El Peñón del Rosario is situated in the municipality of Tlaxco in the state of Tlaxcala in central Mexico. Geographically it lies in the 'Cordillera Neovolcanico' (Neovolcanic Range) which stretches across Mexico from west to east around 19°N. Its southern slopes lie in the state of Tlaxcala, but according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) the summit is situated in Puebla.
Its name refers to the nearest village, ‘El Rosario’, southwest of the summit. Peñón is Spanish for ‘rock’ (‘roca’ is more used for vertical rock that is not summited via a trail but by rockclimbing). Approaching it, however, is most commonly done via its southereastern slopes from the the village of ‘El Peñón’, situated at an altitude of 2630m, which makes it about 790m to the top.
With its 3420m, el Peñón del Rosario towers majestically over the surrounding forested area. Another peak called ‘Pico de Loro’ (parrot’s peak, because of its shape) lies to its north, but it isn’t really climbed. As you approach El Peñón del Rosario from the village of El Peñón, it looks impossible to summit without some proper rockclimbing. Surprisingly however, the main trail takes you through the pine forest onto its southern slopes all the way up to the rocky summit. Some rock scrambling using your hands and pulling yourself up some boulders is required the last twenty minutes. In two points a wooden ladder has even been put in places, although you could do without them.
From Mexico city it is a two hour drive to Apizaco by bus (100 pesos). From Apizaco buses head north on highway 119 for the town of Tlaxco every fifteen minutes (13 pesos). From there it’s about 8km to the village of Acopinalco del Peñón. Collectivo’s (local minibusses) leave for El Peñón from the main square in Tlaxco, in front of the restaurant ‘El Rincon Taurino’ every fifteen minutes(5 pesos). On clear days you can see the El Peñón del Rosario from both Tlaxco and Acopinalco.
I’ve been given directions by many locals on several occasions. It’s important to keep in mind that the easiest way to summit is from the southern side. So looking at the summit from El Peñón, you have to get to the left side of it. Most tend to steer you to the northern end of the village, from where a clear trail takes you up and behind the mountain to summit it from the western side. This isn’t really the easiest route and unless you prefer some bushwacking over a clear trail I wouldn’t recommend it. The trail described below starts at the southern end of the village of El Peñón and takes you to the top in 3 – 4 hours.
To get to the trailhead, get off at Calle Miguel Hidalgo. It’s a few blocks south from the main square, which is the last stop for the collectivo’s (local minibus), but you can ask the driver and he will stop whenever you need to get down. From here you’ll see El Peñón del Rosario towering over the village on your left. Head left (west) going down the stairs, cross the road, continue to cross the next road (Avenida Ferrocaril). This is where the trail starts.
After a couple of minutes you will see a small pond on your right side. Follow the trail from here, it will take you up the southern slopes of the mountain. In some occasion there seems to be some smaller trails going left or right, but just stick to the main trail. It’ll take you about an hour to reach the forest. The lower part has been cut and has a rather rocky ground which isn’t really usefull for farming either.
Below the summit, you'll encounter many boulders. At one point a small ladder has been put in place to make it easier to get over them. The trail continues in between them, and then goes down a bit before it heads for the summit. Just some fifteen below the summit, which is actually more of a plateau with several big rocks and boulders you'll see another small ladder. You could climb up however without using any of them.
Above the second ladder, you are at the summit plateau. If you go left, you will see a wooden cross at the far end, and below it a little altar with a statue of the Virgin Mary, coins glued to a rock, a metal plaque put there in 1949 and other of the usual summit stuff.
When to go
You can climb El Peñón del Rosario year round. However, during the rainy season (roughly June to October) there is a decent chance of rain, especially in the afternoon. There will also be more clouds blocking any views so I would really consider climbing in the dry season November to March. It can get a bit cold during these months, especially in December-January when minimum temperatures can drop to 5°C/41°F, so come prepared for that.
I've observed clear skies and no rain for days in a row during the rainy season, and cloudy days with afternoon rains during the dry season, so exceptions are possible! It is best in any case to be prepared for rain, to wear proper hiking boots and to take sufficient food and drinks for a day hike.[img:578521:aligncenter:medium:The summit.]
Red Tape and Camping
There is no red tape concerning going up the mountain and camping near it. There are several nice spot as you are going up where you could pitch your tent. I haven't seen any water sources, so be prepared for that. The summit plateau has a camping spot near the wooden cross. On one occasion I met a family from Apizaco that had camped there the night before.
Where else to go while in the area
When you’re back in Tlaxco it’s worth walking over to the Tlaxco Slot Canyon, locally called 'los laberintos', or 'the labyrints'.
Volcano La Malinche, the highest point in Tlaxcala, is only 32 miles away. There are cabins and campsites available near the trailhead at the Centro Vaccional La Malintzi. Buses run from Apizaco every twenty minutes.
The 'Aguas termales de Chignahuapan' are hot springs near Chignahuapan which make for an excellent places to relax after any climbing.
The 'Salto de Quetzalapan' (a 200m high waterfall) is also well worth a visit. Access to the waterfall is via the 'Centro Ecoturistico Quetzalapan'. There are 'collectivos' (local minibus) going to both places from the center of Chignahuapan.