For your sanity, every once in a while you need to swap Mexico City’s chaos for chirping birds and wind rustling in the trees. And you’re in luck: there are numerous camping sites within two to three hours from Mexico City.
Camping Sites Near Mexico City
There is limited public transport serving the camping sites closest to Mexico City, and driving is the most comfortable option.
Many places allow
Camping at Mil Cascadas de Granada
In under two hours’ drive from Mexico City, Mil Cascadas is a hidden oasis tucked into the mountains. The Granados river rolls it way down more than 2km of rock formations, creating a watery trek of small waterfalls and swimming pools. They might not total exactly a ‘Thousand Waterfalls’– as the name translates – but there are hundreds to explore.
The camping facilities are basic, but the location makes up for it. The main campsite is at the top of the waterfalls, but you can also camp next to the river if you’re prepared for a 20-minute downhill hike – a donkey and the local kids are more than happy to help carry things for a small fee.
You can hike the river to find your private swimming pool – poza – or take the daring route: jumping waterfall to waterfall. You can book a tour when you arrive (sometimes with the local kids), which also includes a visit to a cave, where you can swim in an underground river during dry season. You can also rappel down the two highest waterfalls, or mountain bike. You can book rappelling upon arrival for around 300MXN (15–20 USD), although many people suggest pre-booking with an official tour (with reportedly better equipment, although triple the price).
In rainy season, the water can get too high or strong to do all activities, so aim for around September to February. It’s also not recommended to go at the end of dry season (eg. April), as the pools can get stagnant if there’s not enough water flow.
The final 30 minutes of driving is via dirt road, but it’s in decent enough condition that most cars can make it – yet still inaccessible enough to keep mass tourism out. Be sure to keep driving past the first carpark sign you see – the real carpark is inside the actual site. Because of the locals’ chagrin at this “tourist trap,” a local sometimes hangs around and tells drivers to avoid it.
Las Estacas Campground
Las Estacas is one of the most popular camping sites within two hours of Mexico city, the first reason being its spectacular crystalline river that flows through the immaculate grounds. It’s deep enough for scuba diving or jumping, and kids and adults alike get a kick out of the swings, ropes and ziplines. Or you can do nothing more than float down the river in the steady current. Inside the grounds there is a hotel, cabins, glamping, restaurants and bars, small shops, several kids pools, free grills, and pretty much anything else you need.
Next to this is a fenced off area for campers, with top-notch bathroom facilities (and higher than usual camping prices). If you don’t have camping equipment, you can rent pretty much everything – and they’ll even put the tent up for you (but for the same price, you could almost buy everything). There is also an annual concert festival held here.
During the week, you will hardly have any campers but come Saturday or on holidays, tents pop up as quick as mushrooms. If you’re looking for a more rugged and natural camping setting, this might not work for you. But its natural beauty is still worth a look, even for a day trip to have a BBQ on its shores.
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Camping at Nevada de Toluca Volcanco
This extinct volcano is an escape from Mexico City’s chaos in 2 hours. During the day you can hike to the crater lake and around the rim, and in the morning wake up with views of its peaks. At 4,680m above sea level, it can fall to minus temperatures at night, so campers must be well prepared. But watching the starry skies with the heat of a roaring campfire makes it all worthwhile.
The campground area can be reached by car, is dog friendly, has firewood for sale, and has basic bathrooms for campers; some cabins are also available to rent. It typically snows from the end of November to January, so plan your trip during the warmer months.
Grutas de Tolantongo Campsite
This thermal spring almost glows blue from the intensely rich mineral water. Tolantongo is a long-time tourism favorite, with man-made pools built into the side of a mountain to replicate the natural calcium pools, and plenty of organized tours.
This is a hotspot camping site in Mexico – it’s only three hours from the city, and you can camp right next to the spectacular river. But that also means it gets packed on weekends and holidays, so aim for a weekday if you want something more peaceful.
Camping at Los Dinamos
There are several great forest areas within or close to Mexico City’s boundaries.
