Hiking and Backpacking
Hiking in Baja can range from desert walks to high-sierra summits. You might spend half a day on trails in the coastal hills or a full week in the backcountry. It all depends on your experience level, preferred wilderness environment, and amount of time you have.
Some of the top places to hike in Baja include the two national parks in the north (Parque Nacional Sierra San Pedro Mártir and Parque Nacional Constitución de 1857), the desert trails near Cataviña in the Desierto Central, and the Sierra de la Laguna in Southern Baja.
Facilities are minimal in all these places, so hikers should expect primitive camping and plan to be self-sufficient.
Trails, if they exist, are often not well marked, so bring the appropriate topo maps for the area you plan to hike. Mexico Maps (U.S. tel. 805/687-1011, www.mexicomaps.com) offers GPS maps and digital maps for some areas as well as printed topo maps.
The Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI, www.inegi.gob.mx)—with offices in La Paz (Plaza Cuatro Molinos, Calle Altamirano 2790, Col. Centro, tel. 612/123-1545 or 612/122-4146), Mexicali (Calzada Independencia 1086, Centro Cívico, tel. 686/557-5883 or 686/556-0995), and Tijuana (Av. Via Rapida Oriente 9306, Zona Río, tel. 664/979-7900 or -7909)—sells topo maps at a much lower cost.
What to Bring
Protective footwear and plenty of water (2–5 liters per person per day, depending on the season) are the two most important items for any Baja hike. Bring layers of clothing for overnight trips in the sierras. Pack a first-aid kit with an elastic bandage for sprains, snakebite treatment, and pair of tweezers for removing thorns and cactus spines. Other essentials include a flashlight, compass, waterproof matches, knife, extra batteries, rain gear, and signal device (mirror or whistle). Consider a telescoping fishing rod with light tackle if you are hiking near the shore. Don’t count on mountain springs to resupply your water. Purify any water you use from these sources.
Avoid setting up your tent under the shade of a coconut palm or in arroyos. Open fires are permitted most remote places in Baja, but keep them small. Dried ocotillo and cactus skeletons burn well. Follow basic low-impact camping guidelines: Pack out all trash, including cigarette butts. Bury human waste 15 centimeters (six inches) down, and don’t use soap in streams or springs.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition