The endangered species known as the Pinsapar fir (Abies pinsapo) is only found in two places on earth: the Rif Mountains of Morocco and the high elevations of the Sierra de Grazalema in southern Spain. In the latter category is a lush Andalusian forest reserve located just outside the village of Grazalema where these endangered trees are protected.
Also known as Spanish firs, these evergreen trees reach heights of about 20–30 meters (65–100 feet). Their pale bluish-green leaves grow into a conical shape around a trunk with smooth gray bark. The trees mostly grow on the park’s northern slopes where they are protected from excessive sunlight and the consequent loss of humidity. It’s a dense and shady forest in which the specimens compete for light, leaving their lower branches without leaves. The result is a shady understory, where ferns and other plants requiring high moisture can thrive.
Spanish fir forests were much more widespread millions of years ago, when climatic conditions were very different from today, so this really is a fossil forest, hanging on for life in today’s warmer, drier Iberian peninsula.
Because of the rarity of the trees, the Junta de Andalucia, the regional government that runs the reserve, requires reservations with very limited spots available. The hiking reservations are often booked for months or even years in advance, especially in the cooler months of fall, winter, and spring.
Know Before You Go
From June to October, entrance is only possible with a registered tour operator. For other months, entrance for individuals is run out of the El Bosque visitor center, which can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (+34 956 709 733).