By John Pint
Just minutes away from this historic Mexican town you’ll find multiple beautiful, safe outings
Travel + Leisure magazine calls San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, “Mexico’s hidden treasure,” and everyone I’ve spoken to agrees it’s as close to paradise as you’re likely to find on this little old planet.
It is, however, a “town,” and those sanmiguelenses who occasionally get a hankering for “country” may appreciate the advice of local resident Randy Kremlacek, who is one of the leaders of the San Miguel Hiking Group.
“The group has been doing this for at least 20 years,” Kremlacek told me. “In the beginning, hikers showed up at a local gas station at 8am on Sundays. I joined them because I thought it would be a good way to meet people and to get to know el campo, the countryside. I had zero experience hiking.
“The first time I went with them, we were walking along, and suddenly they started climbing up this mountainside — and I thought: it’s perfectly flat to the left; why are we doing this? So, it took me a while to learn what hiking is all about.”
Below are descriptions of several hikes listed in San Miguel Hiking Group’s Guide to Walks and Hikes near San Miguel de Allende. You can download the guide from their English-language website for links to maps, GPS tracks and contacts for local guides.
El Charco del Ingenio
This place is named for a swimming hole near what are claimed to be the ruins of the first mill on the American continent, built in 1561.
“This,” Kremlacek told me, “is a botanical garden located in town, but somehow separate from town because it’s up high and you must cross pasture land to reach it. It’s more of a walk than a hike to me, but it’s a great place for people to get to know the flora and fauna of this area.”
A glimpse of the beauty inside the El Charco del Ingenio, declared a Peace Zone by the Dalai Lama in 2004.
“The botanical garden,” says the unnamed author of an article on the Mexico Desconocido website, “covers 67 hectares and has one of the most complete collections of Mexican cacti and succulents in the world. Many of these have been rescued from little-known areas of Mexico’s deserts and are often rare, threatened or in danger of extinction.”
This collection exists thanks to cactus aficionado Charles Glass, who settled in town in 1993 and then toured the country searching for plants to bring back to El Charco.
In 2004, the Dalai Lama visited the botanical garden and declared it a Peace Zone, a space free of violence and arms.
Tres Cruces, a moderate hike of 7 or 8 kilometers. This is an ungroomed pastoral park, located adjacent to El Charco del Ingenio.
“It makes for a nice loop around the wetlands in the rainy season,” says Kremacek. “In my opinion, it’s more of a dog walk, but it offers a bit of a break from city life because it’s completely wild. It’s nothing spectacular like you’d find outside of town, but you will be getting peace and fresh air. And you almost feel like you are out in the campo (countryside).”
Tres Cruces (Three Crosses)
“This hike,” says Kremlacek, “is also called the Suspension Bridge Hike. When you leave town and head south, there’s a big hill topped by numerous antennas. You have a spectacular view of the city from up there, but if you proceed on to the suspension bridge and zipline area, you cross over that hill, and now you have a view of the presa (the dam) and the Guanajuato mountains in the distance. At first, it’s pretty steep, so it’s a moderate, not an easy, hike—perhaps 7 or 8 kilometers. You’d never know that you are so close to town.”
La Joyita (The Little Jewel)
Kremlacek says this is a beautiful camping area located about 15 kilometers from town. The first 11 kilometers are paved, and the remaining four are what hikers would call “good road,” but what others might consider challenging.
“There’s a family that lives here,” he says, “that has worked with foreigners and has developed a campsite. It’s a great place to spend the night: quiet, little light pollution and there is no music. They have both rough camping and two or three cabins, as well as old Airstream trailers. They also have a rustic full kitchen. Here you have an absolutely stunning view.
“It’s also the only place we hike where you have marked trails. This means you’ll find arrows: red for one trail, blue for the other, nothing fancy. To hike, you just show up and go for it. For camping, it would be a good idea to call and make a reservation: 415 153 7092.”
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