The Hikes to the Monarch Butterfly Reserves

butterfly wing

Monarch Butterflies overwinter between 3100 and 3400 meters (10,000 and 11,000 ft.) above sea level in the mountains of Mexico. Therefore, altitude plays a role while hiking in the area. The air is thinner, the oxygen levels lower and you might feel you are breathing heavier while moving. Some people, especially when you are living at a higher altitude, might not be affected by it. But it is important to take it easy and to observe yourself to avoid feeling mild symptoms of altitude sickness and to acclimatize slowly. The hikes in each one of the three Reserves vary in terms of length, steepness and the place where the butterflies are at the time of our visit. The hiking time required to get to the sites will depend mainly on the level of fitness and most importantly, how each person adapts to altitude. In all the reserves, horses can be hired to save the longest and steepest part of the walk, but it is necessary to hike the last stretch to get to the butterflies. We will brief you before each hike, so you can decide in which way you want to visit the reserve.



Read more about each Reserve

Sierra Chincua Reserve

This is the first reserve we visit. It is usually the easiest hike. We will move slower and take several stops along the way. This is the perfect way to acclimatize to the altitude. During the hike we will point out local plants and you will learn about the difference of oyamel and pine trees. Depending on where the butterflies decided to hang out, it might have a short steep part towards the end. The hike is about 3 km (1,86 miles) starts at 3100 m (10160 ft) and you will gain in total about 250 m (820 ft). Horses are available to save some the first part of the hike.

El Rosario Reserve


This reserve was the first one to be opened to the public and provides the best infrastructure to receive visitors. The first part of the trail is the steepest but it has steps, so it is easier to walk. You also have the option to take horses to avoid the steepest part. You start at 3000 m. (10,000 ft.) and might get up to 3400 m. (11,150 ft.). In total you will walk around 3 km (1,86miles). The forest contains a lot of salvias and you might spot hummingbirds along the way.

Before we leave the area you have time to shop at the many souvenir stalls.


Cerro Pelon Reserve

This is definitely the hardest hike of all reserves. But it is also a very pristine and rewarding experience as it is the less visited reserve. You start in the small town of Macheros at 2450 m / 8000 ft. The hike is about 6 km (3.7 miles) and half of the way is very steep. The butterflies are normally at an altitude of  3200 m. or 3,400 m., (10,500 -11,200 ft). So you will be gaining more or less 800 m (2620 ft). Horses are available to cover most of the steep part but you will still need to walk the last bit. Macheros provides very little infrastructure, come prepared and bring snacks and water for the hike.



Piedra Herrada Reserve

This hike starts at 2.800 m (9.200 ft.) and takes you up to around 3.200 (10.500ft.). The first part is the steppest but the paved ground will help you. After ca. 400 meter we head into a beautiful, more humid forest. Depending on the exact location of the Monarchs, the last part of the trail can be steep. By the time we visit Piedra Herrada your body will have already adjusted better to the altitude and the acclimation process will help you a lot while hiking up the mountain. Obviously, you have the opportunity to hire a horse for most of the way. Nevertheless, the last 200 -400 meters will be on foot.

In general most people don’t have difficulties doing the hikes and reaching the hibernation areas of the Monarch butterflies. Nevertheless, we want to inform you as best as we can and we believe that you need to be aware of the facts. The show the butterflies perform and the endurance of their journey makes every step on this mountains worth it. Having the chance to experience it live, can’t be compared to anything you have seen on videos or fotos. The area is beautiful and it is an experience that you will remember for the rest of your lifetime.

Feel free to contact ask us ( if you want to learn more about the hikes or have any concerns.

flying butterfly

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