Going climbing in La Huasteca?
We got all the beta in one place in this incredibly awesome guide. Directions, accommodations & climbing!
This guide was written from the experience of living in Monterrey, within a half-hour drive from this amazing destination and having the first years of my climbing life getting to know this beloved local crag.
La Huasteca Overview
La Huasteca is a hidden gem of a crag within a 20-minute ride of Monterrey’s city center just waiting for climbers to test its towering walls. These beautiful limestone canyons spanning several kilometers are the home of over 500 climbing routes right next to one of Mexico’s most metropolitan cities, Monterrey city.
One should be careful not to confuse it with La Huasteca Potosina, which is another beautiful region close to the country’s center. This one is in Monterrey, close to El Potrero Chico and El Salto.
La Huasteca was the birthplace of climbing in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, and one of Mexico’s most important crags during the earlier days of the country’s climbing scene. It was developed mostly by locals and it is where the community bonded and grew.
Due to this, it is a quite significant region and the climbing culture within La Huasteca is referred to as Huastequismo. This is also the name of the Facebook group of its climbing community, so feel free to join if you would like to ask some specific questions.
One may wonder how an area with 500+ high quality routes, with lots of both single and multi-pitching opportunities, right next to a metropolitan city managed to stay mostly under the radar of the international climbing scene. And the reason behind this is mostly its proximity to El Potrero Chico and El Salto.
Despite being a top-tier destination with hundreds of climbing routes and the potential to hold thousands, being so close to 2 other world-class areas made La Huasteca rather overlooked by foreigners.
I am sharing this info with you hoping to fix this, by showcasing what La Huasteca has to offer.
Let’s take a look!
Why Go To La Huasteca?
One of the biggest reasons why international climbers should try climbing in La Huasteca is the sheer number of climbing routes it has to offer for beginner to intermediate climbers.
While most world-class crags contain mostly lines in the 5.12 and 5.13 range, La Huasteca has more than 200 within the 5.10 grade range alone, over 100 within the 5.11 range, and then a couple hundred in the 5.8, 5.9, and 5.12, 5.13 grades.
So, grading-wise alone, La Huasteca caters perfectly to the average climber, who is someone climbing around 5.10c. But besides this, another extremely valuable thing this crag has in its favor is its proximity to the city of Monterrey.
How many times have you thought about great cities to live in as a climber? Monterrey is one of the most important cities in Mexico in terms of education, industry, and technology.
Due to this, there are tons of professional and academic opportunities for people wanting to be based in a big city for some years while enjoying great climbing within a 30-minute drive.
When Is The Best Time To Rock Climb at La Huasteca
Mexico is usually a very hot country, and La Huasteca is no exception. It can get very sunny, hot, and dry within the canyon, which is why this is mostly a winter destination from October to February.
However, with La Huasteca covering such a large area, there is always shade somewhere. So, for someone willing to be constantly following the shadows, it is quite possible to climb all year long, even after February ends.
Those wanting to climb during summer be warned that most walls have no tall vegetation nearby. When the sun is hitting a wall both the climber and the belayer will be quite exposed to the heat, which can easily lead to dehydration. Therefore, following shade is quite crucial during the warmer months.
Where Is La Huasteca and How To Get There
La Huasteca is in the Santa Catarina municipality of Monterrey’s metropolitan area in northern Mexico’s state Nuevo Leon. It can be easily reached both by car and by public transport from Monterrey’s city center by simply hopping into a “Infonavit-La Huasteca” bus line.
However, while the entrance of La Huasteca is very easy to reach, it is highly recommended to drive in. The canyon expands over a huge distance so one could require driving for up to 30 kilometers to reach the deepest crag currently developed.
How To Get To La Huasteca From Monterrey Airport (MTY)
Directly from Ramón Narváez’s guidebook: “Take highway 54 to Monterrey and follow the signs for Av. Constitución Pte. Continue until it changes names to Av. Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, then take a left onto Av. Corregidora (south). Cross the river and take a right on to Av. Morones Prieto going west to reach the park’s entrance.”
Quite frankly, being so close to the city, it is very easy to get there. Besides, with directions from online maps there should be no worries about getting lost in the way.
There is also the option of requesting one of the various shuttle services offered by local climbers. They pick you up directly at the airport and drop you in the crag. Take Joe for example, whose slogan is “Be driven by climbers”.
