Coll de Fredes

Coll de Fredes


A relatively unknown climb outside the circle of local cyclists, Coll de Fredes' 16 kilometres of forest and hairpins take us deep into one of the Valencian Community's most beautiful areas and provide spectacular views of a unique landscape. Of middling difficulty, it is perhaps more of a challenge due to its length and the heat in summer months than the gradient of the climb itself.

Location


The climb of Coll de Fredes, leading up to the village of the same name, lies in La Tinença de Benifassà, a spectacular, unspoilt area of natural beauty lying in the very northern extreme of the province of Castellón, in the Valencian Community.

Site of Community Importance

Declared a Site of Community Importance by the European Union, and Natural Park by the Valencian Regional Government, La Tinença de Benifassà sits at the base of the southern side of the Ports de Tortosa-Beseit mountain range, the highest peak of which is the 1,441 metre Mont Caro.

Ulldecona Reservoir, Tinença de Benifassà, Castellón, Valencia
Ulldecona Dam, Tinença de Benifassà, Valencia

On the western side of La Tinença de Benifassà is the Ulldecona Dam, built in 1967 and popular with  tourists, especially in the summer. Right by the reservoir there is a restaurant, accommodation facilities, and information about hiking routes in the neighboring karstic mountainous area.

Although the area forms part of Baix Maestrat, one of the present-day Comarques of the Valencian Community, trade and social relationships have traditionally been stronger with Els Ports in the west, the Terres de l'Ebre in the northeast and the Matarranya in the northwest. These traditional ties can be seen in the customs and architecture shared with the neighbouring regions of Catalonia and Aragón.

The area is very sparsely populated, with the main villages being Castell de Cabres, la Pobla de Benifassà, el Bellestar, el Boixar, Coratxà, Fredes and Bel.

La Pobla de Benifassà, Tinença de Benifassà, Castellón, Valencia
La Pobla de Benifassà, Tinença de Benifassà, Valencia

Off the beaten track though it may be, La Tinença is nevertheless relatively easy to reach from the AP7 Mediterranean Highway, and lies a mere 30 minutes or so by car from the town of Vinaroz, in Castellón (Valencia), and Amposta, in Tarragona (Catalonia).

Profile

Cycling in Valencia, Spain, Profile of Coll de Fredes
Profile of Coll de Fredes from La Sénia

We've taken the village of La Sénia as the start of the climb, giving a total of some 22 kilometres of climbing at an average gradient of around 5%, a maximum gradient of around 12%, 800 metres of altitude gain and a maximum altitude of 1153 metres.

In other descriptions of Coll de Fredes you may see the climb labelled as measuring around 8 kilometres in length: this measurement is taken from the turn-off to Fredes from the CV-105 road, and may be considered the climb "proper". We've included the stretch from La Sénia because, as well as including a good few hundred metres of vertical climbing, the road past the reservoir to the base of the climb "proper" is well-worth experiencing on a bike.

The climb

Cycling in Valencia, Coll de Fredes, Castellón
Climb of Coll de Fredes from La Sénia

Start from La Sénia

Leaving La Sénia on the CV-105 regional road, we immediately drop down a steep, short ravine to cross the riverbed of the River Sénia that serves as the border between Catalonia and Valencia, climbing the other side to enter the province of Castellón.

From here, the narrow, reasonably-surfaced road winds it way through fields of fruit trees, rock formations and scattered summer residences, rising gently yet constantly as we make our way towards the reservoir.

There isn't a great deal of traffic on the road, but then there isn't much space, either, so a great deal of traffic isn't needed for us to find ourselves in a squeeze. Given the area's popularity among outdoor tourists, it's best to err on the side of caution and, resisting the temptation to hare off up such an inviting-looking road, proceed with care.

Flanked to the left by a steep, forested ridge and by the River Sénia to our right, the busy activity on the coast becomes an ever-distant memory as the natural environment of la Tinença de Benifassà begins to open up all around us.

Ulldecona Reservoir

After passing the Moli d'Abad restaurant and tourism complex, we switch over to the other side of the river for a kilometre or so, crossing back just as the road kicks up sharply up to the reservoir, taking in a couple of short tunnels on the way.

Ulldecona Dam, Tinença de Benifassà, Valencia, Spain
Ulldecona Dam, Tinença de Benifassà, Castellón

As is so often the case in many regions in Spain, you won't always find the reservoir full of capacity. However, when we do - above all in Spring and Autumn, the views are spectacular.

There is another restaurant located just atop the dam - the last before we reach the top of Coll de Fredes. 

