The Pena de Bernal looms above the semi desert like nothing around it. It is visible from over 50km away and its precipitous walls shraply contrast with the gently rolling hills that are found nearby. The Pena is the third largest monolith in the world after the Rock of Gibraltar and Rio de Janeiro's Sugarloaf. Its cliff's rises some 450m above the town of Bernal which grew up at its feet.
The Pena is also the second largest Monolith in the world in terms of mass coming in just behind Ayers Rock in Australia. It is like no other rock I've ever seen except Devil's Tower in Wyoming. The way it rears out of the earth and soars over the plains has captured many a travelers fascination and brought them to visit the Pena from miles around.
The Pena is located right near (the supposed) exact geographical center of Mexico... this maybe somewhat questionable as I thought I had already visited this place and it was just outside the city of Guanajuato. The Pena de Bernal is very popular amongst rock climbers and rightly so. Its walls offer multi pitch routes that would challenge all but the best.
For the trekkers and hikers there is a trail that wends its way up to about the halfway point on the eastern side of the Pena. It is a rugged little trail that in places is Class II. At the halfway point it is possible to climb another 25-30m higher, though some of it is class III-IV. Directly above the cluster of boulders (where most stop and call it quits) is a little series of ledges that makes its way up to a steep face that is marked by a steel rung in the rocks. From there you can scramble up to the bushes if you want to get away from the crowds and enjoy the Pena all to yourself.
Though the only climbing I have done on the Pena was class III-IV from what I noticed the rock was in great shape, very strong and firm, though that might differ on other faces. I will add info. on this as I come across it.
The following is climbing information from the pages original submitter Sp member Flynn.
There are several routes to the summit, most of which are bolted. Some of them are not full routes however and are only suitable for top-roping. The easiest route (the Bernalina) is a 5.9 which is divided into 7 pitches. There is also a via ferratas route which has sadly not been maintained.
From Mexico City take highway 57 towards Queretaro, follow this road for about 200km ( roughly about 2 hours) until just before the the city of Queretaro where you can take one of two routes.
First you can get off on route 120 at San Jaun del Rio where you will take the 120 through Tequisquiapan until you reach Ezequiel Montes where you will head West towards the town of Bernal. At this point the Pena is visible and with some rudimentary Spanish to ask for directions you would be hard pressed to get lost. After leaving the autopista it should take you anyweher from an hour to an hour and a hlaf to reach Bernal... passing through small towns eats up lots of time... so for those eager to get there a little quiker I would suggest the second route. This one offers more of a sampling of small town Mexico.
The second route continues westwards along Highway 57 until you see a turnoff for Quretaro State highway number 4 (which again will be far easier if you know Spanish and are unafraid to ask for directions). Other than the autopistas smaller highways are not well signed so asking for directions is a way of life.Follow this route for about an hour and a quarter and the Pena should be in sight by about halfway. The town of Bernal is located right off the route.
From Bernal simply follow the plethora of signs that guide you onwards twoard the Pena heading steadily upwards until you reach a parking lot with the usual tourist booths and restaurants. There are people along the way who will wave you onwards towards the Pena.
The approach is straightforward the trail is clearly marked and nearly impossible to miss... and of course with the Pena towering above you it makes a pretty fair guidepost in its own right. Follow this up towards where the cliffs start and you are open for business.
There is a small office at the base of the rock along the trail where the names and number of climbers need to be recorded in case of emergency.
Other than this there is no red tape. There are no hidden fees. Mexico is very relaxed when it comes to charging fees for others to visit its areas of natural interest... which is something of a mixed blessing here.
When To Climb
The state of Queretaro is usually very dry, the storms that frequent the valley around Mexico City don't happen in this region. As previously mentioned by SP member Flynn when it rains it usually rains at night. So year round, access to the Pena is almost always good.
I would still suggest that the best months are the drier months from November to March as the weather then is something you can set your watch by... day in and day out.
While camping isn't offered I am sure that few if any would raise a stink if you chose to pitch a tent off the trail or around the rock. As mentioned previously people here in Mexico don't get up in arms over things like this very often. They are a warm and welcoming people that seem to love to share their country with others.
There are several small motels in the town of Bernal with warm beds for thos who might wish for more comfortable lodgings. The prices I imagine would run around 200-250 pesos a night.. (not much over $25Cdn or $20 US)... maybe even cheaper.
To check the weather conditions I would suggest visiting www.maps-of-mexico.com/mexico-weather where you can check the weather for the city of Queretaro which is closest major center. That should yield accurate weather conditions, they give a 5-7 day forecast so that should be plenty enough for anyone I would imagine.
You can also check www.cnn.com/WEATHER for an extended outlook for the weather in the city of Queretaro.