We recently did a short, fun hike on a trail used primarily by locals in the hills between Antigua and Volcan de Agua. Tourists generally do not go there because it’s not as popular as the volcano tours sold in town. But this trip got us moving outside in fresh air in a peaceful forest – and we had it all to ourselves.
The place is called Parque Ecologico Corazon de Agua – and it was definitely worth my time because I’ve been working out inside a gym in Antigua most mornings so it felt great to get moving outside. (Jogging on cobblestones in the city isn’t possible for me, thus the gym membership.)
The hike was easy – despite a few slippery spots. This will be easier for people with longer legs. In three spots of steep inclines, it was a little tricky for me to step up high enough to find solid footing because of slippery mud. At one point, my husband pushed me up from behind because I started sliding backwards down an incline – my legs were too short to reach the next bit of hard earth. Luckily, I didn’t fall! It was muddy in a few spots because we went during rainy season. The time of year also made the vista in the park was obscured by clouds. But – having clouds roll by your face is pretty cool!
We went with our Airbnb rental host and new friend, and two of his great German shepherds. We never would have known to go there on our own.
He drove us out of Antigua on the main road towards Guatemala City, then turned off onto another road that took us through two villages on our ascent up into the hills. Once we passed the village of Magdalena Milpas, we parked his truck and got the dogs out of the back and started walking at the sign pictured below. It took us one hour to go from that sign to the summit in the park. We stopped once for a few minutes when we were nearly there to water the dogs and us humans.
We walked by a few cultivated fields, including a coffee farm. The path was well-marked, and we didn’t see any other tourists at all. We went on a weekday morning. The only other people we passed on the trail were Maya people carrying firewood in sacks balanced on straps over their shoulders and foreheads.
Once we got the actual park, a large sign welcomed us. When you see this – you are virtually there, just have to go up a little more.
On a clear day you can see a view of Lake Amatitlan on the outskirts of Guatemala City, but we only saw a couple of villages below when the clouds cleared for a few minutes. Most of our time at the top was shrouded in clouds. I didn’t care. It just felt good to sweat outside. (Note, it was a little chilly at the top once I cooled down.)
There’s a sign at the top that claims the summit is 2,440 meters, or about 8,000 feet. Of course, we didn’t start at the bottom – we drove up passed the villages with the truck so I’m not sure how far we ascended on foot, but it wasn’t much.
A man came strolling along once we reached the top to collect an admission fee of about $1.30 USD each. People can camp at the park site for an additional small fee, but there aren’t any real facilities. Our friend told us there are several people on the trail and in the park on the weekends – that it’s much more crowded than on the Tuesday morning when we went.
We stayed in the park for awhile. It was peaceful and pleasant, and we watched clouds blow by our faces. There are plenty of benches in the park, and a few lookout points to snap pictures. Even a few adult swings among the trees in the forest right around the park.
It took about 40 minutes to get down because I went slow on the mud. The trail is a loop to the park, so you don’t pass some different sights on the way back.
If tourists were to go by chicken bus, you could get off in the village of Magdalena Milpas and ask directions for the road to the park. Add maybe another 30 minutes (or more) to your ascent, and some time for the way back down. I apologize for the semi-lame directions – it seems the best way to go is by car, but I think it’s still possible to go without one.
Corazon de Agua has a Facebook page in Spanish. It’s here. I could not find a regular website, and the only other information in English I could find on the trail to the park were a few videos uploaded by mountain bikers, which won’t do much good for hikers.
One thing I miss in the kind of travel lifestyle we live is that we can’t have pets. I loved that we got to be outside with a couple of beautiful dogs. It made the trip even more special for me.