By Kennia Coronel
Beyond the city limits of La Paz, an intricate system of dirt roads and single trails spreads through the desert connecting rancherias, beaches and little towns. Through these old paths, rancheros used to travel to visit other communities hidden like oases in the middle of nowhereand still herd their scarce cattle.
This system, with no visible marks other than the footprints of many, is excellent for truly enjoying nature and it explains why, in recent years, hiking and mountain biking near La Paz have become popular.
A good place near La Paz to practice hiking and mountain biking activities is the area around "La Presa de la Buena Mujer" (Good Woman's Dam). The structure was built by the government in 1987 to prevent floods and to help restore the groundwater deposits, the main water supply for the city. The Dam is located on the outskirts of the Sierra de la Cacachia, a small mountain range that reaches 400 meters above sea level.
Only a short distance from the city, following Highway 286 towards La Ventana, a sign on the right side of the highway marks the entrance to the Dam. After traveling on a dirt road for ¼ of a mile, visitors arrive at the gate.
View from the top
The walk to the dam from the gate is a good warm up for the hike that starts by crossing to the other end of the massive structure and continues on a winding dirt path uphill. Among my favorite sights are the many wild fig trees that grow between rocks and seem to be hugging them with their massive roots. Other plants like palo de arco and cacti species like cardones and biznagas abound. The region is also populated by large lizards, snakes, hares, California quails and hawks. The hike takes around 30 minutes to the top where the view of La Paz bay, the city and the surrounding dry river banks cutting through the land is a great background for a picnic. Make sure you carry plenty of water and follow the leave no trace philosophy. Also take note that there are no facilities near the Dam.
If you prefer mountain biking, you can start your ride at the gate and choose one of the numerous single trails that spread through the lower hills. Most routes are moderate in difficulty and they are about one hour to an hour and a half long, with the possibility of making your own combinations. There is a mountain biking association in La Paz that has held many races in the area and the paths are well marked. Some expert friends commented the routes had the best single trails in the area.
In the hot months of summer in Baja, it is wise to avoid venturing into the desert where temperatures can easily get past 100 degrees. But as soon as the weather starts cooling off (between October and April), it is time to get out and enjoy the trails.
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