This article was last updated March 2022.
So you’re looking to go crank on some limestone at El Potrero Chico, one of North America’s most popular sport climbing destinations?!
El Potrero Chico (EPC) is home to over 700+ sport routes, and the second longest (23 pitch) sport route in North America.
It is the place to go rock climbing in Mexico.
This article is the result of months of on-site research (read: dirtbagging).
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop telling you absolutely everything you need to know about El Potrero Chico, you’ve come to the right place.
Hey! By the way… this page contains affiliate links. So if you make a purchase after clicking one at no cost to you we may earn a small commission. Thanks for your support!
El Potrero Chico Mexico (EPC): Overview
After taking my first trip down to EPC, I was able to experience firsthand what it has to offer.
And I have to tell you, El Potrero Chico has it all if you are a wandering climber.
What stood out for me, in particular, was the sheer quantity of super accessible multi-pitches and the close-knit climbing community. So it is the perfect crag if you love both single pitches and longer routes.
El Potrero Chico Mexico sits uniquely close to the USA, meaning that there are a lot of seasonal travelers there looking to escape the cold from the north.
This, combined with the low cost of living in Mexico, makes it an excellent location for a short vacation or even to stay for the whole season.
Check it out – you won’t be disappointed.
Why Go To El Potrero Chico?
El Potrero Chico is a world-class winter sport climbing destination. There is a huge amount to climb there at every grade. It actually has one of the largest selections of “moderate” (5.9-5.11a) climbs in the world.
If such grades are too easy for you, there is another area nearby called El Salto.
El Salto has emerged as one of the world’s premier steep limestone crags, with tons of 5-star lines starting at 5.11+ and going all the way up to 5.14+.
However, El Salto doesn’t have the special thing that draws so many to El Potrero Chico: some of the easiest and most accessible moderate multi-pitches in the world, many with almost non-existent approaches.
In addition, most of the more difficult classic multi-pitch routes there are aidable, meaning that anyone who can comfortably lead 5.10 will have a lot to choose from.
In winter, the days are dry and crisp, making for perfect temps.
In the shoulder seasons, things can heat up quite a bit… but once you learn where the shade is, you can pretty much climb there every day from October to May (and even longer if you’re keen).
Also, as you might imagine, it is very cheap once you get there. If you’re camping, it is easy to comfortably live off of about 10$ a day.
A true dirtbag’s delight.
The climbing community here is also super cohesive and one of the best I’ve ever seen.
If you happen to be traveling alone, you will have absolutely no problem finding someone to climb with at pretty much any grade.
Oh, and did I mention that climbing at El Potrero Chico is great? And there are varying styles across the different crags to fit almost anyone’s tastes.
Though sometimes the rock there can be “chossy”, most of the well-traveled routes are bomber.
Just be sure to wear a helmet while climbing and hanging out at the wall, as rocks get kicked off from the multi-pitches above regularly.
What to Bring To EPC (Suggested Packing List)
Though the routes at EPC are all bolted, it is not always a walk in the park when it comes to the climbing.
Injuries happen regularly here. Though the reasons are numerous, many times it comes down to a fundamental lack of understanding of multi-pitch safety processes and incorrect gear.
Make sure to take the proper precautions to protect yourself.
Always double-check your systems, and more importantly: always tie knots at the ends of your rope when rappelling.
There have been multiple deaths in EPC simply due to folks rappelling off the end of their ropes. These accidents could have easily been avoided with a couple of simple knots.
Shaving off some time from your rappelling by not tying knots is not worth the potential cost of your life.
Also, having the right gear can greatly reduce your risk of injury or accidents.
Unfortunately, there is no climbing shop in Hidalgo.
The essentials can be purchased at La Posada’s campground. However, their selection is limited so I’d purchase everything before your trip.
When You Go to EPC, Be Sure to Have the Following:
Fresh from the 2019-2020 season, Frank Madden has released a second and updated edition of “EPC Climbing”.
I used Frank’s EPC climbing during my stay at EPC, and I found it to be essential for route finding (which can be very difficult at EPC), planning out climbing days and route selection amongst other things.
