Rios de Cristal: River Trekking in San Francisco, Antioquia

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Rios de Cristal: River Trekking in San Francisco, Antioquia

TLDR? River trekking is an adventure suitable for beginners and is a great way to get outdoors and explore the countryside.

There are several small towns scattered around Antioquia, and one of those is San Francisco. San Francisco is famous for its outdoor adventures, one of those being river trekking!

Sound interesting? Then check out this guide and prepare for a hike through Rios de Cristal, one of the best trekking in this region!

Where Is Rios de Cristal?

Rios de Cristal actually refers to two of the most beautiful rivers in this region, Rio Verde de Los Henaos and Rio Melcocho.

Rio Verde de Los Henaos is a river that flows from Sonson Mountain and joins with Rio Verde de Los Montes, creating the Rio Verde.

The second river gained its name from the native tree Melcocho, an almost extinct species that used to grow at the same point where the river starts.

Today, there are several adventure companies in San Francisco that offer a three-day-long trek through these two rivers.

What to Expect on this Trekking Adventure

Despite its long duration, Rios de Cristal’s trekking is suitable for beginners. However, recommendations are that you don’t go trekking here if you’ve got back problems, heart issues, or any other medical conditions.

On the trip, you’ll push your limits hiking over bridges, through rivers, and up mountains. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart!

Here’s a short description of what to expect each day of this adventure.

First Day

The trek starts from Pailania, which is five minutes by car from San Francisco. A truck will pick you up and drive you to a small village named El Retiro, in Cocorná where the hike begins.

The road along the Melcocho River flows right alongside you for the first part of the hike. During the trek, the guide will let you loose to jump into these two clear rivers, so enjoy!

After you’re done going swimming, you’ll continue up the mountain to the Vereda El Porvenir and arrive just in time for lunch. This is the perfect opportunity to try traditional food cooked by local farmers. After lunch, I suggest you talk with the locals and learn about their traditions and lifestyles. 

On the first day, you’ll walk about 5,5 miles (9km) which takes roughly seven hours. This is just the pre-workout!

Second Day

The second day consists of hiking up the mountain, so get ready to work your legs. The second day will be trickier, but it’ll be worth every drop of sweat!

You’ll hike from El Porvenir to the Rio Verde de Los Henaos. From there, you’ll continue to Vereda la Torre. And then, just follow Rio Verde de Los Henaos to reach Vereda la Playa, where you’ll spend the second night.

This second day includes another seven hours of walking and covers about seven miles (11km). 

Third Day

It’s the last and glorious day!

On the third day, it’s time to hike the last part up to the mountain until you reach the top. You may be tired from the other days, but the landscapes that surround you as you climb up are such a good reward!

You’ll find yourself in front of the Paramo Sonson, looking at Morro de La Vieja, a giant rock formation 9000 feet (2800m) above sea level. Legend says that this rock features the face of an old woman, Maria la Parda, who was the guardian of Paramo Sonson.

Then, you’ll continue until the Vereda Manzanares, where a truck will be waiting to pick you up and leave you in San Francisco or Pailania.

The last day consists of about eight hours of walking, and the trail’s 10 miles (16km) long.

Additional Information About the Trek

Before you rush out and sign up for your hike, there are a couple of things to know. For one thing, the trek will include:

  • Transport from San Francisco to El retiro, and from Vereda Manzanares, close to Sonson, back to San Francisco (You can also ask for pick up in Medellin).
  • Overnight stay in a farmhouse
  • Eight meals: two days of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as the last day’s breakfast and lunch.
  • A guide
  • An insurance policy

I suggest the Aventura San Francisco tours. This agency offers different treks, so you can choose whichever suits you best.

What to Bring

If you’re a hiking expert, you might already know this. However, check this list and make sure you don’t forget anything! You should bring:

  • Comfortable shoes: with good grip and waterproof if possible.
  • Raincoat: the weather can change fast, so it’s good to keep a small jacket with you
  • Light backpack: it’s better to bring only the necessary items so you don’t overload your back.
  • Change clothes: one for each day and one extra, in case you get wet.
  • Sleeping bag: ask the guide if it’s necessary or if they’ll provide one for you.
  • Torch or light: some villages don’t have electricity at night.
  • Snack and Water: in case you need more than the food provided.
  • Toiletries: you won’t find many shops there, so better bring everything you might need.
  • Camera: to take beautiful pictures from the top of the mountain!

You’ll Never Forget This Trekking Experience!

Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about the Rios de Cristal Trekking, do you feel ready for this challenge? Make sure to put what you need in your backpack and get ready to explore this corner of Antioquia!

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