Tlaxco Slot Canyon is a slot canyon situated in Central Mexico just outside the town of Tlaxco (pop. 7000) in the northern part of the state of Tlaxcala, the smallest state in Mexico. Rainfall has caused erosion in the sandstone surface and created a maze known locally as ‘los laberintos’ or ‘the labyrinths’.
The area is some 500 m east of Tlaxco and consists of three parts. The first part is a small slot canyon on the left hand side of the trail described below. The second part is on the right hand side of that same trail. This is where you’ll find the main slot canyon. The third part, at the far end of the main trail consists of strange sandstone formations and small canyons and gullies through which small creek run.
The whole area can be visited in about three hours. It’s a great place to explore and gives for some excellent photos with beautiful old cacti trees spread across the area. Following the ACA rating system I’d say it is 1AGI, so no worries!
Although when asking about 'los laberintos' in Tlaxco, people will mostly refer to the part on the left hand side of the trail, I consider the second part the most beautiful one, as you'll walk for about half an hour through a slot canyon as narrow as 1-2 meter wide, with walls of up to 10 meters high, with a small waterfall at the end.
The slot canyon is situated just outside of Tlaxco, which is 45km from the state capital, Tlaxcala. By public transportation you will probably get to Apizaco first. From Mexico city it takes two hours to get to Apizaco from the East-bound bus terminal or TAPO (metro San Lazaro). The bus fare to Apizaco from Mexico City is 100 pesos, Apizaco to Tlaxco 17 pesos.
Buses leave Apizaco for Tlaxco from the Atah bus terminal every fifteen minutes, it takes about 45 minutes to get there. The bus drives into Tlaxco on highway 119. It goes all the way to the central square where it turns left at the church before it continues to Chignahuapan.
Get off near the church, and walking towards its portal, follow the road that goes on the right side of it. There you’ll see a sign saying ‘Laberintos Tlaxco’. Turn right here on to Calle 5 de Mayo and go straight ahead. You will cross a bridge over a small river, then Tlaxco’s graveyard on your right side, and next a newly built church on your left side. Here, the road turns into a dirt road. This is where the trail starts.
After about 100 meters you’ll see and opening in the fence on your left hand side. This is the entrance to the first part of the ‘Laberintos’: a small slot canyon with walls up to 6-8m that you can walk through in about half an hour. At the end of it the trail takes you up to a platform, or the roof of the slot canyon. From here, you can head back to the main trail (you'll have to crawl under some barb wire), or go back through the slot canyon again. In some places boulders have fallen down the canyon, so you'll have to go under then. The trail is often covered with moss and very slippery so be carefull.
Once you’re on the main trail again, continue for some 50m and then walk towards some corn fields on your right. There is a small trail to walk on, or just walk next to the corn field. Cross it (going south) and you will eventually run into a dry creek which turns into the main slot canyon upstream. The creek has been dammed in some places. From here, it is about 40 – 50 min upstream to reach the waterfall and pool at end of the slot canyon. Alternatively, you could continue on the main trail, and walk down the creek from the third part of the area. As you are walking down you will reach the roof of the slot canyon and see it on your right side.
The part at the end of the main trail is a maze of dry creek that have created openings in the sandstone rock with small canyons and gullies and weird rock formations. If you go on top of it, you'll see holes indicating more rock will come apart soon.
When and what else to visit
During the rainy season ( June – October) the slot canyon can be inaccessible. In August I could only go in about halfway because the trail was flooded. Be aware that any time of the year the slot canyon is a muddy area to walk in, so bring proper hiking boots. The warmest months are March till May. Tlaxco is at an altitude 2300m, so it does get cold at night from November till March. You should never get really cold during the day however, except on windy days maybe. Just come prepared for rain any time of the year.
Besides its labyrinths Tlaxco is also know to have El Peñón del Rosario nearby. This rock lies on the border of the states Tlaxcala, Puebla and Hidalgo and rises up to 3420. It is located about 8 km west of Tlaxco. The common approach to climb it is via the village of Acopinalco del Peñón. Buses leave Tlaxco every fifteen minutes from the main square (5 pesos).
For an even bigger challenge, head for the volcano La Malinche. Collectivo's (mini-buses)leave from Apizaco (near the Elektra shop next to the central market) every twenty minutes for the Centro Vaccional near the trailhead. Cabins and campsites are available there.
Red Tape and CampingThe whole area can be visited for free. I wouldn't really camp there as it is only 500m east from the center of Tlaxco. A good option to stay at in Tlaxco is Hotel Posada Tlaxco, on the main road (Francisco I Madero 6), near the church. Single rooms are 165 pesos, double 320 (hot water shower and tv included). You enter a passageway from the main road which has a bank, some restaurants and shops in it. In front of the hotel I've had great meals for 30 pesos (a soup, rice, beans, main course, tortillas and fruit juice).
External LinksThe State Department of Tourism's website: www.descubretlaxcala.com
The State of Tlaxcala's website: www.tlaxcala.gob.mx