Font Roja is a national park with historical interest situated close to Alcoy, the second largest town in the Alicante Province. It is one of the best places to enjoy the autumn leaves and although the day was cold, the bright sun fully exploited the colours of the leaves. Our plan was to go to the summit of the highest peak, Menejador (1356m) for the best views.
We drove up to Sanctuary of Font Roja which is also known as the Shrine of the Virgin of the Lillies. The shrine was created on the site where a white lily bearing the image of the Virgin Mary on the bulb was found in 1653. Around the building there is a metal walkway from which we could see both over to Alcoy and the ground below us through the metal grates.
After the obligatory coffee, the hike started with a woodland trail which followed a noticeable incline before we got on to the wider road. The colours were more obvious here and we could appreciate the spectacular beauty of the views over Alcoy and the surrounding area.
It wasn’t long before we discovered a nevero, an old snow pit! Despite the fact they hadn’t been in use for over 100 years we were delighted to find the tiniest bit of snow on the fence and a (very) mini snow fight happened. The neveros were used up until the beginning of the 20th century to store snow and ice for food and preservation with mules originally transporting the ice at night to prevent melting. The ice was sent to coastal towns and even shipped as far away as Ibiza and north Africa. Nowadays, the plants and trees have replaced snow but it was still an interesting piece of history to see.
The hike continued again via gravel road and we soon saw the Menejador Peak (1356m), although we could have taken the short and steep direct route, we didn’t. It was far more fun to follow the peak round on the undulating path. There was a long period of steady incline and then fun slopes to run down. The path flattened out and we found local beehives and a sheltered spot between the trees for lunch.
After lunch, we took a narrow path up to the peak, the path was rocky but fun. The grey of the stones and their random allocation led to comparisons of walking on the moon. Although we had been walking next to trees and shrubs so far, the gorse and foliage was thicker here. With that and the stones the scramble to the peak was enjoyable but required steady footing.
Once we made it to the peak, we certainly felt the 6 degrees plus wind chill however the beautiful panoramic views soon made up for it. Here we could see the whole valley and the autumn colours below.
On the way back we took the steep but direct road down from the peak before turning off on to a trail. The trail was well kept and through the trees, it’s steady descent meant it was perfect for both walking and trail running. Going down was a lot of fun! At the end of the trail, we came to a replica of a charcoal kiln and some information which along with the neveros gave us some history about the area.
To return to our start point, we followed the road down for a short distance to look back at where our 14km hike had started. The autumn colours had not disappointed, and the historical interest added to the hike by giving us a glimpse of times gone by.