Girona is one of the world's most popular spots for cycling athletes and many professionals train in the region. But, passionate amateur cyclists come to this beautiful Catalonian city to explore its picturesque surroundings by bike, especially when it’s cold and muddy at home.
It may come as a surprise, but you can also ride your bike here far away from tarmacked roads. You can enjoy Girona just as much on your gravel bike as your racer.
For this collection, I went the extra mile and already took on this gravel journey. I will show you how to ride from the capital of Catalonia Barcelona to Girona, following gravel almost the whole way.
This collection is what you make of it. If you're fit and raring to go, you can complete all three stages at once and do the whole route in one day. If you prefer smaller distances to fit in some sightseeing in Barcelona, you can take three days and ride the stages roughly as I have suggested. Or, you can do it like me; with a tent and a mattress strapped to my bike, I was totally flexible and could simply stop where I liked.
Although you start in the second largest city of Spain – Barcelona – it doesn't take long until you ride on quiet gravel roads far away from any civilization. The route feels more remote than it actually is.
Along the way, you will discover beautiful nature parks and small towns which don’t even have a shop. To avoid detours, be sure to bring enough provisions along for the ride. But don't worry, if you ever have a major breakdown or if your strength runs out, "rescue" is never far away as the entire route runs more or less parallel to the railway line between Barcelona and Girona. Regular regional and express trains provide a perfect backup in case your plan should change.
If you are travelling without a tent and would like to plan overnight stays, it is a good idea to make a short detour between the second and third stages. There are a few hotels in Cardedeu and you will also find suitable accommodation during the rest of the third stage.
Reaching Barcelona is normally easy. If, like me, you prefer to avoid air and car travel, the train is a great alternative. There are very fast connections that can easily beat your car. A few years ago, Girona opened a new station for high-speed trains, which makes the arrival/departure by train very comfortable.
The first stage starts southwest of Barcelona, more precisely in Esplugues de Llobregat, a suburb of the Catalan capital. The route winds through the gentle hills of the Serra de Collserola, a small low mountain range that serves as a green lung for the residents of Barcelona. A pretty steep climb awaits you at the beginning: out of the city, into nature. Once you have done that, gravel paths that are easy to drive will take you up and down the partly wooded slopes. Again and again the green clears and you have breathtaking views of the city.This tour is short and crisp. You can really exhaust yourself on a few steep climbs, but there are always flat passages or - especially at the end - nice descents where you can breathe deeply. But the coolest thing about this tour is that you are in an exciting mix of nature and metropolis all the time. Barcelona is always just a stone's throw away and you always have the opportunity to quickly roll back towards the center. This first stage is therefore not a must on your way to Girona. But it is a nice warm-up program or a varied extension of the second and third stages. In any case, I am sure that you will be amazed at how beautiful it can be engraved in close proximity to the big city!
Santa Coloma de Gramanet is located north of Barcelona and is actually a separate city, even if it looks like a part of Barcelona. This is where stage 2 of your tour to Girona begins. Before the gravel fun can begin, a crisp climb is waiting for you. On steep roads you slowly crank yourself up into the hills of the Parc de la Serralada de Marina. Once at the top you have a breathtaking view of Barcelona. And here it is finally: the gravel.From now on you mainly drive on loose gravel roads and more or less unpaved roads, asphalt is very rare on this stage. At first it is partly steep uphill. If you look left and right, you will discover many small trails and traces of mountain bikers, because this is a popular biking area for the people of Barcelona. I drove this stage on a Friday morning in February, so it was relatively empty. I could imagine that there is a lot more going on here on weekends when the weather is good.With a packed bikepacking horse, some passages are quite demanding. But there are always great views back to Barcelona and thus enough opportunities for a little breather. On the other hand, there are hardly any shops on this tour: You can only get through a few towns and they are so small that they don't even have a supermarket. So better pack enough provisions so that you don't have to make detours.The distance of the tour is quite manageable, but appearances are deceptive: the many meters in altitude and partly loose ground ensure that you progress relatively slowly. It's best to take it easy and plan a little more time than usual. The stage ends near Cardedeu. There are all sorts of shops here, so a detour is recommended if you want to replenish your supplies or stop here for an overnight stay.
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The excitement is slowly growing: Girona, the new Mecca for racing cyclists, will soon be reached. "Only" this third stage of gravel fun is waiting for you. It is particularly tough at the beginning: the route climbs steeply up to the 642-meter-high el Corredor. When you have done that, an enjoyable descent is waiting for you. Then the route runs much flatter, but no less beautiful.From Sant Celoni, the tour leads through a narrow valley. Your gravel route shares the space here with two railroad tracks, a motorway and a main road. What doesn't look so inviting on the menu is actually amazingly beautiful. You only drive across the street if you can't help it. Most of the time you cycle on beautiful side streets and gravel roads and you hardly notice anything from the other traffic rivers. Only the regular rushing trains remind you that you are not as far away from civilization as it feels. And because the route profile is largely flat, you really make kilometers towards the end of the third stage.On my trip there were still a few adventure interludes waiting for me: A gravel road was completely washed away by the last flood, so I had to trudge through the river. I also decided to set up my night camp around 40 kilometers before Girona because I passed a beautiful place at a wonderful sunset that was just perfect as a campground. So I didn't go to Girona until the next morning. It was unmistakable that I was getting closer to my goal: more and more road cyclists meet you here on the roads and paths. The last few kilometers lead over a really nice bike path, where you meet all kinds of cyclists and joggers.Arrived in Girona, when you are here for the first time, you will definitely be very impressed by the huge and beautiful old town. In the middle of the narrow streets is the small café "Espresso Mafia". This is not just a popular address for road cyclists for the black pick-me-up, which is served here in top form. Your tour ends right here, but the fun on two wheels doesn't stop there: welcome to Girona!