The two closest are Los Dinamos and Desierto de los Leones. In Los Dinamos, you can camp right next to a river. At Paidos Campamentos Mexico, between Zona II and III, you can fall asleep to sounds of the bubbling stream. In mushroom season, they offer tours through the mountains where you can hike, learn about the different mushroom types, and pick those which are edible. Desierto de los Leones also has interesting hikes, where you can find numerous churches hidden throughout the forest.
For a getaway from Mexico City, Parque Ejidal San Nicolas Totolapan andParque Nacional Cumbres del Ajusco are next to each other, giving you a taste of tall pine trees and fresh air. It’s the perfect setting for an open fire, hiking and mountain biking. The only tip is that you should arrive within the opening hours, otherwise, there might not be anyone to let you in. If you want water views, the Zempoala Lagoons nearby offer camping.
However, it should be noted that in all of these areas, there have been reported thefts and assaults on hikers in remote areas, so cautions should be taken and stay up-to-date with the latest news. If we had to pick one, it would be Los Dinamos, where the camp ground is close enough to a developed area, but far enough that you still feel like you’re in nature.
Camping on Iztaccíhuatl Volcanco
Iztaccihuatl is the dormant volcano next to Popocatepetl, the smoking active volcano just 70km outside of Mexico City. Popocatepetl has seen increased activity recently, and campers may even witness lava at night. The peak of Iztaccihuatl is said to look like a sleeping women, which legend says is the Tlaxcaltecan princess Iztaccihuatl, buried by and watched over by warrior Popocatepetl.
There are some camping areas inside the Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl National Park, for example the Altzomoni shelter, which can be reached by hiking. Besides a few small food stands, you will generally need to carry everything you need with you. For an easier option, there are also camping and cabin sites around the base.
You can start your hike from Paso de Cortes, or drive the extra 9km and start from La Joya (3900m). From San Rafael, you can take the road to Llano Grande then walk the sandy and winding path of El Tumbaburros, although it’s a harder hiker starting at 5,156m. Most hikes are 10hrs to two days, and you need to be in good physical conditions. Altzomoni shelter. Reservations are required during the high season: November-March.
Unfortunately, although it’s a popular hiking spot, there is little security and assaults to mountaineers have happened. It is recommended to always camp in a group, or with a tour.
The clearest skies are from October to March, although it is colder and busier. You may need to reserve your camping spot (check here ). At certain points throughout the year, you can sometimes find increased shooting-star activity, and usually several tours offering one night of camping.
Camping in Mineral de Chico
Just two hours from Mexico City, you’ll find this ecological zone of conifer forests and curious rock formations. Once you enter the zone, you’ll pass a campground almost every 10 minutes, many with hiking paths. It’s even higher in altitude than Mexico City, meaning warm sunny days but temperatures can drop at night – a jacket is a must. The colonial towns in this area add a touch of civilations, but not too much; head to Mineral del Chico, Real de Monte or Huasca to step back in time. You can also visit some interesting mines, such as Mina de San Juan Pachuca or Ex Hacienda de Loreto. There are plenty of cabins and hotels (see a full list of accommodation options here). The camping areas are: Presa El Cedral, Valle Diego Mateo, Las Ventanas, Parque Ecoturístico El Cerezo (Llano Grande and Valle de los Enamorados), Campamento Conejos and Campamento Cedros.
You’ll see Las Ventanas often quoted in guides as the popular campsite, but in reality, the camping area is small and you’ll compete with daily hikers and rock climbers. But, it is beautifully green, even in dry season, and sometimes there are only a couple of other campers. Definitely it is a must-see hiking area, with several look-out points with views across the valley, and some great rock walls for mountaineering and rock climbing.
El Cedral Dam is another hotspot, and while you will also get daily visitors, there is plenty of shady spaces to camp and views across the small dam. Spend the day rowing or hiking.
Diego Mateo is just around the corner, with grills and covered seating areas, and hiking paths. If you want interesting rock formations as your view, keep driving past the initial camping area to the other side of the small dam.