El Chico Hidalgo National Park is a protected area with a surface of 2,739 hectares, located in the center of the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. It was declared a national park of Mexico in 1982, but the protection of the area dates back to 1898, making it one of the oldest protected areas in Mexico and Latin America². El Chico National Park belongs to the Comarca Minera Geopark, designated within the global network of Geoparks by UNESCO.
The park has a stunning scenic beauty due to its mountainous relief, crossed by active river drainage and covered with lush fir forest (Abies religiosa). The park also has impressive rock formations, valleys, and canyons that create a natural mosaic of distinctive physical and biological features³. The park performs important ecological functions, derived from the forest ecosystem, valuable for its biological richness. It is an area of rainfall capture and aquifer recharge, that maintains the regional hydrological balance by providing water to the basins of the Valley of Mexico and the Pánuco River and contributes to the regulation and climatic stability.
The park is located in the wide border zone between the Nearctic and Neotropical regions of America, where species with affinities from the North and South of the continent interact. This location, from a biogeographic point of view, gives the region a unique biological diversity; despite being relatively small compared to the areas of the Valley of Mexico and the Sierra de Pachuca³. The vascular flora of the park is rich and varied, due to the environmental characteristics it presents. Its flora consists of approximately 545 species, of which eight are at risk according to NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001 (Environmental protection-Native species of Mexico of wild flora and fauna-Risk categories and specifications for their inclusion, exclusion or change-List of species at risk). In addition, six genera of conifers are distributed in the area out of the nine represented in Mexico, such as Abies, Pinus, Cupressus, Juniperus, Taxus, and Pseudotsuga. The fauna is characteristic of humid temperate zones, highlighting the mouse (Peromyscus difficilis), field rat (Neotoma mexicana), rabbit (Sylvilagus cunicularius), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), snake (Thamnophis scaliger), golden-browed warbler (Basileuterus belli) among others³.
El Chico Hidalgo National Park is considered one of the bastions of ecotourism in Hidalgo; as activities such as cycling, mountain biking, sport fishing, hiking, climbing, rappelling, camping, and hiking can be practiced². It is an area of strict protection, where all human activity is regulated and nature conservation is the priority². It is forbidden to capture animals and extract plants, litter, camp outside designated areas, and make fires outside marked sites; dogs must be leashed². There are several places within El Chico National Park where some type of infrastructure has been installed to receive tourism.