Photo: Fernando Garcia Aguinaco, Parque Nacional El Chico (Some rights reserved)
Higalgo, Mexico – El Chico (The Little One) National Park 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.
Location — El Chico is 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northeast of Pachuca, Hidalgo.
Transportation — The park is most easily accessible via personal automobile. If you’re driving, take Highway 105 from Pachuca (90 kilometers or 56 miles northeast of Mexico City) toward Tampico. After 9 kilometers (5.6 miles), take the turnoff to El Chico. There are several buses a day from Pachuca, reached from Mexico City’s northern bus terminal.