Easy and Beginner Mountains
Easy and beginner mountains can be done in one day, and have a straightforward route that is easy to follow without a guide. These mountains don’t require much or any technical knowledge or gear, usually just a decent amount of physical fitness and stamina. Many of these mountains are near towns, making transportation and logistics easier, and can also be done with families. They have lower elevations with don’t require much acclimatization beforehand.
El Tepozteco is an archaeological site in the Mexican state of Morelos. It consists of a small temple to Tepoztecatl, the Aztec god of the alcoholic beverage pulque. It is about two hours from Mexico City in the mountains of Morelos. The pyramid overlooks the mountain town of Tepoztlan, known throughout Mexico for its mysticism, far-flung community of European and American expats, and production of the alcoholic drink Mezcal. The pyramid has two rooms inside, one opening out onto the monumental stairs and the other a smaller chamber in the interior. The hike from town is very scenic with waterfalls and goes through a dense rainforest. The hike should take about an hour and a half, covering about 2 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,200 feet. There is a stone staircase for most of the hike, so the only requirements are a good level of fitness.
2. Cerro San Miguel
Cerro San Miguel is a short day hike mountain, with an elevation of 7,546 feet located in the village of Cerro San Miguel. It’s a low grade, grassy peak whose summit can be reached with light hiking. You will walk through and near private farmlands, so please be respectful of the farmers and ask for permission if you see them. Otherwise, there is no red tape for accessing this peak. You can also camp for free on the private farms as long as you have permission. Nearby mountains or peaks are Pajal, San Jomo, San Granada, el Tenozco, El Cerron and Las Minas all in the same San Miguel area which can be viewed from the summit.
3. Cerro Tecajete
Cerro Tecajete, Nahuatl for ‘brazier’ or ‘stove’, is an extinct volcano located just west of San Miguel Papaxtla, in the state of Puebla in South-Central Mexico. It is one of the most prominent elevations at 8,117 feet between the Paso de Cortés and the metropolitan area of Puebla, which makes it visible from most points of the valley. For decades, the Tecajete has been extensively mined for its tezontle, a volcanic rock used in construction. As a result, the eastern slopes which face Puebla have disappeared almost completely, exposing deep layers of red sand. It’s a rather short hike to its crater and two summits take you through a beautiful pine-oak forest.
Cerro de is part of the Sierra Madre Oriental in the state of Nuevo León and is part of Chipinque Ecological Park. It is known as “The M” because of its distinctive shape resembling the capital letter. The rock figure is visible from various parts of the city of Monterrey, including neighboring cities, like San Nicolás de Los Garza or Guadalupe and San Pedro Garza García, which is the municipality established on the base of the mountain. The park is great for hiking and mountain biking, and it is also possible to rent mountain bikes in town as well as guided tours. The tallest peak in the park is Copete de Águilas with an elevation of 7,217 feet. It is a great place to explore the wilderness and escape the city of Monterrey while still being close to the comforts of the city.
5. Volcan Ceboruco
Volcán Ceboruco is an inactive stratovolcano that is part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in the state Nayarit, in western Mexico. It has an elevation of 7,480 feet. It is located in an area which is covered with several other volcanoes Ceboruco offers great hiking opportunities through lush forests with plenty of interesting fauna and flora to observe. It isn’t such a demanding hike up to its crater so it can be visited as a pleasant day hike from the village Jala, requiring about 3 to 4 hours to reach the summit. As often with volcanoes in Mexico, antennas have been installed on the higher part of the volcano and you can actually drive up on a cobblestone road. There are many wildlife viewing opportunities such as iguana’s, wild pigs, and several species of birds and on its lower slopes, you walk past blue agave and corn fields. The whole area has been declared a protected area since 2000 covering about 15 ha. Ceboruco, which means “the black giant” or “source of rocks” in the indigenous language Nahuatl. It had several eruptions, the largest around 930 AD, the most recent from 1870-1875. Today the only signs of its activity are several fumeroles that can be found inside the large caldera that was created during its largest eruption.
