In August we hiked 70 k (42 miles) through the Pueblos Mancomunados of Oaxaca, México in the pine-covered Sierra Norte mountains where elevations reached more than 10,000 ft. The Pueblos are eight small villages that work together to host “a network of walking and biking trails, linking the villages” in a large system of pathways.
The map shows our 4-day route.
Along the way, we saw vestiges of the colonial era.
The local farmers and ranchers grow agave to form “natural” fences.
Agave can live to be 20-30 years old depending on the species. Some are used to make tequila, mezcal, or pulque (an ancient beer). As you can see, they can be enormous.
The Sierra Norte range doesn’t look like the stereotypical Mexico of beaches or deserts. The mountains are covered with pines and often shrouded in mist.
Snake-like cacti hang from the cliffs.
Barbas viejas (old beards, or what we call Spanish moss) sway in the Valley of the Ghosts.
An old abandoned mine along the way. The mine’s accounting records are still sitting in the nearby shack that served as an office.
To provide local employment, you have to hire guides for each part of the hike. Various agencies offer 1-7 day treks and take care of this for you. We hiked with a great agency called Tierraventura. The owner and main-guide was nice enough to let us practice Spanish with him.
The pueblos are scattered throughout the mountains. Old adobe houses and colonial cathedrals coexist with modern rebar/concrete homes and municipal buildings. For the most part, the small village vibe is preserved. According to our guide, the Pueblos Mancomunados system has been successful at preserving the environment and providing local revenue and serves as an ecotourism model.
We stayed in small cabins along the way. Surprisingly, they all had hot water and fireplaces. We ate simple, local food in family restaurants along the route.
We enjoyed the hiking and the scenery and recommend checking the pueblos out.
An aside – if you like mushrooms, our guides picked up bags of chanterelles and trumpet and emperor mushrooms along the way. “Magic” mushrooms abound…they apparently grow on cow dung. Most of the mushrooms, like the one above, will kill you…so we passed.