Nowadays, many advanced are developed and become available for users. So, the demand for a higher data rate wireless access significantly increases. For that reason, new cellular wireless networks have been introduced such as Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX), Long Term Evolution (LTE) and LTE-advanced. However, the centralized topology of these technologies requires that the users have a direct connection to the Base Station (BS). Such topology suffers from congestion problem when a large number of users are communicating in the same time. To overcome the congestion problem, the Device-to-device and the mobile relays communications have been proposed to overcome the limitations of the conventional cellular architecture. These technologies can improve the cellular network capacity and reduce the infrastructure costs. However, security in multi-hop cellular networks (MCNs) is a great challenge especially when other mobile nodes participate in the routing process. Existing works on this topic focus on ensuring security for routing information. However, most studies do not secure the data transmission after the route selection and do not simultaneously ensure all the security requirements. In this paper, we propose a new secure and reliable routing protocol for MCNs. The main objective of this protocol is to select only the trustworthy intermediate nodes to participate in the route construction. These trustworthy nodes perform the route discovery process in a secure way and so discover a secure path that does not contain any attacker as an intermediate node. The intermediate nodes of the selected route participate in establishing a group key. This key is used to secure the data transmission phase after route selection. To achieve anonymity, the BS assigns to each mobile that participates in the selected route a temporary identity. We evaluate our proposed protocol in terms of security using AVISPA tool, and we conduct some simulations using Network Simulator (NS-2). The simulation results show that it is reliable and provides acceptable performance in terms of throughput, end-to-end delay and normalized routing load. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.