6. La Chupina
La Chupina is the highest point in the Sierra El Tecuan (also known as the Sierra de San Juan Cosala). It rises directly above Ajijic and Lago de Chapala, which itself is south of Guadalajara. Ajijic itself is known as the art gallery center of Mexico and the town sees a lot of tourists and retirees from the United States. Lago Chapala is a scenic lake nearby, and there are a lot of birds on the shore of the lake as well, which makes it a popular location for bird enthusiasts. There is plenty of bird life in the mountains as well, including raptors and big vultures. The mountain is made of old volcanic rock but has been eroded away so much that it barely resembles a volcano anymore. It’s a short day hike at 8,058 feet to the summit.
7. Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve
Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve is a biosphere reserve located in the coastal and higher elevations of the Sierra de Los Tuxtlas, in Los Tuxtlas of Veracruz state, in Eastern Mexico. Since the first attempt at protection in 1998, the Biosphere has lost almost 90% of its flora and most of its larger mammals and reptiles. As of 2010 deforestation and defaunation, although diminished, have not been stopped. The Biosphere protects mostly the higher inland elevations of Los Tuxtlas, roughly above 1000 feet, but also includes almost 75 miles of coastline. It’s a beautiful place for day hiking and observing wildlife and amazing plant life in the rainforest. The highest peak has an elevation of 5,643 feet with an almost full elevation gain from sea level.
8. Volcan Paricutin
Volcan Paricutin is a newly formed volcano, having grown to an elevation of 9,186 feet from an eruption in 1943. It grew slowly and was finally formed by 1952 into a large black cone, which appears to be dormant but occasionally spits out steam. This volcano can be climbed in one long day, and going most of the way via horseback is a popular and convenient option. There are plenty of guides at the base with horses to rent. The final push to the summit cannot be climbed with horses, as it is a scramble on loose rocks. If you choose to walk the entire route, start early as the standard route is 7 miles to the summit. You can slide down the smooth black sand on the descent, making it quick and easy.
9. Barrancas del Cobre
Barrancas del Cobre, or Copper Canyon, is a group of six distinct canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental in the southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua in northwestern Mexico. It is much larger than the Grand Canyon in the USA. The canyon is named after the copper and golden colors of the rock walls, making them very beautiful for hiking and climbing. The canyon has a wide variation in elevation and therefore has two distinct climate zones, a sub-tropical forest in the valleys and a cool alpine climate in the pine and oak forest of the highlands. There are a variety of activities including rafting, camping, bird watching, hiking, and canyoneering which are all popular in the canyon. There is a train and a cable car as well for easy exploration. It’s a great place for families, and offers something to do for every interest and skill level. Copper Canyon is the home to four distinct indigenous groups. The largest group, estimated at about 50,000, is the Tarahumara, or Rarámuri, people. Many Rarámuri reside in the cooler, mountainous regions during the hot summer months and migrate deeper into the canyons in the cooler winter months, where the climate is more temperate. They are well known for their long distance running capabilities and were featured in the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.
10. Cerro Cuatlapango
Volcano El Cuatlapanga is situated near the town of Apizaco, in the state of Tlaxcala in central Mexico and has an elevation of 9,514 feet. It’s referred to as “cerro” which is Spanish for hill, but was recently discovered to be an extinct volcano. The name Cuatlapanga comes from the indigenous language Nahuátl and means ‘cabeza partida’ or ‘head split in two’. This is believed to refer to the head of nearby volcano Malinche, a stratovolcano that seems to have had its head chopped off which landed a few miles away and thus created Cuatlapanga. The people of Cuaxomulco have built fourteen chapels along the trail that goes to the summit, where a big statue of Jesus Christ has been put in place. Every year in July a procession goes up to the summit halting at every chapel for prayers with a final mass at the feet of Cristo Rey on the summit. It makes a nice day hike from Apizaco, although it doesn’t receive as many visitors as its famous neighboring volcano La Malinche. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed half of the of forest on the slopes of El Cuatlapanga in April 2009. The trail to the summit takes you partly through the burned forest but the upper part still has dense forest as you go up on a steep rocky trail. Overall, it is a short day hike that should take about an hour to reach the summit from the trailhead.
