Outside Guadalajara

The Huaxtla Car and Bike Route
A Scenic Drive Par Excellence

By John Pint

One fine day in July, we stumbled upon a country road which possibly constitutes the single most beautiful drive in the Guadalajara area. It’s a 25-kilometer stretch north of town, connecting highways 23 and 54 and overlooking spectacular Huaxtla Canyon. It also takes you to no end of hiking, biking, picnicking and even canyoneering sites.

The first half of the drive is well-known to Tapatios who love nature and hiking. A short drive from the northwestern Periférico gets you onto highway 23 heading for San Cristóbal and Jerez. Only 17 kilometers from Tesistán, you turn onto the narrow but well paved road leading to the pueblito of Huaxtla. Suddenly you find yourself surrounded by green hills dotted with curiously shaped rocks, some of which very much resemble the famous Piedras Bolas of Ahualulco.

If you like rocks, you'll love Huaxtla!

A couple more kilometers downhill open up breathtaking views of lush, green Huaxtla canyon below you and stark red cliffs towering above you. Stop at any of several parking turnouts and gaze upon a magnificent 120-meter-high waterfall (Be sure to catch it in the rainy season).

Photo courtesy of Sergi GomezPhoto courtesy of Sergi Gomez

Here you’ll find a trail (at 13 Q 666091 2316065) heading down to a place where people take dramatic dives off high rock walls into deep, cool pools. Just Google “Huaxtla” and “jump” to see some hilarious belly flops performed here.


These are photos taken by Sergi Gomez (from Catalonia) during a recent canyoneering trip in Huaxtla.


Other trails lead to high lookout points or to gorgeous green meadows and meandering streams. Here’s a quick description of one such hike site:

The Nipple Nursery

This hike is only half a kilometer long, but the area is so fascinating you could easily spend several hours exploring it. Park at 13 Q 665340 2315503 and head south from the road following an arroyo to an utterly charming meadow, the perfect place for a picnic lunch. Above the meadow you can see a striking amate fig tree (Ficus petiolaris) near a small boulder cave. Continuing up the arroyo, you pass small pools of smoky-colored agua zarca and you may notice a balanced rock on the steep slope high above you.

Leave the stream and walk east, uphill, to arrive at large rocks upon which many small “nipple cacti” are growing.


Left: Hiking in the meadows

Right: Mammillaria jaliscana cactus.


These cute little things are round and just over an inch in diameter and go by the scientific name of Mammillaria jaliscana. They are abundant in this area thanks to some help from our botanist friends who like to sprinkle cactus seeds on the rocks. Upslope, you’ll see a lonely red papelillo tree with paper-like bark, said to be one of the sources of copal incense. Here the hike ends unless you fell like going on farther to explore on your own. By the way, be careful about taking a dip in any of the stream pools around here, unless you enjoy picking sanguijuelas (leeches) off your body!

Huaxtla’s Unique Plaza

At 6.7 kilometers from the highway, you are in Huaxtla, the only town I’ve ever seen with a shady, bubbling brook smack in the middle of its plaza. From this plaza, a 15-kilometer road heading southeast continues above Huaxtla Canyon and offers great views of the Santiago River far, far, below you.

The Rio Santiago in all its glory.


The road is in fine shape, but you have to weave around numerous rocks (some quite large) which have fallen onto it recently.



Fallen rocks plus bones of hiker who happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Along the way, you will cross a nice-looking boulder stream and numerous places good for hiking.

One of these is at 13 Q 669166 2314369 and features green meadows decorated with blue-blossomed negrito trees (Vitex pyramidata). The ground is covered with rather curious boulders and rocks, including jasperoid. It’s hard to believe this idyllic, peaceful scene is only 22 kilometers from a noisy, bustling metropolis.


Pedro Fernandez Somellera magnetically drawn to charming negrito tree.


Fifteen kilometers from highway 23 you come to Rancho Soledad, which is well hidden behind a high, ugly, stone wall. here you will cross a bridge over a busy river (13 Q 669827 2311520). From this point on, the road is asphalted and in pristine condition.

Soledad River

Since the scenery is great and there’s practically no traffic (on a weekday, anyhow), this seems like an idea place for bicycles, whether racing or mountain. The highest point along the way is at the turnoff from Highway 23 (1460 meters altitude) and the lowest is at the bridge (930 meters). Bikers could be picked up by their friends at Ixcatán.

If you are driving, a high-clearance vehicle is recommended, especially for the one and only mud hole we found on this route.

How to Get There

(Green = See GPS coordinates below)

Take the road for Tesistán from the northwest Periférico near Belenes. Drive north toward Tesistán about 8 kilometers and turn right onto highway 23 (hopefully signposted) to San Cristóbal and Jerez. After 17 km, turn right again onto Huaxtla Road (again, hopefully signposted). It’s 23.5 kilometers to Ixcatán via the little town of Huaxtla. Driving time from the Periférico to the Huaxtla turnoff: about half an hour.

Turn onto Huaxtla Road from highway 23: 13 Q 663150 2315350
End of route (Pickup Point) at Highway 54: 13 Q 672908 2306828

The rocks falling onto the road come in all sizes!


Hiking in Huaxtla Canyon


Eden-like private pool next to noisy, ugly, Huaxtla town balneario (swimming pool)