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Located in the southern end of Baja California, between La Paz and Los Cabos, the Sierra de La Laguna is a very unique region with an extension of 112,437 hectares that includes a mix of rugged mountains, canyons, and vast dry plains.
Proclaimed a protected biosphere by UNESCO in 1994, the Sierra la Laguna Biosphere Reserve constitutes an area of great biodiversity, it is the only coniferous forest, palm grove, scrub, and pine-oak forests in the state and the only rain forest on the Baja California peninsula. (Source)
This beautiful area with spectacular contrasting landscape attracts visitors from all over the world who wants to explore its narrow trails to hike and camp.
The Sierra de la Laguna was the first stop of my 2 weeks road trip itinerary around Baja California, and I loved it.
In this brief post, I will tell you more about this spectacular region and what’s the best way to see it.
Considered as an “oasis in the desert”, this Protected Natural Area has great relevance for containing unique ecosystems and for its value as a recharge site for aquifers.
“The Sierra la Laguna Biosphere Reserve represents the main source of recharging groundwater since it provides water for 67% of the state population, within the limits of the reserve is the highest percentage of the river network of this mountain range product of the rains.” (Source)
This Biosphere Reserve is of great biological and landscape richness, being the home of numerous endemic species of flora and fauna since it has the only oak-pine forest in Baja California Sur.
Among the extraordinary species of fauna, the Sierra La Laguna Biosphere Reserve is the main breeding sanctuary for two of the most important hummingbird species in Mexico and Latin America, purple heads (Calypte costae) and Xantus hummingbirds (Hylocharis xantusii), the latter considered an endemic species of the Baja California peninsula. (Source)
The highest peak is Picacho de la Laguna at 7,090 ft, roughly in the sierra’s center, followed by Cerro Las Casitas with 6,835 ft.
How to get to the Sierra de la Laguna
The main getaway to the Sierra de La Laguna is the small town of Santiago, located 45 km (24 miles) from Los Cabos International Airport and 140km (86 miles) from La Paz on Highway 1.
To get to Santiago by bus, you must take Aguila bus either from Los Cabos or from La Paz, and get off at the Santiago sign. However, you will need to arrange transportation from there to Santiago town.
Santiago is a pretty peaceful town where many hiking trails depart.
There is only one hotel, Don Julio, very cheap but super nice and unexpectedly modern with wifi but no meals.
You will find very few places to eat in town, which close by 5 pm, and a couple of convenience stores.
What animals can you find in the Sierra de La Laguna
The biosphere is home to different species of animals some of them endemic. Among which: deers, coyote, black-tailed hare, puma, gray fox, as well as birds: white-necked and collared dove, buzzards, hawks, and owls. Also 40 species of reptiles and 97 insects, including spiders and tarantulas.
Sierra La Laguna Biosphere Reserve is the main breeding sanctuary for two of the most important hummingbird species in Mexico and Latin America, purple heads (Calypte Costae), and Xantus hummingbirds (Hylocharis Xantusii), the latter considered an endemic species of the Baja California peninsula. (source)
Hiking tours in the Sierra de La Laguna
As mentioned, there are many hiking trails that you can walk to explore this magnificent region, but it’s always advisable to hire a local guide who knows the territory in order to avoid getting lost or facing other hidden dangers. It’s also advisable to walk in groups of 3 or more people to avoid any unpleasant situations.
Edgardo from Baja Sierra Adventure is a professional guide that lives in Santiago and organizes private or group trips of one or multiple days around the sierra.
You can check his website for more information. He speaks English.
The best time to visit Sierra de la Laguna
You can visit Sierra de La Laguna any time of the year, with the exception of Summer from July to August, early September it’s terribly hot and not advisable to do tours especially for more than 1 day. It’s exhausting.
Rules to follow when entering in the Sierra de la Laguna
Although I know that my readers are all respectful nature lovers I always love to give some reminders, just in case. 🙂
These rules are taken from the CONANP site, a Mexican institution responsible for the conservation of natural areas.
- Do not cut, mark or mistreat trees or damage vegetation.
- Do not paint on rocks or other surfaces within the area.
- Camping is allowed only in authorized places and it is prohibited to alter the physical conditions of the site.
- Do not feed native animals.
- Do not bring animals or plants.
- Do not leave trash, even if it is biodegradable. Take all the garbage and deposit it in the containers of the nearest towns.
- Do not extract or capture live or dead flora and fauna, or other biogenetic elements.
- Do not remove any type of flora or fauna that is attached to any rocky surface.
- Respect water sources, do not throw detergents or other residues that contaminate.
- Entry with alcohol or drugs is prohibited.
- Follow the instructions of the park rangers.
It is everyone’s responsibility to cooperate in the conservation actions of the Protected Natural Areas. For this reason, we ask for your collaboration with the staff in complying with the instructions.
What to Pack for the Sierra de La Laguna
Keep in mind that we are in the desert here and although it doesn’t look like a desert at all, the climate reminds you that.
Chilly nights and extremely hot days require dressing up in layers, from a swimsuit to a jacket.
Travel water bottle – this is also part of my sustainable travel checklist. Having a refillable water bottle will save some plastic. Small actions altogether make the difference.
Sand-free beach blanket – you will get beach towels in your all-inclusive hotel, but it’s useful if you go visit other beaches, and you should
RFID travel wallet – always good to keep your money safe
Plug adaptor – if you are coming from the US you won’t need it as the sockets are the same
Travel sandals – that are fancy and comfortable at the same time depending on the kind of trip you want to have.
Hiking shoes – there are many hiking trails that you will want to explore.
Windbreaker – as I mentioned nights can be chilly and windy.
Light Fleece Jacket – if you are in Santiago for your hike to sierra de la Laguna, you will definitely need this.
Hiking t-shirt – a technical t-shirt is recommended as you will be sweating during your hike and regular cotton material is not the best choice.
Swim suit – to jump in the refreshing lakes you will find along the way.
Mask and snorkel – you will always be able to rent it but I prefer to have my own, you know… especially after the recent outbreak.
Ecological sunscreen – the sun is strong but we need to protect the reef as well as our skin. Choose wisely.
Ecological mosquito repellent – in summer especially it can be handy