11. Volcan de Tequila
Volcan de Tequila, or the Tequila Mountain, is located near Tequila, Jalisco and has an elevation of 9,580 feet, making it the fourth highest volcano in Mexico. The town of Tequila is said to be the origin of the famous beverage, which draws many crowds. Volcan de Tequila is an extinct stratovolcano and the last eruption was over 200,000 years ago and now makes for a nice day hike. Some of the travel agencies in Tequila offer ecotours into the forest on the slopes of the volcano and to the summit. Locals refer to the volcano as “el cerro” and near the summit, you will find some antennas, which signifies the summit. The landscape around the volcano is also covered with blue agave fields, the plant that is used to make the famous alcoholic drink Tequila.
High Elevation Peaks and Intermediate Mountains
Intermediate mountains require route finding and do not always have clearly marked trails. They can be done in a day or two with a good level of fitness. These mountains also have higher elevations, over 9,000 feet, which require acclimatization. Having a guide is definitely something to consider depending on your experiences.
12. El Ajusco
El Ajusco is the tallest point in Mexico City, the capital and largest city in Mexico, which makes it accessible to many residents and tourists. It is a lava dome that stands at 12,894 feet with an elevation gain of 3,993 feet. It has many recreational benefits such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing and motorcycling. The views are stunning, as it resides just south of the city and offers fantastic views of the capital, Valley of Mexico, Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl and Nevado de Toluca volcanoes, and parts of the Valley of Cuernavaca. The surrounding area near the mountain is also the location of Six Flags Mexico, which is the largest amusement park in Latin America. It is also the location for the TV Azteca television network, the National Pedagogic University, the UNAM radio transmission center, the Fondo de Cultura Económica and El Colegio de México. Ajusco is a Náhuatl word which means “source of waters” or “watered grove” and the Lerma River and Balsas River gain source water from the peak.
13. Cerro El Pinal
El Pinal, or Pine Wood, is located between the towns of Santa Isabel Tepetzala and El Rincón Citlaltepec, in the state of Puebla in South-Central Mexico. It has an elevation of 10,761 feet and it is considerably higher than its twin El Tintero (9580 feet), but it is also a lot smaller than nearby La Malinche volcano (14,636 feet). The Malinche volcano overshadows El Pinal making it relatively unknown, despite being among Mexico’s top 40 major summits. El Pinal is great for a day hike as it is a short and moderate trail that is not too demanding and the route is straightforward and easy to follow. It can be great for acclimatizing for higher peaks. The hike will take you through beautiful and well preserved trans-volcanic oak-fir forests but the summit itself is relatively flat and therefore does not offer wide views.
14. El Chichonal
El Chichonal, also known as El Chichón, is a little-known Volcano located in an isolated part of northern Chiapas, in southeast Mexico. It is part of the Chiapanecan Volcanic Arc and has an elevation of 3,773 feet. Prior to the great eruption in 1982, the crater was filled in by a heavily forested lava dome which was then reported to have active fumaroles. That was until March 29th, April 3rd, and April 4th, 1982 when the Volcano erupted sending out a huge ash plume into the sky and emitted pyroclastic flows into surrounding areas killing about 2000-3000 people living within its proximity. After the eruption, the pre-1982 lava dome had completely disappeared leaving behind a 1 km wide crater which today contains an acidic crater lake and some active fumaroles. The route to the summit is not that straightforward and therefore a guide is recommended, and they are available for relatively cheap. For more information on route finding, visit https://www.summitpost.org/el-chichonal/638852.