The second edition is only an improvement of the first, so it is absolutely worth the money.
Make sure to pick up your copy before you arrive, as guide books commonly sell out at EPC.
Be aware that most of your health insurance plans will not cover you in Mexico.
Couple this with adventurous activities like rock climbing, risk of lost baggage or theft, and the all-too-common food and waterborne illnesses, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Furthermore, many travel insurance agencies claim that they cover “adventure” sports like climbing… however, when you read the fine print, they add in special stipulations like requiring you to climb with a certified guide to be covered.
The fastest, easiest, cost effective, and most respected travel insurance in the world which covers you for your mountain adventures is World Nomads and is what I use every time I travel.
During the research of this article we found various suspicious insurance companies, either that claimed to cover rock climbing or took us to sketchy looking websites that don’t over you for at all.
After scouring the internet, and years of on the ground research, we’ve found time and time again that World Nomads offers the best price for travel/rock climbing insurance.
Make sure to use this link to ensure you’re going to the official website.
Also, make sure to select the “Explorer Plan” on the next page as the “Standard” plan does not cover outdoor rock climbing!
Go here to read more about travel insurance, and you can’t travel without it!
Anchor Building Gear
If you intend to do any multi-pitches, you will need to know how to build an anchor for top-down belaying and have the gear necessary for doing so.
There are many options for climbing anchors, but the best one I’ve found for sport multi-pitch at EPC is the quad anchor.
Although it is not the most lightweight method, it is extremely redundant, reliable, and quick to set up.
In addition to these special considerations, you’ll want to bring with you the “normal” gear:
- 70m Rope
- Rope Bag
- Quick Draws
- Comfy Shoes For Multis
Climbing Grade Ranges
EPC has hundreds of routes, so it unavoidably covers a huge range of climbing grades.
It has routes of all grades, for everything between 5.5 to 5.14a, but it caters to beginner climbers the most, with 70 routes in the 5.9 grade alone, another 60 routes graded 5.10a, and then 30 to 50 routes for every following grade up to 5.11d.
There is then a spike of around 55 routes graded 5.12a, and finally, a declining trend totaling around 120 routes graded 5.12, 50 routes graded 5.13, and a single 5.14.
The great thing about climbing difficulty here is that it is very localized.
For example, Lower Mota Wall, Scrutinizer, Los Lobos Canyon, and The Virgin Canyon hold most of the routes between the 5.8 and 5.11d range.
The Higher Mota Wall, Fin de Semana, Tierra de Libres, Outrage Wall, and Surf Bowl contain most of the routes graded 5.12a and higher.
Finally, another great thing about EPC is that its mega classic and long multi-pitches like Will The Wolf Survive, Pancho Villa Rides Again and Black Cat Bone are most of the easy or moderate grades, with most pitches being between 5.8 and 5.10, and the occasional 5.11 or 5.12 crux pitches.
There are hard pitches as well, like the internationally popular multipitch Sendero Luminoso, made famous by Alex Honnold’s free solo of it.
It is a 12-pitch route, where the 12 pitches are graded 5.12, including two 5.12d’s. It is the hardman’s route of the area.
Pros and Cons of Rock Climbing in El Potrero Chico
Many people come here thinking of the multi-pitches, but there are many other things EPC offers and should be considered.
When Is The Best Time To Rock Climb EPC?
The weather in El Potrero Chico is most often arid, dry, and sunny.
It sits at an elevation of about 1,800 feet, which is fortunate for climbers as the higher elevation helps keep the temperatures way down.
The main climbing season for El Potrero Chico is the North American winter – from about November to February. The shoulder seasons are October – November, and March – April.
Due to its close proximity to the US, you can get cheap flights there even during the peak season.
Be warned, though: just because it is Mexico, does not mean the weather is always warm! It can get pretty cold, and especially at night.
It is not uncommon for temperatures to reach below freezing, and there is the occasional snow! Make sure to pack appropriately or you will have some very cold nights ahead.
