From bustling village life to an awesome view

Marshal and Rick, two former members of the Guadalajara Philharmonic Orchestra, had been in Mexico only a few weeks when we took them to the village of San Esteban. They had wanted to escape from the city, breathe fresh country air and join us in a hike up one of the most beautiful mountains on the outskirts of Guadalajara.

Inspiring spires

As we worked our way through the houses at the edge of the village, my mind was on the steep hillside above us, thickly covered with tall, standing rocks like hundreds of church spires reaching for the bright blue sky. Could we discover an easy way up to the top?

Swirling village life

Our two guests, however, were staring with eyes as wide as saucers at the village life around us: dogs barking, chickens cackling, pigs rooting, countless children frolicking, cows ambling down the unpaved street, a decrepit truck clanking its way through the potholes, loudspeaker on the roof announcing luscious papayas (papaws) and the cheapest onions anywhere. Moreover, each back yard we passed offered a new feast for the five senses. There were groaning clotheslines swaying in the breeze, seeds drying in the sun, an old, old lady patting tortillas, skeletons of long dead cars sprouting bright flowers and climbing vines plus the mouth watering smells of carne asada (roasted meat) and bubbling salsas.

Mountain top view

Then we plunged into the pine and oak forest and began to make our way up the steep hillside, slipping on leaves and loose rocks, grabbing for a sapling here and a foothold there. If a path to the top exists, we never came across it, but finally we arrived at the enormous rock sporting the inevitable cross one finds on hilltops overlooking Mexican towns. The view is truly breathtaking, for beyond San Esteban one can see the steep, jagged walls of the awesome Barranca de Oblatos, the tremendous canyon created by the ubiquitous Santiago River. This wonderful sight was accompanied by "live music" from the town below: a cacophony of roosters crowing their lungs out, even though it was mid afternoon!

A tamer alternative

If you don't fancy beating your way through the bush up the steep mountainside, try the easy walk shown on the map. Just head straight uphill from the town square. In a few minutes you'll come to a very long canal, about a meter deep, presumably dug for rain collection. Follow this canal to the right (NW) for a pleasant walk to a small, shaded spring and a curious, half natural cistern which apparently supplies many local families with water.


Go north on Prolongación Alcalde. Once you leave town this becomes highway 54 heading for Zacatecas and Saltillo. Nine kms (5.6 miles) after crossing the Periférico (the ring road that almost encircles Guadalajara), you pass under a footbridge followed by a sign announcing the entrance to Las Cañadas (formerly San Isidro). Bypassing the Las Cañadas entrance, take the immediate following left turn onto a dirt road which, despite first appearances, is comfortably drivable. After three kms (1.9 miles), you will find yourself in the center of San Esteban and in the shadow of the spire covered hillside. Park here for the canal walk or continue down to the next pueblito, San Miguel Tatepozco ("where the bus always stops") for your climb up to the top. Total time from the Guadalajara Periférico to San Esteban: about 20 minutes.

(from Outdoors in Western Mexico by John and Susy Pint, Editorial Agata, Guadalajara)

© 2000, John J. Pint - All rights reserved