Hiking the Archeological Petroglyphs near Puerto Vallarta

The ancient trails of the Huichol Indians are definitely a sight to see. Just 2 hours North of Puerto Vallarta, or 1 hour North of local surf spot Sayulita, lay an epic local hiking spot called ‘La Pila del Rey’ or “The Kings Fountain”.

Panorama of the Fountain

A beautiful local hiking spot through the jungles of Nayarit leads one through a complex series of ancient stone carvings. Maintained by local caretakers, the epic beauty of this ancestral worship space has been gently kept alive.

Jungle surroundings

Plenty of recent care has occurred to the archeological site by the locals. The windy road is passable even in a small car (our economy rental car did just fine), and a new parking lot has been created just outside the entrance of the site itself. So there is no longer any need to hike down the road. The cost to enter the site is 50 pesos per person, and most of the costs go towards maintaining the park.

Getting to the Archeological Site

Driving north on highway 200 from either Puerto Vallarta or Sayulita, you will pass through the towns of Rincón de Guayabitos and La Peñita. 10 minutes farther north and you will see a sign for Alta Vista on the right, take your exit here. If using GPS, input Alta Vista as your destination, yet refer to my instructions after you take this exit.

Large map from turnoff at highway 200

After exiting highway 200 (the first star marked on the map) you will continue down the windy road towards Alta Vista. After a few minutes of beautiful farmland and Ceiba tree lined fences, you will take your first left when you reach a “Y” in the road (I have marked the turn with the second star on the map). From here you will continue down the windy farm road for about 15 minutes, passing the end of any marked road on google maps. The road is bumpy and slow-moving, yet full of breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains of Nayarit.

Zoomed in map from left turn off of Alta Vista Rd to the parking lot

It is likely you will be stopped by Juan Carlos in a mini van, the main caretaker of the site. He will charge the entrance fee to the park (50 pesos) and can answer any questions you may have, although he speaks mainly Spanish. The parking lot is located at the entrance of the site, and is the final star on the map. On our way down we passed a local man indigenous to the area, dressed entirely in traditional Huichol clothing. He was selling his handwoven items and jewelry which was a beautiful introduction into the history and tradition of this area

Petroglyph Signs to inform hikers of historic info

The entrance of the property is marked with a barbed wire fence. There are 15 green signs (like the one above), offering some history of the petroglyphs (rock carvings) and the local people. As soon as you pass by the first few signs and begin hiking, 2 gently-faded spirals beckon you down the path to explore.

Spiral Petroglyph

I found this to be the most fascinating jungle hiking near Puerto Vallarta.

Directly through the jungle, passing gorgeous outcroppings of rock, one discovers beautifully preserved petroglyphs of spirals, intricate patterns, masks, iguanas, ancient gods, and many other symbols. There are many sacrificial sites along the way, where local Huichol Indians continue to worship and bring offerings to this site.

A fountain fit for the Gods!

Eventually you will reach the main site at the waterfall, where delicately formed volcanic rock has created columns surrounding a crystal clear river. A fountain fit for the gods indeed!! Incredibly beautiful pools of water are held by handsome rocks carved by ancient ancestors. The sightseeing was incredible here, and we spent almost 3 hours hiking around just this area. We seen only one other couple exploring the entire time, and were completely engulfed in the beauty of our surroundings. The area was completely engulfed in jungle, we meditated near the glyphs, swam in sacred waters, and made offerings of our own to the sacristy of ancient spectacles preserved so delicately within nature.

The epic natural pools of the kings fountain

I am so glad we chose to do this hike than a few of the others nearby, as the history of the site was truly fascinating. It really felt like a special place.

My partner and I in front of the glyphs at the fountain

For the best experience, bring good walking shoes (or maybe you prefer barefoot, that’s what my boyfriend did!). Bring plenty of water, and maybe a nice trail snack. Remember, PACK IN PACK OUT, bring your garbage out with you. Many of the locals bring art as offerings to the ancient site, perhaps you will feel inclined to offer as well. There are local tour guides who offer English-guided tours if you prefer more comfort. But we opted for the self adventure, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Let me know if you are planning to visit the site and share any photos or updates!!

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