Hiking from the heights of Mt Tiede across the desert-like crater to the hamlet of Las Canadas Del Tiede offers a great taster to the world of high altitude volcanoes. The trail starts at the top of the cable car high on the flank of Mt Tiede and snakes down across the barren crater landscape. This trail requires sturdy footing on the higher slopes and basic navigation skills to cross the desert section. The trail can be completed in around 4hrs.
Situation and history
The trail is located in the centre of the island of Tenerife. The summit of Mt Tiede sits at 3,728m and forms the peak of the volcano that makes up Tenerife island. The peak sits within an enormous volcanic crater that is over 8km wide and 15km across. This enormous crater forms a flat desert expanse with swirling yellow/red colours and the occasional burst of plant life that make it a photographers dream. The coloured mineral formations in the floor of the crater are rumoured to have used as a backdrop in one of the modern Starwars movies.
Catch the gondola from the base of Mt Tiede to the top gondola station at La Rambleta. The intrepid can hike up the volcano (allow another 5hrs and note this does not start from the base of the cable car) but the gondola saves time and muscles for use elsewhere in the area.
The base of the cable car sits at 2,356m elevation and runs up to an elevation of 3,555m. At the higher elevation you will notice the effect of the altitude on your ability to function (refer Safety section below).
Detour: In ordered to scale the peak from the top of the gondola station you will need a free permit issued by the local authorities. The permit is available here
and enables you to ascent the final 163m vertical to the peak of Mt Tiede at 3,718m.
La Rambleta (3,555m) – Base of Mt Tiede (2,700m) 4km (2hrs)
This section is relatively hard on your body with a bone jarring descent and high altitude to contend with.
Leave the man-made cable car structures behind and head north around the contour of the volcano. After about 500m the trail reaches a viewpoint and a switchback that affords good views of your destination – Las Canadas Del Tiede. Take the switchback trail and starts to meander down the side of the mountain. 1km from the switchback you pass a final hut and the last sign of civilisation for a while. 1km from the hut you enter a sheltered valley full of thigh high greenery. Continue down the trail until youu reach the end of the dark rocky lava flows that mark the end of this section of the walk. It is possible to abort the trip at the base of Mt Tiede and walk 2.5km south to south-west to return to the base station of the gondola.
Base of Mt Tiede (2,700m) – Las Canadas Del Tiede (2,100m) 7km (2hrs)
Leaving the steep section of Mt Tiede behind you can now stride north-east down a wide 4WD track. This rough road meanders down the hill for a 1km before spliting. Head north-east at the fork and continue for a further 1.5km to another intersection where the trail merges and continues towards Las Canadas Del Tiede.
After another 3.3km the trail abruptly turns east-south-east at a junction for the last 1.2km to Las Canadas Del Tiede.
Planning your trip
The hike itself only takes about 4hrs from the top of the cable car. The lower section of the route is not signposted and it would be easy to get lost in poor weather.
A basic map of the crater and the associated trails (refer to 6 and the eastern half of 7):
Starting elevation: 3,555m
Finish elevation: 2,100m
Total descent: 1,455m
Trail distance: 8km
The upper section of the trail can be steep in parts and requires sure footing. The lower section of the trail could be better described as a route. It lacks any real delineation and your navigation is likely to be highly reliant on discerning the different colour of the sand where other people have walked previously.
Sun protection is recommended. A basic compass and map would also be an asset – particulary on days affected by cloud or fog. The upper section can be biting cold in summer so a windproof jacket is a must.
Boots would be worthwhile but careful walking in sneakers or trail shoes would work.
In summer it is oppressively hot and dry so bring plenty of water.
Access to and from the hike
Access to the start of hike is typically by car, bus or taxi. The bus service accesses both the start and the finish of the trail although it runs very infrequently. More details on the bus service are available at http://www.titsa.com
The start of the hike is at the top of the cable car. Details on tickets are found here:
Navigation and facilities
There is little, if any signage on the walk.
There are limited shops at Las Canadas Del Tiede and very basic food at the cable car so bring something to eat and drink.
The main hazard here is exposure and altitude. The upper section of the trail is cold enough to support ice in summer whilst the lower crater section can be hot and dry. The effects of altitude must be seriously considered when planning the hike. Everybody reacts differently – at around 3,500m elevation any exertion will require more effort and many people will experience mild headaches. Key tips are to: stay hydrated, go slowly and abort the trip at the top cable car station if you are uncomfortable.
Flora and fauna
There are a handful of plants that cling to life up here but the landscape is generally barren. There is little in the way of animal life.
We used the Rothers guide for our walks on Tenerife. The current version can be found here:
We hopped on a bus from the safe but pretty tired looking Titsa bus terminal in the northern town of Puerto de la Cruiz. We hopped off the bus at the cable car station, paid our money and whizzed to the upper flanks of the volcano.
The cold wind was a real shock at the top of the cable car. We hadn’t arranged a permit to the summit itself so contented ourselves with some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
We got moving fairly quickly to stay warm. The trail down the side of the volcano was bone jaring but not dissimiliar to hiking trails in New Zealand so we handled it ok. Most of the area was barren but there was a remarkably green valley section about 2/3rds of the way down the slope. We peeled off layers of cold weather clothing as the temperatures rose in the shelter of the mountain. Breathing also became easier as we descended.
Reaching the bottom of the steep slopes we picked a route north-east. The trail was poorly marked and it seems to be constantly evolving as people take shortcuts and tread down new sections of virgin desert. We passed some remarkable purple wildflowers but it was the sand and rock colours that really stole the show.