshawk or the kestrel. The herpetofauna in this area also increases thanks to the wetlands and ponds formed by the Manzanares River, where we can see vipers, viperine snakes, racer toads and long-legged frogs.

The last area, the lowest in its orography, corresponds to the plains and low valleys of the Sierra de Guadarrama, where the mountains of El Pardo and Viñuelas are also found. This area is, historically, the most affected by anthropic action, as it is the lowest in altitude, composed of earthy soils and highly fertile silts, which make the conduction of water from the rivers easier. This action has created unique landscapes that today also form part of the natural and ethnographic heritage of the Regional Park, such as holm oak groves and ash wood pastures, whose exploitation and maintenance are still of communal use. This vegetation coexists with birch, juniper and cork oak groves, steppes, pastures, shrubs and wetlands, a wealth of vegetation that shelters the same fauna found in the previous zone, only multiplied and enriched by aquatic birds and fish that inhabit the reservoirs of Santillana and El Pardo.

Parque Regional - acordeón 2

In pictures

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Activities in Manzanares El Real

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