Riding with him on the way to the crag might be the perfect opportunity to learn all you want to know before you even get there.
La Huasteca Safety
Mexico has had a lot of bad press in terms of safety due to the drug cartels. But it is the consensus of locals and climbers that Monterrey and La Huasteca are both quite safe.
Just to be on the safe side, I would advise against strolling alone at night in Santa Catarina just right outside of the park’s gates. The park is very close to the highway, away from the more crowded and well-lit streets you would find closer to the city center.
And as a foreigner in any given country, it is recommended to take caution and use your own judgment. The Australian embassy has an excellent page with more information and recommendations about traveling to Mexico so you can judge for yourselves.
Rock Climbing At La Huasteca: Climbing Areas
La Huasteca is mainly a sport climbing destination, with over 500 climbing routes spread among dozens of climbing areas. However, there are also a few trad multi-pitches, aid-climbing, and a via-ferrata.
The rock here is almost entirely a gray limestone with great friction. The majority are technical and crimpy slabs, but there are exceptions.
Many have very high first bolts, so stick clipping could be wise if not entirely confident. First bolts are so high in this region because the canyon is basically a huge dry river now, and the ground level was eroded during rainy seasons.
La Huasteca is a big place so climbing there is divided into many smaller climbing areas. There are around 30 climbing areas within the canyon. I will only briefly describe the 6 most popular ones and then talk a bit about the others in general.
There is a guide containing most of the classics in La Huasteca, and its author Ramon Narvaez was generous enough to make it available to everyone for free. You can download it following this link. Shoutout to Ramón for his contributions.
There has been some development since the creation of that guide, so some will not be included there. For single pitch cragging I would recommend checking the topo’s at thecrag.
But if looking for information about classic multi-pitches, Ramon’s guide and the Facebook group are your most valuable resources.
(Annie Abson on Mundito 5.10d.)
Starting from the park entrance, the first of the 6 popular crags one would encounter is Cazuelas. Cazuelas got its name due to the shape and texture of the rock there, which is like thousands of small vases (or cazuelas in Spanish).
Cazuelas is pure technical face sport climbing, and it has the highest concentration of hardest routes in La Huasteca, with more than 20 in the 5.12 and 5.13 grade range. Due to its proximity to Monterrey, it used to be where the strong climbers gathered all the time before El Salto became popular.
This is one of the best crags in terms of shade, so you will pretty much find climbers here at all hours on routes that have been climbed thousands of times.
A few kilometers down the road you will reach another fan favorite – La Extremita.
This area caters to both intermediate and beginner climbers, and those who have never climbed before. La Extremita consists of 5 small canyons, with around 10 climbs each.
Most are 5.10b, or below, so it is popular amongst beginners who have only climbed 5.8 or 5.9 before. On the other hand, the first of the 5 canyons has harder lines in the 5.10+ and 5.12 range, and it’s a go-to for when the other 4 get hit by the sun. So, it is quite visited by intermediate to advanced climbers as well.
Right next to La Extremita, about a hundred meters further you will find Zona Extrema. This is without a doubt the most popular zone within La Huasteca due to the number of routes and the grade ranges they cover.
The left-hand side of the wall has around 15 routes graded 5.10, 5.9, 5.8 or lower. Due to this, many people visit this wall either to learn how to climb, or to watch people climb. Big groups come here.
However, to the right-hand side is where the fun lies for intermediate to advanced climbers. There is a selection of around 40 routes in the 5.10a to 5.11b range right next to each other, as well as some short multi-pitching opportunities.
So those who are already familiar with climbing and want a challenge come here to have fun.
(Pop Piero and Uri Anglada at Tinder Push (5.12d). Photo by Marcelo Gonzalez)
While not as popular as the other areas already mentioned, Guitarritas is a very nice place climbers love to visit and camp at. Guitarritas canyon covers an enormous area which includes around 10 smaller sub crags and a few kilometers of still mostly undeveloped climbable rock with some classic multi-pitch lines hiding in plain sight.
The sub crags I mention contain a combined total of over 100 routes with an average grade of around 5.10c, so it is very enjoyable climbing for the average climber.
What strikes me the most about this area is its potential for world class multi-pitches all over mostly virgin rock. Information about multi pitches here is not known by many, so be sure to check Ramon’s guide or ask him personally through the Facebook group if interested in big wall climbing here.
