The Cerro Negro volcano is a young and unique volcano. The steep slopes of this black volcano lack any vegetation. On and around the volcano lies a big layer of volcanic ash and rocks. An eruption in 1999 has left a wide border of black, volcanic material around the Cerro Negro and there are two smaller craters right next to the volcano which were recently formed.
Climbing the Cerro Negro is not like any other volcano in Nicaragua. The volcano is only about 500 meters high (726 meters above sea level), but the ascent is steep and tough. There is no paved trail; just a merely natural path along a rim that leads to the top. The ascent takes about one hour to the top, and although it requires some effort the superb views are certainly rewarding. The absence of trees provides fantastic scenery, and upon reaching the top visitors have a 360 degree view of the area.
The crater – often emitting smoke and gas – can be observed from above, and the crater rim leads to the other side where the imposing volcanic chain can be seen with several volcanoes (including the Telica and San Cristóbal) lined up one after another. You will enjoy the view before starting the descent. This is a whole other adventure by itself.
One of the volcano’s slopes is too steep to climb – but consequently great for a fast descent! Instead of large rocks this side only has volcanic sand, providing a great surface for running downhill. This thrilling experience takes less than ten minutes before reaching the bottom, but for the less athletic hikers it is also possible to walk more slowly while again enjoying the superb views. Alternatively, experienced snow- or sandboarders can use a wooden board to go downhill, much like snowboarding down a mountain but now on a volcanic slope! In any way, the Cerro Negro provides a unique and intense experience that can be enjoyed by anybody in a fair shape.
The most important difficulties are the heat and intense sun. Be sure to bring enough water and sunscreen but most importantly plan this trip as early on the day as possible. Travel around sunrise to climb the volcano when it is still warming up. It is furthermore useful to bring good clothing: a pair of pants and solid hiking shoes or boots to provide protection against the sharp volcanic rocks.
Visitors should be in a fair shape and able to hike a steep, rocky path. The whole hike (ascending, exploring, and descending) takes relatively a little compared to other volcanos, making the Cerro Negro more accessible than many other, higher volcanoes which require much longer hikes.
The volcano is located in a rural area, 25 kilometers northeast of León. The unpaved, sandy roads that lead to the volcano should be traveled in a high-clearance vehicle. Hiring a guide is highly recommended to reach the volcano and its summit easily and safely. Tour operators in León offer tours to the Cerro Negro, including transportation.
The Cerro Negro can be reached by taking the bypass road from León that leads to the highway to Chinandega. Only a couple kilometers from León there is a sign pointing to Lechecuagos, a rural community, and there is also a sign that indicates the Cerro Negro. From here the road is unpaved and signs are set up in the direction of the volcano. Sometimes roadsigns are missing in this maze of sandy paths, so be sure to ask around whenever the direction is not clear.
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