In the winter, you should expect to find cold crisp days. While it will be chillier in the shade, expect to heat up a lot in the sun.
Perfect climbing weather!
Also, keep in mind that during the holidays, El Potrero Chico can get super busy. So be sure to plan ahead and make reservations if you’re not intending to camp in a tent or car.
Where Is EPC and How To Get There
El Potrero Chico is located in one of Mexico’s most northern states, Nuevo Leon, and sits about two miles outside of the town of Hidalgo and about 45 minutes away from the state’s largest city: Monterrey.
How To Get To El Potrero Chico From Monterrey Airport (MTY)
Many folks fly in from the Monterrey International Airport (MTY). This is located on the outskirts of the city of Monterrey and is about a 45-minute drive from the town of Hidalgo.
MTY is a big airport, and you can get flights there from most places in the US or beyond.
You technically have two options to get to town from there: bus or taxi/Uber.
The bus to Hidalgo takes 2.5-3hrs (if you know where you’re going) and will require a relatively high level of Spanish, as many people from Monterrey have no idea where El Potrero Chico is.
To do this, take the bus from the airport direct to Monterey’s transport terminal. From here, you will be able to ask for directions for getting on the local bus to the town of Hidalgo.
Make sure you specify the town of Hidalgo in the state of Nuevo Leon (otherwise they might think you’re talking about the state of Hidalgo much further south).
The bus will cost you about $3 USD.
If you take an Uber, you can be driven directly from the airport. This is by far the easiest option – especially if your Spanish isn’t all that great.
If you don’t have international phone data, you can use the free WIFI in the airport to order one.
If you want to get to Hidalgo by taxi cab, they have a number of automated kiosks at the airport.
Simply type where you’d like to go and the cab will arrive a few minutes later to take you to your destination at about 25% more cost.
To return to the airport in MTY from El Potrero Chico, you can either navigate the local bus system or hire a cab as there are zero Uber drivers in Hidalgo.
The easiest way to do this is to ask at any of the campsites, as they all hire their own taxi services.
You can also ask at Leo’s or Taco Loco, as they provide taxi services as well.
How to Drive
It is also super common for people to drive down to El Potrero Chico from the US.
The closest border crossing is only about 2.5hrs away.
But driving in Mexico is a little different than it is in the US, so for that reason, you need to take special precautions if you’re choosing to come in your own car.
Mexico has gotten a lot of bad press from the drug cartels over the past few years, especially the border states (like Nuevo Leon).
However, it is the general consensus of the climbers and locals alike that the Narcos have no reason to be in Hidalgo. Serious crime is rare there, and it is considered safe for travelers.
There is also a very high police presence in Hidalgo and they are constantly patrolling the climbing areas.
Keep in mind that, with any foreign country, exercise heightened caution and use your own judgment.
Climbing Ethics in El Potrero Chico
Climbing Ethics in EPC is pretty much the same as in every other major sport-climbing destination. But there are some that might be worth mentioning due to problems that have been occurring.
Of course, the 7 principles of Leave No Trace:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
Then some others that might need a specific mention:
- Avoid having loud music on if there are more people at the crag
- Avoid bringing pets that do not behave well, or keep them leashed
- Always wear a helmet in case of rockfall, since it is a multi-pitch fall
- Do not poo near the routes, or on a multi-pitch belay ledge (sad that this needs to be specified)
- Bring poo bags if multi-day multi-pitching
- Be careful of dropping rocks on multi-pitches since there are many climbers below.
- Try to avoid climbing directly below another party in a popular multi-pitch
- Especially if you are fast climbers who would be pressuring the other party or eventually passing them
- If there are draws on a route, you may climb on them, but leave them there. No finders’ keepers.
- It is a crowded and popular area, so try not to monopolize a route. If there are 5 in your group, and the 5 of you want to climb them, it might be considerate to let climbers from other parties climb between some of your climbers.
- Do not leave top ropes on for later if you will not be climbing them immediately, it could be stopping other people from climbing the route.
- Respect plants on the wall. There are a couple of endangered and endemic species here.
