Although, as a whole, footpaths on La Palma are technically not difficult, a number of precautions are required, some of them common to hiking paths everywhere, others more specific to La Palma.

It is perhaps most important for visiting hikers to bear in mind the island’s peculiarities, some of which can take first-time visitors by surprise.



Island terrain is vigorously contoured, so that height-differences on paths are often considerable. The length of both ascents and descents should be taken into account, as well as the physical condition of hikers themselves. The terrain can sometimes be decidedly rugged, implying a certain element of danger, especially if straying from the marked path. The potential dangers of certain paths are all mentioned in the various route descriptions.



Rain, especially in the north and west of La Palma, is more frequent than is often expected. Generally, rain itself is no more than a minor inconvenience, but in the case of heavy downpours, several factors should be borne in mind. The first is that water starts flowing down the ravines, which are otherwise dry, and thus paths running along their beds should be avoided and walkers are advised to keep well away. The second is that rain causes landslides, and rocks of different sizes can become dislodged. This can easily be appreciated along roads, where stones may be seen which have rolled down the slopes. On path sections running at the foot of crags and vertical rock faces, extreme caution is required in such cases, and, if possible, such places should be avoided. The third consideration is that, once periods of heavy rain have ended, some paths may deteriorate simply as a result of erosion, although they are usually promptly repaired again.



Mist is very frequent in north and west-facing zones, as well as on the summits of the Hilera ridge and surrounding area. In open stretches of country, where vegetation is lacking and the path indistinct, losing the path is possible. Such places, where care should be taken not to lose the markings, are few in number.



Snow is frequent in high zones, especially along the rim of the Caldera de Taburiente above heights of 2,000m between November and April. The landscape changes completely, its beauty is enhanced, and the prospect of walking through this snow-covered scenery can be extremely tempting. However, there are two real danger situations which should not be taken lightly. The first occurs with recent snowfalls: the correct course of the paths is no longer visible and walking through the snow can exhaust hikers who sink in with each step. The second situation is the most dangerous and arises when heat during the day melts the surface layers of snow, which then freeze and harden during the night. Even the gentlest slopes are impassable in such conditions and the risk of falls, in apparently harmless areas, is real. On such occasions there are only two solutions: either take and learn to use equipment for Alpine snow conditions – crampons and ice-axe – or abstain from hiking in the summit region and choose another route. From these pages, we urge walkers to use their sound judgement.



Closely connected with snow are low temperatures. The commonplace association of warm weather with the Canary Archipelago is more or less valid for low or coastal areas on the islands, but as height is gained, the temperature drops, often considerably, especially in mid-winter months. Thermometer readings frequently lie in the region 0° C on La Palma’s highest summits and at altitudes of 2,000m, temperatures hover around 5° C on many days while, on the coast, measurements approaching 20° C, or even higher, are obtained. Moreover, the sensation of cold increases drastically with wind, a far from rare occurrence at high altitudes. Consequently, it is essential to take warm clothing (fleece sweater or similar) and a windproof anorak.



At the other extreme, high summer temperatures can also pose a difficulty to be reckoned with. During very hot periods it is advisable to select routes avoiding high, open zones and opt, instead, for paths leading through areas of shady laurel forest.

The foregoing are the main precautions for hikers on La Palma. Seeing so many potential dangers listed together will perhaps frighten some people off, but, in fact, really extreme situations are not very common. Being aware of possible dangers, however, is the best way of preventing accidents. The key to successful hiking, and the safety of hikers themselves, is appropriate route-choice based on the above guidance.

Finally, habitual precautions common to hiking in general are listed below. At the risk of sounding obvious, here are some of the most important:

1. Check weather forecasts before setting off to hike.

2. Don’t go alone

3. Tell someone your intended destination and expected time of arrival

4. Carry a small rucksack with warm clothing, waterproofs, food and plenty of water.

5. Don’t forget such simple items as: sun hat, protective cream and sun glasses

6. Carry a mobile phone with fully-charged battery, a map and, if possible, a compass. They will probably never be used but, when required, are of vital importance.

7. Wear suitable gear, especially footwear: trekking boots or similar are essential, trainers or pumps are to be avoided.