If ever you are looking for a short hike through a beautiful landscape to a mirador with a great view, just head for San Juan Evangelista on the shores of La Laguna de Cajititlán.
If you are going there by car, this site has two more distinct advantages: first, the roads are nicely paved all the way and, second, the parking spot is on private property and safe.
I can mention another plus: when you get home, you can tell your friends you were out “climbing Cerro Viejo,” Jalisco’s second-highest mountain. Just don’t say you reached the top (2,960 meters) because the Glowing Rock is only 1,755 meters above sea level, but it is a peak of sorts, atop one of Cerro Viejo’s most beautiful foothills.
Cajititlán Lagoon is located 20 kilometers south of Guadalajara and 14 north of Lake Chapala. Each of the three little towns on its southern shore specializes in a different craft. In San Miguel, they make rope out of agave fibers — by hand, of course. The next town, San Lucas, produces molcajetes and metates hewn from the local basalt rock. Finally, San Juan Evangelista is home to some of Jalisco’s most talented potters.
A few days ago, I drove to San Juan with several friends who love hiking. Our meeting place was Rancho El Tamarindo, which lies at the south end of the pueblito and was dead easy to find. “Just look for a three-story building,” said Franky Álvarez, who had organized the hike. “It’s the only one around.”
A three-story ranch house? Well, it was true, and on its flat roof we found a beautiful terraza with a glorious view. This ranch also comes with a newly-built temazcal (sauna or sweat lodge), where we found San Juan’s master potter Martín Navarro, just beginning to paint the outside. The inside walls are already decorated in a surreal style that would no doubt add a lot to the steam-bath ceremony.
“How many of you want to have a carne asada after you get back from the hike?” we were asked. Most of us were for it and paid 120 pesos each to the owner of the ranch, Toño Sigala, who also turned out to be our guide up the Cerro.
From the rancho, we walked to a narrow bridge spanning a newly built section of the Macrolibramiento (outer Guadalajara ring road), which now parallels the shore of the Cajititlán Lagoon. The view from the center of the bridge was a bit bizarre because the massive superhighway stretched off into the distance in both directions without a car or human being to be seen anywhere. Once it is filled with noisy traffic and exhaust fumes, I fear it will be the beginning of the end for the flora and fauna of these foothills and, of course, the Primavera Forest, which it will “skirt.”
After crossing the bridge, we found ourselves on a slope which was lush and green but not overgrown, thanks to the “natural paving” of an outcrop of smooth volcanic rock, which continues far up the hill. This makes for easy walking, but it also means there’s no obvious path to follow. Better bring along a guide from Rancho El Tamarindo!
After hiking two kilometers from our cars, we reached Mirador Número Uno, a large, lonely rock in a clearing on a cliff edge. This lookout is a good spot for a picnic. There is plenty of shade from papelillo trees and you may even find a copal, the tree from which native people got incense for their ceremonies … and, of course, the view of the lake is stupendous.
Those who want to do more hiking can descend to visit Franky’s Hideaway, a spooky little arroyo with a tall rainy-season-only waterfall at the end. They can also continue another 233 meters uphill to The Piedra Luminosa or Glowing Rock, so-called because of the bright, multicolored lichen growing all over it. Here we enjoyed not only a great panoramic view, but also a brisk breeze which felt wonderfully refreshing on our sweaty bodies.
Upon our return to Rancho el Tamarindo, we were treated to delicious cold agua de tuna (prickly pear juice) as well as to tender steak, spicy chorizo, guacamole, nopalitos and yellow peppers stuffed with cheese.
If you have a bit of time left over after the delightful hike and tasty meal, you might want to stop in town to check out the marvelous ceramic creations of the local potters – you won’t be disappointed!
How to get there
From Guadalajara, take Highway 54 south towards Colima. After 18 kilometers you will reach the Cuatas gas station. Pass it slowly and look for a sign saying Tlajomulco. Turn right and you will soon be going over the bridge crossing the highway. Now drive about 14 kilometers southeast to a sign announcing San Juan Evangelista (N20.42054 W103.38844). Turn right and go 7.8 kilometers southeast to San Juan. If you’re coming from Chapala, go to the Burritos de Moyahua Restaurant and drive southwest: it’s less than ten kilometers to San Juan! In San Juan, take Morelos street 555 meters south to where it ends. Turn right and go 50 meters. Here you’ll see the three-story ranch building (N20.39849 W103.31763). The trail head is on the other side of the macrolibramiento at N20.38989 W103.31574. Before you hike, check the trail on Wikiloc.com under “Piedra Luminosa Cerro Viejo.” Driving time from the Guadalajara Periferico: about an hour; less from Lake Chapala.
Unfortunately, Rancho El Tamarindo is not well enough established yet to have its own phone, but, if you speak Spanish, you can contact the owner, Antonio Sigala at cellphone (33) 1218 3047 (also on Whatsapp). English-only speakers could call Franky Alvarez at CELL 333 815 4696.