Where Do You Buy Food
There are a few logistical things that you should be made aware of to both help save you money and time.
This includes the beta on the supermarkets in town, ATMs, and the local street markets. I’ve also included some info on the popular restaurants.
Hidalgo Street Markets
The town of Hidalgo has two weekly street markets.
The first is held every Friday (and is therefore called the “Friday Market”) and is located on Calle Niños Heroes, right next to the police station.
Here, there is a nice assortment of fruits, vegetables, and street food. The prices are slightly lower than the local supermarket.
The other market, referred to as the “Tuesday” market, runs along Calle José Domínguez and is about a 10 minutes walk closer to the climber campgrounds than the Friday market.
The Tuesday market is also larger and has lower prices than the Friday market. For that reason, it is an excellent idea to plan your shopping days according to this one.
I would like to point out that both of these markets are very “local”, meaning that they are not the place to go if you’re looking for Mexican souvenirs. Only food and other household items are sold at the markets.
Actually, Hidalgo is in no way a tourist town, meaning that if you’re looking for souvenirs, you’ll most likely have to venture into Monterrey.
The street markets are great for getting fresh foods. But, for anything packaged, you’ll have to take a trip to one of the supermarkets in town.
The closest supermarket (“La Mexicana”) is located on Calle Anquiles Serdán and has a small but good selection. They also accept credit cards, which is nice.
If you have a car or if you’re willing to walk a bit further, I suggest going to Bodega Aurrera, as it has a much larger selection and better prices than the aforementioned market.
El Potrero Chico’s Best Restaurants
As we all know, Mexico has some of the tastiest food on the face of the planet.
So for that reason, I have assembled a small list of some of the best food options nearby.
Note: Each year, restaurants open and close, and often their hours are not very consistent.
El Taco Loco
One of the best options around El Potrero Chico, and also, the closest to the rocks. Recently moved to their new location right outside the entrance to the climbing, they have some of the best burritos and tacos in town.
Located across the street from La Posada, Checo’s is probably my favorite food near the campsites and has a good selection of local food. The mole sauce is out of this world. Closed on Sundays.
Leo’s Tacos Grill
If you want to stuff your face with a delicious buffet of homemade Mexican fare and freshly grilled meats, Leo’s your guy. His humble dining spot is left of the entrance to Posada. While his hours are inconsistent, he usually serves dinner throughout the week and makes posts in the FB group when he does.
Leo is beloved by climbers for his good food, great hospitality, and his wonderful birthday and New Years’ parties, where you might climb the infamous Tecate pole to win free Mezcal shots or ride a mechanical bull!
Tamales Esperanza, Hidalgo
Located near the police station on the same street as the Friday market, Tamales Esperanza offers the most delicious and cheap tamales in town (only 7 MXN each). The bean tamales are the way forward.
El Buho, Hidalgo
El Buho is the only proper cafe in town, offering great locally sourced coffee and a good range of food.
They also have a pile of board games, climbing magazines, and multiple bookshelves to keep you occupied on your rest days. Not to mention, they have a unique origin story and some of the friendliest volunteer staff around.
It’s also a great place to meet people from the climbing community. They have regular social events, such as barbecues every Tuesday night, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and the occasional movie night.
Rock Climbing At El Potrero Chico
The reason we’re all here in the first place!
El Potrero Chico offers one of the largest and most accessible concentrations of sport climbs in the world.
The guidebook boasts more than 700 routes, with new development ongoing.
Combine that with nearby El Salto, and this place makes for years of climbing. El Potrero Chico is certainly somewhere that keeps you coming back for more.
Climbing Style at EPC
EPC is most widely known for its very long sport multi-pitches, consisting mostly of long routes with either small holds but good feet, or big pockets all the way up, but it has much more to offer besides that.
There are technical slabs, there are cracks, there are steep climbs, there are tufas, and the best part is that most walls have their unique style, so you can choose your sector based either on the grade you climb or the style you prefer. Just to name a few…
The Jungle Wall has most of the easy and classic multi-pitches in EPC and the style of this wall includes lots of pickets on a slightly positive wall for hundreds of meters up.