(Adrian Moreno on El Refri / La Luna (5.10c). Photo by @asa_medrano)
Down the road past the entrance to Guitarritas canyon you will find Medicos. This zone is crimpy face climbing with particularly technical footwork. Route grades in this area are centered around 5.11a, with about 30 routes in the 5.11 range and another 30 in the 5.10 range. So it is a good challenge and preferred location for intermediate climbers.
There are a few multi-pitches here as well, but the area is most known for having about 60 routes in the intermediate range right next to each other, including a lot of classic climbs.
(Mauricio Mendez hanging on Ray Bar over the RompePicos. Photo by @aledelunap)
Finally, the deepest crag in La Huasteca is the Ray Bar. Climbing here is completely different from the rest of La Huasteca. It consists of about 15 overhanging limestone routes with good holds and tufas, so it is great for those looking for a different type of climbing.
The difficulty in Ray Bar is a bit higher than that in the rest of La Huasteca. There are no beginner routes here, with the easiest being 5.10d and the majority centered around the 5.12b range. So it is a good spot for a change of pace, and to take the classic photo near the Rompepicos.
What to Bring To La Huasteca (Suggested Packing List)
Climbing-wise, La Huasteca is mostly single-pitch sports climbing with a few trad multi-pitch routes out there. Some multi-pitches are sports, and some are trad, so you would be able to multi-pitch with just sports gear. But if interested in both feel free to bring a trad rack.
Routes here are mostly very long. You would be able to climb most of them with a 60-meter rope, but I would highly recommend bringing a 70m one just to make sure you can climb anything in the area.
Harness, Shoes, Belay Device and Quickdraws
As for any non-bouldering rock climbing destination you should bring your shoes, harness, belay device, and a set of quickdraws. Due to the extension of the routes, you will require between 12 and 15 draws in most routes, so I would recommend 15 just to stay on the safe side.
Since there is both trad multi-pitching and single pitch sports climbing, be sure to bring the belay device you would prefer for your activity.
Many foreigners that come to la Huasteca stay in the campsite. So, in case you are one of those, be sure to bring a tent and a sleeping bag.
For those of you coming from the US, 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, makes a recipe for disaster.
Furthermore, many travel insurances say that they cover “adventure” sports like climbing, only to discover that once you read the fine print, they add in special inclusions like requiring you to climb with a certified guide to be covered.
The fastest, easiest and most respected travel insurance in the world which covers rock climbing is World Nomads.
Be sure to select the “Explorer Plan” on the next page so that you’ll be covered for outdoor rock climbing!
Go here to read more about travel insurance and you can’t travel without it!
La Huasteca Accommodations
La Huasteca has 2 main options: camping and staying in the city.
For camping, there is a campground within the park’s walls called Huastecamp. Huastecamp is a very affordable and convenient campground.
For 50 pesos a night, which is less than 3 USD, you have access to the campsite, toilets and a fully equipped kitchen. In the kitchen you will find stoves, a refrigerator, a blender and community cookware. And if you prefer to cook outside you can start a campfire or use one of the barbeque spits.
For those 50 pesos you can either set up your tent, your car or your van. There is water, electricity, and a phone signal. At the time of writing Huastecamp does not offer rooms for rent, but its owner Diego plans to do so in the near future. Feel free to reach him either by phone 8112790821 or through the camp’s facebook page.
Being so near a metropolitan area, one may choose to stay in the city to enjoy the comforts of city life. There are many options for staying in Monterrey so I will not list specific locations. You may want to stay in hotels for a few fancy days, you could opt for an Airbnb, or you could even rent a house or flat if planning on a longer stay.
Staying around Santa Catarina or Monterrey’s city center can be quite inexpensive so it might be a great option. You would have supermarkets, restaurants, climbing gyms, gear stores, shared office spaces, etc. to satisfy all your needs given the particularity of your stay.
Where Do You Buy Food At La Huasteca?
Right next to the park’s entrance there is a restaurant, a store selling prepared corn, and a few deposits for basic groceries and junk food. However, being near a big city, it is quite easy to drive around any restaurant of your liking. As for grocery runs, it is just as easy to go to the nearest supermarket.
There are 2 big supermarkets within a 3km radius of the canyon: Soriana Express La Huasteca and Soriana Super Valle Poniente.
La Huasteca Rest Day Activities
There are many options for rest days in La Huasteca, and due to its proximity to Monterrey, one can choose to spend the day in the canyon or enjoying city life.
