El Faro has taunted me on my daily walks along the beach. As if to say “come and get me!”
And, El Faro has even taunted me a few times from downtown Mazatlan, saying “I dare you!”
But, it’s at night when El Faro’s light jumps into 360-degree action, and it’s zig-zag trail leading up to the lighthouse becomes illuminated, that El Faro becomes most inviting. “Can this trail be any easier? It’s even got nightlights to help you find your way!”
My RV park neighbor, Jackie, and I started talking about the El Faro hike about a month ago. She was trying to get her knee recovered from a recent injury and thought she might be ready for the hike in couple weeks, so we tentatively planned a target date.
However, after no signs of improvement last week, it was determined that her knee would need surgery this past weekend. El Faro would have to wait another year for Jackie.
So, I now had a decision to make—defer my El Faro hike as well, or go forward, climb it solo and hopefully bring back some photos and video for my convalescing neighbor.
As luck would have it, Sunday morning’s weather is crystal clear, sunny, and cool. “Carpe’ Diem!” (Ironically, I happened to find out later that night that Sunday was Jackie’s birthday, so the right call indeed to huff it up that hilltop and bring her back some photos!)
I quickly walk Millie and begin getting my backpack and hiking boots dug out from the deep recesses of the Winnie. Just after 8:00am, I’m off to catch the beachside panga (boat taxi) across the harbor.
I make my way past dozens of tractor-trailer trucks awaiting the Baja Truck Ferry’s arrival from La Paz.
After a few blocks, I round the corner to see El Faro waiting for me. The area is industrial with only lone truck drivers, bus drivers, and fishermen hanging out on the streets. Just the kind of place a single woman should be walking alone in Mexico! Fortunately, Mazatlan is pretty safe, and even safer early on a Sunday morning.
Within 15 minutes, I’m now walking the causeway straight towards El Faro.
I reach a small roundabout with a sign promising that the hike should only take me 25 minutes! I laugh and remember the story our Jungle boat tour guide, Polo, told us about the El Faro hike: “The hike takes 15 minutes…if you’re only 17! If you’re 57…45 minutes. If you’re 80…it only takes a couple days!”
Finally, the entrance to the steep walking path awaits me. Let’s hope Polo’s time estimates for the 57-year-old are accurate!
Within only a couple of minutes, I’m now up above the roundabout and starting to get some good views of the harbor entrance...
...and getting some not-so-good-views of the wastewater sewage plant next door, and the tall hill still ahead of me!
The dirt path zigs and zags it’s way up the side of the hill, which is technically named “Cerro del Creston” (Creston Hill) as El Faro is really just the name for the lighthouse at the very top.
The path begins to narrow and become more steep. I’ve now reached the stairway portion of the trail. 340 stairs to be precise, but really, who’s counting?!!! It’s this part of the trail where the youngsters take off with mucho gusto, leaving all overweight, out-of-shape, middle-aged women in their wake.
Fortunately, the stairs are bordered by a rock wall that makes for a nice cool bench for us mature ladies to take frequent rest stops and watch who’s coming up the hill next. Lots of families with small kids, and lots of folks with their dogs on this nice Sunday.
The higher I climb, the better the views get of the harbor entrance, ocean, and city. I watch the Baja truck ferry coming into port…those are big 18-wheelers on it’s deck. The ship is massive!
Still more to climb, though. “Is there really a lighthouse up there? Or am I climbing the wrong hill?!!”
One more turn, and my fears are alleviated. It’s the entrance gate of El Faro offering to sell me cold water or Gatorade!
El Faro is the highest lighthouse in the Americas at 523 feet above sea level, and the second highest lighthouse in the world (after Gibraltar). It was built in 1879, and it’s 1,000 watt lamp (focused by a powerful glass Fresnel lens) can be seen by ships up to 30 nautical miles away!
The lighthouse does not offer any public tours, but you can pat the guard dog and admire the stunning vistas absolutely free of charge!
Out the back and sides are views of the ocean. Not quite sure if this is considered the bottom of the Sea of Cortez, or the Pacific Ocean, but it’s infinitely blue.
In front, is a stunning view of the city of Mazatlan. Simply breathtaking!
Over to the south of the city is our little piece of paradise, Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra). What a fantastic view of our beach from El Faro!
Taking my trusty Nikon Monarch binoculars out, and putting my Canon Powershot up against one of the eyepieces, I’m able to see my View down there just to the left of the big white Maria Coral hotel (at the far right of the picture above).
A reverse view of the shot from the very top of this post—from El Faro looking down to my View! (it’s in the second row just left of the big 5th wheel).
This quick GoPro video doesn’t do full justice to the panoramic views from atop El Faro, but I hope it helps give those interested in this hike a good idea of what they’ll experience at the top.
One final self-portrait for “Selfie Sunday”, and I’m on my way back down the hill feeling exuberant. I might be retired and out of shape, but not yet too old to meet El Faro’s challenge…and conquer it!
Lets hope this is the first of many more hills and mountains to climb!