The Surf Bowl and The Outrage Wall contain most of the steep routes in the area. Surf Bowl has some of the most classic routes in the crag, with very big moves on tufas and huge holds. Outrage Wall has less steepness than the SB but more technical climbing with smaller holds.
The Virgin Canyon and The Mota Wall have most of the vertical easy slabs, with many crimps and small cracks, while Fin de Semana and Estrellitas Canyon have most of the hard technical slabs.
With over 600 routes in the area, there are many routes with different styles to choose from.
Multi-Pitch at EPC
What I found that separated El Potrero Chico from most climbing areas is the quantity and quality of excellent moderate multi-pitch routes.
Anyone who can comfortably lead 5.10 will have no shortage of things to do.
In addition, most of the difficult pitches are aidable, and the rappels are generally very straightforward – meaning that you’ll always have the option to bail off if things get out of your comfort zone.
Though the routes themselves are generally quite clean, it is worth mentioning that there is a lot of loose rock surrounding the routes, which means it is easy to kick off a piece at any time. Even on the classics.
For this reason, a helmet is absolutely essential while climbing in El Potrero Chico.
As many of the multi-pitches climb over the popular cragging areas, always wear a helmet while you’re single-pitch cragging too. The potential for injury is constantly present.
Also, due to the moderate grades, EPC attracts many beginner climbers, so it is common for people to come here to try their first multi-pitches (which only adds to the danger).
The guidebook offers great beta and topos of all the classic routes and is a must-have for anyone climbing in El Potrero Chico. I’ll defer to that for detailed information.
However, here is a small collection of routes that I found to be particularly worthwhile:
- Treasure of the Sierra Madre 5.10c 7 pitches – Mota Wall (afternoon sun)
- Snott Girlz 5.10+ 7 pitches- Mota Wall (afternoon sun)
- Pitch Black – 5.10+ Sport 6 pitches – Conundrums (all-day shade baby!)
- El Sendero Diablo – 5.11c 6 pitches – Outrage Wall (afternoon sun, one of my favorites)
- Yankee Clipper – 5.12a 15 pitches – La Selva (Jungle Wall) – Pretty boring until you get to the last two pitches, and get some serious exposure facing the front side. Also worth mentioning that the final crux pitch only has a few hard moves, and is easily aidable.
- Time Wave Zero – 5.12a 23 pitches – Timewave Buttress – Pretty much the highest you’ll ever be able to climb with sport gear alone. The view is worth the journey. The 5.12a crux pitch can be mostly aided, however, you’ll have to at least pull through one or two hard moves to clip the next bolt.
- Land of the Free – 5.12b PG-13 10 pitches – One of my favorite multis I climbed here. I warn you though, the bolts on the easy pitches are spaced out and quite dirty. However, the climbing between pitches 5 to 9 was the most consistent stretch of superb 5.11+ climbing I have ever encountered. The last pitch, also the crux, wasn’t very memorable, I suggest just skipping it.
- El Sendero Luminoso – 5.12d 15 Pitches – The king line at EPC. Made famous by Alex Honnold after his 2014 free solo, the route has become an essential hard multi-pitch test piece. Hype aside, the climbing is excellent. One of the best EPC has to offer. If you wish to bivy, there is a perfect camping space after pitch 5, which greatly lowers the level of commitment needed to climb the whole thing in one day.
This should give you a good mix of styles and grades to start with. There are many more worth trying! Once again, I defer to the guidebook.
Single Pitch (Cragging) at EPC
Though overshadowed by the abundance of multi-pitches, I found the single-pitch climbs there to be just as excellent.
And trust me, you get tired of hanging in your harness all day, so you’ll eventually want to try out some of the single pitches EPC has to offer.
Now once again, I’m not going to go into too much beta on the routes. I’ll simply give a few areas I found to be of higher quality.
Surf Bowl – Steep and powerful, tufas, kneebars, and heel hooks galore. This is limestone at its finest.
