The city of Monterrey is surrounded by mountains, lots of them. They aren’t exceptionally high mountains so you won’t need to worry about elevation but they are steep. Really steep + the trails don’t exactly “switch back” so you’re often hiking straight up the mountainside.
The biggest obstacle I’ve had while attempting to explore the mountains down here is the complete lack of trail markings or obvious trailheads. But, through trail + error I’ve found a few routes up Cerro de la Silla, the iconic ridge of summits you see in a lot of Monterrey photos.
There are four dominate summits on the Cerra de la Silla ridge; however, only two are reasonably accessible in a pair of trail running shoes — Pico Antena + Pico Norte. The other two summits – Pico Sur + Pico la Virgen – have very technical climbs, something I do not have the skill set to ascent when roaming solo. From the research I’ve done there is one route up Pico Antena + three routes of Pico Norte [of which, I’ve done two].
The route up to Pico Antena is well-traveled + obviously marked once you get to the start — the antennas at the top of this peak actually have people working at them regularly so the trail going up the mountain is a mix of stable rocks + cement. Aside from the 4,000 foot gain over 3.5 miles, it’s a pretty “easy” hike. Some might even call it runnable.
Once you’re on the trail the entire hike is pretty straight forward — just hike uphill, until there is no more uphill! The path is just wide enough for beefy pick-up truck making it really easy to follow. It’s also lined with thick underbrush, cactus + the occasional tall tree so you’ll be able to find a shady haven away from time to time.
Roughly 1.75 miles up the trail you’ll come to a big, cement overlook. Many people hike only this far up the mountain + on the weekends there will be people up here selling cold water + Coca-Cola + some snacks. It’s easy to just write off as a random platform but go check it out! You’ll get a stunning view of the city below you. If you get the chance, check it out at sunset + stay long enough for the city to light up. Monterrey is a huge city in the daylight, just wait until it’s lit up under the night sky. It is stunning!
This platform is a good “half way” breather point, as the trail just gets steeper as you continue up. On the plus side, the further up you go the more likely you are to get hit with a cooling breeze! As you hike up you’ll go past a random cavern [never explored it], a statue + a smashed truck that obviously rolled off the “road”. Personally, these are all very helpful “are we done yet?!” landmarks for the descent or any repeat summits. #brainbattle
Now, the first time I hiked up Pico Antena I did it wrong. I got to the top, but I missed the truly stunning overlook. As you near the top you’ll hear the activity of the gated facility, an area that is off limits to the general public. The peak itself is shrouded in trees so you’ll need to explore off the main road a bit to find yourself an edge to gawk over.
Your best bet is to take the stairs up to your left, just before you reach the gates that block off the antennas from general access. This steep set of cement stairs will take you up to a chain-link fence…just follow the dirt trail from there, you’ll find the edge. Oh, the edge.
The hike up Pico Antena isn’t exactly remote or technical or overly “zomg” when you compare it to some of the other trail around Monterrey but it is worth it, times 100. Seriously, the cliff edge you’ll find behind the antennas is amazing + breath-taking + knee wobbling! Obviously, be careful…it’s a 2,000+ foot free fall if you take an extra step.
There are a few routes up Pico Norte, I’ve done two of them — the valley route + the ridge route. I did the valley route back in February but I don’t have any stat specifics because GPS watches died but we estimated the valley route to be roughly 5 miles long with about 4,000-ish elevation gain. However, there is a lot more route finding required on the valley route. A compass isn’t really necessary but you’ll spend a lot of time trying to find the elusive trail markers or backtracking when you followed the wrong “trail” to a dead end. Also, in the summer months the trail is a mess of spider webs…grab a spider stick to break trail for you! [spiders = my excuse to bail on a summer summit via the valley route]
The ridge route is a lot easier to follow, once you find the start of the trail. The trail is fairly well-defined because it’s used more often than the valley route + it has obvious trail markers. However, this stretch of trail has some serious climbing, over 2,000 feet per mile is no joke. Rather than spread the climb over switchbacks the trail go straight up rock faces. Nothing you’ll need ropes for, but having a little experience + comfort with scrambling is a huge plus on this route.
Honestly, the crazy climbing is my favorite part of this route! It’s a challenge, it’s different from plain ol’ trail running + it lets me dabble in a little rock climbing. Just don’t slip…the cacti really aren’t very soft cushions!
After you hike past the blue sweatshirt “trail marker” you’re about half way to the top — as suggested by the 11/25 orange “Cimarron” tags you’ll see from time to time. You’ll find 0/25 near the bottom of the trek + 25/25 at the top. The tags aren’t evenly spaced but they’re fairly consistent + you’ll find yourself looking for the next one from time to time.
About a quarter-mile from the summit you’ll escape the trees + see the final stretch of trail going up the ridge to the still invisible summit. Stop. Stare. Gawk. Then keep going up, up, up because it just gets better! If you’re lucky enough to make it to the summit on a clear day you’ll be surrounded by incredible views + knee knocking cliffs. The trail itself never gets “too close” to the cliff but you’ll have a few opportunities to peek over the edge. It’s amazing to see how freaking steep the cliffs are!
Personally, the summit itself isn’t that amazing — it’s just a flat area with an antenna. But the world around you when you’re on the summit? That is amazing. Once you’re at the top of Pico Norte you can look over to Pico Antena + see how freaking incredible the cliffs are. I highly recommend doing Pico Antena before Pico Norte so you can sit at the top of Pico Norte + just stare at the crazy cliffs of Pico Antena. I had no idea I was so mesmerized by cliff until I was on these mountains.
In most cases the descent off a mountain is quicker than the climb up but with Pico Norte the descent is not a piece of cake! First, you’ll need to pay more attention to the trail on the way down. There are a few areas where it is extremely easy to follow the “trail” the wrong direction, only to look up + realize you’re following dirt, not ribbons. Also, the rocks that you nimbly scrambled up require some time + patience to get down without breaking your bum.
Lastly, one thing to note about the Pico Norte ridge route…if it’s wet + rainy it’s going to be a tricky route. The rocks get slick + your shoes will be caked in sticky mud. My first attempt on the ridge route was the morning after a rainy night. I had allotted 5 hours for the trek + I did not make it past the halfway point [blue sweater “trail marker”] because it took so much more time to move up/down the wet, slippery trail.
If you get the chance to hike up Cerro de la Silla…do it! If you have the chance to hike the trails more than once, definitely do it. There are a lot of other trails to explore in Monterrey [Chipinque comes to mind!] so don’t limit yourself to just these two peaks but definitely spend a little time on Cerro de la Silla.
Seriously, there may or may not be a savings account flagged “cliff jumping” for future endeavors that require some expensive training + gear. The idea of leaping off a cliff has never appealed to me this much before…except maybe that one time when I watched a few squirrel suits jump off La Brevent in Chamonix, France.