El Chico (The Little
One) was Mexico's first national forest reserve, decreed so by President
Porfirio Díaz at the end of the 19th century. Deforestation
began three centuries earlier, when the metal-working industry indiscriminately
chopped down trees for firewood.
Today the 2,739 hectares park is filled with pine, oak, and juniper
forests. Like many other protected areas in Mexico, the hills have
whimsical names -- The Nuns, The Rabbit, The Windows.
Although the nomenclature may be cheesy, the area nevertheless
translates into a great area for day hikes. During the summer rainy
season, bring warm clothes and be sure to fill up on the delicious
quesadillas and pecans in the town of El Chico.
Trails are well-marked in this park, although it's impossible
to get a map of the region. Guides are neither needed nor available
in this park. Weekends tend to bring a good deal of traffic from
nearby Mexico City, but during the week, the park is more tranquil.
Declaring El Chico a park in 1898 was precedent-setting. It was
the first time the government had enacted and followed through on
a forestry law that authorized the establishment of reserves on
national lands. In 1922 its designation was upgraded to that of
a national park.