Having been a hiker all my life and a climbing guide for a good part of it as well, I was naturally drawn to the majestic Sierra Giganta the first time I passed through Loreto 15 or so years ago. When my wife, DeeDee and I decided to try to make Loreto our winter home, we imagined that hiking would be a big part of our lives here. Being from the mountains of the Northeast, our first thoughts were, “there must be tracks and trails going up a number of these incredible peaks.” So we searched for any information about trails and hiking in the area. There was none, just a few paragraphs in the Baja Adventure Guide about an ascent up Pilon Las Parras. The only other hike anyone knew of, it seemed, was Tabor Canyon.
So we decided to start exploring. We thought we’d start on something easy, so we headed just north of town to climb Cerro San Bruno, the large rolling massive between Loreto and Playa San Bruno. The ridgeline looked straightforward enough, so up we went. Three hours of bush whacking later in 90-degree heat we turned around, bloody, dehydrated, and defeated. We had barely reached maybe a quarter of the way up when we were thwarted by several deep gulleys.
Now, realizing that these mountains were not as friendly as they appeared, we set our sights on the canyons. To our amazement, the canyons and arroyos were full of pleasant surprises. What would start out as a dry unassuming arroyo, slowly evolved into a spectacular canyon, with beautiful rock formations, cascades, and waterfalls. We logged each exploration, notated mileages and landmarks, and eventually thought about writing a guidebook. Fifty hikes later (and yes, we did find a way to the top of Cerro San Bruno), the “Hiking Loreto” guidebook is a reality and continues to evolve. We have also included over 20 mountain bike rides in the area. Hikes range from short, easy strolls, to serious all day adventures.
About Hiking in the Desert
First and foremost, you are in a wilderness, there are no trail markers or signs, there is no 911 or Search and Rescue here. A misstep, an injury, losing your way, or any other mishap, can have much more serious consequences than you are used to.
Desert driving skills will be handy for reaching some of the trail heads.
Hike in small groups, as you are likely to see more and disturb less.
Hike early in the day or later in the afternoon when temperatures are cooler.
Wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Sandals and flip-flops are fine for a walk on the beach, but not for hiking. Wear good, sturdy, lightweight hiking shoes. On the mountain hikes, long pants and long sleeve shirts are recommended. Wear a hat for sun protection. Wear sunscreen.
Water is essential, plan on one liter per person for each 90 minutes of hiking time, more for hotter days. A hydration pack is the best way to stay hydrated. Bring food. Fruit is always good and contains water. Don’t bring things that will melt in the hot sun.
Someone in the group should carry a first aid kit and snake bite kit and know how to use them.
Watch out for desert dwellers! Most people are afraid of snakes, but the poisonous variety, rattlesnakes, are almost never seen in the winter months. They only appear when the days get hotter and spring moves into summer. They are active in the evening and morning hours and after a rain shower. They will find the warm surface of a rock or roadway and blend into the color of the rocks. Even then, common sense and caution can help you avoid an encounter. Human accidents occur when you don’t see or hear the snake, when you step on them, or when you walk too close to them. Follow these simple rules to reduce the chance of an accidental snakebite: Be sure to look at eye level as well as down and ahead, as snakes may be sunning on a rock.
Don’t put your hands into dark places, such as rock crevices, heavy brush, or hollow logs, without first investigating. Don’t step over a fallen tree. Step on the log and look to see if there is a snake resting on the other side. Don’t walk through heavy brush or tall grass without looking down. Look where you are walking. Don’t pick up any snake unless you are absolutely positive it is not venomous.Don’t pick up freshly killed snakes without first severing the head. The nervous system may still be active and a dead snake can still deliver a bite!
If the trail wanders, build a small rock cairn or make a mark with chalk to mark the way for your return. Never use any permanent marking system.
Before you head out, be sure to leave your itinerary with someone.
Keep the party together at all times.
Turn back if you get lost or when someone in the party is tired or ill. The goal should not be the summit, but to get everyone back safely.
There are several well-informed local guides who can lead you on any number of exciting hikes. By hiring a local guide, you will see more and learn more about this fascinating place, and you will be helping our local economy.
Find a guide here: hikingloreto.com/guided.htm
Leave no trace, take only photos, hike safely, and have fun!