February 7, 2020
Author John Steinbeck, in his book The Log from the Sea of Cortez, wrote fondly of Puerto Escondido,
“About noon we arrived at Puerto Escondido, the Hidden Harbor, a place of magic.”
While at Puerto Escondido a local rancher took him and his crew up into the mountains, through a beautiful canyon, ostensibly to hunt big horn sheep. Wrote Steinbeck, “We didn’t want to kill a big-horn sheep, but we wanted to see the country.”
With similar feelings we embarked on our first of several hikes that start from the Puerto Escondido area. First up was Tabor Canyon, also referred to as Steinbeck Canyon. The trailhead is a good 2 km from the marina. To get there cross Hwy 1 and follow a dirt road that runs along side a power substation—follow it to the end. The trail begins in the arroyo. Keep an eye out for cairns–we found them very helpful for uncovering the elusive trail.
Tabor Canyon is a strenuous hike, not because of its length, but because the majority of it involves scrambling over and around boulders and rock in a steep arroyo. Steinbeck explains,
“We came at last to a trail of broken stone and rubble so steep that the mules could not carry us any more. We dismounted and crawled on all fours, and we don’t know how the mules got up.”
But, like Steinbeck, we found the effort worth it.
“After a short climb we emerged on a level place in a deep cleft in the granite mountains. In this cleft a tiny stream of water fell hundreds of feet from pool to pool…we sat beside a pool of the waterfall and our Indians made coffee for us and unpacked a lunch…”
In short, if you have the ability to pull yourself up and over boulders for a good hour heading up into the mountains, Tabor Canyon is a must-do hike. It is spectacular.
Without Steinbeck (or mules) to guide us, we found ourselves relying on a small but valuable little book that we had picked up in Loreto called, Hiking Loreto: Hikes Walks and Explorations in Loreto and the Sierra Giganta by DeeDee and Dave Kelly and Ed Nugent. The book confirmed our suspicions, lots of good hiking is to be found in the Sierra Giganta. And we found a wonderful way to endure the screaming blue northers: namely, get off the boat and hike.
Our second hike took us from the marina parking lot to the Hart Trail which heads up the Tripui Hills and ends at neighboring (to the south) Rattlesnake Beach. To find this trailhead head from the Puerto Escondido marina, head to the Hotel Tripui (located along the marina turnoff from the highway.) You will find the trailhead on the south side of the road, before you reach the hotel. You can’t miss it. It is well marked by rocks painted white.
This hike is extremely steep as it winds uphill to the Hart Peak viewpoint. Prepare for a cardio workout! The hike is named for a couple of 80-year old Canadians who wintered regularly on Rattlesnake Beach, and who are credited with originally building the trail. The trail is now well-maintained by volunteers. The reward for the breath-gasping climb up to the peak is spectacular views of nearby popular anchorages: Bahia Candeleros to the south and Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante to the east.
We enjoyed this hike so much we returned a second day to hike the perimeter trails, lunching at Rattlesnake Beach half way through. Shoutout to the volunteers, Richard and Alexis, who now maintain this beautiful trail system and duly noted their rake and spade left for more trail maintenance at the side of a steep path. We had fun hunting for the small painted rocks that are scattered along the trail.
Our last hike in the area was the trail to Juncalito Beach, our neighbor to the north of Puerto Escondido. While characterized as an easy hike, it is deceptively long with a large part of the first half on a dirt road that skirts the estuary and leads to the hills north of the marina. At the base of the hills, between two radio towers, a cairn marks the start of the trail through the hills.
After an hour hiking, (and estimating that we were less than half way to Juncalito Beach) we cut short the hike and took a spur to the east which gave us a fabulous view of the mooring field (Estelle’s down there in the “pocket”.) The white caps outside of the harbor in the Sea of Cortez were rocking and rolling and the light weight sailor (LWS) was very happy to be viewing them from dry land.
To sum up, the hiking is wonderful in the Sierra Giganta outside of Loreto. While we only sampled a few hikes, we were can highly recommend them. It’s obvious to us that one could spend a lot more time exploring these beautiful mountains.
Next up: We are hoping for the northers to die down by the weekend and then hopefully we will be off the mooring ball tomorrow and on our way to the Aqua Verde anchorage. At least that’s the plan for now.
Hiking with Steinbeck Smileys and Frowns
- Tabor Canyon!!!
- Hiking trails (Juncalito Beach and the Hart Trails) easy to walk to from the marina
- No frowns – excellent hiking in the area