Guadalajara has its city parks, but none of them can compare with el Cerro de Colli, located at the west end of town not far from the Omnilife Stadium.
Take one step past the end of Calle San Gregorio and lo and behold you find yourself inside Jalisco’s celebrated Bosque la Primavera. You are also at the foot of a celebrated – albeit by few – volcano, which last erupted 27,000 years ago, marking the last gasp of volcanism in the Primavera area.
Years ago, I learned from former Peace Corps Volunteer Barbara Dye that August and September are ideal months for a Colli stroll because the vegetation is lush and your chances of seeing wildflowers are excellent. Those chances are, in fact, doubly good on Colli because the path takes you through two different ecosystems. So, welcome to “Colliflower Season!”
In Dye’s day we visited Colli by hiking up to what she called Orchid Hill and then hiking back down the same trail. “Since Colli marks a tapatio’s closest access point to the Primavera Forest,” I reflected one day, “it really deserves to have a proper ‘interpretive trail’ of its own.”
To find out what sorts of plants and trees are there, I invited botanists Miguel Angel Muñiz and Viacheslav Shalisko to join me on a hike. The walk was most interesting, but, thanks to the many flowers and plants along the trail, it was the slowest I’ve ever been on in my life. Yes, beware of hiking with botanists!
Then I went up there with geologist Chris Lloyd. He not only explained the geology of the place, but also showed me some beautiful new trails I had never seen before. Finally, with the help of Don Márgaro Meza, a self-taught herbalist who knows every inch of this mountain, I found the missing piece I needed to turn the Colli trail into not only one, but two loops: the first 3.2 kilometers long and very easy to follow (with an altitude gain of 177 meters) and the other 4.3 kilometers, taking you to a point 234 meters above where you parked your car. Note that the Long Loop is even more challenging because the trail occasionally vanishes.
The Easy Loop
Go to the corner of Calle San Gregorio and Las Torres. This is 2.5 kilometers south of the Omnilife stadium. There’s plenty of room to park along Las Torres. Walk west to the end of San Gregorio to find the trail head. A rocky path takes you up the mountainside. Here you’ll see several spike-studded ceibas. These are silk-cotton trees and yes, they do produce real cotton bolls!
Along this part of the trail, you may see the Dahlia pinnata (Mexico’s national flower), the red Pitcairnia, which is a kind of bromelia that grows on the ground instead of in a tree crotch, and electric-blue dayflowers, which, as their name suggests, bloom only for a day.
When you reach an altitude of 1,890 meters, you leave the temperate forest and enter a different ecosystem of pines and oaks. You can’t help notice the difference: it’s now cool and shady. Here you can also find smooth-barked madroño trees and an occasional agave bruto, which is used not to make tequila but rope.
The trail swings south and takes you right past Orchid Hill where you might be lucky to see Bletia orchids flowering. As soon as you are well out of the shade, the trail turns west. Here, however, you want to go the opposite way, along one of several trails that head east and then north, completing the loop and taking you back to the rocky trail you came up at the beginning. Along this stretch you may see morning glories and you’ll pass through lots of papelio trees (Bursera) whose bark peels off as thin as onionskin paper. Here you will also come to several lookout points, offering great views of the city. You’ll find this trail on Wikiloc.com under “Colli Easy Loop.”
The Long Loop
To do this, you’ll need GPS help. You can download the track (Colli Long Loop) from Wikiloc.com. The trail is often faint, sometimes invisible, but the scenery along the way is wonderful. Better bring along a second GPS just in case!