By Dave Kelly, co-author of “Hiking Loreto”
If there is a heart of the Sierra Giganta, the Emerald City arroyo is one of its major arteries. Close to Loreto and just off the San Javier road, this hike is relatively easy at the beginning and most hikers can easily reach the first waterfall without too much difficulty. Beyond the first major falls, the hiking becomes difficult and should only be attempted by experienced hikers who are good at steep scrambling. Take Highway Mexico 1 to the San Javier road. Turn and drive approximately 6 miles to the first major arroyo crossing. In most years, in winter, there is water at this crossing. Park and head upstream, left, ducking under a barb wire fence.
In the water season this remarkable arroyo lives true to its name as streams of emerald green water braid across its wider portions. Within about one mile from the parking spot, the arroyo narrows and a series of waterfalls begins that make this such a beautiful hike. As the arroyo narrows, passage becomes more difficult and requires scrambling up a sloping rock slab on the left side. More scrambling leads to an impressive waterfall and swimming hole. This is a good place to stop and take in the falls, let the spray cool you and think about whether to continue or turn around.
There is steep, exposed passage to the left. This is where extreme caution and an honest assessment of your group’s abilities are necessary. A fall here is likely to produce very unpleasant consequences. This piece is especially difficult and exposed on the descent. Above the big falls the arroyo continues from broad and level to narrow as it cuts through the many igneous dikes that cross its path.
There is waterfall after waterfall, all of differing sizes and descriptions. Water cuts through rock making circular pools that boil and swirl depending on water flow. Side arroyos and canyons branch from the main trunk. Each bend reveals new obstacles and hidden treasures. Only time and endurance limit the exploration as the arroyo climbs step after step in to the Sierra Giganta, until it reaches its upper limits in a broad collection basin.
Find this hike and more in the Hiking Loreto guide book, available in Loreto at: The Rick Jackson Gallery, Caballo Blanco bookstore, Geckos Curios and Gavilon.
Also available on line at HikingLoreto.com and through Discover Baja