Daytripper: Cool Trips. Close by.

Daytripper is XelaWho’s regular monthly series on day trips within easy reach of Xela. This month’s article is called: The Santiaguito Lookout.

Santiaguito is Guatemala’s most active volcano and one of the 10 most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Lucky for us a short morning hike leads to a perfectly safe mirador.

From Iglesia Calvario next to Xela’s big cemetery take a bus to Llano del Pinal. Tell the ayudante you are going to el volcan to make sure you get out at the right spot, basically the main street. Walk south, toward Santa Maria. Just before the end of town, on the left, is a concrete monument to Guatemalan mountain climbers – the hike starts here.

As you continue walking the street becomes a trail. Your first marker (16 minutes) is a solitary gnarly oak tree. Another 10 minutes brings you to a line of 12 agave trees on your right. Continue straight.

After 5 minutes you emerge to an open field with a white sign talking about the bosque nuboso. Notice a grass/dirt road joins your trail from the right, continue left passing corn fields at 2 and 3 minutes from the sign. At 7 minutes pass a cabbage field on your right and face a choice of straight ahead and up or to the right and down. Take the right. Continue on this road like trail for a total of 20 minutes from the sign, all downhill after the cabbages. At 15 minutes a T like intersection requires a right, at the end you will emerge to a stunning view of the flat, smoldering Xela dump.

Follow the obvious road to the right, then take obvious left turns on dirt roads that allow you to circle the dump in a counter clockwise direction and ultimately put you in its southwest corner, directly in front of a swinging wooden gate and another bosque nuboso sign. The gatekeeper is friendly, if he is there, the gate is climbable if he is not.

Continue on the road for 18 minutes to a Y (and the 3rd sign), take the downward choice to the left. Another 6 minutes and another Y, take the left. Two minutes later you are at another wooden gate, this one is locked and you will have to climb to cross. On a clear day you are immediately looking due south at the western most summit of the four headed Santiaguito monster – hike toward it. In fog head for a solitary pila (concrete sink), then a solitary fence post, then another solitary fence post, all downhill from the gate. By this time you should recognize you are on or near what used to be a road – follow the trail that winds down the middle of it.

Ignoring any cows you may encounter, continue down, passing through a small bamboo grove at 8 minutes from the gate, vegetative change at 9, noticeable ash on the leaves at 10. You will then find the trail, which has narrowed significantly, intentionally blocked with small brush. Look to your left for scant remnants of a concrete foundation and a grassy flat area. Step into it, turn right, and enjoy a close up view of all four of Santiaguito’s peaks.

Enjoy an eruption or two. Retracing your steps should get you back on the church steps 6 hours after your recommended early morning departure.

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