Nevado de Toluca National Park protects the Nevado de Toluca volcano, which forms nearly the entire park surface and is the fourth-highest peak in Mexico. The volcano, still commonly referred to by its Aztec name, "Xinantécatl," has been long extinct.
Nevado de Toluca
Nevado de Toluca, although still commonly referred to by its Aztec name "Xinantécatl," is a stratovolcano in the State of Mexico situated between the valleys of Toluca and Tenango (Valle del Matlatzinco).
The volcano and the area around it are now a National Park, located about 22 km (14 mi) southwest of Toluca and about 80 km (50 mi) west of Mexico City.
Nevado de Toluca reaches an elevation of 4,680 m (15,354 ft) asl, making it the fourth-highest formation in Mexico. The mountain is located within the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The volcano has a wide summit caldera open to the east. The highest summit, Pico del Fraile (Friar's Peak) at 4,680 m (15,354 ft), is on the southwest side of the crater, and the second-highest, Pico del Aguila (Eagle's Peak) at 4,640 m (15,223 ft), is on the northwest.
There are two crater lakes on the floor of the basin at about 4,200 m (13,800 ft), the more prominent Lago del Sol (Sun Lake) and the smaller but deeper Lago de la Luna (Moon Lake).
Geologists and Volcanologists believe that Nevado de Toluca may have once been as tall as Popocatepetl. A massive eruption about 25,000 years ago may have reduced the summit height by up to 900 m (3,000 ft). There have been no significant eruptions in the last 10,000 years.
Nevado de Toluca National Park
Nevado de Toluca National Park is located southwest of Toluca, Mexico State. It was decreed as a National Park in 1936 to protect the Nevado de Toluca volcano, which forms nearly the park's entire surface and is the fourth-highest peak in Mexico.
Nevado de Toluca National Park was established for conservation purposes, extending over 51,000 ha (126,000 acres) and including parts of twelve municipalities. Still, the area is under increasing pressure from the growth of the Toluca metropolitan area and illegal logging.
The volcano has been long extinct and has a large crater and two shallow lakes. The crater and lakes are popular with visitors from Mexico State and Mexico City, especially when there is snow.
The volcano's watersheds feed many freshwater springs and streams, but the capacity of this watershed is compromised by erosion and deforestation.
Some archeological sites within the National Park, including the lakes, contain numerous offerings of copal (used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense) and other items deposited during the pre-Hispanic period.
The National Park offers hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and limited skiing facilities.
Flora and Fauna
Most of the park is sparsely forested with firs, pines and broadleaved trees dominating. Firs are mostly found at the lower levels of the park in an area known as the Peña Ahumada in the northeast section and some higher levels just under the tree line.
Most broad-leaved trees are found in the piedmont area at the lowest elevations. However, on the mountain slopes are significant extensions of pine trees.
Alpine meadows and grasslands dominate the area above the tree line up to the crater. These plant communities are an important reserve of endemic species.
Animal life includes opossums, coyotes, squirrels, reptiles, rabbits, and birds.