Via Verde Ojos Negros s(u) aka. Puerto del Escandon

The Via Verde Ojos Negros is Spain's longest and best known railtrail. I would divide the reasons for this popularity in three categories: the bridges, the towns, the tunnels. In addition to the 160km of converted trail the profile below also contains an additional 20km road approach from the Mediterranean coast. On top of the Via Verde just happens to also be a named pass, the Puerto del Escandon.

I have used the pictures of panoramio and flickr contributors, as well as other web sites to illustrate this page. There are copyright notices and links  to all original pictures. My own pictures were on a computer, that was stolen at the train station Frankfurt Airport (model Acer Aspire One (serial# NUSGPAA01625101C947600F)


01.(00.0km,0040m) START-END SOUTH: A23 service road south of Sagunto
04.(16.0km,0200m)Aifara de la Baronia
05.(18.3km,0200m)Algar de la Palancia
06.(20.3km,0240m)beginning of Via Verde railpath
11.(62.9km,0800m)rondell to Collado Ragudo
13.(95.8km,0850m)Rio Albentosa bridge, right after village Albentosa
14.(103.1km,0990m)turnoff to Sarrion
15.(115.8km,1150m)first turnoff to Valverde
16.(126.8km,1230m)TOP: Puerto de Escandon
17.(137.8km,1040m)turnoff to Valdecebro
18.(143.7km,0930m)convenient connection from Via Verde Ojos Negros to road to Teruel
19.(144.4km,0920m)START-END NORTH: low point on road to Teruel


From South.
The profile starts below the old fort of Sagunto, not far from the Mediterranean sea. A four lane highway runs up the valley of the Rio Palancia, surrounded by a forest of gentle rounded hills. But after leaving the city, there is also a small curvy road, often barely within sight of the big highway, that collects all the small villages along the way. They come at a distance of every 3 or 5 kilometers, and consist of maybe 50 to 100 houses clustered around a churchtower: Estivela, Torres-Torres and half a dozen more. I stop for lunch and I have not even reached the Via Verde yet. But then again, my day started about 20km south of Valencia. So I pick a comfortable looking bench on a plaza in front one of these churches. The only people I see are a couple of men coming out of the ayuntamiento for lunch break.

SLIDE SHOW 1: the Bridges

cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow

Soon after lunch I find the official beginning of the Via Verde Ojos Negros. There is a clearly marked signed and trailhead, immediately before N234-A joins to the big old highway, about a km west of Torres-Torres. I reconstructed the route on the map included on this page. The mapped route follows the road instead of the trail for the first few km. Unfortunately the gps data for the recorded route was on a stolen computer. But the elevation and distance data are virtually identical.

     copyright: Panoramio;  Toni  piclink

The beginning of the path is paved and a kind of low, fast balcony platform, from which to admire the villages, as they move by at a distance perfect for photography with a normal focal length. Approaching the twin cities Segorbe and Altura, there is a section, where the surface of the trail becomes extremely rough. The paved road is just a few meters away. Since it also has a less obstructed view, I choose the easy and scenic option.

Segorbe and Altura are the biggest cities on this side of the summit along the Via Verde. This urban area is big enough to exhibit many different faces. I take pictures of narrow medieval streets under an official Via Verde directional sign. The official route goes right through the city. My photographs are gone, and the ones on the web are mostly of the walled castle on top of the hill, filtering out the modern main street and the chaotic street life.

Soon afterwards I am back on the peaceful bikepath along half height of a gentle valley. Later in the day comes the first truly amazing sight along the trail. The village Jerica appears as backdrop to a picnic table and canon of some sort, framed by a tree in spring bloom. The village is dominated by a massive tower so that the houses clustered below it appear to be part of the same structure. While Mudejar towers like this are a common occurrence in Teruel, it is the only tower of this architecture in the Valencia region,  Its peculiarity is that it is not attached to the church itself (constructed in 1634). While the origin and taste of this architecture is Moorish, it was actually executed after the Moors had been expelled from Spain

It is getting late afternoon, so I look for a place to spend the night. But nobody in the nearby Casa Rurales answers the door or telephone, and the two hotels in town have too many stars for my taste. This is actually quite a tourist town, and so I decide to ride further. In order to save a little time, I take the road between here and Barracas. There is virtually no traffic on it and it also winds through the hills.

At point 11 the Via Verde crosses the four lane highway and also the little paved sideroad, that I am on. The Via Verde is about to snake around a large bread loaf of a mountain, topped by a forest of windmills, while real trees are becoming more and more sparse in the landscape. My little sideroad on the other hand engages in a steeper climb over the Cuesta Ragudo shoulder summit. This appears to be a gentle, but massive summit ahead. But actually, as it turns out, this is the edge of a dry plateau and up on top waits a vast and sweeping landscape.

The next town is Barracas, and it is something different all together to what came before. It is not the summit, but it is a sort of divide to two sections of the trail. From Sagunto to here the Via Verde negotiated a total of 15 tunnels and 8 bridges over 70km. Between here and the end of the old rails are 5 tunnels and 13 viaducts, including the most impressive ones. This stretch measures 91 kms. However the last 36km past Teruel have sofar not been converted to a railtrail.

Barracas - proximity to the 4 lane road give it the ambiance of a truck stop at first glance. But there is a main street of old buildings with a certain pleasant neglected medieval ambiance. Two tiny store fronts house miniature grocery stores. Two old men wait for children after school to sell them overpriced candy - or visiting cyclists, who might be interested in a can of beans for a euro. While internet pages about the other towns along the way, yield a baffling flood of historical facts from Roman times over Moorish architecture to Civil War battles, this town is mentioned because of an exploding truck, carrying 25 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in 2004.

