Are you looking for information on the Vías Verdes bike path in the Tequila Valley?
You have come to the right place. I have been riding my bike around western Mexico for 15 years and I love the Vías Verdes bike path system in the Tequila Valley.
Mexico has one of the world’s great cycling cultures. People use bicycles for transportation, work, and recreation. It is no surprise that local governments are dedicating more resources to bicycle infrastructure.
There are 11 different municipalities and hundreds of ranches in the Tequila Valley. Many of the villages are only a few miles from the next village over. Bike paths are a great way to travel through the valley because they are safe, well-maintained, and have beautiful scenery.
Vías Verdes Bike Path Overview
Train tracks began to appear in Mexico in the 19th century. In 1888, Porfirio Díaz inaugurated the Guadalajara to Mexico City connection. In the late 19th and early 20th century, a network of train tracks went in all over Mexico.
Train tracks connected the Tequila Valley to Guadalajara and the Pacific Coast. Both passengers and agricultural products made their way to the markets in the big city.
Unfortunately, the rail system would face major challenges in the 1980s and many of the companies operating the train tracks would go out of business.
The last train passed through the Tequila Valley in 1995 and the tracks were ultimately turned into bike paths connecting small towns.
The Vías Verdes bikes paths are reserved for non-motorized vehicles including bikes, skates, horses, and pedestrians.
The old train stations were turned into museums and rest stops.
The Vías Verdes bike paths are a wonderful way to see the countryside and travel between the pueblos in the Tequila Valley.
In some areas, the original train tracks frame brick paths. In most areas, the rails were removed and a cement pathway was laid where the train lines once operated.
There are little bridges over creeks that still have the original crossties.
Vías Verdes Bike Path Map
The biggest towns along the Vías Verdes bike path are Tala, Ameca, and Etzatlán. However, it is not a loop but makes a T shape.
The main route runs from Tala to Ameca along Highway 70. About halfway between Ameca and Tala, at the village of La Vega, there is a connection with another branch of the Vías Verdes that heads northwest to Ahualulco de Mercado and Etzatlán.
The town of Tala was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century. There was already a significant native population in the valley, whose ceremonial center was located in nearby Teuchitlán.
Tala didn’t develop a significant population until the late 19th century when the sugarcane industry really started to grow. The train lines to Guadalajara are another factor in that growth.
The Vías Verdes bike path is on the north side of Highway 70 while the town is on the south side of the highway.
Today, the Tala Train Station (Estacion del Ferrocarril Ingenio de Tala) is the local soccer field clubhouse. It looks like a museum with all sorts of antiques hung on the wall. There is plenty of parking but is only accessible from the westbound direction of Highway 70.
The town of Ameca is an important agricultural center founded in 1325 by the Jojouhquitecuani chief, El León Bravo. The word “Ameca” means “rope of water” or “river” in Náhuatl which is fitting because the Ameca River flows all the way to Puerto Vallarta where it empties into the Banderas Bay.
The old Ameca train station is on the north side of town next to the Parque del Oeste and the Fairgrounds. The Vías Verdes leave Ameca to the east and roll through sugar can fields in between the Cerro Cuauhtépetl and Highway 70.
Considering the many centuries of agriculture, the region has a wealth of culinary traditions. Cultural Anthropologist and cookbook author, Maru Toledo recently published a book and the oral histories of the traditional cooks of Ameca. The birria from Ameca is particularly popular.
La Vega is a tiny community at the junction of the two Vías Verdes routes. It is right in the middle of the Ameca-Tala route and the Etzatlá-Ahualulco de Mercado route.
The church in La Vega is beautiful, especially for a town this size. It is located just a few blocks from the La Vega Train Station.
La Vega is the name of the dam and lake that runs all the way up to Teuchitlán. Right next to the dam is a small park with a bridge that crosses the Ameca River.
Ahualulco de Mercado
Ahualulco is a small town of a little more than 20,000 people that was founded in the early 16th century. The name “Ahualulco” comes from the Náhuatl word Ayahualulco which means crown of water. The Mercado part is in reference to Father José María Mercado who fought for independence from Spain.
The area was a center of gold and silver mining during the colonial period. There was an important battle during the Mexican Revolution between Alvaro Obregón and Victoriano Huerta’s Federalist troops in Ahualulco de Mercado.
Maru Toledo operates a ranch outside of town where she hosts cooking events meant to preserve the historic culinary traditions of Jalisco. I highly recommend following her Facebook page and attending a Sunday afternoon event. The food is excellent but the history of rural Jalisco is incredible.
The Vías Verdes bike path and train station are on the west side of town just three blocks from the main plaza.
About halfway between Ahualulco de Mercado and Etzatlán, at the top of the little hill, there is a rest stop at La Estancia. The view is nice and cyclists like to stop and rest at the top of the hill.
The last time I was there a group of older cyclists were drinking some beers and cheering on every cyclist that made it to the top of the hill. I love Mexican cycling culture. There are a lot of cool people riding their bikes around here.
I think that Etzatlán needs to be nominated for the Pueblo Mágico program. The town is beautiful, clean, and has a rich history.
Nobody can say for sure what the name means but the leading theories are “Place of the Ytzas”, “Place of blood”, or “Place where they cooked grains of corn”, depending on the language used for translation.
This was the first rural retreat that I visited when I moved to Guadalajara in 2009. Hotel El Centenario is a time capsule and an all-around great experience.
I found them while looking at the Haciendas y Casonas de Jalisco website and my family has gone on to stay at five more of their properties in different corners of the state.
In 2009, Etzatlán and María Concepcion Siordia Godinez won a Guinness record for the largest crochet canopy in the world. It is beautiful and has sparked a revival in tourism to the area.
The Guamuchil Waterpark is a great reason to bring the kids out to Etzatlán in the hot spring months.
The Historic Etzatlán Train Station is right next to the baseball field and Highway 4. There is plenty of parking and a small museum with irregular hours.
Final Thoughts On The Vías Verdes Bike Path
My Uncle Mike got me interested in bicycle tourism when I was a little kid. He would take me on short camping trips up the coast which were big adventures for a ten-year-old kid.
I think that riding a bike is a great way to travel. You get a better perspective from the seat of a bike. I have lived in Jalisco for a long time but traveling the Vías Verdes bike path let me see how people live outside of the city.
Country life is a big part of the identity of Jalisco. The Vías Verdes bike paths are a great way to access that culture. You should check them out.