Nevado de Colima is the 7th highest peak in Mexico, located in the state of Jalisco, near the border with the state of Colima. It is a long dormant volcano, but attached to its west side (on the other side of a saddle) is a newer, active volcano, Volcan de Fuego, the most active volcano in Mexico (even more active than Popo as this is written). The locals in this part of the country don't see too many gringos, but they treat them well when they do. Nevado de Colima is in a Parque Nacional, but the national park system is much different in Mexico. Grazing is allowed, you may see cattle as high on the peak as 13,000'+, and logging is allowed, although there is a push to discontinue it. If you go to climb this peak, spend some time in the City of Colima, you'll be glad you did, as they have some wonderful (inexpensive) restaurants.
The mountain is rarely climbed from the base as there is a good dirt road that accesses the Proteción Civil facility at about 12,000'. Tourists are not allowed to drive past the locked gate at about the 11,500' level. We went around the gate, and were intercepted by an ATV and asked to turn around. This access road is easy to find from Ciudad Guzman, just follow the signs to the Parque Nacional. If you fly commercially, you will likely fly into Manzanillo, on the coast. Car rentals are available there, about an hour and a half drive away. There is also limited commercial service to Colima, the capitol of the State of Colima, and this is highly recommended, as Colima is a fantastic city. Car rentals are also available here, I recommend Enterprise as they treated us very well. From Colima, either take the Cuota (toll road) which is kind of expensive but much faster, or the Libre, a free road which winds around and climbs in and out of many steep-walled canyons, and head toward Ciudad Guzman.
Located in a national park, there are now (as of December 2002) entrance fees, and camping fees. The fees are minimal, I think we paid a US $2.50 camping fee for one night, and a US $2 entrance for a truck with 2 persons. You will be well served to have change, as invariably the fellow at the gate will not. Respect the private property around the base of the mountain, and the locked gates, and all will be well.
When To Climb
The only time you will really want to avoid climbing here is during the monsoon, the period when the area receives the majority of its precipitation. The monsoon generally starts in late April or early May and runs for 2-3 months. Directly after the monsoon is when the snowpack is at its greatest depth. Late in the season, March through early April, there will be very little snow.
There is a fine camping area with a spring at the 11,550' level. The spring is in the bottom of the canyon just north of the camping area, and is surrounded by mortared local stone, making a pool. When following the access road up, after passing through the park entrance, drive a few more miles and you will find a large clearing surrounded by fences. There is ample space here for free primitive camping. There are no facilities, maybe the occasional fire ring, but that's it. You will not likely see many campers, but maybe a few dayhikers going for the summit, as this is also the staging area.
You may inquire about mountain conditions as well as volcanic activity by calling Proteción Civil in Colima, (01 for long distance), (331) 45944. (Yes, they generally speak Spanish exclusively)
The dirt road up the mountain is easily doable with 2-wheel drive.
We went up Nevado de Colima last month. There is a 9km round-trip trail that is fairly easy to follow, once you find the trailhead near La Joya. The trail goes through pine forest and then ascends over ash / sand to the saddle between the peak and the antennas. Coordinates for the trailhead are: N19° 34.990′ W103° 36.073′
Alternatively, many people seem to drive towards the antennas (currently you're not allowed to drive all the way there), walk the rest of the dirt road to the antennas, and follow a fairly easy path to the top.
More detail on the longer route can be found on our website:
"Live it up, fill your cup, drown your sorrow, and sow your wild oats while ye may, for the toothless old tykes of tomorrow, were the tigers of yesterday"
--Tom Patey, from the The Last of the Grand Old Masters