Telapon has an elevation of 13,389 feet and is located within The Parque Nacional de Zoquiapan y Anexas. The standard route is straightforward and easy to follow, and is not very popular and therefore doesn’t have a lot of crowds. There are variations to make the hike more difficult if you are looking for a challenge. The south side has class 3 and 4 rock scrambling and requires more orienteering and climbing knowledge. Climbing up the northeast shoulder provides excellent views of the city of Rio Frio and the Mexican countryside, as well as views of the peaks Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatepetl. This peak is great for a light day hike or for acclimatizing and training for higher and more difficult peaks.
16. Cofre de Perote
El Cofre de Perote, or Nauhcampatépetl, is an extinct volcano in the Mexican state of Veracruz and the eight highest peak in Mexico at an altitude of 13,944 feet, and with an elevation gain of 4,331. It is located where the Cordillera Neovolcanica that stretches west to east in central Mexico joins the Sierra Madre Oriental that goes all the way up into Northeastern Mexico. This peak got its name from the volcanic outcropping that constitutes its peak which resembles a steep four-sided box or ‘cofre. Its original, indigenous name ‘Nauhcampatépetl’, means ‘four-sided mountain’. Unfortunately, the summit is nowadays covered with antennas that do take away from the prominence of the square-shaped peak. El Cofre de Perote lies within the Parque Nacional Cofre de Perote and offers an easy day hike that goes through pine forests and offers great views of surrounding volcanoes and peaks.
17. Cerro Mirador Grande
Cerro Mirador Grande is a 12,638-foot peak near Telapon and Tlaloc and Yeloxochtl. It is an easy day hike, with an elevation gain of 1,312 feet, requiring only 45 minutes to an hour to summit. While it is a short hike, it is steep and sustained so it’s important to have the proper fitness before attempting to reach the summit and a good balance on scree fields and climbing loose rocks. It is steeper and more rugged than Yeloxchtl. Mirador means observatory or lookout, which is an accurate name for this peak since it offers unobstructed panoramic views of the valley below and the surrounding high peaks. The best time to climb is the dry season which is November through to March. It is still possible to climb in the offseason, but you’ll need to be aware of storms and adverse weather conditions.
18. Sierra Negra
Sierra Negra, or Black Mountain, is the fifth tallest mountain in Mexico at 15,345 feet. There is an observatory at the summit which is operated by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica or INAOE in Mexico. It is a newly built solar neutron millimeter telescope for observations. Because of the observatory, there is a road that leads to the top of Sierra Negra, which is the highest road on the North American continent. You will need permission to drive up the mountain, but you can also hike it. You can go up the southern side or the approach to Ruta Sur on Orizaba which is a steep 3-4 hour climb involving scree fields. Additionally, you can climb up from the western slopes which is unmarked trails on scree fields, weaving through pine forests.
19. Nevado de Toluca
Nevado de Toluca is a large stratovolcano in central Mexico, located near the city of Toluca. It stands at 15,345 feet with an elevation gain of 7,251 feet and is Mexico’s fourth largest peak. Nevado de Toluca and the surrounding areas are a national park which draws many visitors. It is often called by the Nahuatl name Xinantecatl which is usually translated as The Naked Lord or Señor Desnudo in Spanish. The volcano has a 0.93 mile wide summit caldera which is open to the east. The highest summit at 15,354 feet Pico del Fraile (Friar’s Peak), is on the southwest side of the crater and the second highest, 15,223 feet Pico del Aguila (Eagle’s Peak), is on the northwest. There are two crater lakes on the floor of the basin at about 13,800 feet, the larger Lago del Sol (Sun Lake) and the smaller, but deeper, Lago de la Luna (Moon Lake). A road formerly ran into the caldera to the lakes, making this perhaps the most accessible major Mexican peak, but now the road stops before the lake so there is a short hike to reach the summit.
20. Paso De Cortes
The Paso de Cortés is the mountain pass or saddle between the Popocatépetl and Ixtaccíhuatl volcanoes in central Mexico, which sits at 11,150 feet. It forms part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt and is a place where the normally southeast-tending continental divide heads north for over 10 miles. There is a paved road from Amecameca on the Mexico City side up to the Paso de Cortés and from there south to Tlamacas at the beginning of the pot of Popocatépetl or north to the area near the feet of Ixtaccíhuatl. The Paso can also be reached on dirt trails, and can sometimes be drivable by 4-wheel-drive vehicles, from Cholula. This makes the saddle easily accessed with an off-road vehicle though you’ll probably have a bit of hiking to do as well. It also has access to the surrounding high peaks.
