Sierra Gorda: Why You Should Visit the Fat Mountains /// North-Central Mexico

Translated directly to English, Sierra Gorda means ‘Fat Woman Mountain Range’.  To be fair, I believe the ‘woman’ part is really just the result of Spanish grammar… I suspect the intention of the name is more along the lines of ‘Fat/Large Mountain Range’.  Although the English version of this translation doesn’t result in the most exciting sounding destination, trust me…this biosphere reserve is also known as the ‘green jewel of Mexico’ and is one of the country’s best kept secrets.

But before I get into that, you guys must be wondering: “WHERE ARE you crazy Canadians and why has it been so long since your last blog?”  Or perhaps you’re speculating that we’ve abandoned the blog, possess no intention of ever actually going home and instead have gone on the lam.  Tempting… but unfortunately, no.  Whether or not any of those ponderings actually crossed your mind, I’m giving you an update.

We’re in the US and have just spent 2 amazing weeks exploring New Mexico and Colorado.  As a result of laziness (choosing movie nights over blogging) and our fast (for us) pace of travel, I’ve fallen behind on the blog but don’t worry, we’ve had so many travel adventures and we WILL be sharing them with you… they’re coming!  Now, back to the Fat Mountains.


Sierra Gorda Makes Our Bucket List

Of all the ways we choose destinations for van travel, word of mouth is probably the most common, followed by recommendations we find on vlogs, blogs and social media.  When travellers meet up on the road, one of the favourite discussions is “where have you been?” or “where are you going?”  In chatting with other travellers on the Pan American highway, some destinations – overlander favourites – come up fast and often.  These tend to be the ‘Gringo Trail’ locations; the most popular routes and stops through Latin America.  During our first couple of years of travelling through Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, we hit up many of the Gringo Trail favourites.  We’ve since been digging a little deeper to find our destinations.

Once in a while, we discover a hidden gem.  These gems come in whispers…  a small excerpt in a lonely planet book, a recommendation from a local, or an excited description by a blogger who stumbled off the Gringo Trail.  Sierra Gorda was one of these places and after hearing many awestruck whispers about it over time, it popped onto our bucket list.

As Sierra Gorda was going to be more or less along our route north, we decided that the time was right to knock it off our bucket list.  We also had an extra incentive to make this a destination: a visit with Walter’s favourite Instagram friend (and now real friend), Tashi the Golden (@tashi_thegolden).  You may remember Tashi from an earlier blog, when we first met him and his awesome humans at their new house in Queretaro, Mexico.  We kept in touch over the winter and decided it would be SO MUCH FUN to meet up in the Sierra Gorda for a day of doggie and human adventures.

48 Hours in the Sierra Gorda – Scratching the Surface

Our time in Sierra Gorda, which was WAY TOO SHORT, included 2 action-packed days of driving (often down worrisomely narrow streets), hiking, sightseeing and camping.  Despite being a fat and slow (we should call her Gorda Sally), Sally managed to scratch and climb her way through the mountainous terrain.  We were still feeling a little weak and tired from having suffered food poisoning (click here if you missed that little adventure) but had recouped enough to do some exploring.

A highlight of our brief visit to the Sierra Gorda was the day we spent exploring and sightseeing with Tere, Javier and Tashi.  Tere and Javier have spent most of the last 30 years living in the US but they grew up in Mexico and just recently moved back to Queretaro.  As a result, they made awesome tour guides.  Tere planned out a whole day of activities – we just had to follow along.  Tashi and Walter had so much fun playing and exploring together and of course – being crazy dog people – we had to take a few hundred pictures of them.  Tere and Javier speak perfect Spanish so they were able to do some translating for us and share some regional and cultural information that we’d never have figured out on our own.  If you guys are reading this – we had a blast and hope to spend more time with you guys again next year!!! 

Since apparently pictures are worth a thousand words – here’s our 48-hour stay in pictures.

We spent a night in the little town of Cadereyta on our way to Sierra Gorda.
We camped in Sally on Cadereyta’s central square.
The views on our hike with Tere & Javier to the Cascadas de Maravillas were breathtaking.
Walter & Tashi spent most of their time playing at the waterfall.
Tashi won every game of fetch the stick… he’s a water lover.
Walter won best slow-mo shake off (had to let him win something 😉 ).
Tere brought us to one of many archaeological sites in the area… they allowed dogs!
We checked out the ancient court where ritual ball games were played… I wonder what would happen to the loser?…
The Adventure Mutt got to explore lots of old stuff.
We had lunch with Tere, Javier & Tashi and did some sightseeing in the little town of San Joaquin.
Exhausted from a day of activity, we spent the night at Campo Allegro, just outside of San Joaquin … we had it all to ourselves
We managed to squeeze in a short visit to the famous Franciscan mission church in the town of Jalpan, heart of Sierra Gorda.  Pretty impressive.

