Arroyo el Carrizal offers a shady footpath through dense forest growth located 54 kilometers west of Guadalajara near the town of Ahualulco de Mercado. This is the perfect place to go if you’re in the mood for a short, easy walk in which you’ll find yourself distracted by something delightful nearly every step of the way.
I was introduced to this place by my friend Chris Lloyd. He, in turn, learned about it from Julio Alvarez Ruiz, who, says Chris, is the best birder he knows in Jalisco.
It took us 25 minutes to drive to the trailhead from Ahualulco via dirt roads – easy to negotiate if you’re driving a pickup. We parked in front of a locked iron gate. Next came what almost seems a ritual at the start of every hike in Mexico: climbing over the gate.
Now we followed a narrow trail south, alongside a deep arroyo where –early in the morning – Alvarez says you can see a great many birds, some quite rare. Although we were there at 11 a.m. – “very late in the day for birdwatching” – we still heard the calls of the Orange-billed Thrush, the Golden Virio and the cheerful chirp of the Chivirría Feliz (Happy Wren). “The best time of the year to see rare birds here is in December or January,” said Julio.
After a while, the trail almost becomes a tunnel through the dense, humid forest, following a little stream which you have to cross several times by hopping from rock to rock. Here we came upon all sorts of colorful mushrooms. The most beautiful without a doubt, according to Julio, was called Coprinus, which to me looked like an elegant bell decorated with thousands of tiny feathers.
Here’s one trail where you won’t die of starvation if you forget your lunch. We were able to pick all the blackberries and Capulin Cherries (Prunus salicifolia) we could eat. By the way, take care not to brush against the blackberry vine, which is covered with little curved thorns reminiscent of Uña de Gato (Cat’s Claw), my least favorite weed.
Just over a kilometer from the parking spot, we emerged from the dark thicket into a bright, welcoming clearing, a grassy meadow perfect for picnicking or camping. This may be as far as some hikers may want to go. Further south, the blueberries and capulines lie, but about 400 meters past the meadow, the trail begins to peter out and you’d need a machete to continue.
El Carrizal is a great place for a hike. Mario told me Carrizal means a place where you find “un montón de carrizos” (a humongous bunch of reeds). “However,” he added with a smug smile, “in this particular arroyo there are no reeds whatsoever.”
How to get there
From the Guadalajara Periférico, take Highway 15 (to Nogales and Tepic) 25 kilometers to Highway 70, which heads southwest towards Ameca. Go about 18 kilometers and turn right onto the road heading for Teuchitlán and Ahualulco. From this turnoff, it’s 27 kilometers to Ahualulco. Turn off the highway onto Calle Gómez Farias (N20.70150 W103.96712) which later becomes Cinco de Mayo. Go southwest from the highway for 1.7 kilometers until you reach Camino a San Ignacio. Follow this road southeast to N20.67937 W103.96190 where you turn south onto a dirt road. From here follow the Wikiloc route (given above) southwest to the parking spot (N20.64126 W103.98471) and trail head. The flat, green meadow is at N20.63175 W103.98898. The driving time from Guadalajara is less than 90 minutes.