Not to mention, Surfer Rosa (5.13a/b) is arguably one of the best routes in North America. So if you climb at the 5.13 grade, it is an absolute must-do.
Club Mex Wall (Las Estrellas) – One of the highest concentrations of 5-star classics at EPC.
The rock is bomber – vertical technical face climbing at its finest. Fear of Flying (5.12a) is 30m of absolute perfection… possibly the best 5.12a at EPC.
Nearby, there are other classics at similar grades to choose from, such as Salty Dog (5.12a), Conflict (5.12b, excellent), The Sword (5.12a), and Club Mex (5.12c).
Also, it is in the shade all day, meaning that it is a great crag to go to on hot days.
Outrage Wall – Another one of the highest concentrations of 5-star routes at EPC, also home to Sendero Diablo (5.11c), an excellent 6 pitch multi.
As far as single pitches go, some of the must-do’s are: Celestial Omnibus (5.12a, also arguably the best at the grade at EPC), British Invasion (5.12a), and Habanero (5.12b).
The only real downside of climbing here is that Outrage gets cooked in the direct sun for most of the day, so you’ll have to save it for when the temps are right.
El Fin de Semana – Located right off the road (about a 2 min approach), Fin de Semana doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves.
The climbing here is vertical and very technical. Hombre de Rifle (5.13a) is one of the best climbs I’ve ever done and is another must-do for the grade.
The wall gets shade until about 1 pm, then goes back in the shade around 4 pm.
TNT Wall – An excellent crag, with a good mix of grades. Pretty much every climb here is worth doing, Baked Fresh Daily (5.10c) and Band of Brothers (5.10c) are excellent moderate climbs, and Inglorious Bastards (5.12a) is another harder classic.
Has shade until about 2 pm, then goes back into the shade at about 4:30 pm.
Mota Wall – Probably the best place to find moderate climbs, with most of the classics ranging from 5.9 to 5.11c. Just pick your grade and enjoy.
For this reason, this crag can get pretty busy during the peak months. Sun from about 10:30 am onwards.
Virgin Canyon – One of the first crags developed at EPC, and arguably, still one of the best. It is home to a few absolute classics like Selam (5.10a), Milk Cow Blues (5.10c), Mexico in Flames (5.11c), and Don Quixote (5.11d).
There is something here for everyone. This, coupled with all-day shade, makes for a super popular crag. It is an absolute must-visit.
I could go on – but like I said, I suggest taking a look at the guidebook before you arrive.
Nearby Climbing Areas
And if you ever get tired or finish the more than 600 routes that El Potrero Chico has to offer, no need to worry, there is still lots of climbing near Hidalgo and near the metropolitan area of Monterrey.
Going from the closest to the farthest away from EPC, we have the following surrounding areas:
Culo de Gato
“Las Ventanas de Mitras”, more commonly known as “Culo de Gato”, is a small limestone sport climbing sector located about 30 minutes northwest of EPC.
While it only boasts around 30 routes, it has more than enough for an excellent climbing day for every type of sport climber. You can have fun here whether you are a beginner or an elite climber.
While it has a couple of routes in the beginner grades, the majority of the classics here lie within the 5.10b to 5.11b and the 5.12c to 5.14b range.
There are even some unsent projects which promise to be at least 5.14b or 5.14c, so coming here might be your opportunity to leave your name in Mexican rock-climbing history by getting a first ascent in some of the hardest routes the country currently has to offer.
Grutas de García
Located around 1 hour away from EPC to the southwest or 45 minutes northwest of Monterrey, you can find Grutas de García. This is a new and still mostly undeveloped sector with 10 sport routes for beginners who are climbing between the 5.8 and 5.11a range.
Climbs here are mostly technical vertical slabs on crimps and not-so-great footholds.
Excellent for a day trip if you are climbing around this level, but not something you would visit more than once if you are on a trip mindset.
Additionally, it could be some easy climbing to complete a full rest day, since Grutas de García is actually more known for its caving than for its climbing.
This place is a famous spot for tourists who want to wander into the depths of a cave full of stalactites and stalagmites via the guided tours the place offers.