Why You Should Visit the Sierra Gorda

If the beautiful pictures in this blog aren’t enough to convince you that you should add the Sierra Gorda to your bucket list, here are some quick facts that should seal the deal.

  • The Sierra Gorda is a biosphere reserve – a protected natural area known as the ‘green jewel of Mexico’.
  • It’s off the beaten track. There aren’t a lot of tourists – especially international tourists.  There’s many reasons for this… some of the main ones being that it’s more difficult to get to due to location and mountainous terrain and much of the tourist information available is in Spanish.
  • The Sierra Gorda has something for everyone including hot climates, cool climates, cloud forests, deserts, canyons, crystal clear rivers, jungles, waterfalls and a huge range of species and habitats.
  • There’s lots of delicious, authentic Mexican food and in Jalpan, a higher capita of ice cream stores to population than I’ve ever seen.
  • For nature lovers, there are endless hiking trails, scenic views and camping opportunities.
  • For city slickers, the area is dotted with little colonial towns, archaeological ruins and special to the area, Franciscan mission churches.

Three days wasn’t nearly enough time to explore the Sierra Gorda, we really just scratched the surface.  Next trip south, we will absolutely be stopping here for at least a week to delve deeper and really explore all of the history, culture and ecosystems.

Have any of you out there visited the Sierra Gorda?  If so, let us know you’re favourite spots/activities in the comments section so that we can add them to our list for next trip!


6 thoughts on “Sierra Gorda: Why You Should Visit the Fat Mountains /// North-Central Mexico

  1. Of course we are reading your blog! It is so much fun! I’m so glad we could spend the day and let the boy doggies play. Come back soon!
    BTW, there was a huge fire in the Sierra Gorda. I think it was in the Jalpan area. 😢


    1. We will come back next year for sure! In the mean time, you should visit Canada 😉 . I didn’t hear about the fire – I’ll have to Google that and get the info. I wonder how it got started? Hopefully it didn’t destroy homes… 😦


    1. Haha – yes, we are really coming home. Getting closer and closer! Always mixed feelings about getting back home but definitely looking forward to friends/family, hot showers and unlimited WiFi 😉


  2. Bonjour We met you on Texas at North Padres Island. We speak french. I havé a question, we want visit Mexique next year. When i read your blog you never whrite about the policia who want money. Is itTrue or not.? Is it dangerous or not? Thanks

    Sylvie Moisan



    1. Hi Sylvie, We remember you guys! I had responded to your previous comment but it sounds like you didn’t receive it. Sorry about that! I’ve copy and pasted it below. Give us a shout to confirm if you’ve received it!

      Salut Sylvie!
      C’est bon d’avoir de tes nouvelles! Oui, je me souviens de vous avoir rencontré au Texas.
      Il y a tellement de villes magnifiques au Mexique. Je dois dire que nos villes préférées sont les anciennes villes coloniales du nord et du centre du Mexique. Pour être honnête, nous n’avons pas encore visité une ville mexicaine où l’on se sentait menacé. I’ll y a quand meme certaine ville qui sont particulièrement plus facile à visiter que d’autre.
      Voici une liste des villes que nous aimons. Je leur ai mit du plus facile à visiter pour un Canadien au plus difficile:
– San Miguel de Allende
– San Cristobal de Las Casas
– Oaxaca
– Mexico Ciudad
– Guanajuato
– Querétaro
– San Luis Potosí
– Zacatecas
      Si vous souhaitez aller dans la péninsule du Yucatan, nous avons apprécié Campeche et Tulum était acceptable si vous souhaitez être près d’une plage. Nous avons également entendu dire que Merida est vraiment beau, même si nous n’avons pas été visités. Nous n’avons pas passé beaucoup de temps sur la côte pacifique ou dans la région au sud de la Ville du Mexique.
      Nous croyons comprendre que les États que vous voudrez peut-être éviter sont les suivants: Taumalipas, Sinaloa, Michoacan et Guerrero. Cela étant dit, nous avons rencontré beaucoup de personnes qui ont traversé ces régions sans problèmes.
      Bien que nous ne nous soyons jamais sentis en danger, nous faisons toujours attention lorsque nous voyageons. Nous demandons aux habitants s’il est prudent de marcher la nuit et s’il existe des quartiers non sécuritaires dans la ville. Nous nous habillons aussi très simplement, ne portons pas de bijoux voyants et faisons attention lorsque nous gardons une portefeuille, un appareil photo, un passeport, etc.
      Faites-nous savoir où vous décidez d’aller! Je suis sûr que si vous visitez l’une de ces villes, vous allez l’adorer !!!


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