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Circular route of ascent to the San Millán Peak

The La Demanda mountain range is home to mountains of over 2000m in altitude, valleys and forests of great beauty that treasure spectacular corners. In the Burgos part of La Demanda, the roof of the province of Burgos awaits us, the San Millán Peak. Climbing this mountain, with its deceptively rounded silhouette and marked character, is a real challenge in winter when snow and ice are the main features, and a pleasure for the senses the rest of the year, when water and colourful forests take over the landscape. There are several routes that take us to its summit, although perhaps one of the most authentic and challenging is the ascent to San Millán Peak from Santa Cruz del Valle Urbión, which takes us along the course of the Urbión River to the steep north face of the mountain.​

How to get to Santa Cruz del Valle Urbión

Santa Cruz del Valle Urbión can be reached either from Belorado, passing through Pradoluengo, or from Ibeas de Juarros, passing through Villasur de Herreros, among other towns. From the vicinity of Barbadillo de Herreros we can also get there via the Arlanzón and Úzquiza reservoirs. Although the ascent route to San Millán itself begins in the recreational area of Zarcia, where there is a parking area, which can be reached by following a track that starts from the same road that leads to Santa Cruz del Valle Urbión, where the detour awaits us in the middle of the village.

Itinerary of the route climbing the San Millán Peak

From the refuge of Zarcia to the San Millán Peak 6,7 Km

We leave behind the Zarcia refuge and its large car park to continue up the path we arrived on. A path that takes us across the Urbión river to quickly come to a first crossroads. Here we leave on our right the path that according to the signs leads to San Millán or El Terruco through the Alto de Garrula, where we will return, to continue parallel to the river bed, going up the valley. Almost before we know it, we find ourselves crossing the Abanza stream and quickly leave on our right the detour that leads to the Altuzarra waterfalls, another alternative that allows us to vary the route's itinerary. We continue up the valley to reach the vicinity of the Choza de las Guarras. The river and the terrain begin to complicate our progress, forcing us to look for the best route to follow, depending on the river flow. After overcoming this entertaining area and fording the river, we now find ourselves ascending the opposite side of the river. This area, although somewhat more demanding in its gradient, is much easier to follow than the previous one.

We will also have to cross the occasional stream that flows down the hillside, leaving behind another battered refuge to continue ascending. Little by little the landscape changes its appearance and the forest becomes less lush.

We say goodbye to the forest once we have forded the river again, to head towards the cobbled final stretch of the ascent. The path we are following takes us over the different rocky steps that separate us from the beautiful glacial cirque of San Millán Peak towards which we are heading. In front of us we can already see the imposing presence of the north face of San Millán. We climb with each step we take until the moment comes when we are forced to decide our final route to the summit. As we shall see, there are several paths that we can follow. One of them continues without much consideration towards the pass that we can see to the left of San Millán, the Portillo. Once there, the path takes us diagonally across the north face of the mountain to head towards the right shoulder. From there we only have to go up the gentle slope that separates us from the summit. Another option takes us to the lagoon of San Millán and from there we climb the cobbled slope that separates us from the right shoulder of the mountain. Once there we continue ascending joining those who chose the other option to together reach the summit of San Millán Peak (3h 35min), where we enjoy the magnificent views that this mountain has to offer.

From the San Millán peak to the Zarcia refuge 8,3 Km

Once we have caught our breath and regained our strength, we start the return journey that will take us to the Zarcia recreational area. Of course we can do it by the same route we came in. In our case we are going to follow a circular route following the route that reaches Sierra Llana and the Alto de Garrula. To do so, we start the descent along the shoulder we came in on, leaving aside the paths we climbed up. This route takes us in the direction of the Trigaza peak, but when we reach a small pass we come across the appropriately signposted detour that we must follow, leaving the Trigaza to one side.

The descent now becomes more obvious and leads us to the Cameros sheepfold, which precedes the Altuzarra stream. We continue losing height to reach the Alto de Garrula, where the turn-off to the Altuzarra waterfalls awaits us.

Here we can return via the waterfalls to get to know them. Although this variant is much more advisable to do it in the opposite direction, i.e. uphill, as the terrain is quite steep, slippery and has some steep sections, which are not recommended, especially if it has rained. We leave this detour behind us and follow the more than comfortable path that descends into the leafy forest. Almost without noticing, we reach the Abanza stream, whose course we follow until we reach the path that awaits us a little further down. This path takes us to the crossroads that we rejected at the beginning of the route and from here we only have to walk the short distance to the refuge of Zarcia (5h 25min), where we put an end to this beautiful route.

Tips for do the route Climbing to San Millán Peak from Santa Cruz del Valle Urbión

1-With snow or ice, the difficulty of the route is considerably increased, and it is reserved for people with the necessary experience and preparation, as well as adequate equipment.​

2-Be careful when crossing the river and streams, it is very easy to slip and get hurt in the fall, depending on the flow it is not a bad idea to carry for example some cros to keep your shoes and clothes dry.

3-Take time to enjoy the scenery that surrounds the ascent route, it is undoubtedly one of the main attractions of the route.

4-Don't underestimate the route or the mountain, it is a demanding climb with some sections that are a little difficult to follow.​

Waypoints of the route
1-Zarcia Refuge 0:00h 1045m 0Km 30T 482776 4680943
2-San Millán Peak 3:35h 2131m 6,7Km 30T 482979 4675544

Coordinates UTM Datúm WGS84

Profile of the route up to San Millán Peak from Santa Cruz del Valle Urbión

Profile of the route up to San Millán Peak from Santa Cruz del Valle Urbión

ico-distancia-totalDistance: 15Km

ico-tiempo-totalTime: 5:25h

ico-dificultadDifficulty: Remarkable

ico-desnivel-acumuladoSlope: 2230m

ico-desnivel-positivoSlope +1115m

ico-desnivel-negativoSlope -1115m

ico-altitud-maximaMaximum altitude: 2131m

ico-altitud-minimaMinimum altitude: 1045m


Topographical map of the route of the ascent to the San Millán Peak from Santa Cruz del Valle Urbión

ico IGN

This schematic with the path is approximate and has been created from the derived cartographic base © Instituto Geográfico Nacional "Cuadrante 239-2, 239-4, 240-1 y 240-3 1:25.000".

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Route information updated on 21-06-2021. The route may vary greatly depending on the time of year, weather conditions and terrain, as well as the actions of third parties and the evolution suffered in the natural environment where it is located. All opinions, advice and/or assessments made by SENDITUR in their descriptions are for guidance only and are subject to and/or refer to the specific conditions of the specific day of the route, referring to that specific day, taken from trained people, with the appropriate experience and with a high level of physical and technical preparation as a reference, as well as correctly equipped.

All the times are approximate and take an orientative character, the stops have not been taken into account, no matter how small they are. All the information related to the route, texts, images, videos, maps, diagrams, tracks, towns, and places of tourist interest are published as a guide, and may not coincide with the current state of each place. Before undertaking any activity, assess your technical knowledge, your physical condition, find out about the weather and the variations that the route may undergo, equip yourself correctly, be prudent and responsible at all times, and do not exceed your capabilities. SENDITUR is not responsible for any misuse or inappropriate use of the comprehensive guides of its routes and/or publications as well as its electronic guides, nor for any variations in their descriptions for the aforementioned reasons, and recommends that everyone be responsible and prudent in carrying out the activity. We also encourage you to read books and specialised guides to complement the information described above.

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