Yeloxochtl has three distinct summits with the summit proper being found in the center at 12,857 feet. It is only a few feet higher than the other two surrounding peaks, Telapon and Tlaloc and offers little different in terms of views or distinguishing characteristics except of course for the fact it is the summit. Yeloxochtl means ‘flower of the heart’ in Nahuatl and is found in The Parque Nacional de Zoquiapan y Anexas. It should take no more than an hour to an hour and a half to reach the first summit and then an additional half hour to reach the other two nearby summits. It’s a relatively easy summit with the option to make it more difficult by scrambling on the nearby rocks. The best time to climb is November through March which is the dry season. It is still a fairly easy climb in the offseason but one would have to pay close attention to the weather as storms are common and often come quickly and violently.
22. Volcan de Colima
Volcan de Colima, also known as Volcan de Fuego, is part of the Colima Volcanic Complex (CVC) consisting of Volcán de Colima, Nevado de Colima, and the eroded El Cantaro. It is one of the most active volcanoes in North America and has erupted more than 40 times since 1576, with one of the largest eruptions occurring in 1913. The last occurred in December of 2016 with three different eruptions in one day. It has an elevation of 12,533 feet with a prominence of 2,000 feet and it is located in several different areas. Part of the volcano’s surface area is in the state of Colima; the majority of its surface area lies over the border in the neighboring state of Jalisco, toward the western end of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. It is about 301 mi west of Mexico City and 78 mi south of Guadalajara, Jalisco.
Tlaloc mountain is named after the Aztec god of rain, lightning, and thunder and climbing this peak was an annual pilgrimage to appease the god, and therefore this mountain is seen as sacred. There are Aztec ruins at the top of the summit plateau, comprised of stacked piles of rock that were painstakingly brought up the mountain as part of worship. Tlaloc is located in The Parque Nacional de Zoquiapan y Anexas and has an elevation of 13,618 feet. It’s a relatively popular mountain because of its indigenous heritage, and also because it offers great views of the surrounding peaks. In addition to hiking, there are also climbing opportunities on the peak and in the surrounding valley, which is known as Manantiales, or spring in Spanish. This valley has a large river that runs through it as well as lush forests, making it a sort of paradise.
24. La Malinche
La Malinche is in the state of Tlaxcala east of Mexico City and north of Puebla, near the capital Tlaxcala. It is frequently used as a training/acclimatization climb by mountaineers who aim to climb the higher volcanoes and mountains nearby. Its elevation is 14,640 feet and has an easy, straightforward hike with no special equipment needed. It’s a great place for families, mountain bikers, and hikers. No special equipment is required as there are no dangerous parts and the trail is very easy to follow so no guide is needed. La Malinche is within Malinche National Park. There is a paved road that goes up to 10,170 feet where you can park and also sleep in the Centro Vacacional IMSS La Malintzi. They have about 40 cabins, camping area, a shop, restaurant, basketball and soccer fields. La Malinche is named after a Nahua woman who played a role in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, acting as an interpreter, advisor, and intermediary for the Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés.
25. Las Derrumbadas
Las Derrumbadas are a pair of rhyolitic volcanoes in the municipalities of Guadalupe Victoria and San Nicolás Buenos Aires, in the State of Puebla in east-central Mexico. These peaks are Derrumbada Roja (red) and Derrumbada Azul (blue) and they have an elevation of 11,417 feet and 11,220 feet. Officially, both domes are called Cerro Derrumbadas. This name comes from derrumbe, which is Spanish for ‘stonefall’ or ‘collapse’, and refers to the poorly consolidated and eroding soil. While the two domes have a relatively low elevation compared to the surrounding peaks, they have a significant prominence from the valley. The soil is very fragile, so do not climb on the rock, and be wary of landslides. Derrumbada Roja is a volcano whose current activity is limited to a few fumarolic fields with steaming holes. There are no restrictions or permits needed to climb these peaks, however, there are mines nearby. The rural people in the area can be suspicious of strangers so please be respectful, and if you run into the locals, state your intentions and potentially leave a note on your car stating your intentions, date and time.
