My US centric perspective left me surprised by the fact that, although Whitney may be the tallest mountain in the lower 48, Mexico owns a number of peaks that supersede 15,000 ft. One of those peaks is Toluca Volcano in the state of Mexico, which happened to be along our route to Mexico City. The mountain has good signage from highway 134, which for Mexico is rare. Heading south down highway 10 a dirt road will split off to the left leading to a toll. It was 40 pesos for our camioneta (van), 20 for autos. After the gate the road begins its long ascent up a winding road. The road to the trail head is 17 km long from highway 10 and can be a bit rough at times. That being said, we saw a number of vehicles with little clearance making their way up. When we reached the parking lot, the air was crisp and cool, snow was scattered on the ground and a heavy fog was moving briskly by, a far cry from the sandy beaches of the Pacific.
The trail from the parking lot to a saddle in the rim is only 2 kilometers with a gain of 1,000 feet. While this would normally be a proverbial walk in the park, the fact that we were above 13,000 feet had us struggling for oxygen. From the saddle we sat at a junction where trails headed off in every direction. We notice most visitors stop at this point. We could see the entire caldera and both its lakes, each one fitted with a trail leading to its shores. There are also trails along the rim heading in both directions. We chose the route to the east which appeared to be the nearest vista. We climbed another 600 feet over loose rocks as cool air was pulled into the crater. Once we reached the apex we sat above the weather and enjoyed a calm, warm respite. The view into the caldera was magnificent and served as the perfect reward.