Hiking Tabor Canyon Near Loreto, Mexico
Sometimes while traveling, after lying on the beach for days on end, indulging in incredible food and other late-night activities, you start feeling a little bloated. If you’re near Loreto in Baja California Sur, the Tabor Canyon hike may be just what you are looking for to offset the vacation stupor.
I was feeling lazy and stuffed after a few days of beaching, eating, and site seeing in Loreto. Though I was getting ready to leave town, I remembered about a hike my friend Pedro, who I met in Loreto in 2013, raved about. While on a snorkeling excursion he went on and on about a hike in Tabor Canyon, that wound its way up into the Sierra de la Giganta Mountain range, passing massive water polished boulders, lovely desert flowers, and small waterfalls that melted into mirrored pools. And that is what I was craving.
On my first trip to Loreto, I was in awe of the massive features of the Sierra de la Giganta. I did not realize there were mountains on the coast of the Sea of Cortez and was pleasantly surprised on that trip. I loved the contrast between the ocean brimming with sea life and the giant desert monoliths that towered above.
I was pleasantly reminded of these mountains as I approached Loreto, on a drive from Mulegé to the north, and watched the sun set behind their massive peaks in the Fall of 2023.
I never got to hike Tabor Canyon (Cañón Tabor in Spanish) on my first trip to Loreto, but thanks to Facebook I was able to connect with Pedro on this trip, and get the details. My friend Enga and I quickly headed out to find the canyon waterfalls and pools that we couldn’t imagine were possible in this desert environment.
The directions said to drive 25 minutes south (toward La Paz) on Highway one from downtown Loreto. When you see a road that leads to Trailer Park Tripuí and Puerto Escondido (on the left), take a right onto a nondescript gravel road. Pass a small, gated power station on the left and then some old boat bottoms on the right. Keep driving until you come to an open space where there is a giant gabion (cage filled with rocks, used for erosion control). Park on the right. We were driving a four-wheel-drive truck, but we did not need 4-wheel and you could probably get there, or most of the way there, with any car. There are many places one could park along the road on the way in. Once you park your vehicle, hike to the end of the gabion and you will find an easy scramble downhill on a red sandy trail into the canyon.
We were in awe of the massive mountains towering above as we headed towards them on the gravel road. We arrived in Loreto at the end of the rainy season and just after Hurricane Norma hit La Paz and Cabo, so the mountains and desert were teaming with green.
Though the Sierra de la Giganta is an arid range, these canyons often run with water year-round and house tall skinny stands of native palm groves (Mexican fan palm) and water loving flowers and plants. The rocks are mostly volcanic (granite, basalt), but also sedimentary (sandstone, limestone) and metasedimentary (quartzite, slate) are found throughout. This means you will see all different colored and textured rocks while boulder hopping through the canyon. Remember to be careful not to twist an ankle due to the often loose slippery nature of the terrain.
We worked our way up canyon, meandering through boulders and passageways, dodging slippery funnels where water had been or was flowing down canyon, up red sandstone steps, around blind corners on glassy purple quartzite, passing large blue colored limestone boulders, and sidestepping clear puddles of all shapes, sizes, and depths. All the while, we looked up at rising walls interspersed with green vegetation, and rocky hillsides.
There is a spot where continuing in the canyon looks rough. Here you will exit slightly right, on dark red stone, to reach a cable that allows you to safely traverse left about 10 feet above. Make sure you look for the good footholds, so you don’t have to completely rely on your arms as you traverse the cable.
AllTrails.com describes the hike as a 1.5 mile out-and-back hike. This means you hike 0.75 miles in and then hike back out on the same trail. The 0.75-mile marker is where the canyon looks impassable. Here you must climb some ropes on somewhat slippery rock to continue. Climbing the ropes is not too difficult, but there are some consequences should you not be able to get yourself up and over the rocks.
Reach the ropes by crossing on the left side of a large pool with a tall waterfall back in on it’s right. Head into a sort-of cave, on the left, where you will find the first set of ropes.
Always test the rope first by hanging all your body weight on it, a foot or so off the ground. This is a good practice anywhere you climb a rope when you do not know how it is anchored above. Be ready for a fall, just in case it is not well attached.
The second rope, just above and slightly right of the first, has a drop off underneath the ledge where it is located, so be careful when testing. You’ll encounter a bit of slippery rock as you pull over the top.
Once you get past the ropes, the canyon widens and there are more and more pools as you continue upward. It is lusher with green bushes, flowers, and palm trees. It’s up to you to decide when it’s time to turn around. We hiked for about an hour before we found a series of deep pools under a small waterfall to take a dip.
After multiple swims in the clear pool, and lounging on the warm rocks, we turned around and headed back down the canyon. Going down was much easier and faster. When we had the presence of mind to look up, which you must stop for, we were treated with great views of the Sea of Cortez below.
The canyon was in the shade on the way down too, so we didn’t lose the cool-down we got while dipping in the pool at the top of our hike.
We got back to the car in less than an hour, making it close to a 2-hour round-trip hike, giving us plenty of time to reach our southern destination of La Ventana before sunset. The Tabor Canyon hike was the perfect cure for our over-indulgence lethargy.
As we drove out on the gravel road, a road runner crossed in front of us. Apparently, when a road runner crosses your path, it is a sign that you have the strength, speed, and endurance to achieve anything you put your mind to. Our hiking excursion outside of Loreto had shown us just that.
Warning: The Tabor Canyon hike requires a lot of scrambling and some climbing. You must be able to hike on loose and slippery rock, as well as mount some large boulders. Do not climb ropes if you cannot physically hoist yourself with your upper body muscles. There is no fresh water, no cell service, and there are no bathrooms there. It can also be quite warm, even in the winter months. Be sure you have plenty of water and appropriate clothing for hot and cold situations.
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