Mount Cristo Rey
ElevationAscent: 630' 192 m
Descent: -629' -192 m
High: 4,623' 1,409 m
Low: 3,993' 1,217 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 15% (9°)
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“Switchback up a mountain straddling the international border on El Paso's most unique trail.”— Brendan Ross
Pets are not allowed.
At the top is a twenty nine foot limestone statue of Christ, sculpted in 1939. Stations of the cross and various shrines are present along the well-maintained path. The view of both countries from the summit are incomparable; there is no better place to fully appreciate the enormous size of the El Paso - Ciudad Juarez borderplex and surrounding desert.
In any case, visitors are requested to contact Sunland Park Police Department at (575) 589-0388 before embarking as an extra measure of security.
Remember that this site was built as a religious monument. Most worshippers are happy to share the trail with runners and hikers, but please be respectful to maintain this relationship. Running the trail may be difficult and inappropriate on busier pilgrimage days. Mountain biking is not permitted.
The initial quarter mile is the steepest, climbing at a moderate grade as it enters the small foothill area. Watch for the first few stations of the cross (part of the Catholic Via Dolorosa, meant to reflect upon the final days of Christ's life) on the way. The trail flattens as it makes its first of many hairpin turns, also passing the first shrine. Keep an eye off the trail to the right in this flat area; the walls of Urbici Soler's house, who built the monument on the top, can be seen below the path.
The trail is mostly flat as it transitions the foothill area, surrounded by boulders and creating a moon-like landscape. A short diversion to another shrine is present at the three quarters mark, just as the trail makes its first major switchback up the mountain. From here until the top, the grade will stay at a manageable five to ten percent. Impressive views into New Mexico and western Texas are present throughout the climb. A few sidetracks leading to shrines or cross stations are present along the way, but the main path is easy to follow.
The last major hairpin is just after the two mile point. While still in the United States, the trail is now on the Mexican side of the mountain and looks over an area of Ciudad Juarez that can't be seen from any other vantage point in the country. From the neighborhoods below, music, conversation, and the rare gunshot can be heard.
The final section is marked by yellow railings and a steep, concrete path to the Christ monument. Be respectful summiting the top, as other visitors may be engaged in prayer or quiet reflection. The view from the crown-shaped base of the statue is peerless. Over two million people reside in the cities surrounding the trail. The mountains, Rio Grande, and border fence reach out to the horizon, all impacting life in the Borderland in their own way.
The trail, along with a larger cross, was built by volunteers in 1934. Costa's plan reached fruition in 1937, when Mexican sculptor Urbici Soler was hired to build the Christ statue from limestone quarried in Austin. Working daily from 4 am to sunset, Soler completed the monument in time for its first pilgrimage in October 1939.
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Local Club: Mount Cristo Rey Restoration Committee