The Casita Volcano is surrounded by small villages and farms, and there is no paved road to the bottom of the volcano. However, a network of unpaved roads leads to the neighboring villages and can provide access to the foot of the volcano. There is even a road that leads to the top of the volcano. The easiest access is through the Hurricane Mitch Memorial Museum, which is located at the original place of the Rolando Rodriguez village, some 3 kilometers from the foot of the volcano.
From here, an unpaved road can be followed to reach the slopes of El Casita. The road continues along private coffee farms that are located along the slopes. Here, the ascent really starts. Conveniently paved, the road is easy to follow. However, the steepness is comparable to the Mombacho Volcano and quite challenging, even for well-trained hikers.
Compensating for this steep climb are the spectacular vistas and the fact that trees provide shade along the major part of the road. The higher one gets, the better the panoramas. The forest is also impressive, with thickly forested slopes at higher altitudes. Birds, lizards, and small rodents can be been here.
A paved road continues up to the highest part of this dormant volcano. This road is used by trucks of the coffee haciendas but primarily services two other groups that have vested interest in the summit of the volcano: communication companies and the Nicaraguan Army. The reason is simple: due to its height and strategic location, El Casita forms an excellent place for communication antennas, which are therefore set up in large numbers at the summit. El Casita has been a strategic post for the army for years, and there is still an army post at the top of the volcano. Television, radio, and telephone companies also use this road in order to maintain their antennas at the summit.
After some 4-5 hours of hiking, the road finally ends at the army post. Access is generally no problem, and visitors can observe the antennas that are set up at the top. The view from above are spectacular, and the neighboring San Cristobal Volcano – Nicaragua's highest volcano – can be easily seen from here. It is also possible to observe the place where the 1998 mudslide began. This slope is still largely bare and gives a good impression of the magnitude of this event.
Hiking downhill is much more convenient, and will take less time and effort. Depending on the time available, visitors can also pass by the fumeroles that are located a couple hundred meters from the summit (along the road). Descending from the top, it will take some 3 hours to get back to the memorial site. Paying a visit to this interesting museum before or after the climb is certainly a very complementing experience, which provides more insight into the region and the disaster that took place in 1998.
A guide is recommended when climbing this volcano. The road that leads to the top makes things easier, but knowledge of the area is always very important and makes for a much safer trip. Some tour operators offer this tour, and alternatively visitors can arrange for a guide themselves. In this case, it is recommended to reach the area on a first day and arrange a guide, and then climb the next day. That way, there is enough time and hiking can start early in the morning. There are no hotels in the area but bringing a tent and camping on-site is possible. Asking permission to sleep in the building next to the museum is also an option.
Be sure to bring enough water (4 liters per person is recommended for the climb). Binoculars, photo camera, and sunscreen are also useful. Note that despite the antennas located at the summit, cellphone signal can be weak in the region.
Getting to: Casita Volcano
The dirt-road to the Hurricane Mitch Memorial Museum starts at Km 115 of the highway from León to Chinandega. The museum is located at some 7 kilometers from this highway, and can be accessed with a low-clearance car. However, during the rainy season the road can deteriorate and a higher clearance vehicle might be necessary. There is no public transportation to this site, so the other option would be to hike from the main road. The foot of the volcano is some 3 kilometers from this museum.