Hiking Baja California Sur's Islands and Backcountry

Baja California Sur is a treasure that many have yet to discover. Outdoor opportunities abound in Baja Sur, including island hikes, sea kayaking, and desert backcountry backpacking.

From the arid peaks and spectacular canyons of Baja Sur’s interior to the picturesque islands and waters of Bahía de Loreto National Park (Loreto Bay National Park), there’s much to see and do.

Sierra de la Giganta view

Up high in the Sierra de la Giganta Range west of Loreto.

I hiked several amazing trails and spent time on and in the water. Here’s a rundown of my adventure.

Baja California Sur Gear Shakedown

The sun shines brightly in Baja California. Likewise, the gritty dirt, sharp volcanic rocks, and pokey bits of the plants and animals all share the same message — cover up.

The gear I brought for my trip was adequate, but I will opt for burlier boots and longer sleeves on my return trip. Here’s a shakedown on how to prepare for hiking in Baja California Sur.

Gear Type Product Recommendation Field Notes
Boots Protection from spines and sharp rocks. A lightweight, mid-height boot will be sufficient. Waterproofing isn’t necessary. Breathability is key.
Socks Reliable socks that won’t wear out, resist stink, and wick away sweat. Any wool hiking socks work.
Pants Lightweight and breathable, but tough enough to defend against sharp objects. Plus, they dry quickly and provide sun protection.
Underwear If you’re sensing a theme, you’re right. Merino wool is the way to go when exploring Baja Sur.
Shirt A thin, breathable long-sleeve shirt is your best bet. Even better, one that has a hood. That sun is harsh — cover yourself.
Hat Wide brim and ventilation are the attributes you want to look for in a hiking hat.
  • None
You won’t need a jacket if you’re wearing a long-sleeved shirt like the one mentioned above, along with a hood and a hat. It’s warm and doesn’t rain.
Water You must carry water with you — there’s barely any to find to collect and filter.
Daypack Consider a larger day pack than you typically carry. You’ll need the room for extra water and food, especially if you travel the backcountry.

Hiking Isla Coronados (Coronado Island)

Isla Coronados is one of five main islands that comprise Bahía de Loreto National Park in the Sea of Cortez, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated just off the coast of the adorable town of Loreto and north of the larger city of La Paz, Isla Coronados is a small slice of paradise.

Loreto, BCS

Loreto is the ideal place to start your adventure.

Many people who visit Isla Coronados do so via an island tour, but you can also hire a boat to ferry you or rent your own — the ride is fewer than 30 minutes from Loreto’s shore.

Isla Coronado.

Approaching Isla Coronados.

Crossing the waters is an adventure in itself — you may spot whales and dolphins en route to the island. Then, you’ll land at the spectacular Playa Isla Coronados, a long stretch of white sand in a large protected cove. The sparkling, crystal-clear water will tempt you to remain at the beach for your entire stay on the island.

But save it for later. Let the immaculate sands be your reward for hiking to Coronado’s volcanic peak.

Disembarking on the beach at Isla Coronado.

Disembarking on the beach at Isla Coronado.

Volcán Coronado: The Trail to Isla Coronados’ Summit

The Isla Coronados summit trail is a moderately challenging 3.4-mile out-and-back route. There’s a restroom at the trailhead. Make sure to bring water for this hike, especially if you’re heading out during the heat of the day.

And prepare yourself for jaw-dropping views.

Beginning at the beach, the trail’s first stretch is along a raised boardwalk over fragile plant life. It hardly ever rains on the island, so any damage you cause can have an impact for years. So stay on the trail, especially during the lower portion of this hike.

I'm coming back for you, beach!

I’m coming back for you, beach!

Where the boardwalk ends the trail transitions to a beautiful white sand ribbon, the remnants of ancient coral. You’ll hike over mounds of little white rocks which once were part of an enormous coral reef. Then, the trail turns upwards, with several switchbacks guiding you up and over crumbling volcanic rock.

Keep an eye out for wildlife, as the island is home to many birds, including blue-footed boobies, and 16 species of reptiles, many of which enjoy sunning on the black stones.

That's a lot of bygone coral.

That’s a lot of bygone coral.

This is where the views start turning from good to great, and they only improve as you make your way to the summit. At the top, you’ll have panoramic views of Bahía de Loreto National Park’s islands and the eastern shore of Baja Sur.

Once you’ve soaked up all of the views, you can head back down to the beach for a well-earned swim.

Isla Coronado summit views.

Isla Coronados summit. The cove where we started is in view, as is Loreto’s shoreline.

Isla Coronados Lower Trail

If the summit hike is too daunting, or you want to explore the island further, the Isla Coronados lower trail is an easy 3-mile out-and-back trail that starts at the same trailhead and journeys toward the island’s southwestern tip where two more beaches can be found.

This route stays low near sea level, crossing over white sand and lava rock, but nothing too challenging. It’s a great way to find some solitude from the weekend beach crowds that often grow through the afternoon.

Exploring Baja California Sur’s Backcountry

Are you interested in backcountry exploration? Endless opportunities await in Baja California Sur. The extremely dry terrain and unforgiving topography, such as that of the Sierra de la Giganta Range, demand respect. Do your research and bring plenty of supplies.

First-timers to the area would benefit from hiring a local guide for their first Baja California Sur backcountry adventure. Some areas and trails are on private property and require special permits, so it’s best to work with a certified guide who will ensure you’re properly prepared.

Two amazing guides showed me around the state. My favorite area to explore was Peninsula Concepción, on the eastern side of Bahía Concepción.

The mangrove-lined shore is known as the birthing grounds of many creatures that call the Sea of Cortez home. At the southeastern edge of the bay lies a series of dirt roads and wide-open flats that make for excellent off-grid camping. Van-lifers, road trippers, and anyone interested in remote camping must mark this area on their map.

Much of the peninsula is open for you to explore to your heart’s content. You’ll get much further if you have a reliable 4×4 vehicle, but your two feet will also serve you well.

Having fun on Peninsula Concepción.

Having fun on Peninsula Concepción.

I wandered through forests of cadrón cacti, navigated up and down canyons that were teeming with life, and discovered numerous cave paintings first-made millennia ago. My guides helped point out legitimate ancient paintings — others had been made more recently, though my untrained eye wouldn’t have been able to tell without the guide’s help.

This is but one of many areas where you can roam in Baja Sur, and I hardly scratched the surface of the peninsula, never mind the rest of the region. I can’t wait to go back for another trip.

More Adventures in Baja California Sur

I greatly enjoyed my trip to Baja California Sur. The quaint coastal town of Loreto was an ideal base camp location — the friendly locals, killer seafood, and beach vibes make it such a great place to stay.

Having only experienced a taste of what Loreto, Bahía de Loreto National Park, and Baja California Sur have to offer, I certainly want to go back for more.

Another island to explore in Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto.

Another island to explore in Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto.

My adventure priorities include returning to Bahía Concepción for an even longer off-grid backcountry excursion.

I’d also like to spend more time exploring the waters and islands of Bahía de Loreto National Park. One grand experience I’m looking forward to is a multi-day kayak expedition to visit each of the park’s islands.

Learn more about visiting Baja Sur.

Are you interested in planning a trip like this? Start planning your next adventure with Tripadvisor.

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Arthur McMahon

Arthur loves to walk. It's as simple as that. He believes walking is the best way to experience the world. Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was his first backpacking foray, and he hasn't stopped since. Follow his adventures and stories on Instagram.