Ulldecona Reservoir and Dam, Tinença de Benifassà, Spain
Ulldecona Reservoir and Dam. Photo: Mayte Muñoz

After crossing the Reservoir bridge, we continue along the increasingly scrappy CV-105 as it winds its way up along the right bank of the River Sénia for a couple of kilometres before crossing back over the ravine and taking in a couple of short, steep hairpins and the final couple of +/- 9% kilometres to the turn-off to the climb "proper". The road surface here is the poorest of the whole climb, and the road is narrow, twisting and rises sharply in places, so once again it advisable to pay close attention to the road traffic.

At the time of writing, this stretch was being widened and, hopefully, resurfaced.

Turn-off to Fredes

The turn-off to the CV-106 which will take us up Coll de Fredes is indicated ("Fredes/Monasterio de Benifassà") on the right at around 9 kilometres into the ride, and no sooner do we begin the climb than we find ourselves on a wider, better-surfaced road with central markings.

The first sign we see indicates "Fredes" at 12 kilometres, although top of the climb comes before that, at around 8.5 kilometres.

Monastery of Saint Mary of Benifassà

The next sign, on the only significant downhill stretch between us and our destination, indicates the Monastery of Saint Mary of Benifassà to the right. If you have the time, and the inclination, this 13th-century walled Carthusian monastery is certainly worth a visit, although the opening times are very restricted.

Monastery of Saint Mary, Benifassà. By DagafeSQV [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

No sooner do we pass the turn-off to the Monastery than the road bears off to the left and ramps up towards the first of the numerous hairpins that lie ahead, many of which we can now see if we raise our gaze from the road to the mountain above.

Daunting though that initial sight may be, the climb from here on isn't really too difficult, winding upwards through the switchbacks at a steady pitch of around 5%-8%, with the odd short stretch at 12% thrown in to keep us on our toes.

Whatever the difficulty of the climb, the views more than make up for any momentary suffering to which we may succomb, with the surrounding forests and mountains stretching out all around us.

Coll de Fredes, Tinença de Benifassà, Castellón, Valencia
Monastery of Saint Mary of Beniffassà, seen from Coll de Fredes

There aren't, however, too many trees providing shade on the way up, so it can get a little hot. This is especially worth bearing in mind if you're thinking of taking on the climb in the summer months: if so, we would strongly recommend setting off in the early morning.

Coll de Fredes in the province of Castellón, Valencia, Spain
Hairpins near the top of Coll de Fredes, Castellón

After around 5 kilometres of climbing from the turn-off we pass over to the other side of a ridge and find ourselves on a slightly more shaded, narrower stretch of road containing the final sharp gradients between us and the unmarked summit, just over the top of which lies the welcome sight of the Restaurante Europa, with its peculiar and practical snow-proof roof.

Restaurante Europa, Coll de Fredes, Castellón
Restaurante Europa, Coll de Fredes, Castellón

Fredes

A couple of (gently downhill) kilometres over the top of the summit lies the village of Fredes, the northernmost village in the Valencian Community, which offers at least one restaurant and various accommodation options.

Fredes, province of Castellón, Spain
Village of Fredes, Castellón. By Víctor Eclipsado [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

After Fredes, there be dragons, or rather, there be dirt roads and tracks leading into the Beceite mountain range and the regions of Aragon and Catalonia. But that's a story for another day.

Further information:

La Tinença de Benifassà

Els Ports - comprehensive information about the Els Ports region, including towns, restaurants, hotels, activities and services (in English)
Website of the Tinença de Benifassá Tourist Business Association, with information on towns, restaurants, hotels, activities and services (in Spanish)
Wikipedia entry on Ports de Tortosa-Beseit (in English)
Wikipedia entry on la Tinença de Benifassá Natural Park (in Spanish)
Short video showing La Tinença de Benifassà
10-minute video produced by Radio Televisión Española covering the main sights of interest in La Tinença de Benifassà, including the Monastery of Saint Mary and Coll de Fredes (in Valencian)

Contact information for the Monastery of Santa Maria de Benifassà (open to visitors Thursdays 1 pm till 3 pm.) (in English)

Restaurante Europa Facebook page 

MTB routes in La Tinença de Benifassà

Wikilocs: downloadable MTB routes in La Tinençá de Benifassà (in Spanish)

"Los 3 Reinos" MTB routes in La Tinença de Benifassà (127km y 175km) (in Spanish)
La Tinença Trailrunning & MTB Centre (in Spanish) 

Coll de Fredes

HorsCat entry on Coll de Fredes via Pantano Ulldecona, with distance, altitude, vertical climbing, etc.
Strava segment Pantano de Ulldecona-Fredes
Altimetrias entry via Coll de Fredes from La Sénia (in Spanish)

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