Half an hour away from Monterrey’s city center you’ll find the La Huasteca, you can find the birthstone of the state’s climbing.
La Huasteca is another amazing crag with some 600 routes spread among more than 20 sectors, and still miles of undeveloped rock.
Climbing here is mostly sports, but it started as a trad sector, so there are still trad climbs if that’s what you like, especially the most classic multi-pitches. While there are a couple of cracks and steep climbs, the vast majority of La Huasteca’s climbing is technical slab climbing.
The grades here are similar to EPC, with most routes within the 5.10 and 5.11 range, but with some easier and harder climbs as well for those interested.
However, routes here are much crimpier and more technical.
The sector of Medicos is particularly known for its infamously small holds where a simple 5.10 or 5.11 shuts down folks that easily send 5.12 or 5.13 routes in El Salto.
Strength is futile when you cannot grab anything.
La Huasteca is a huge area with many sectors and its own local community, so if you are interested in reading more about it, you should check out the guide we dedicated to it.
While EPC and La Huasteca are great areas for those that love vertical climbing, there is not much for those who want something steeper.
Well, fret not, since there is an amazing and huge stone arch located near Monterrey, and a bit closer to Juarez.
Cerro Agujerado has been a very popular hiking destination for hikers since decades ago as it takes a 1+ hour hike on flat terrain to get there, but it was just recently that it got the attention of climbers.
It is a huge arch more than 30 meters tall and full of huge tufas and stalactites the size of one’s body.
There are currently only around 10 routes in the sector at the time of writing, but they are well worth the hike. Climbing here is extremely physical and steep, long and pumpy, with all the routes being at least 20m and up to 45m tall, within the 5.12a and 5.13+ range.
If you are a strong climber who loves cavelike climbing, Cerro Agujerado is a place you must visit.
And finally, an hour away from Monterrey to the south, you will find the climbing of El Salto; what is widely considered by many the best crag in Mexico.
El Salto is another amazing sport climbing area on beautiful yellowish steep limestone.
Climbing here is steep and is considered the mecca for hard climbers in the country, with most of its routes within the 5.12 and 5.13 range. It has more than 300 routes divided among 5 main sectors and a few smaller ones.
Just like EPC and La Huasteca, El Salto is a great destination with its own culture and community, so feel free to check the full guide we wrote about it.
Guiding Services At El Potrero Chico
If you’re traveling solo, new to climbing or just want someone to show you around for a few days, I’d suggest hiring a certified guide. They will be able to show you all the areas I highlight here on this article, and probably even a few I didn’t get a chance to check out.
And on a personal note…
After 10+ years of climbing, and 5+ years on the road, I’ve seen what can happen when you go unprepared.
And I have to be honest, I saw some really sketchy shit climbing in Mexico, particularly regarding “relaxed” belay styles.
There are a number of guiding services out there. Mexico is a county in particular where you need to be careful about who you hire, there are a lot of less the reputable guiding services who’s guides have dubious qualifications.
Make sure to use the link below to ensure you’re getting an internationally certified AMGA guide though one of our partner guiding services. Not to mention, as of January 2022 they reduced their prices, so hiring a guide is now cheaper than ever:
El Potrero Chico Accommodations
There are a range of choices for accommodations available, though they’re all quite similar.
A very large portion of the people who come to EPC either tent or van/car camp, which is a great option. Camping is cheaper, there is always space, and you have full access to the bathroom and kitchen facilities.
Note: for all of you van lifer’s out there, all of the campgrounds I’m about to mention allow people to stay in their cars and charge the same rates as camping.
There are a ton of hotel options available in nearby Monterey, and a few good options available in the town of Hidalgo itself.
If you’re looking for a more comfortable experience away from the dirt and noise of the campsites, these are the way to go.
I highly suggest booking a hotel beforehand if you plan on going during the peak season (November to January) or you will not have a place to stay when you arrive!!
El Potrero Chico La Posada
La Posada is the most popular spot for climbers to go. For that reason, it is also one of the busiest and most expensive.
