A Three-Day Trek into the Heart and Soul of Baja’s Cowboy Country
By Mike Brozda
4 min Video of Hike – filmed and narrated by Mike Brozda
Day 1 – 4:00 AM: Our hike started up the west face of the Sierra de la Laguna. Sunrise finally reached us at about 9 in the morning.
Underfoot, my boots toss up three-foot-high puffs of fine, powdery moon dust with every step. In the darkness ahead of me, the headlamps of my five hiking companions bob through the darkness while the stars remain fixed in the sky. We’re starting early to avoid hiking during the heat of the desert day.
I am suspended between earth and space, trudging up the 45-degree flanks of a mountain called Picacho. We’re located roughly in the center of a hundred mile long triangle. To the south is trendy Cabo San Lucas. To our north are the gritty, sprawling working-class neighborhoods of La Paz, the state capitol of Baja California Sur. Tiny Todos Santos sits snuggled up against the western flank of this peak.
Day 2: The view from the top of 7090 foot tall Picacho. We’re facing the Pacific; by simply turning around we can view the Sea of Cortez
This is the first day of a three-day trek to the top of Picacho. Our guide is Fernando Arteche, whose family has owned the top of this peak as well as thousands of surrounding acres, for more than 100 years.
Fernando is soft-spoken, with a degree in business and a flawless command of English. Fernando’s family literally owns the top of Picacho and the more than 5,000 acres surrounding this magnificent peak. He spends as much time as possible in these mountains and probably knows them better than anyone.
Our goal is the top of Picacho and the surrounding areas: meadows, springs, pine and oak woodlands all vastly different from the desert floor cactus only a few miles away.
Hiking Your Way
There are many ways to structure your hiking experience. Some trekkers use the do-it-yourself approach. They strap on their own backpack loaded with all their supplies.
For us we preferred to utilize the services of local rancheros who rent their mules for the round trip. Mules carried our supplies up the mountain. A rough rule of thumb is that one mule can carry the gear of two people; in other words about 80 to 90 pounds total. If you attempt carry much more than this (as we did), the mule owner may have to travel back to the rancho to pick up another animal. Your gear will arrive in camp several hours later than you may have originally planned.
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When to Go: The best hiking and camping season is November through April. It’s possible to hike anytime of year but temperatures can make the trip challenging in hotter/wetter months. Nights can get very cold.
What to Bring: Bring layered clothing (nights can get cold and days hot), sunscreen, sunglasses, a protective hat and plenty of food and water (and purification tablets or a water filter). Comfortable and supportive shoes are a must. Bring a tent and warm sleeping bag, stove and cooking utensils, a medical kit and personal items. LED headlamps are nice to have if you leave early. Don’t forget your camera. At the time of this writing (mid 2012), there are no active springs at lower elevations. You WON’T find water until you reach the summit camp, where there are several springs. You may need to carry 4 liters or more if the weather is very hot.
Cost: Ranges from from $10 to $200 per person for a 2 night trip, depending on guide(s), food, mules and park pass.
Worth Mentioning: Follow the rules of desert travel. Start very early during the cool of the day. Let someone know where you are going, and when you plan to return. Carry a basic medical kit. The trail is steep, often sandy, and extremely rocky near the summit. Wear sturdy boots. Several members of our group mentioned that hiking poles would be a good idea.
How to Get There: The starting point of the hike is a little tricky to find. It’s recommended you go with a guide or someone that has done this hike before your first time.
View Hiking and Camping Sierra de Laguna in a larger map
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