Cycling in Valencia - Casas de Benalí

Caserio de Benalí, Enguera, Valencia, Spain

Casas de Benalí is a 16 kilometre climb in the south-west of the province of Valencia

The virtually traffic-free climb takes us through olive groves and pine forests us to an altitude of @750 m.a.s.l.


A gentle, quiet climb to nowhere particular through the Sierra de Enguera, the climb to Casas de Benalí offers a virtually car-free asphalted climb and an off-road descent to the village of Navarrés.

Location

Location of Casas de Benalí in the Valencian Community, Spain
Location of Casas de Benalí in the Valencian Community

The climb to Casas de Benalí is located in the Sierra de Enguera in the southwest of the province of Valencia. The summit, which sits atop a range that separates - physically, if not politically - the Valencian Community from the country's meseta central (inner plateau) and the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha, lies some @90 kilometres by car from the city of Valencia, and some @140 kilometres from the city of Alicante.

The Sierra de Enguera itself is a @16 kilometre long mountain range running north-south in the west of the province of Valencia, from the valley formed by the River Júcar to the natural corridor that has traditionally served as the access from the Mediterranean coastal regions to the central plain. With peaks of up to 1000 m.a.s.l., the range is known for its lush vegetation, a notable presence of groundwater and surface water, its abundant wildlife and its extensive archeological heritage.

Profile

Profile of climb to Casas de Benalí, Valencian Community, Spain
Profile of climb to Casas de Benalí

We are looking at a fairly easy climb (at least for a reasonably in-form cyclist), but no less a beautiful one for that. Around 17 kilometres in length (when starting from the town of Enguera), the climb to Casas de Benalí takes us through typical Mediterranean woodland at a steady gradient of around 3.5% for the most part, with only occasional spikes of around 10% or greater.

Starting altitude: 292 metres
Length: 17 kilometres
Average gradient: 3.5%
Maximum gradient: 13%
Altitude gain: 470 metres
Maximum altitude: 752 metres
Difficulty: Easy


The climb


Start of CV-584 road in Enguera, Valencian Community, Spain
Start of CV-584 road in Enguera

We've taken the start of the climb to Casas de Benalí as the turn off to the CV-584 road in the town of Enguera, Valencia. There are bars with parking spaces located directly beside the turn off, making it a handy point from which to start if we are driving to the area.

Quarry on CV-584 road to Casas de Benalí, Enguera, Valencia
Quarry on CV-584 road to Casas de Benalí

Although the climb is one of the most traffic-free asphalted roads that we know of in the Valencian Community, we have to point out that the first 2 or 3 kilometres of the CV-584 are used by locals to reach the many holiday/weekend homes in the nearby surroundings, and by HGVs transporting aggregate from the quarry that lies about 2.5 kilometres from the town of Enguera. 

The traffic is not heavy, but it is worth bearing in mind that we may find a lorry lurking round the next corner for the first couple of kilometres.

First curves on CV-584 to Casas de Benalí. Valencia, Spain
First curves appear after around 3 kilometres

Once past the quarry, we are out among olive trees and the number of houses starts to fall away noticeably. The road surface here is pretty good, as it is in general throughout the climb, although there are no central road markings.
 
CV-584 road to Casas de Benalí, Valencia, Spain
Olive trees line the road during the first few kilometres

The road dips and rises during these initial kilometres, rarely getting anywhere near 5%. As during most of the climb, there is a marked lack of shade, which should be borne in mind when planning to ride the climb.

First marker board on the climb to Casas de Benalí, Enguera, Spain
First marker board on the climb to Casas de Benalí

The climb forms part of the Valencia Provincial Council's Protected Cycling Routes programme, which we featured in one of our earlier articles. The first of the Protected Cycling Route's markers, indicating the climb's overall distance, average and steepest gradients and altitude gain, is located on a bridge some 6 kilometres into our ride. 

Garlic field in Sierra de Enguera, Valencia, Spain
Garlic fields on the lower slopes

The lower slopes represent a clear example of the Valencian agricultural tradition, with the autochthonous trees having been felled in order to make room for mainly dryland crops.

Olive trees in Enguera, Valencia, Spain
Olive trees lining the climb

As we leave the last olive trees behind, the sight of cars and other traffic really does become the exception. The road here continues at its gentle gradient.

Pine trees on climb of Casas de Benalí, Valencia, Spain
The olive trees give way to pines and underbrush

Having left the olives behind and entered the pines, we can clearly see how the local forestry service has left an ample margin on both sides between the trees and road as a firebreak.

7km to go marker on CV-584 climb to Casas de Benalí, Valencia, Spain
7km to go marker

Such measures became especially important in the area following the devastating forest fires of the mid-'90s, which saw enormous expanses of woodland destroyed. They should also serve as reminders that we should take every possible precaution to avoid actions that could provoke fires whilst in the countryside. 

It is usually very hot and very dry during the summer months, making it difficult to control fires once they start.


