Hiking in Mexico City: a peak experience beyond the tourist trail

Several mountains are within striking distance of Mexico City. Nevado de Toluca, Mexico’s fourth-highest mountain, rises to the southwest. To the east, climbers can try their luck on the Paso de Cortés, which cuts through the two towering volcanoes Hernán Cortés traveled through when he first saw the Valley of Mexico. Then there’s the closest of the bunch: Ajusco, a nearly 13,000-foot dormant volcano that is actually within the city limits.

Though it’s not impossible to take buses and taxis to Ajusco’s trailheads, the road to the mountain has a reputation for being dangerous and can be complicated if you don’t know the way. If you feel in the mood for a hike, hire a driver who knows the route and can wait for you while you hike.

Tackling Ajusco requires a reasonable level of fitness. Depending on where you start the trail, the entire hike could take up to six hours, so make sure you set aside enough time so you won’t be rushed. Because of the relative remoteness of the mountain, it’s probably best to hike with at least one other person.

Mexico City lies more than 7,000 feet above sea level. The hike up Ajusco includes 4,000 feet of gain, and with the already heightened elevation, it can be more strenuous than flat-landers might expect. Give yourself a few days to acclimate before tackling any mountaineering, and make sure to take plenty of water and sunscreen.

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