The Sierra Madre Oriental

El Cielo biosphere
El Cielo biosphere

Situated in northeastern Mexico on the eastern portion of the Mexican Plateau, the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains span roughly 620 miles.  It ranges through Mexico states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Queretaro, and Puebla.  One of the highest peaks of the Sierra Madre Oriental is Cerro San Rafael located in Coahuila; it reaches an elevation of 12,139 feet.  These picturesque mountains are known for their dramatic beauty and several protected areas.


Regarded as a range of folded mountains, the Sierra Madre Oriental is comprised of mainly limestone and shale.  Some geologists regard the range as an extension of the Rocky Mountains in Mexico.  The topography of the region has been called abrupt; in the tumult of its formation, cretaceous deposits folded upwards resulting in several peaks that tower today more than twelve thousand feet.  The range supports well-known oak and pine forests that sprang from the organically rich soil containing crushed volcanic rocks.  The valleys and canyons add to the immense diversity of the range that also includes unique populations of animals and plants.  Due to several centuries of logging, however, the native stands of forest have been severely decimated.  For this reason, Mexico has had to protect various areas to ensure that the forests of the range are not wiped out.  Aside from Cerro San Rafael, other towering peaks of the range include Sierra de la Marta and Cerro el Potosi.

Top of the volcano known as nevado de toluca
Top of the volcano known as Nevado de Toluca

Flora and Fauna

Though surrounded by very dry or tropical regions, the Sierra Madre Oriental is revered for its temperate climate and forests.  This climate has resulted in pockets or eco-regions that are celebrated for their plant and animal life.  Various types of mammals roam in regions of the range such as puma, mule deer, coyote, and jaguar.  Peregrine falcons and golden eagles also make their home in parts of the range.  The forested parts of the mountains contain various species of pine trees, but other typical plants of the region include agave, cactus, succulents, and small shrubs and trees of many species.

Visiting Peaks and Canyons of the Sierra Madre Oriental

Cumbres de Monterrey National Park: Located in the northern recesses of the range, Cumbres de Monterrey was designated in 1939 as a protected park encompassing more than 438,000 acres.  Majestic waterfalls, canyons, and peaks attract many visitors to this breathtaking region.  Hiking the many winding trails is one of the popular pastimes of the park.

Sierra Norte de Puebla: This magnificent crossroads likes at the intersection of the Sierra Madre Oriental range the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt.  Streams and rivers tend to be fast-moving in this region and landslides are not uncommon due to periods of increased rainfall.  In fact, the Sierra Norte area is regarded as the rainiest region of the country.  Although historically isolated due to its geography, the area has opened up to eco-tourism which has begun to benefit the rural, indigenous villages of the area.

Ciudad Mante: Situated at the foot of the range in the state of Tamaulipas, this exciting town is known for its breathtaking scenery.  Its nearby caves offer an enchanting experience for tourists in the region.

El Cielo Biosphere
El Cielo Biosphere

El Cielo: One of the most enchanting regions of Mexico, the El Cielo Biosphere Reserve is in a region on the eastern slope of the mountains in the state of Tamaulipas.  Renowned for its cloud forests, the park is one of the few places with the black bear roams freely in Mexico.  A diversity of plant and animal life, as well as extraordinary landscapes, make this park popular among eco-tourists from around the globe.  Its isolated valleys and mountains showcase nature in its most pristine state.

Enjoy the Sierra Madre by driving yourself. If your auto has foreign plates (not Mexico) then you will need Mexican insurance. Get® by clicking here.

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