Alto de San Miguel: The Medellín River’s Birthplace 

alto de san miguel

TLDR? Alto de San Miguel is considered a Regional Protective Forest Reserve and is home to 16% of Colombia’s biodiversity!

The Medellin River crosses the City of Eternal Spring, and around this urban waterway, events such as the December lightings have been held. Plus, not to mention, Parques del Río sits right by the riverbed!

This river starts its journey from a hamlet near the municipality of Caldas, not far to the south of the city. There, you can enjoy ecotourism activities.

If you’re a fan of hiking, waterfalls, and nature, this is the place to visit. Here’s everything you need to know about Alto de San Miguel, the Medellin River’s Birthplace.

Where Is the Alto de San Miguel and How to Get There

Alto de San Miguel and How to Get There

El Alto de San Miguel is located in the La Clara hamlet. As mentioned earlier, this hamlet belongs to the municipality of Caldas, in the south of Medellin.

From the city center, it’ll take you approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to get there by car. However, there are many ways to get there if you’re not renting a vehicle. 

One of the easiest and most economical ways to get there is to use the metro system. Just take the A line heading south and then get off at the last station, La Estrella.

From there, you take a bus on one of the integrated routes that go to the municipality of Caldas. Once in Caldas, you take another bus that goes up to La Clara Hamlet. When you arrive there, the tour begins on foot over all the wooded areas.

A Bit of Background on the Alto de San Miguel

Background on the Alto de San Miguel

If you’re thinking that there’s nothing to do at the Alto de San Miguel, think again. Just getting there is an adventure since you’ll have to go for a bit of a hike!

This place, which sits between 1,900 and 3,500 meters above sea level, is made up of 1,622 hectares. This ecosystem has mature secondary forests that protect the basins that make up the Medellín River and form the fog forest. 

There are two zones in the Alto de San Miguel, the Premontane Very Humid Forest and Low Montane Very Humid Forest, which have an average annual temperature of 14.5 °C and rains between 2,500 and 3,600 mm/year.

The Alto de San Miguel borders on the east with the municipality of Retiro, on the southwest with the municipalities of Montebello and Santa Barbara, and on the northeast with the municipalities of Envigado and Sabaneta.

It was declared a nature reserve in 1993. Currently, the Environmental Secretary of Medellín is responsible for protecting this area. In 2001 the area was declared a wildlife refuge, and in 2016, it changed to a regional protected forest reserve.


According to statistical data, the reserve contains a whopping 16% of the biodiversity reported for the entire country of Colombia. As a result, it’s earned the title of Regional Protective Forest Reserve.

Thanks to this, you can see many different species of birds and mountain animals in their natural habitat. In fact, there are over 240 species of birds in the reserve!

Besides animals, there are up to 520 species of plants in the area. A few of the animals you might sight in the area include: 

  • Blue toucan
  • Turpial
  • Guagua
  • Night monkeys
  • Wild rabbits
  • Armadillos
  • Cusumbos
  • Ñeques

The high degree of conservation of this natural refuge has managed to bring species that were already thought to be displaced from the region back to Antioquia. That process hasn’t been fast, however. It’s taken 25 years to get the preserve back to what it once was before humans came into the picture. 

Local Tours at Alto de San Miguel

Local Tours at Alto de San Miguel

Once you arrive in La Clara hamlet, it’s time to start exploring! While you’re welcome to do this on your own, I think the best option is to go with a company. It’s easy to get lost, so having a guide is definitely a good way to make sure you stay safe. 

Here are a few of my favorite agencies that you can go with. 

Trekking San Cristobal

The tour takes approximately 7 hours. Once you reach the La Clara village, you’ll walk through a part of the Aburrá-Medellin river and enjoy the views of beautiful landscapes. Then, you’ll start the descent to swim in the crystal waters of the river.

You’ll have access to the natural refuge, tourist guide, medical insurance, and group integration for a very reasonable price. You can also ask the tourism agency to take you back to Medellin and drop you off at your hotel.


Ecoglobal Expeditions

If you prefer to take a quiet walk through the forest and do some bird watching, then you can take this hiking tour that lasts about 4 hours. The walk runs along paths that border the river to the wildlife refuge and recreational, ecological park of Alto de San Miguel.


Camping in the Alto de San Miguel

Camping in the Alto de San Miguel

Being close to Medellin, you can always just take a day trip from your Casacol rental out to the Alto de San Miguel. 

But, if you’re interested in roughing it, there are a few glamping spots nearby to enjoy as well. Here are a few of my favorites.  

Monteclara Glamping

This spot consists of small cabins with a rustic touch where you can connect with nature. It’s located just 30 minutes from the mountain, so it’s the perfect place to rest after touring the area.

The cabins feature a double bed, jacuzzi, outdoor bathroom, and everything you need to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Medellin.

Address: Caldas, La Clara, Caldas, Antioquia

La Clara Camping

La Clara Camping is a green place full of lush greenery where you can set up your tent and sleep under the stars. You can choose to spend the evening taking a dip in the nearby stream or pool. 

This green spot has a and pet-friendly atmosphere in which to live the complete experience of venturing through the mountains, rivers, and waterfalls of Antioquia.

Address: La Clara, Caldas, Antioquia

Where to Eat Near Alto de San Miguel

Eat Near Alto de San Miguel

Is your stomach rumbling after the adventure, or did you forget to buy a snack to keep you energized on the hike? 

Whichever the case, there are a couple of small shops and restaurants near the mountain where you can get some supplies or make some last-minute purchases. Here are a few of them. 

Ay mi Madre

Ay Mi Madre is a small country restaurant preferred by cyclists and travelers. Its specialty is the bandeja paisa and other typical dishes

Location: Vereda La Clara, Caldas, Antioquia

Parador Los Lagos

This is a pastry shop and restaurant near Parador Los Lagos. If you’re wanting some coffee or an afternoon snack, this is a good place to check out. 

Location: Caldas, Antioquia

Merengones La Clara

Merengones La Clara is a small shop where they sell a variety of delicious desserts. The specialty is the Merengon, a dessert made of meringue, whipped cream, and fruit. Other specialties include waffles, cakes, lemon pie, drinks, and sodas.

Location: La Clara, Caldas, Antioquia

Visit the Alto de San Miguel

Alto de San Miguel is one of Antioquia’s most biodiverse areas. It’s also considered a nature reserve and is a space that’s home to the birthplace of the Medellin river. 

If you are a lover of nature and outdoor activities, this place is ideal for a one-day getaway. Check it out and explore the wilder side of Medellin!

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