Mexico City is a beautiful, chaotic, art-filled city with endless activity options. While there are green areas and parks interspersed throughout the urban jungle, it can be nice to escape a bit and go hiking. After living in Mexico City for almost a year total, I can say that the following 6 hiking day trips to take from Mexico City are some of the very best.
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Some of the places I’m about to mention are kind of far from Mexico City. I would highly recommend renting a car (if you’re a confident driver), or finding a bus. If neither of these options work for you I would suggest Uber although that will likely be more expensive. Regardless these hikes are definitely worth it and some are very close to (or in the middle of) some of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos. Pueblos Magicos means Magic Towns, and the name is very fitting as they are quite magical.
Los Arcos, or ‘The Arches’ of Tepotzotlan are absolutely stunning. You will be shocked at the wide open spaces and lush green hills surrounding you, especially if you’ve been in the centre of Mexico City for a while. This area gets it’s name from the arches that hold up a variety of huge, old, aqueducts.
The hike starts out by trekking along the longest section of aqueduct. Next, you follow a variety of paths and can stop for a break in some small open meadows. There are also hanging bridges and more sections of aqueduct to walk across as well. Not only that but there are also zip lines that you can ride. I didn’t ride one when I was there but it only costs 100 pesos to whip above the valley and forests below.
Another highlight of going to Los Arcos de Tepotzotlán is that you can also visit the main town of Tepotzotlán on your way back. Tepotzotlán is one of Mexico’s historic Magic Towns (Pueblos Magicos). So what makes it magical? One thing I loved in this Magic Town was the architecture. There is a beautiful church you can see, and although we didn’t get to go inside while we were there, I believe you are allowed to during certain hours. There is also an Ex Convent behind the church that is stunning as well. I loved the architecture outside of it but it was closing for tours just as we got there.
If you’re a fan of waterfalls you will love the Velo de Novia hike located on the outskirts of Valle de Bravo. Velo de Novia literally means, ‘Veil of the Bride’ and it is well worth the hike. I visited with my husband, Arturo, and his family a few months ago and had an amazing time. The hike took us down into a small, wooded valley and right up to the gorgeous, cascading waterfall that the hike is named after.
After you partake in the Velo de Novia hike, I would highly suggest you stick around Valle de Bravo for a little longer. It’s basically an oasis near Mexico City and is home to a large lake as well. You can go for boat rides or even try paddle boarding there. We went on a short boat tour and it was simply breathtaking.
I actually wrote an entire blog post about Las Grutas de la Estrella that you can read here. In fact, I even made a video about my time there too. Las Grutas de la Estrella literally means The Caves of the Star and the area is truly magical.
To start off, you walk down a series of wide, stone, steps through a jungly forest. When you reach the bottom of the lush valley, you are greeted by a gurgling creek and the cave entrance. Next you wait for the next cave tour and follow your guide and your group through the caves. The caves are filled with stalagmites and stalactites and many of the cave walls have a purple glow to them. There are lights that illuminate spaces in the caves for you and plenty of bridges and tall balconies to look at the stream way below. One of the tour options even takes people swimming through the cold cave water and up hiking the caves at a different entrance.
Apparently people often come to meditate in the caves because of the pure silence and darkness inside them. At one point during our tour, our guide told us to turn off all our phones and flashlights and just sit in stillness and silence for a full minute. It was kind of eerie at first but I felt very peaceful after.
The Desierto de los Leones, or ‘Desert of the Lions’ is a beautiful area full of forests, a variety of artisan stalls and shops and a huge Ex Convent. The Ex Convent is absolutely gorgeous and was a contender as a wedding venue for Arturo and I when we were engaged. After strolling through the Ex Convent, I would highly recommend hiking through the forest a bit.
The hike starts out down a steep path fairly close to the Ex Convent. After going down the dirt steps, surrounded by tall, leafy trees the path opens up to a creek. You can walk alongside the creek or even over top of it on a small dam. The Desierto de los Leones is absolutely stunning and is the closest of all these hikes to Mexico City, making it a convenient and relaxing getaway.
Malinalco is another of Mexico’s ‘Pueblos Magicos’ or Magic Towns. The hike to Cerro de los Idolos, or Hill of the Idols, is absolutely breathtaking. To get to the entrance of the hill, you must first walk through part of Malinalco. The small town sits at the base of the hill (although it should really be called a mountain). The hike inclines quite a bit before you even reach the entrance, since Malinalco’s town has grown right up the base of the mountain.
Once you reach the entrance, you pay a small fee, and can hike up the Cerro de los Idolos. Be sure to bring plenty of water and reef safe sunscreen on this hike as it is quite steep and very hot. As you hike up over 400 stone stairs, you will be dazzled by the views of surrounding mountains and the town down below. The hike and town are also overflowing with bright flowers in plenty of different colors.
At the top of Cerro de los Idolos you will realize why the mountain gets its’ unique name. It is actually home to what’s called ‘Cuauhtinchan’ which is a set of Aztec ruins. It is home to a small pyramid and temple. In fact, the temple is known to be the only Aztec monolithic temple in the world. This means the temple was set up here to only honor one god. You will also notice eagle and jaguar pelt statues. This is because Cuauhcalli literally means ‘House of Eagles’ and this is the site where it was thought that eagles and jaguars would feed the sun god, Huitzilopochtli, their own blood. You can read more about the history of Malinalco and Cuauhtinchan by reading this article I wrote for Roaming Love.
Bernal is another one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (Magic Towns) and is overflowing with beautiful shops hiding beneath colorful flowers. It’s also quite close to Tequisquiapan which is also a Magic Town and just as quaint. Bernal is also home to La Peña de Bernal which is the third-largest monolith in the world.
A monolith, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is ‘a single great stone often in the form of an obelisk or column.’ Looking at la Peña de Bernal, you wouldn’t think that it’s just one piece of giant rock. It really looks like a volcanic mountain or something. When I visited Bernal and Tequisquiapan, I unfortunately did not have time to hike this beautiful monolith. However I know some people who have and I can only imagine just how beautiful the views are.
Have you been on any good hikes near Mexico City? I’d love to hear about other good hiking spots you think I should check out. If I’m missing a good one from this list, please leave a comment and let me know where I should hike next!
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.