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Mountain Biking on the Nevado de Toluca Volcano

The Nevado de Toluca volcano (aka Xinantecatl) dominates the horizon beyond the city of Toluca in central Mexico.

pp volcano from servicios aeros

At 15,354 feet (4,680 meters), it’s the fourth largest mountain in Mexico and about 1,000 feet higher than Mt. Whitney in California, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States.

A road goes all the way up to the rim of the crumbling, extinct crater. Inside are two deep cold lakes and great views of steep mountain slopes.

In downtown Toluca, next to the center square of churches and government buildings, Don Quixote points right at the Pico de Fraile, the highest point of the wide crater:

pointing statue volcano

Of all the great mountain biking spots around the city, the volcano is the greatest. I’ve ridden all over it, but last week was the first time I rode from my apartment downtown all the way up to the crater, and then all the way down on trails and two-tracks. Including a few short breaks, it took eight hours.

Past the tree line, the walls of the crater are barren and rocky:

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volcan 8

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It took more than five hours just to get to the crater. Then we started the descent. You can see Toluca off in the distance:

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From here we’re about halfway back to the city. The volcano looms behind:

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My friends from cycling club Escarabajos Toluca and I have been training hard for ACA Bike, a 390-km ride from Toluca in Acapulco in November. Each weekend we do long road rides around the city.

I like road riding, but I missed mountain biking. Maybe road riding reminds me too much of commuting every day by bicycle. Or maybe it lacks the adventurous unknowns of mountain biking.

However or wherever you do it, cycling is a great activity. It’s growing fast in Mexico. If you live in Mexico and want some advice, please leave a comment below.

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And in other news, the president of Mexico recently removed the designation of the Nevado de Toluca as a national park. Was this done, as those responsible claim, to ensure better protection of this important natural area? Or was it done, as many others claim, as a way to further exploit the resources of the area?

We’ll have to wait and see. So far all the news is in Spanish, but here are some links to more information about these new developments:

Peña Nieto quita al Nevado de Toluca la categoría de Parque Nacional

Los cambios en el Nevado de Toluca, en un gráfico

Toluca la Bella – Beautiful Toluca

Toluca used to be known as Toluca la Bella. Nowadays few Mexicans would say that – even those who live here, and especially those who don’t live here but may have traveled though industrial outskirts or hit a few potholes on the maze of highways that suddenly become clogged three lane streets, with the two lanes on the side full of illegally parked cars.

But I say Toluca is beautiful. At those beautiful moments I never have my camera, but sometimes I do. These are the pictures from those moments. From my roof (azotea) you can see Toluca’s big volcano Xinantectl:

One of four churches whose bells are within earshot. This one is especially loud at 6 AM:

This one is louder:

I work here, sometimes:

A stroll through downtown, also at sunset:

The Cosmovitral:

Los Portales:

La Vaquita Negra:

Just have to throw a mountain biking shot in here:

Interesting way to sell aquariums:

I took this one through the lense of a telescope on my roof:

Toluca Volcano Photos

Volcán Nevado de Toluca



The volcano Xinantecatl, commonly known as Nevado de Toluca, is the third largest mountain in Mexico (15,354 ft or 4,680 m) and about 1,000 feet higher than Mt. Whitney in California, the highest in the contiguous United States. You can drive right close to the top and then walk up to the crater or hike through the forest below.

On this occasion, late November of 2011, friends from my mountain biking group Escarabajos Toluca and I hiked up to one of the summits. From there you can see all of the Toluca valley and the two lakes in the crater.

You can see Toluca way down there:

A beautiful clear day!

On a clear day like this you can see the two huge volcanoes between Mexico City and Puebla: Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl.

I brought my bike and my friends left me at the top. First I rode around the crater to one of the lakes.

Then I found where the trail diverged and went down, down, down:

Many trails led though the mixed forest eventually to near the Zacango Zoo near Metepec.

If was about two hours (and more than a few millimeters off my brake pads) from the top of the volcano to where I finally left the forest.

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