There are too many popular hikes within the park to name them all. Some go deep inside the canyons, while others climb up all the way to the peak’s summits, and they all bring opportunities for many photos. But to name just a few you could try any of the following:
- Cañon de San Judas
- Cañon de la Sandía
- Cañon de San Bartolo
- Pico Licos
You can find these and many others, along with the way marked in GPS in wikiloc. But if you would prefer a guiding service to practice this sport while staying on the safe side, there are several to choose from.
I would personally recommend contacting Carneros Aventura to check what tours they offer. I can vouch for them since the owner, Chuy, is who taught me how to climb when I first entered this beautiful sport.
Canyoning and Abseiling
With so many mountains and caves in sight, there are many abseiling opportunities in La Huasteca. The most popular abseil is probably the one at La Cueva de La Virgen, which is the big cave that can be seen in the overview section of this guide.
There is also both canyoneering and hiking near the city but outside of La Huasteca, like the Matacanes canyon for example, which is a full day adventure.
Monterrey is often referred to as “the city of mountains” so you can get an idea of all the mountain sport opportunities. Once again, feel free to book a guided tour to see everything that is offered, and to make sure you do not put yourself in danger.
La Huasteca’s paved road is 30km long, so you can enjoy biking in flat terrain while taking in beautiful views. Besides the main road, there are optional routes, like entering Guitarritas or other canyons, where you can do biking on rock and dirt roads for a more natural experience.
If you do not own, or do not bring a bike, there is bike rental just outside of the park’s entrance.
(Tania Aranda on via ferrata)
Another very popular activity in La Huasteca is doing the big via ferrata that goes up Pico Independencia. The peak is about 600-700 meters tall, so you get a very nice view from the top and you feel very exposed on the way up.
Be warned though, a private company owns the via ferrata and you can only access it through guiding services.
And finally, being so close to a big city you can do pretty much anything city life has to offer. You could go to the movies, visit a bar, go fine dining, or any type of city entertainment you can think of.
Nearby Climbing Areas
It’s worth mentioning as well that La Hausteca is close by to many other great limestone climbing areas.
El Potrero Chico
Without a doubt, El Potrero Chico is the largest and most famous climbing area near La Hausteca. Famous for its highly accessible super long multi-pitches and ‘moderate’ grades, it is a must visit if you’re in the Monterrey area.
El Salto’s Climbing has grown from an obscure unknown crag to being widely recognized by many to being one of the best in Mexico.
Know for hard grades, tufas and perfect limestone, it is another must visit are if you’re looking to climbing 5.12 and harder.
Final Thoughts on La Huasteca Climbing
(Climbing in Cazuelas. Photo by Marcelo Gonzalez)
The article speaks for itself, La Huasteca is a marvelous destination for anyone wanting to enjoy 500+ routes along the canyon spanning for tens of kilometers.
Besides this, if staying in Monterrey climbing for longer periods you should also make a trip to climb in El Potrero Chico and El Salto. These are another 2 world-class climbing destinations very close to La Huasteca.
La Huasteca’s marvels for beginner and intermediate climbers, combined with El Potrero Chico’s multi-pitching opportunities, and El Salto high difficulty climbing make Monterrey a perfect city to spend some years in.
If based in Monterrey, you can easily make a living with big-city professional and academic opportunities. Then after 9-5 life you can easily climb in La Huasteca during weekdays or weekends, or venture into El Potrero Chico or El Salto if you have the time.
Perfect climbing every day of the week, with enough routes to keep you entertained for years. This is La Huasteca climbing.
And don’t forget to purchase travel insurance for Mexico to protect you against illness, injury, and theft. This is a super important thing to have on hand. We recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance and you can get your custom quote here:
Alex is a computer scientist from Mexico currently studying a PhD on cancer genomics. He is a full-time researcher, a regular weekend warrior, and someone who enjoys sharing his thoughts through writing. He first started climbing at uni, where he fell in love with the beautiful places it took him. So, he promised himself he would someday experience the beauty of climbing and nature in every continent. Nowadays, after several years with this motivation in mind, school and work have taken Alex to 4 different continents already. This has given him the opportunity to make friends all over the world, experience different cultures and their communities, as well as the chance to listen all the stories these people have to share. Alex hopes these adventures will continue for many years, and is eager to share his experiences as a wandering climber.