Old kilometre marker on CV-584 climb to Casas de Benalí, Valencia
Old kilometre marker on CV-584

In the unlikely instance that we do find ourselves facing a forest fire, the number to call to alert the emergency services is 112. 

Road through Mediterranean pine forests to Casas de Benalí, Spain
Mediterranean pines on both sides of the road

Whilst other climbs offer challenging gradients, spectacular views over the sea or dizzying altitudes, it is here, two thirds into the ascent, that the Sierra fully offers perhaps its most attractive characteristic - almost complete silence. It is unusual to come across more than a couple, if any, cars, on the road, and while we may come across the odd fellow cyclist, the only noise we are likely to hear will be that of singing birds in the forest, and little more.

4 kilometre to go marker, Casas de Benalí, Spain
The 4 kilometre to go sign marks the point where the road begins to rise somewhat

It really is a joy to ride on asphalt roads in such conditions, and the fact that we notice them at only seems to make them stand out even further.

The absence of noise is due, of course, to the absence of human activity and settlements in the surroundings. As is to be expected, this is accompanied by intermittent cellphone coverage during the climb.

Concrete crash barriers on the climb to Casas de Benalí, CV-584, Valencia
Concrete crash barriers appear in the final kilometres

As we enter the last 3 kilometres or so of the climb we encounter the only stretches where the road rises up to @10%, which never last for more than a few hundred metres.

Bends near the top of Casas de Benalí, Valencia, Spain
Hairpins make an appearance in the last few kilometres

That perennial Spanish roadway favourite, the concrete block crash barrier, makes an appearance here for the first time on the climb, giving some indication of the age of the road. Unlike the white blocks that are so characterstic of the coastal climbs in Alicante, these are unpainted.

Climb to Casas de Benalí, Sierra de Enguera, Valencia
The steepest sections offer very little shade

During the hotter months, we'll be accompanied for much of the second half of the ascent by the heavy, very characteristic Mediterrean aroma so familiar to cyclists that blends the scent of pines and wild herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, with the unmistakable, pungent smell of hot, almost molten tarmac. 

In the mind's eye, it conjures up images of whirring wheels and lithe, brown legs, and is surely one of the sensual triggers most closely associated with cycling in the summer.

Perhaps some kind soul could develop a process for bottling it, for use as a motivational tool during the winter months....

Sign for Cañada Flaco, Sierra de Enguera, Valencia, Spain
Old 16-kilometre road marker

Independently of the information provided by the road signs, by this point the air and the light are telling us that we have reached a certain altitude - not the dizzying effect of high altitude, of course, but rather the feeling of breathing lighter air and of being much closer to the clouds, topped off by a seemingly unending sky.

CV-584 regional road near the top of Casas de Benalí, Valencia, Spain
The gradient drops off almost completely near the top of the climb

While we have been following the asphalt CV-584 road up the climb we will have passed a multitude of forest tracks leading off the road on both sides and which are ideal for exploring the Sierra de Enguera on a mountain/gravel bike.

Summit of Casas de Benalí, Valencia, Spain
Summit of Casas de Benalí, Valencia

The road has almost completely levelled off by now, so the summit comes with no great dramatic setting or fanfare: we round a bend and there we have it, dutifully indicated by the Valencia Provincial Council's sign.

View of Casas de Benalí, Sierra de Enguera, Spain
View of the houses that give name to the climb

Almost immediately after cresting, the houses that give name to the climb come into view, tucked away among the trees on the other side of the summit.

Caserio de Benalí, Sierra de Enguera, Valencian Community, Spain
Caserio de Benalí

Today, the former farmhouses are run as a rural holiday complex, offering accommodation and a swimming pool, as well as activities such as hiking and yoga.

Start of forest track between Casas de Benalí and Navarrés
Start of forest track between Casas de Benalí and Navarrés

Having reached this point, we now have the option of turning around and returning the way we came, or carrying on past el Caserio de Benalí and descending the 20 kilometres or so to the village of Navarrés. The reason why we don't automatically recommend the latter is because the first 10 kilometres or so to the Ceja del Rio Grande picnic area are on a forest track and thus require us to have sturdy/off-road wheels.

Forest track from Casas de Benalí to Navarrés, Valencia, Spain
Forest track to Navarrés

If we do decide to ride down to Navarrés, we won't be disappointed. The track  - which is offically the continuation of the road we've just ridden up, the CV-584 - takes us through unspoilt forest, descending at an even rate for most of the way. The surface in general is in good condition, and it is obviously maintained by the forestry authorities in order to facilitate access in the event of an emergency.

Asphalted section of CV-584 on descent to Navarrés, Valencia, Spain
Asphalted section of CV-584 on descent to Navarrés

As mentioned, no sooner do we pass the picnic area at Ceja de Rio Grande than we come to the asphalted section of the road, which takes us to the CV-580 which runs between the villages of Anna and Dos Aguas. By turning right once we reach the CV-580 we can double back to Enguera, from where we started, and by turning left we set off in the direction of Millares and Cortes de Pallas, a beautiful climb which we will cover in another article.

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