Reaching 3440 metres above sea level at the foot of a volcano, The Nevada de Toluca is Mexico’s most iconic climb.
The epic climb to the Nevado de Toluca may be one of the toughest ascents in the world. It is certainly the highest on the 2020 global Haute Route circuit, and one that won’t be easily forgotten.
Nevado de Toluca is a stratovolcano in central Mexico, located about 130km west of Mexico City. It is the fourth highest mountain in the country, reaching 4,680 meters above sea level at Friars Peak.
The famous mountain is often referred to by the native population as Xinantecatl, translated as “The Naked Lord” (Señor Desnudo). The Xinantecatl is part of the Nahuatl legend, which provides a mythical explanation to the origins of the highest volcanoes in the hemisphere.
At the top of the volcano there is a large crater with two shallow lakes at about 4,200m; the larger Lago del Sol (the Sun Lake) and the smaller, but deeper, Lago de la Luna (the Moon Lake). These are among the highest of their type in the world and were a ritual center for ancient priests.
The presence of these enormous millennial mountains has been of great significance for the different societies that have admired and revered them for thousands of years.
Declared as a National Park in 1936, and now considered as an Environmental Conservation Area, the area extends over 51,000 hectares. Much of the park is forested with firs and pines, while above the tree line and up to the crater, the area is dominated by stunning alpine meadows and grasslands.
Nevado de Toluca is known for being an outdoor sports hub, offering plenty of opportunities to practice a wide range of disciplines: from Mountaineering, to Horseback riding, and Scuba Diving in its high altitude lakes. Because of its high altitude, it is also a popular location for high performance athletes training for major competitions such as the Olympics. So it’s little wonder why the incredible road to the top caught our eye.
The crowning jewel of the 2020 Haute Route Mexico event, the Nevado de Toluca is unlike any other climb in the world. Starting at Valles de Bravo’s Lake at 1800m, the magnificent road winds to 3440m at it’s highest point.
The first 30km takes riders out of town on a consistent climb to the outskirts of the mountain range where the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries are located. These beautiful Chrysalis migrate thousands of kilometres from Canada to this unique forest in Mexico each year, where they settle and rest for the winter. It’s easy to imagine the kind of magical atmosphere this place provides.
After a fast, long and winding descent to San Francisco, your heart rate will soar again for the thrilling climb to the volcano, with more than 29km of pure, intense pedalling. Altitude training can make a big difference here, so it is worth considering it in your training agenda for a climb like this.
As with all high mountains; weather conditions can change quickly, so it is important to always be prepared. The average temperatures oscillate during the year from -4 C to 12C. During summer, however, temperature is usually warmer and accompanied by afternoon storms.
From semi tropical weather, to high altitude woods, plus smooth climbs to leg-breaking climbs the Nevado de Toluca will certainly be a challenge unique to Haute Route Mexico.
Surrounded by beautiful, traditional towns like Temascaltepec and Real de Arriba, this climb is a full immersion into Mexico’s warm and vibrant culture.
Undoubtedly one of the most iconic cycling routes in Mexico, this heroic course demands a huge effort for every cyclist taking it on. But the personal reward is always guaranteed, and Nevado de Toluca will take a special place in your best cycling memories for years to come.
Rancho Avandaro to Nevado de Toluca National Park Climb
Average gradient: 8%
Maximum gradient: 12%
Maximum elevation: 3440m