The Gazette of Masía Aitona

Penyagolosa, the Stone Lady


In winter, in summer, at any time of the year, if possible in spring, the great Lady of Stone, the Penyagolosa opens her summit to all those who dare or want to embrace her. The second height of the Valencian Community stands out for its sharp profile on its southern face, a large rock and stone crag that marks the natural border between the Valencian Community and the lands of Teruel’s Maestrazgo. In Masia Aitona we receive many customers who take us as a reference point to stay and rest on the way to or from their ascent of the most emblematic mountain of Castellón.

 

From Masia Aitona we are 40 minutes away by car, to Vistabella, passing through Atzeneta and Culla. There is another possibility to reach the Sanctuary of San Joan de Penyagolosa, through Xodos but the road is in worse condition, in fact it is more of a dirt track, not suitable for all audiences. Whichever path you choose, before starting the ascent to the summit, which lasts at a good pace for two hours, we recommend you take your strength in the Sanctuary of San Joan, a medieval Gothic style building, which is 9 kms from Vistabella, the last point of civilization, before entering the Natural Park.
“The second height of the Valencian Community stands out for its sharp profile on its southern face, a large rock and stone crag that marks the natural border between the Valencian Community and the lands of Teruel’s Maestrazgo”.

 

“The second height of the Valencian Community stands out for its sharp profile on its southern face, a large rock and stone crag that marks the natural border between the Valencian Community and the lands of Teruel’s Maestrazgo”.


This sanctuary is the most important religious attraction in the province, receiving year after year the ancestral pilgrimages of most of the surrounding towns, such as Culla, Vistabella, Xodos and Puertomingalvo. Standing out above all the pilgrimages, that of the pilgrims from les Useres to which we will give an account in another article in the Gaceta de Masía Aitona.


The Romanesque image of Sant Joan de Penyagolosa consists of a polychrome wood sculpture, which unfortunately has suffered some fire throughout its history, as happened during the Civil War in 1936. The disproportion that the figure shows of his head and neck with respect to the rest of the body is interpreted as an attempt to highlight the fact that the Saint died with his throat cut. A singular place, where one breathes a lot of calm, the necessary to become aware of the effort that comes after, the challenge that the ascent to a summit of 1813 meters of altitude represents.

 

The fauna and flora of the Natural Park of Penyagolosa correspond to a Mediterranean ecosystem, where pine forests dominate both red and black pine, maple, linden, oak melojo, holly, wild apple and yew trees. Rare plants grow on the rocks at the top, including the Cavanilles geranium, named after its discoverer, a Valencian botanist. And as for the fauna, the presence of the golden eagle and in recent years the presence of vultures stand out. Among the mammals, the mountain goat and small insectivores such as the shrew and the vole stand out.

 

To discover the treasures of this Natural Park, we can always visit the interpretation center, known as the “forest house“, located behind the chapel of San Joan. It is open to the public all year round, from Monday to Sunday with opening hours from 10 am to 2 pm and on Saturday afternoon from 3 pm to 5 pm. It serves as an information point to learn more about the routes in the natural park, to get information about the municipalities in the area and other aspects related to the biodiversity and culture of Penyagolosa. In addition, it also offers two open spaces to visit, an exhibition hall and audiovisual footage. https://espacios-naturales.blogspot.com/2015/12/la-casa-forestal-del-gegant.html

 

The classic route of ascent to the summit, runs in several stages. From the parking lot we take the wide track that takes us south and we walk for about 600m. When we get there, we will see a sign pointing to the “Barranc de la Pegunta”. We will continue on that side, leaving the main track, and walking along a path of about 4.5 kms surrounded by a privileged natural environment. When we finally reach the ravine, which is mostly dry, although sometimes if it has rained it forms a small stream that accompanies the walker for a good stretch on the left side.

 

During the ascent we will pass by the Font Nova de la Pegunta (which is only the overflow of the Pegunta deposit located a little higher inside the ravine). After almost 4 kms of route, we will see another sign that indicates “La Banyadera”, we have to continue towards this place that leads to the Esplanade of the Corralico, a plain that gives us access to the final stage of the ascent to the summit. This esplanade can be reached by car from the Sanctuary.

 

The final section is the hardest, it is gained in height, there are more unevennesses and it is better to make the ascent in zigzag to cushion the unevennesses. More or less in the km 5.8 of the route you will reach a small refuge called La Caseta de L’Ombria, the leafy forest gives way to a vegetation of scattered trees of much smaller size that allow you to see the hard rocky ground through which you will walk until you reach the top. A summit crowned by two spurs: the Caseta de les Antenes, a weather station and the Guard’s Caseta. Impressive views as expected. If we are lucky enough to have a clear sky, from the crown of the Great Lady or the “Gegant de pedra”, (theStone Giant) we can see the Mountains of Sierra de Espadán, the Sierra de Javalambre or even the natural park of the Columbretes Islands. The effort has been worthwhile.

To return to the starting point, we will return by the same road we walked for a kilometer and a half more or less. We will have to make the descent in this area, again zigzagging to cushion the slopes. We will reach almost the esplanade of the corralico and we will turn off before towards the path that indicates the “Barranc del Forn”. We will take a path (PR V79) that will take us down constantly and quite comfortably to the Interpretation Centre and Sanctuary. In barely 1 hour, we will be arriving at the Sanctuary, our starting point.

And thus our route ends. Rather, it will not end until we return to Masia Aitona, where they will wait for us, depending on the season, with a cold beer or a hot chocolate. Are you up for it?

 

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