Bejenado is La Palma’s only free-standing mountain, and the views from its summit are spectacular. The fact that it’s located on the west side of the island almost guarantees great weather for hiking.
Reaching an impressive height of 1,854 metres above sea-level, the pine-clad peak stands slightly detached from the island’s main mountain range, and is also geologically distinct. It is volcanic in origin, like the island itself, but arose after the neighbouring Caldera de Taburiente erosion crater was formed, and before the southern half of the island came into existence, about half a million years ago.
Approaching the mountain
The standard route to the top is via the the PR LP 13.3 hiking path, which technically begins at the National Park Visitor Centre on the main LP 3 road, reachable by public bus n.º 300. However, most hikers with their own car prefer to get closer to the peak by following the LP 3021 road from the Visitor Centre (signposted to Valencia), and then driving along the partly unsurfaced track to the conspicuous information board located just before the track ends. This puts you at about 1,250 metres above sea-level, and minimises road-walking, as well as shortening the climb.
Routes to the summit
Bejenado’s well-marked trails are clearly depicted on the information panel, and while a completely circular route is not really feasible, you can at least vary your ascent and descent on its southern flanks. However, if you tackle the peak from La Cumbrecita, you are restricted to a single path for both ascent and descent.
Heading for the top
I decided to take the classic way up, shown in pale blue above, and descend via the variant shown in red. Details of distances and other useful information can be found at strategic points along the way. The trek began with an easy section along the Pista de Ferrer, a dirt track which also marks the National Park boundary.
It was around nine in the morning when I set off, and there were already a few local people out for exercise. We exchanged the customary greetings, and as I progressed along the track, the landscape gradually opened up, with the first views down to the west coast appearing in gaps between the pine trees. With such impressive swathes of forest, it’s hardly surprising that La Palma is known as the Isla Verde, or “Green Island”.
In the domain of the Canary Pine
The path soon branched right from the Pista de Ferrer, and started winding its way up through Canary Pine (Pinus canariensis) forest. The undergrowth was sparse, with a thick layer of needles covering the gound. Not many wild plants can adapt to this envirnoment as successfully as the Canary Island Rock Rose (Cistus symphytifolius), which blooms mainly in spring and early summer:
The large numbers of blackened tree trunks seen along the way are the result of wildfires in years gone by, but fortunately the Canary Pine is able to withstand occasional burning, and regenerates quickly. Initially, the new shoots and young seedlings are bluish-green in colour. This is the only pine species ocurring naturally on the Canary Islands.
As I gained altitude, the walking became more exhilarating, and at certain points, I seemed to be peering down on the town of Los Llanos de Aridane from vertically above it, with the west coast banana plantations, and the harbour of Tazacorte visible further west.
An incredibly rugged landscape
Once I reached El Rodeo (1,585m), the Caldera de Taburiente came into sight for the first time. Below me, the craggy, northern slopes of Bejenado plunged into the deeply-eroded Caldera, its distant rim reaching heights of over 2,200 metres, culminating at Roque de los Muchachos, at 2,426 metres. I found it hard to do photographic justice to such grandiose surroundings.
Having taken a few shots with my camera, I pressed on. The final ascent wasn’t particularly steep or exposed, and the summit itself was marked by a cairn. The clear blue sky overhead made this a perfect day to be outdoors on the island.
At the summit
It had taken me just over two hours to reach the top, and I was the first person there on the day, thanks to a fairly early start. Removing my rucksack, I sat down for a bite to eat and a drink.
The first few minutes on the summit were spent in complete solitude, but I soon had a visitor. One of the island’s inquisitive ravens, always on the lookout for likely sources of food, had spotted me from a distance, and the confiding creature promptly landed at my feet.
As a matter of interest, recent DNA studies suggest that the Canary Island Raven warrants full subspecies status. The observable differences are minimal, but the island race is slightly smaller than the nominate (Common) Raven, and its vocal repertoire is distinct, including unusual clucking sounds. The glossy black bird treated me to a medley of its peculiar vocalisations, accompanied by ruffled head feathers, and a puffed-out throat. For my part, I responded by taking some video footage of its display, which was probably not what it expected.
By about 11:30 a few hikers had joined me on the summit, and the opportunistic Raven hopped off in their direction to try its luck.
Back on my feet again, I scanned the inner slopes of the gigantic Caldera de Taburiente before resuming my hike. Many familiar landmarks were identifiable down below, including the sacred Roque Idafe, a pinnacle which once held spiritual significance among La Palma’s prehispanic inhabitants.
What goes up...
Whereas my ascent had been solitary, on the way down I passed several other hikers.
Perhaps it’s worth mentioning at this point that while Bejenado is relatively easy to climb, you do need to come prepared for the conditions. As well as your basic hiking gear, sun protection is advisable, and plenty of drinking water should be carried. Temperatures can be remarkably high for such altitudes, and the effects of prolonged exposure to the powerful Canary Island sun should not be underestimated.
Since La Palma’s tree-line lies at about 2,000 metres above sea-level, pine forest extends all the way to the summit of Bejenado at 1,854 metres. The photo below was taken looking back towards the peak, and illustrates the high altitudinal range of the Canary Pine.
I reached a sign indicating La Cumbrecita to the left, but continued straight ahead towards Roque de los Cuervos. Incidentally, the Cumbrecita path makes for an adventurous alternative. It includes stone steps and sections where chains have been secured to the rock as added security for hikers. If you are planning to hike to or from La Cumbrecita viewpoint, don’t forget to reserve your parking place in advance. Check the National Park website for details.
The steep descent from Roque de los Cuervos
Once past the turn-off to La Cumbrecita, my chosen path first hugged the edge of the ridge, before finally following the course of a fire-break down towards civilisation. This was a much more direct route, with steeper terrain, and more dramatic surroundings than those I had encountered during my ascent. Over the precipice to my left, the densely-forested valley leading up to La Cumbrecita could be seen, lined on its far side by massive cliffs, which looked totally inaccessible. I left the path several times to admire the stunning view, until eventually my descent ended at a dirt track with a sign to the Pista de Valencia.
The Bejenado tour took me about 5 hours to complete, including the half-hour I spent on the summit. Centrally-located and very easy to access, this iconic mountain overlooks the Caldera de Taburiente on one side, and dominates the Aridane valley on the other. The fantastic views from the top, combined with the exceptional weather, make this one of La Palma’s best day hikes, and definitely worth including in your walking holiday.