26. Arista de Humboldt
Arista de Humboldt, Humboldt’s Ridge, is part of the Nevado de Toluca volcanic area in
Texcaltitlán, but is a distinct peak in itself at 14,071 feet, which is the fifth highest peak. It is most frequently accessed via the meteorological station located outside the crater rim to the northeast. There is a class 2 trail running up from the station to the saddle overlooking the crater, so route finding is somewhat necessary. The views down into the crater are unfortunately blocked by the large but old lava dome in the center, but the surrounding peaks in the Nevado de Toluca are visible. From the saddle, Arista de Humboldt is located up the moderate but gentle ridge. An unofficial social trail leads to the summit. Arista de Humboldt has two summits, and both summits are nearly identical in height but the first one is slightly higher and therefore is the true summit.
Advanced mountains require experience, specialized tools and can take multiple days. They have high elevations which require acclimatization. A guide is highly recommended for these ascents as they require much route finding and experience.
Popocatepetl, or Smoking Mountain, is an active stratovolcano and is located in the states of Puebla, Mexico, and Morelos, in Central Mexico, and lies in the eastern half of the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt. It sits at 17,802 feet and is the second tallest mountain in Mexico and can be linked on the saddle of Paso de Cortes with Iztaccíhuatl. It has been active from 2004 to the present day and is the most active volcano in Mexico. The peak no longer has glaciers due to warming temperatures and volcanic activity which has made climbing less technical as there is are no longer crevasses. However, there can be snowfields to cross so proper traction devices, shoes and attire should be worn for this climb.
Iztaccíhuatl is Mexico’s third tallest peak at 17,160 feet, with an elevation gain of 5,120 feet and is also the seventh tallest peak in North America. The name “Iztaccíhuatl” is Nahuatl for “White woman”, reflecting the four individual snow-capped peaks which depict the head, chest, knees, and feet of a sleeping female when seen from east or west and is part of Aztec folklore. The first recorded ascent was made in 1889, though archaeological evidence suggests the Aztecs climbed it previously. It is the lowest peak containing permanent snow and glaciers in Mexico. Most people choose the standard route on Ixta, also known as La Arista del Sol (The Ridge of the Sun). The route climbs past the feet and up the knees across the stomach and onto the breasts of the sleeping woman. The technical level is low, with the crux of the route being a class 2 scree field, but the effects of altitude are commonly felt and climbers often push to the summit too quickly so please respect the altitude and acclimatize properly. There is some snow travel, which is relatively flat but should be done with crampons for increased traction. For more detailed information, visit: https://www.summitpost.org/iztaccihuatl/150193
29. El Pico de Orizaba
El Pico de Orizaba is known as the Star Mountain and is Mexico’s tallest mountain at 18,491 feet and is located near the town of Tlachichuca. The Piedra Grande Hut sits at basecamp and can accommodate 40-60 people free of charge and is a great refuge for your climb. Most fit and able climbing parties can reach the summit in six to ten hours and about half of that time to return to base camp, so it is encouraged to begin at an alpine start. The most popular time to climb is around Christmas, and the dry season runs from November – March. The biggest concern with climbing El Pico de Orizaba is water. There is water near the hut but it must be treated prior to drinking and almost no water sources higher up, meaning you must carry all of the water you will need for the climb. The most popular route is up the Jamapa Glacier which can reach an angle of 35 degrees towards the top, and there is some crevasse danger so roping up with your climbing party, using ice axes and crampons is highly recommended. For more information visit: https://www.summitpost.org/pico-de-orizaba/150192.
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