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Last updateMon, 21 Jan 2019 12pm

The thick, luxuriant foliage of the Passion River Nature Trail

Río de la Pasión (Passion River) is 22 kilometers long and for much of its length serves as a wiggly border between the states of Jalisco and Michoacán.

It’s also distinguished as one of very few rivers that carry water into Lake Chapala. In my opinion, however, the most remarkable thing about this river is its extraordinary beauty, because the entire length of the Passion River is home to countless ahuehuetes, Montezuma cypresses. This, of course, is Mexico’s national tree (Taxodium mucronatum) which, in this river, hosts the most abundant and gorgeous Spanish moss I’ve seen so far in Mexico.

If you find yourself on the south side of Lake Chapala, you can easily reach some of the river’s scenic spots from the town of Tizapán, but if you want to see the best displays of Spanish moss, you have to head upriver.

Student Karen Colón wanted to photograph some Spanish moss for a school assignment, so we headed south from Tizapán along a paved road that goes all the way to San José de Gracia, mostly paralleling the Passion River. About ten kilometers from Tizapán, we stopped next to the narrow footbridge that crosses the river. Here we got some good pictures of the majestic old cypresses lightly sprinkled with Spanish moss.

“This is nice,” I told Karen and my other friends. “But you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

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About 20 kilometers south of Tizapán, we turned east onto a sometimes paved sometimes dirt road leading to Ecoturismo Río de la Pasión. A five-kilometer drive (okay for all vehicles) brought us to this recreational center up on top of a hill, which features cabins, a museum, campgrounds and Mexico’s only “interstate zipline,” a series of tirolesas two kilometers long taking you from Michoacán to Jalisco and back again.

“We heard there’s a trail from here to the river,” we told one of the staff members named José.

“Yes,” he replied. “The trail is a loop that takes you down to the valley below us and back up here to Ecoturismo.”

José showed us the trailhead, assuring us “que no hay pierde” (you can’t possibly get lost), a phrase my friends and I have heard many times before.

“You can’t get lost?” replied my neighbor Miguel. “Is there phone reception down there? What’s your mobile number?”

Ready for anything, we started walking down one of the most curious “paths” I’ve ever been on. It was smooth, hard and wide enough for two cars to pass each other, but completely natural. What we were walking on was tepetate, a volcanic “rock” which is somewhat hard but easy to chisel. It was tepetate that the ancient inhabitants of Mexico looked for when they wanted to make big pits for fermenting the sweet juice of the roasted agave.

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We followed this luxury trail 650 meters down to the valley floor where it instantly changed into a normal, narrow footpath that took us through thick, luxuriant foliage filled with wildflowers to the riverside.

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This was heaven for Spanish moss lovers – the trees were simply dripping with it! We explained to Karen that this heno, as it’s called in Spanish, is not a parasite and simply uses the tree as a support to hang from, and, like tree orchids, this amazing epiphyte, a kind of bromeliad, lives on nothing but the water and dirt particles floating in the air, and, in fact, is one of the most famous of the “air plants.”

After taking lots of photos, we continued along the trail, stopping here and again to figure out where the trail had gone, glancing nervously at the sun, which was approaching the end of its journey across the sky.

“No hay pierde!” we all shouted, forging ahead and following our noses ... and, sure enough, after passing a picturesque little lake, we came to the trail heading back up to the Ecoturismo Center.

The entire loop turned out to be exactly two kilometers long and the walk took about 90 minutes with lots of stops for photos. The difference in elevation, by the way, between the Center and the valley floor is 78 meters. This is the sort of caminata the whole family can enjoy – and not to be missed by those who love Spanish moss. Don’t forget the bug repellent, though!

If you’d like to spend the night in one of the cabins, check out the Facebook page “Ecoturismo Río de la Pasión.”

How to get there

Take the Colima highway out of Guadalajara and get on the road to Jocotepec. Skirt the lake and when you reach what Google Maps calls “Las Vaqueritas Nacional Poniente” (N20.16025 W103.06474), just before Tizapán, turn right onto Camino a la Hacienda. Then take the first right (Carretera a Tizapán) and follow the main road south. When you’ve driven 19.5 kilometers from Las Vaqueritas you’ll see the signposted road to Ecoturismo Río de la Pasión. Turn east here (N20.02489 W103.03122) and drive 5.5 kilometers to the Center. Here, ask anyone for the “Camino al Río.” You can see the car route on Wikiloc.com under “Tizapan to Ecoturismo Pasion” and the walking trail under “Caminata de la Pasion.” Driving time from Guadalajara to Ecoturismo: about three hours, but only 90 minutes from Jocotepec.

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