Peninsula highlights

This section distills some of our favorite locations in Baja California.  These are locations that can be driven to from the main Carretera Peninsular (Highway 1).  There are other locations, such as Guadalupe and Cedros Islands in the Pacific and a number of islands in the Gulf of California that would have to be included in a more comprehensive list.  Likewise, the high elevations of the Sierra de la Laguna in the Cape region has some unique vegetation.  However, these (and many other remote locations) cannot be easily visited by the average naturalist traveler.

Highlights of the peninsula described below. Some locations are approximate.

Highlights include:

San Pedro Martir National Park  While this high altitude park was originally known for the high mountain scenery (large areas above 7000 ft) and its astronomical observatories it is now also known for its California Condors that are being reintroduced here.

Sierra San Pedro Martir highest point.

Coastal Dudleyas near Ensenada: Approach Ensenada from the North one encounters steep roadcuts and cliffs with numerous Dudleya species.  These are actually best seen on the old road to Ensenada.  Dudleya species are found almost the length of the peninsula but the greatest diversity and abundance is between El Rosario and the US border.

Cataviña boulder fields   This area of granitic boulders, with their Elephant Trees, Cirio Trees, and large columnar cacti is the stereotypical landscape of Baja California.  In the large washes are two species of fan palm.  Extended stays are possible because of a good hotel located here.

The Cataviña boulder fields…

Guerrero Negro coastal marshes  Ordinarily coastal marshes are strictly for birders, but these are extensive and in addition to wading and shore birds there are large sand dunes (albeit in the distance) and people collecting shellfish on the mud flats.  Of course California Gray Whale watching tours can be taken here by small boat to see the whales in the lagoon. This is the main reason for foreign tourists to visit this area.

Salt marshes of Guerrero Negro.

Bahia Concepcion  This Bay is about 20 miles long and many places along the route are good for scenery and beach environments of the Gulf of California.  Some locations are good for exploring the mangroves.

Magdalena Plain near Puerto San Carlos  The Magdalena Plain has been developed for agriculture using groundwater,  However, this supply is limited and fortunately for the flora, the agriculture has not expanded much beyond what was developed by the 1980’s.  However, the most interesting parts of the plain are on spur roads leading to the Pacific Ocean.  Close to Puerto San Carlos one finds the unique Stenocereus eruca (Creeping Devil) cactus.  Also, for those really into Opuntia, there is a large patch of Opuntia pycnantha along the road in only one spot, on the north side of the road at km 40.2, that otherwise is mostly only seen on Isla Margarita.  We visited this patch in 2019, and previously in 1994 – and MD had seen the very same patch in the early 1970’s!

Creeping Devils on the Magdalena Plain.

Cape Mountains near San Bartolo  This area is the most accessible area of tropical deciduous forest on the peninsula.  It is especially impressive in late summer (September-October) when it is green from summer rains.

Road to the Pichilingue ferry terminal  This short road north from La Paz passes through dry landscapes juxtaposed with mangrove swamps.  These may be among the most accessible mangroves on the peninsula.  The road leads to the ferry terminal.  Unfortunately, the road is popular on weekends as it leads to nice beaches and there has been increasing construction of resorts in recent years extending along the road north from La Paz.

Road towards Sierra San Francisco   This road to a small community with nearby pinturas rupestres (indian petroglyphs and paintings).  We did not take the tours to the remote petroglyphs but the emptiness of the road and the transition from near sea level to abut 4000 ft elevation was very interesting.

Road to Bahia de Los Angeles  This spur off the main Transpeninsular highway leads to the small town of Bahia de Los Angeles (“LA Bay”).  Botanically the most interesting aspect is the transition from lichen festooned plants near the main highway to the extremely arid Gulf coastal desert along the Gulf of California.  Three Ocotillo species are seen along the road, as well as a variety of chollas.

Ocotillo “forest” just outside Bahia de Los Angeles.

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