Mexico boasts some of the most stunning national parks in North America. The Nevado de Toluca National Park is one of the most spectacular within easy reach of Mexico City. It is located near the southwestern city of Toluca and is centered on the Nevado de Toluca volcano. It is a great excursion while staying in Mexico City.

The Nevado de Toluca volcano is the 4th highest peak in Mexico and is located around 45 kilometers from Toluca or 30 miles or 135 kilometers or 80 miles from Mexico City. The volcano has long since been extinct and is famous for its large crater that contains two shallow lakes.

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About Nevado de Toluca

The national park is popular within Mexico - especially when there is snow, although there are only limited skiing facilities here. Some of the activities include mountain biking, hiking, and horse riding. Lonely Planet has suggestions for tours and other paid activities in the park.

  • Established: 1936
  • Height: Peak Rises To 4,690 Meters or 15,354 Feet

The volcano's native Nahuatl name is "Xinantecatl" which translates as "naked lord" in regard to the fact that the volcano rises above the tree line. Towards the top it is only rock and grassland and without snow for most of the year, making it appear naked to the Nahuatl.

It is believed that Nevado de Toluca was once much taller, but a massive eruption about 25,000 years ago blew off the top and created a massive crater. The last major eruption is believed to have been around 10,500 years ago and it is believed that debris from the eruption would have landed as far away as Mexico City.

  • Last Eruption: Around 10,500 Years Ago

The Nevado de Toluca National Park contains a whole range of different elevations. This gives rise to an impressive amount of biodiversity. At the lower elevations, the forests are dominated by a mix of deciduous trees, pines, and firs. As one climbs above the treeline, the landscape becomes dominated by grasslands and alpine meadows. Keep your eyes peeled - one can spot a large variety of animals in the national park.

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The Crater And the Crater Lakes

One of the main attractions is its large elliptical crater measuring 2 by 1.5 kilometers (or 1.2 by 0.9 Miles). Sections of the crater's walls rise almost vertically in most parts, and the crater's floor is formed by the rock that sealed the opening of the volcano.

Within the crater, the lakes are the main attraction. They are extra special as it is the only place in Mexico with crater lakes. They are also among the highest crater lakes in the world. The names of the two lakes are Laguna de la Luna (or Lake of the Moon) and Laguna del Sol (Lake of the Sun).

Perhaps the most stunning crater lake in the world is Crater Lake National Park in Oregon - it is certainly to the bluest.

  • Crater Lakes: Laguna de la Luna and Lagnua del Sol

Of the two, the larger and deeper one is Laguna del Sol that is hundreds of meters (yards) deep. Several archeological discoveries have been made here dating to pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica. There are fish in these lakes but tip your toe in before going for a dip - they are very cold.

Visiting The Volcano

Ease of access has made this national park particularly popular in Mexico as it is the only crater with a road running up to the crater. The dirt road snakes its way up the volcano for an impressive 48 kilometers. The last section of the road has been closed to vehicles since 2008 and now one must stop 6 kilometers or 3.5 miles before the crater - this last section is relatively flat.

  • Closing Time: Visitors Must Leave The Crater By 5 pm So That They can Descend Before Dark

The national park is an easy drive from Mexico City, so one can just drive here from one's accommodation there. In Iceland, one can tour deep inside a dormant volcano - the only one possible on earth.

Related: Traveling To Mexico Is Safe, Especially If You Stick To These Places

Hiking In Nevado de Toluca

There are many hiking trails to consider but here is a couple of them:

Nevado de Toluca Rim Crater Trail: The Nevado de Tol Rim Crater Trail is a must to enjoy the stunning cater and its lakes. The path is well-marked and leads to both the lagoons and to the rim of the peak itself.

Note: There Is Some Scrambling Along this Route

Nevado de Toluca El Fraile Loop: This hike provides a bit more elevation gain and runs for 6.8 kilometers or 4.2 miles. The Nevado de Toluca El Fraile Loop starts on the northern side of the mountain and climbs up the ridge before heading down to the lakes. The path then winds its way back up the southern ridge following the ridgeline looping back to the starting point.

 Note: This Hike Is A Little Strenuous

  • Length: 6.8 Kilometers or 4.2 Miles

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