The two hotels in town are hopelessly overfilled. But on a backstreet, with the help of a jogger, I find a Casa Rural, where I have the nicest home for a day that anybody, anywhere could ever imagine. But it was quite a piece of work to find it. The next day my host leads me in her car, me following on the bike, back to the Via Verde trailhead, so that I can continue my journey on the trail again. The majority of the trail is now a packed pebble surface with some rougher sections.

Copyright:  Copyright: Flickr Contributor      Josep Nogues   piclink

approaching Valdecebro;           Copyright: Flickr Contributor      Josep Nogues      piclink

Copyright: Flickr Contributor:   Josep Nogues    piclink

From now on the route has a more isolated feeling to it. Now there are few enough cyclists on the route, chances are good, that both will actually stop and exchange information. I talk to an Englishman and his Spanish guide who ride the route in opposite direction. The landscape is a sweeping high plain. Periodically old station buildings appear. The small rectangular brick structures make great HD photographs because of their textured walls. A lonesome bench in front invites to stop and picnic.

After a sweeping left turn the trail encounters what in my mind (and probably most minds) is the most interesting and visually arresting scene along the entire route. The trail crosses the Rio Albentosa on a large arched bridge, and immediately afterwards plunges into a long tunnel. There are actually three interesting bridge structures in this vicinity and the best views from the trail are of the other two: a road bridge and a railroad bridge. The best views of the old railroad bridge (that is the Via Verde itself) are from the village above, Albentosa. There are many perfectly lit images of of this scene on the web, and the slide show links to several of them.

copyright: Flickr Contributor: Pablo Mandado    piclink

The next village Sarrion, comes just right for a lunch stop, and so I take some time to ride through its streets and find the singular grocery store, hidden in an inconspicuous corner, very difficult to find with my limited Spanish skills. But I persevere, and orange juice with salami are the result. Sarrion is maybe my favorite village along the way. It is the opposite of touristically exploited. The people I meet are happy to see that somebody wanders the streets of their town - and it is a picture perfect location (see photos).

The next sections are quite long - no towns - forest appears again - small bridges and nearby brick ruins of old farms. The old railbed follows in close proximity to the new rails. The operating trains are small modern constructions, consisting of only 2 cars, running twice a day in each directions. Detours from the Via Verde to nearby towns like Valverde are a little longer now. Approaching the top, a long straight trail tangentially runs towards the equally straight highway. The top is a highway interchange and a named pass, the Puerto del Escandon. A small, modern railyard at the top shows no signs of life whatsoever.

SLIDE SHOW 2: the Towns

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From North. (described downwards). This description is going to be much shorter, partly because the approach is much shorter. Signs of life in the from of more cyclists and more ambitious construction efforts appear as the big city gets closer: Teruel. Numerous bridges and tunnels follow one after the other as a wide trail makes for a fast, but shallow descent. Valdecebro appears to sit on top of a layer cake of badlands rock formations. The rocks remind me of scenes in Utah. But the houses on top are old medieval brick structures and not some boring truck stop.

The Via Verde continues a small distance past Teruel. But the profile gets off the trail at a convenient, but unofficial access point, which minimizes the distance to the city.

This is my second visit to Teruel. I wanted to come back to photograph all its bridges and Mudejar towers - and I did. But unfortunately the computer with all the images were stolen. This is a town, where a bike is of great convenience when looking for the best far vantage point on its hills and towers. Walking is really too slow.

the bike route runs over the nearer bridge. The view point is from the village Albentosa, a small distance off the profiled route. Copyright:  Flickr Contributor:  Ana Ablas          piclink


Railroads: The reason for the original railroads is the mining district "Ojos Negros" in the Sierra Menera, located about another 50km north of Teruel. The remaining distance north has not been converted to a railtrail.

At the end of the 19th centery iron ore needed to be transported from Ojos Negros to the harbor in Sagunto. The history reads more like a history of American than European railroads. There already was a railroad, that served this corridor, the Ferrcaril Central de Aragon. But because of animosities between the two companies, a separate narrow gauge railroad was constructed, sometimes less than a hundred meters distant from the Aragon line, named the "Ferrocaril Minero de la Sierra Menera". The need for more transport capacity on the narrow gauge line caused that it stopped operation in 1972

History-Bicycling: The decision to turn this into a railtrail was made in 2001. The last additons to the trail were made in 2009. Sofar no plans exist for the remaining kms to Santa Eulalia in the Sierra Menera, which is only a couple hundred meters higher than Teruel.

A Day on a Tour with this point as highest summit:


( < Vall de Ebo s(u) | Puerto de Santa Barbara > )
Via Verde Ojos Negros(sh): Baracas > Via Verde Ojos Negros north > Albanbtosa bridge > several kms detour around Sarrion > Val Verde Ojos Negros(sh) > Teruel with several kms of detour: (r5:16.4,5)
Notes: gps data was on stolen computer
previous day was: El Saler > Valencia > Pucol > Sagunto > Estivella > Torres Torres > Aifara de Baronia > Algar de la Palancia > partially on Via Verde Ojos negros, partiall on paved roads to Sogobre > Altura > Via Verde Ojos Negros to Altura > Jerica > paved road to Benafer > Cuesta de Ragudo(shp) > Barracas; (r4:16.4,5)

SLIDE SHOW 3: trail, tunnels, stations

cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow