At the end of a demanding day of sales visits in Nuevo León, (see Part I – Research and innovation in the plastics industry in Nuevo León), my colleague Daniel Rodríquez weaves through Monterrey’s rush hour traffic with the skill of a local taxi driver. The day’s bright sunlight is starting to fade and, as we get nearer to my hotel. Looming through the windshield ahead, we see the Sierra Madre mountain range and the three distinctive peaks of El Cerro Chipinque (pronounced Chee-peen-kay). To cap off the busy workday, Daniel asks if I want to take a ride up into the mountains. “It’s very nice,” he says. Not knowing what to expect, and always ready for a spontaneous adventure, I reply, “Sure, let’s do it!”
To enter the Chipinque section of Cumbres de Monterrey National Park (Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey) by car, it costs about 95 pesos or about 7 dollars at the current exchange rate. It is also the most accessible part of the well-cared for National Park. Evidence of nicely designed improvements, like natural stone staircases and wood bridges of natural logs are all around. At the small gate house built of natural stone, you can be exempted from the entrance fee if you tell them that you’re going to the restaurant and hotel about halfway up the mountain; however, on the way back down you must show a receipt to prove that you’ve purchased food, drinks or an overnight, otherwise you’ll be charged the 95 pesos fee.
Even without a restaurant stopover, it’s well worth the reasonable fee to see the city of Monterrey from above. As we navigate the steep winding road, we find ourselves leaving the low lying, arid valley atmosphere below and entering a completely different ecosystem. Here, the air is cool, humid and fragrant with the fresh scent of local plants and vegetation. And there are abundant wildlife species not seen in the valley, including bears. Chipinque, an ecological reserve, is only a minor part of the National Park, which has several precipitous mountain ranges—which reach an elevation of 7,410 feet (2,260 meters) above sea level—deep canyons, and high picturesque waterfalls.
We stop several times along the narrow mountain road to experience the breath-taking scenery of Monterrey from above. About half way up, we find a convenient spot to park, where a well-built log bridge leads to a scenic outlook. As we cross the bridge to a small landing, we’re able to catch a rear vista of the well-known Cerro de la Silla, Monterrey’s emblematic saddle shaped mountain, peeking through the clouds.
To make the experience even more enjoyable, the park has stationed exercise equipment alongside the main road, where one can stop for a more strenuous workout. For those whose exercise ambitions are more modest, they can pause at the scenic lookouts to study pictures of the various wildlife species that are native to the park.
As we climb higher up the mountain road, the air is noticeably thinner, and we suddenly find ourselves at the entrance to Hotel Chipinque, located on a beautifully landscaped plateau. We speak with a guard and let him know we’re there to visit the restaurant. We find a convenient place to park on the hotel grounds, and stroll to a veranda to take in more spectacular views of the city below as well as the towering peaks of the Sierra Madre’s jagged mountain range in the distance. The hotel’s restaurant is like a quaint, Swiss style chalet in its décor. On that Thursday evening it was warm and quiet, but apparently it draws larger crowds on weekends. We select a table near the window, then order a beer and a tequila to begin some lively conversation about the world. After about two hours of good discussions covering historical topics like the Mayan civilization and Spain’s conquest of Mexico, it was time to get back down the mountain to my hotel in the city.
It’s a clear evening as we drive down the mountain, so we stop a few more times to enjoy the night vistas and flickering lights of Monterrey. On the road, there are still many bikers and hikers who enjoy the park well into the evening hours, many of them wearing the proper reflective safety gear for after dark excursions.
Finally, we land back down below and return to civilization. It’s been a spectacular day. At the entrance to my hotel, I say goodbye to Daniel thanking him for his hospitality during the visit, and go upstairs to pack my suitcase for an early morning flight back home. We now have our business follow ups to do, which hopefully will lead to future visits in this most appealing region of Mexico.
Part 2: An Evening in Nuevo León’s Amazing Cumbres de Monterrey National Park