Camping costs about 150MXN a night, and rooms cost close to 20-30 USD a night. Prices are subject to rising as the area becomes more popular.
Rooms get booked well in advance, so make a reservation if you plan on this option.
In January of 2019, they completed a new kitchen, which was well overdue.
My main complaint about this place is that it is a little more “social” (i.e. loud) at times.
It tends to attract the weekend warriors or vacationers who are there not only to climb but to let loose.
Their restaurant has some of the best coffee at EPC.
El Potrero Chico Rancho El Sendero
Located about a 15-minute walk from the climbing, Ranchero El Sendero is one of the better campsite picks at EPC.
Rancho tends to attract a slightly more dedicated climbing crowd and is also slightly less busy when compared to La Posada.
They have an excellent kitchen set up, with massive refrigerators, ample storage space, and about 10 different stovetops to spread out the load during the dinner rush.
Their costs for camping are as follows: 120 MXN a night for the first 10 nights, and then goes down to 110 MXN a night at 11, then decreases further to 100 MXN a night after 30 days.
Again, prices are subject to change on a season-per-season basis.
They also offer dorm rooms, private rooms and have a full house available for rent.
I would reserve a spot early if you’re going during peak season, as these do fill up every year.
El Potrero Chico La Pagoda
By far the least known of the three, La Pagoda has a lot of things going for it. For one, it sees almost zero crowds, even in the busy seasons.
This means you’ll actually be able to get some rest here and not have to battle for kitchen space during peak hours.
Also, it is much cheaper than the other options, as they only charge about 70 MXN a night to stay.
There are also rooms available there for around 20-30USD a night.
The downside is that the amenities are more basic, although they are in no way inadequate.
If you’re looking for a more simple, quiet, “rustic” option, La Pagoda is the way to go.
Climbing Community at EPC
Most of the climbing community of EPC is centered around its campgrounds and El Búho Café. You can easily find climbing partners there if you arrive alone. However, there is also a Facebook group where you can find most of the community of both foreigners and locals from Hidalgo and Monterrey city.
There is also a community of female climbers called Potrero Chicas that get together to climb in a girl-only environment, for those interested, but the environment at EPC is very friendly and welcoming to people from all backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities anyway.
El Potrero Chico Rest Day Activities
We can’t always climb every day (sadly), but luckily there are a few good rest day activities to keep you busy.
I have already mentioned El Buho and the Tuesday and Friday markets.
But if you’re looking for something more, here is some info on a few other fun things to do.
El Torro Hike (The Front Side)
An excellent (and steep!) 3-5 hour hike.
It gives you breathtaking views of the front side of EPC.
This hike is definitely worth it; especially if you don’t plan on doing any of the multi-pitches which give you the same view (such as Land of The Free, Yankee Clipper, Sendero Luminoso, or Timewave Zero).
Be warned that it gets cooked in the sun, so bring lots of water and sunscreen.
To arrive at the trailhead, head on the same road that goes into the canyon. Once you have crossed the cattle guard, the trailhead will be on the right after a few minutes’ walk. The trail is well marked with signs.
A topo of the hike can be found here.
San Joaquin Hot Springs
Located only an hour’s drive from Hidalgo, the San Joaquin Hot Springs are nearby El Potrero Chico and offer a great way to relax and recover sore muscles.
Not a bad way to spend the afternoon. For more information, check out their website.
And don’t forget to purchase travel insurance for Mexico to protect you against injury, illness, injury, and theft. This is a super important thing to have on hand. If something happens you’ll be 100% covered for out of pocket expenses.
After 10+ years of climbing, and 5+ years on the road, i’ve seen what can happen.
I’ve had all my gear stolen multiple times, seen (and heard) people break bones (compound fractures, not pretty) requiring emergency helicopter evacuation and have even had more than one climbing partner pass away climbing.
You name it.
So just get insurance.
We use and recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance and you can get your custom quote here. Make sure to sign up for the “explorer plan” to ensure you’re covered for your mountain adventures:
The Wandering Climber. Often seen at world class climbing destinations from around the world!