A year ago almost to the day, friends and I hiked to Sant Jeroni – the highest peak (4,055 feet) in the Montserrat Natural Park in Catalonia, Spain.
The park surrounds Montserrat Monastery, which is built into a mountain-side about an hour train ride from Barcelona. The monastery was founded in the 11th century, and the natural park was established in 1987.
Planning the hike
What a wonderful hike we had with breathtaking views on a beautiful sunny day.
We used a hiking map that we had picked up at the information center at Montserrat Monastery to plan our hike. Montserrat Natural Park has a number of trails that crisscross through the mountains. Having the map and directions was helpful for checking decisions at crossroads.
We decided to reach Sant Jeroni by hiking the trail from the upper station of the Sant Joan funicular (a rack railroad) and then return hiking down the Pla dels Oscells.
Many sections of the hike are exposed, so on a clear day, you will need a hat and sunglasses. You’ll also need water and snacks – and your camera or phone for all the great photos. The day we hiked was a little cool in the morning, so we wore jackets.
Train ride to trail
To reach the trail, we rode the funicular (train), which travels from the Montserrat Monastery to the Sant Joan upper station.
The train had glass sides and roof, so we could enjoy the view during the train ride up the mountain. (The ride reminded me of the ride on the Incline Railroad to Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennessee.)
We happened to ride the train with a group of elementary school students and their teachers. The students were so excited by the train ride and the view.
When we reached the end of the upper station, we took in the views with the crowd of students and tourists and then walked to the trailhead to begin our hike to Sant Jeroni.
Amazing rock formations
Montserrat means serrated mountain, like the jagged edges of a saw. We hiked below and then through the serrated rock. We had great views both of the rock formations and of the valley below. We were up close with many of the rock formations we’d seen from below, including the Elephant, the Big Mummy, the Little Mummy, and the Pregnant Woman.
We saw rock climbers ascending some of the massive formations. Montserrat is a popular climbing location. The park has more than two dozens climbs, and the hostel guests included numerous climbers with their helmets and climbing gear.
We saw some other hikers on the trail, but most of the time, we had the trail to ourselves. This was a reminder of the meditation hikes to Sant Jeroni that monks from the abbey have taken for centuries on these very trails.
Much of the hike to reach Sant Jeroni was a steady incline, with the last section being steep. We saw mountain goats along that section.
The final approach to the summit of Sant Jeroni was made by climbing concrete steps and using a concrete walkway to reach the observation platform.
From the observation platform, we had a 360-degree view of Catalonia and the Pyrenees, the mountains between Spain and France.
After the vigorous climb, we were glad to sit down and have lunch with a great view. We had our picnic near the top but away from the observation platform and off the trail.
After our lunch break, we began the return hike to the Montserrat Cathedral and Abbey.
We hiked down Pla dels Ocells and then took the trail to the Monastery. The hike had several majestic views of the valleys and the Montserrat Cathedral. Sections of the downhill hike were in wooded areas. The shade was nice after hiking in the direct sun.
One of my friends would hike ahead and then play a Native American-style flute she had made to provide us beautiful music for our hiking.
Stairs and stairs and stairs
The most memorable part on the downhill hike was hiking down hundreds of concrete stairs. According to my FitBit, we descended 102 flights of stairs. I was glad I had my hiking sticks!
According to the hiking guide, the hike length is 7.5 kilometers (4.66 miles), the difficulty is medium, and the hiking time is 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Our hiking time was five hours because we stopped to enjoy and photograph many of the views, and we stopped to eat lunch and soak in the scenery from atop Sant Jeroni.
We took our time to savor the experience and enjoy the moment. To add to our ability to savor the experience, we had reservations at Hotel Abat Cisneros, adjacent to the Cathedral. We arrived at the hotel with time to relax before going dinner.
I’d highly recommend making overnight reservations at a hotel in the area so you don’t have to rush your hike in order to get back to the Monastery in time to catch the last cable car or the last funicular to leave the mountain for the day. There are other reasons to stay in a hotel at Montserrat for the night, but I’ll talk about those in another post.
On the downhill hike, one of the photos I took was a striking view of the cathedral and abbey in the distant valley.
When we returned to our hotel room, we realized that a print of an oil painting in our room was of that exact view — painted by Pere Daura in 1931.