The Parque Valle de las Monjas is part of the larger surroundings of the Desierto de los Leones park. As the name implies, the park surrounds one of the old roads to the monastery running southwest from the north of the main park. Still very close to the urban core of Mexico City, it’s even closer to the Santa Fe area. The ridge with the park is just up from the wide valleys covered in oyamel and pine trees and which continue across the west of much of Mexico City.
Popular with those seeking forest trails, springs and small rivers perfect for hiking or mountain biking, the park teems with life no matter what’s going on in the rest of the City. Those hoping for the full treatment can eventually arrive to the Carmelite monastery. However, most visitors will stick to the central parts of the park where a few small eateries cling to the edges of the main road.
The park was declared a forest reserve in 1876. Later it came to be the City’s first National Park. This was part of a decree issued by President Venustiano Carranza in 1917. The Valle de Las Monjas survived most of the 20th century as part of the forest reserve of San Mateo Tlaltenango. Like many parts of Cuajimalpa, communities here long took advantage of the forest’s considerable resources. Today it’s protected, but still a part of the Tlaltenango community.
Today, the park is most easily accessible from Tlaltenango’s southwestern edges. Here, a couple of old roads extend well into the forest. They end with a paintball center and sometime temascal as well as with most of the services one hopes for in larger forest parks. These are at the limits of the park accessible by vehicle. Those willing to park the car can, with a considerable hike, eventually arrive to the monastery. It’s not recommended that hikers try this without a guide. Although, as the crow flies, it’s less than 2 kms distance, the trails are hardly straightforward.
It’s important to look for official tour guides or groups. They can provide security for newcomers to the park. Even for experienced hikers, the official guides will provide some useful tips as to orientation and seasonal considerations. It’s especially important to travel with a party of other interested hikers or bikers.