By Dave Kelly and Trudi Angell
No visit to Loreto is complete without a trip to historic San Javier, it’s peaceful village, and magnificent mission. On the scenic drive from Loreto, you’ll pass several working ranches, many that welcome visitors. Visiting a local ranch is a wonderful experience. The ranches are fully operational, and the ranchers friendly. You’ll get to wander with goats, horses, mules, and chickens, learn how to make goat cheese, and be able to hike on these historic properties. You can even arrange overnight mule trips!
There are several ranches close to San Javier that offer some wonderful short or long hikes on their properties. One that has been very open to visits of all kinds is Rancho Viejo, located about 25.5 Km from Loreto on the road to San Javier. Its perfect location allows for some great outside activities on your way to or from the village. Check out the mural painted by Uli Martinez in 2018 as part of a project called ElColorDeLaMemoria.com. The ranch owners are Juan Bautista Romero and his wife “Chari.” They have attended to many groups for goat cheese tours in the past. Sometimes, with a bit of notice, you can arrange for a meal at the ranch.
Park by the mesquite in front of the mural, then call over the fence into the palm-thatch corridor area to let them know you have arrived and would like to park and take a hike on the property. Pay $50 pesos per person or $100 pesos per car. If you have a dog, let them know and they will tie up Sheriff, their cute black and white pit-bull to avoid any territory issues. There is also a bathroom outside the garden gates (green and red doors) for convenience.
If Yurem is there, Tista and Chari’s grandson, he can accompany you on the hike and you’ll have a great trail guide! He’s a teenager and loves to talk about the ranch and the animals. There are loop trails, trails with views, and trails that take you to springs. Ask for a map. You can camp overnight on the property too. Just ask. They’ll direct you to a good spot and may charge you a bit extra to camp.
Another ranch nearby is Rancho Chula Vista, located across the riverbed on the west side of the road. The ranch is about 500 meters from the road at the Rancho Chula Vista sign. This ranch offers a starting point for a long loop trip along an original section of El Camino Real. Four to five miles as a loop, a bit rough and rugged on parts of the old trail and no water along the route. About two miles of the loop is on a part of the well-traveled dirt road that goes to Comondú. The owners of the ranch are Victor Véliz and his wife, Manuela. They will point you in the right direction. Cairns will mark the trail. Part of the trail is on their property, and you can park at the ranch for a fee. This route can also be accessed from Rancho Viejo, as much of the route is part of that ranch’s property.
Be sure to bring water, good walking shoes, sunscreen and a camera!