Hiking in the Hills Above Real de Catorce
In September 2015, I spent a week in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. I visited the city of San Luis Potosi as well as the small mountain town of Real de Catorce. Real became an important mining area in the late 1700s, and remained so until the 1900s, when the price of silver dropped and the mines began playing out. Much of the town was abandoned, or so the story goes, but the town has undergone a revival in the last couple of decades. I spent four days in Real, and one of the highlights for me was several walks in the hills above town.
Real sits at an altitude of around 9,000 feet (2740m), nestled between higher hills. Outside of town, one can quickly climb to an altitude of over 10,000 feet. The views are breathtaking, and this high “altiplano” was in full bloom when I visited. Succulents were interspersed with plants such as salvia, there were hummingbirds zooming around feeding on the flowers, interesting squirrels hopping about, and lizards everywhere.
Here’s a map of one of the best hikes. It starts in town, headed due east. You’ll climb quite quickly (the zig zags in yellow), reaching a beautiful overlook. Then, headed back further into the hills, you hit a couple of ghost towns that have interesting ruins to explore. Circling around one, you climb to some higher ridges, where you can see even more, before winding your way back the way you came.
As you start climbing up, you can look back on a nice view of Real:
Higher up, you start getting views of the entire town:
Eventually, you can see the whole town nestled between the hills:
Heading east, you begin to run into more ruins from an older mine town. We would call this a ghost town, in Spanish, it is a “pueblo fantasma”:
In this area, I saw many squirrels:
Climbing higher up, I came around the back of the ghost town:
The high ridges up here were full of interesting succulents:
Following a path along one of the ridges:
I kept seeing these small lizards, this one stood still long enough for a photo:
Here are a couple of panoramas from above Real de Catorce:
Over the course of the four days, I hiked in this area several times. These hikes were truly wonderful. It was incredibly beautiful and also very quiet up in the hills. I saw few other people, perhaps a couple of tours on horseback, and a few goat herders. I was expecting to struggle more with the altitude, but found that it had no effect on me. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos!
Nice essay. Did you make it to Cerro Quemado? Unfortunately at my age I was having trouble walking around at altitute and had to hire the horses to do some trekking. RDC is incredible. I have lived in SLP for over 20 years and it took me that long to make it out there since we live farther east. Beautiful unforgettable vistas up in the mountains.
No, I did not make it to Cerro Quemado. I assume that would have taken a horse. I loved Real de Catorce — I really need to get back there. It’s one of my favorite places in Mexico.
Peter, you and I have one thing in common, Real de Catorce is also my number one spot in Mexico. We have been going there since 2007 and each time I love it more. We drive to San Miguel de Allende each year and it is then that we visit. Already I am thinking about my next time……I want to go in August sometime or September as we have only been in January and April. But all awesome.
I think of five areas to explore, of course Fantasma and then the other direction.
Also the little church of Santa Anita above La Law on the drive up.
Just love it all.
Really enjoyed your post and pictures. Thanks for sharing Rosemary Cooke
September was beautiful, the plants were blooming above town and there were hummingbirds everywhere. What is it like in January — I saw one picture where they had snow! I hope to get back, maybe next year, I think I could spend a week there and still enjoy it. It’s a wonderful place.
Hi Peter, did you go by yourself? How long did the hike take you?
I really enjoyed your article!
Hi, I was there by myself. I suppose I spent a couple of hours wandering around? It’s a neat place, I don’t always move too fast.
Sounds good! I am planning on going there tomorrow, I also have a tent with me, do you think it will be possible to camp in the mountains or is it too dangerous?
I don’t think that I’d camp up there. It’s pretty isolated.
Hey there Peter,
In a few days, and friend and I are heading to Real de Catorce from Mexico City. Have you travelled there, hiking, from Estacion Catorce or Estacion Wadley?
If so, how did you find the bus connections in that area?
The bus route would be Mexico City to San Luis Potosi, San Luis Potosi to Matehuala, and Matehuala to Real de Catorce. You’re in for a long ride! Might want to break it up by spend a night in San Luis Potosi. It’s got quite a nice centro.