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Text and Photos ©2017 by J. Pint

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On the trail to Tequilizinta

 On the well-maintained, easy to follow, two-kilometer-long trail to the former ghost town of Tequilizinta.

Waterfall on Tequilizinta trail, Jalisco, Mexico

Waterfall and cave visible from the hiking trail.

Machu Pichu style trail

The last part of the trail is a steep incline up to the mesa.

John Pint, Rodrigo Orozco and Chris Lloyd

John Pint (left), Rodrigo Orozco and Chris Lloyd receive a friendly welcome at the entrance to Tequilizinta Mesa, located 30 kilometers west of Guadalajara above the lush valley of Santa Rosa.

Abandoned house at Tequilizinta

An abandoned house on Tequilizinta Mesa.

 Luis Rojas at the mirador

Luis Rojas at the mirador above the Santiago River.

Pool at Las Pilas

Room temperature spring water flows into one of four pools at Las Pilas.

Maruca González and Luis Rojas in pool

Maruca González and Luis Rojas soaking in a pool after a long, hard, hot hike.

Glowing cloud over Tequila Volcano

Glowing cloud over Tequila Volcano, by John Pint.


Caves beneath the dunes? Check out our Saudicaves page:







The Ghost Town above the Santiago River

By John Pint

Rodrigo Orozco at Tequilizinta mirador“I’m looking for a little-known obsidian deposit at a place called Las Pilas,” said geologist Chris Lloyd. “Want to come along?”

Our neighbor Rodrigo Orozco decided to join the hunt and off we went the next day to Santa Rosa Valley, located about 35 kilometers northwest of Guadalajara and 9 kilometers north of Amatitán.

We ended up at a balneario, entirely deserted. ˇClaro que sí! Everyone had gone off to the celebration at Chome, of course.

Just below Balneario Las Pilas was a gate. “I know this place,” I told Chris. “It’s the gate to a tequila distillery called La Taberna...and it also marks the trail head for hiking to the curious ghost town of Tequilizinta Mesa.”

Back in the 1980’s, my caver friends and I had met Don Guadalupe Hidalgo, “the last resident of Tequilizinta,” where a small religious community had once flourished, believing this mesa to be one of the seven places that will be spared at the end of the world. But one day, Don Guadalupe had told us, everyone in Tequilizinta went off to follow a new Messiah, leaving him all alone, until his death in 1995.

Don Guadalupe guided us to Las Cuevas Cuatas, two volcanic caves in a sheer cliff wall just beneath the mesa. These turned out to be the only lava tubes we have ever found in Jalisco, as well as the subjects of a few fascinating legends.

The trail to Tequilizinta is two kilometers long. We found it in excellent condition, immediately suggesting that the ghost town may now be inhabited. Just 270 meters past La Taberna, we first heard and then saw a big waterfall on the opposite wall of the long arroyo below us. Local people say that what’s visible from the trail is only the upper half of a very tall and impressive cascade.

View from trail to Tequilizinta

View of the Santiago River Canyon from the Tequilizinta trail.

A little farther along the trail, a dramatic view of the Santiago River Valley opens up, a truly impressive sight. All the while, of course, Chris was checking out the rocks and not discovering obsidian. But we were now very close to Tequilizinta, so we decided to go have a look.

Basalt columns at Tequilizinta

Luis Rojas and Maruca González admire the basalt prisms alongside the final stretch of the trail to Tequilizinta.

A few minutes later, we came to a well-made trail that snakes its way up a vertical wall of basalt columns. A brand-new sign up at the top announced that we were now in “Territorio Hermano.” At this moment, two of those hermanos appeared below us on the trail, each carrying on his back a full 20-liter garrafón of drinking water. They welcomed us to their community and insisted we come and sit with them in the cool interior of one of several houses they are renovating. To me it was amazing that these people come to this lonely mountain top week after week carrying heavy loads on their backs the whole distance.

Visiting at Tequilizinta

New residents of Tequilizinta Mesa regale Rodrigo Orozco (center) with tales of weird noises, like “the crashing of ocean waves” they say they have heard inside Cuata Cave, which they believe will be one of seven places spared at the end of the world.

But now and then they do get a visitor. “People have appeared here out of the blue, including a fellow from Japan,” they told us. “guided by a map in a book.” That map, of course was drawn by Jesús “Chuy” Moreno, proving that people can actually find isolated spots like this without a GPS.
If you want to hike along the Tequilizinta Trail, be sure to bring bug repellent and drinking water. You could also bring a swimsuit, because after your hike you would surely enjoy taking a dip in the lukewarm waters of Balneario Las Pilas (entrance fee: 20 pesos), where you can also purchase ice-cold drinks. Believe me, you will appreciate both services if you decide to visit Tequilizinta Mesa in April or May when this little valley can get sizzling hot. Las Pilas is usually open every day, but  to be sure someone will be there, call Felipe at (Cell) 331 996 0042.

How to get there
From the Periférico, take highway fifteen 35 kilometers north to the town of Amatitán and turn right onto the fine, signposted road to Santa Rosa. After about 9 kilometers the road begins to zigzag downward. The first town you come to is Chome. Continue downhill for about 1.4 km to La Conchilla. Turn left at N20 54.319 W103 44.303 and drive 1.6 kilometers to La Taberna tequila distillery. If you stick to the most-used road you’ll find it easily.  Park at the balneario (N20 54.390 W103 44.906) and walk a few steps down to the distillery gate. Go through (or over) the gate and walk north 235 meters to the distillery. On your left you’ll see a cement stairway that seems to lead nowhere. Go up the stairs, through a space in the fence and walk north a few meters to an easy-to-cross stone wall. Go over the wall and head north for one kilometer along a well-trodden path, which will eventually take you up to an old, open gate. From the gate follow the path northwest to the settlement (N20 55.172 W103 45.320) on Tequilizinta Mesa. You’ll find the combined driving-hiking route from La Conchilla to Tequilizinta on Wikiloc.com under “Tequilizinta Route.” Driving time from Guadalajara to La Taberna distillery is about 45 minutes and the hike might take an hour and a half on the way up and an hour on the way down.


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