Parque Ecológico Chipinque, September 2, 2013

Chipinque Park logo

Chipinque Ecological Park

Emilio Villarreal Chipinque

Emilio Villarreal running in Chipinque

Number 2 on Trip Advisor’s list of 60 things to do in Monterrey, Mexico is Parque Ecológico Chipinque. “A great place to bike, hike and jog,” the website says. Monterrey native Emilio Villarreal, a California transplant and product development scientist for Dole, has run many miles up the mountainside to the park and along its 22 miles of trails.

On the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend, I met with Emilio at a crowded sports bar in Monterey, California. The noise level is well beyond comfortable conversation as we ease into our discussion in English, aware of the seven other people at the table. We talk about the insecurity and how Monterrey has changed even since he graduated from Monterrey Tec with a degree in Food Science in 2003.

Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey

Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey

Eventually, the two of us move outside where, at a table in the dark, I’m scribbling furious notes as Emilio, now speaking Spanish, pulls up one memory after another of the most popular park in the system of Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey (Summits of Monterrey National Park). Only 12 miles south of downtown Monterrey, the park features peaceful hiking and mountain-biking trails of jaw-dropping beauty that wind among oak and pine forests with 174 species of butterflies.      

Cerro de la Silla

Cerro de la Silla

No matter where you go in the Monterrey, you’re rarely far from a view of mountains. After all, one of the town’s nicknames is “City of Mountains,” and perhaps the symbol most associated with Monterrey is Cerro de la Silla (Saddle Mountain), part of the Cumbres system. Monterrey (1762 feet above sea level) was founded along the Santa Catarina River where it cuts through a wide valley in the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains. The highest peak in the area, Copete de las Aguila in Chipinque, towers 7349 feet.

Copete de Aguila

Copete de Aguila (Photo from Trepacerros)

In 1937, after a study by the federal government, President Lázaro Cárdenas signed a decree creating a zone protected by the Forestry Delegation for Hunting and Fishing in an attempt to rein in encroaching urbanization, farming and forestry. Entities with varying interests went back and forth for decades over land use and development with no long-term vision of where things were headed. By the early 90’s groups from several universities and members of Ducks Unlimited de México began to sound serious alarms about the future of the area’s natural resources. In 2000, President Ernesto Zedillo signed a decree forming Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey, uniting various parks in an area of 177,395 hectares (437 acres) traversing 8 municipalities in the state.

Chipinque bikers

Chipinque bikers (www.backpacking.net bikers)

The first memory of Chipinque that Emilio brings up involves a long-ago girlfriend who ran track for the Tec. The coach used to take the team on runs up the road to the park. I nod, thinking of the first draft of this post that already includes, “drivers have to watch out for joggers, hikers and bikers working their way up the mountain.” After a while, the girlfriend had Emilio jogging up. He recalls the sense of calm and the sounds of the city fading away as he left it behind and below.

He moves on, talking about the magic of snow—which dusts Monterrey every few years and coats the mountains. “Imagine for a child who has never seen snow what it was like. We and everybody else would drive up to Chipinque and make snowmen. We once put one in the truck of the car and brought it home. It lasted almost two days.”  

Hotel Chipinque's El Mirador Restaurant

Hotel Chipinque’s El Mirador Restaurant (hotelchipinque.com)

He continues on to other memories. “For our graduation from the Tec, the dinner was held at Hotel Chipinque. We sat outside and the temperature was very pleasant. With the city lit up below us, it was really beautiful.” Anyone who has lived in Monterrey can appreciate the comment about pleasant weather in late May when the city is typically sweltering.  

Chipinque slide

Chipinque slide (Taller de periodismo)

Our time is nearly up, but there’s one activity Emilio hasn’t mentioned. “And when you were a kid, you used to go down the slide, didn’t you?” I ask, visualizing the giant concrete slide that on weekends fills up kids and parents, the one I used to go down with one toddler or another in my lap.

“Of course,” Emilio says with a smile. Small wonder one August contributor to Trip Advisor rated Chipinque 5 stars and, “Awesome place!”

Below is a video of one American’s hike in Chipinque. Next week: read about the other parks in the Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey system.

 

Comments

  1. Beautiful video! My first “real” look at Monterrey from the air. So glad you’re taking the time to share this with us, Leslie.

  2. I am trying to piece together some high school journeys of mine through Monterrey by way of google maps … is the slide located between the observatory and the hotel, or is it nearer to the restaurant? The area around the restaurant “looks right” but I remember winding up a lot more mountainside road than that.

    • Leslie Patiño says:

      Hi Daniel, your question left me wondering if my memories were correct. I double-checked with a Monterrey source who enjoys going up to Chipinque. The slide is indeed near the restaurant–about 200-300 meters, he says. The hotel and small observatory are below that. My friend has never stopped at the observatory and doesn’t know if it’s open to the public. That leads me to think it probably isn’t. Thanks for reading “The Other Side of the Peso.” I hope you’ll check back in the coming weeks. I’m currently in Cabo San Lucas working on lots of great success stories.

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