It has been widely recognized that human life and welfare depend on ecological systems. Although forests provide an important range of ecosystem services, they are heavily threatened by deforestation. In recent years, Colombian deforestation rates have rapidly increased, which is partially explained by the end of the armed conflict but is also driven by both legal and illegal factors. We analyze the drivers and the effects of deforestation in Colombia from a systemic perspective, conceptualized under the socio-ecological systems approach. This allows us to map and understand the underlying dynamic complexity of deforestation, considering factors such as low institutional capacity, governance, social context, and imperfect enforcement of regulations. Our results show that both legal and illegal drivers of deforestation create reinforcing loops that will keep increasing deforestation as long as these activities are profitable. The balancing loops that could slow down and stop deforestation are determined by governance schemes, the self-regulation of local communities, and the recognition of the valuable services provided by forests. Given the heterogeneous conditions in Colombia, deforestation requires local analysis which encompasses the site-specific context. Visualizing and understanding the entire picture of driving forces in causal loop diagrams is our main contribution to the conventional and existing assessments of deforestation in Colombia.