Monterrey is as diverse in natural attractions as it is cosmopolitan. This post deals only with the locations on the south side. To the north are mountains venerated by alpinistas (mountain-climbers) with varying levels of difficulty. There is a cave system accessible by anyone who can walk. There is one lone hot spring, sharing a down-home Balneario and a five-star spa. All those are for a later post.
For a little nature, drive southwest of the city to Parque Ecológico Chipinque. This old-growth forest with a winding two-lane road leaves the city behind. There are places to picnic along the way. Hikers will be pleased with the number of marked trails, rest areas and bathrooms.
Nearly at the end of the trail is the Hotel Chipinque. This venerable institution has been around for decades. It is currently a spa and resort. Even if you don’t go for the spa, the grounds, the views of the city and the rustic-chic rooms will make this a worthwhile place to overnight.
Beautiful Road If You Like Curves
Motorcyclists especially will enjoy the drive up the mountain. While the road is paved and there are now guardrails, there are many hairpin curves. People in cars can either enjoy it or find it tedious. But it is not particularly dangerous if you watch your speed and anticipate turns. Most of the other drivers are very careful and polite up here.
There will be heavy traffic on weekends. One way to get to know the Mexican people is to share a picnic table with them.
Do be careful coming down the mountain, especially if it has rained recently. I nearly lost it in a Suburban one time because I got confused and thought I was in my Alfa Romeo, testing the limits of the curves. The pavement gets slick when it rains. Heed the warning signs like the one in the picture s on all mountain roads, Frene con Motor (Brake with Motor). For those of us who are too young to know what a stick shift is, you can downshift your automatic transmission to one gear lower than drive – carefully. If you gear down too far, your transmission will not be happy, so experiment a little bit before you leave. With a stick shift, go down one or two gears below your highest and listen to your engine. You can still use brakes, but sparingly. If you use them alone, they will glaze over and stop working (like you might do at a boring business meeting). These same rules apply to mountain driving in the rest of the world. Of course, if you have AWD (all wheel drive) as in my Subaru and some other models, you can relax. But under no circumstance switch to 4WD on pavement. Ever.
Nature Tourism Group
Want to participate in local nature events or join groups of mainly Mexican people? The club Bakpak is headquartered in Monterrey. They lead groups all over Mexico for trips ranging from hiking to full-scale mountain climbing. They are responsible and respect the environment and are fully trained in emergency procedures. Subscribe to their newsletter and peruse their evens at https://bakpak.com.mx/ . PH: (81) 83403053 y (81) 208-6 0049 They also publish a slick outdoors magazine in full color. And it is free! Their website will tell you where to get a copy in Monterrey. I can’t think of a better way to get to know Mexican people than to join a group like this.
Monterrey Attractions: Waterfalls
For a lot of nature, drive south on MEX-85 to Santiago / El Cercado 23.8 miles from Obispado (Bishop’s Palace) which you’ll want to see too), Turn right towards Cascada Cola de Caballo (Horsetail Falls). (There’s a shortcut on the map for those coming from Reynosa. It is a blue highway. You skirt the town and wind your way up to the falls. The road is paved and full of vendors. These folks are eking out a living selling serapes, honey, dulces (which sadly is seldom locally made), wood carvings, piñatas and anything else they think tourists might need to make their lives better. It won’t hurt you to stop and buy some trinkets and it will make a big difference in their lives.
Cola de Caballo is part of the Cumbres de Monterrey Biosphere Reserve, defined by UNESCO. They rise to 82 feet /(25 meters). They are as accessible as any I’ve seen, with wide paved or brick paths that a wheelchair could negotiate. The paths won’t allow you to get to the top, but they will get you closer and with a better view than if you’d had to stay at the concession booth.
Less well-known Monterrey attraction is the Cascada de Chipitín. It is somewhat difficult to get to, requiring about an hour’s hike. The falls have about a ninety-meter drop into pools where you can swim – if you fancy cold water. You can hire a guide or wait around the parking lot to Cola de Caballo on a weekend. Look for a group of young people and ask them if they are going to Chipitín or Matacanes. They’re usually pretty friendly and will welcome you. There is a lodge, Matacanes, and a couple more nearby on Booking that looks nice but I have not been to them.
There is one hotel at Horsetail Falls, the Hacienda Cola de Caballo which is nice, upscale, quiet and popular. Should you wish to stay in the neighborhood, there are six other properties in this listing.
“Mexico” Mike Nelson has been writing about Mexico for forty years. He currently offers roadlogs (guidebooks) for drivers and personalized trip-planning from his website, https://www.mexicomike.com
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