Sierra de Cristo Rey

Driving through El Paso, Texas on the morning of 3 January 2023, Zosia Zgolak and I made a planned stop to climb Sierra de Cristo Rey which means "Mountain of Christ the King".  The mountain is notable for a 9-metre high statue of Jesus Christ on its summit which is easily accessed by a long-winded but gently rising trail.  A history of the statue's construction can be found at, and a pilgrimage to the summit is held annually in the fall.  The mountain itself is actually located within the city of Sunland Park, New Mexico, and because of its close proximity to the Mexican border, there have been incidences of human smuggling and drug trafficking here in the past.  As such, it is recommended that hikers contact the Sunland Park Police Department prior to setting foot on the mountain.

Zosia and I arrived a bit early and had to wait until the Sunland Park Police Department opened for business at 8 AM.  When I explained our intentions, the police clerk gave me the phone number for what I believe was the US Border Patrol dispatcher.  The person on the line asked how many people were in my party and what kind of car I was driving.  I was told to contact them again once we finished our hike.  We then drove to the trailhead.

In Sunland Park, turn south onto Cristo Rey Road from McNutt Road, 1.0 kilometre east of the intersection with Racetrack Drive or 550 metres west of the bridge over the Rio Grande.  Drive 1.1 kilometres to a gate which may or may not be open.  Either park on the side of the road before the gate or in a huge gravel parking lot just beyond.  The trailhead is about another 150 metres further just past some buildings and portable toilets.

Zosia and I parked before the gate and walked the remaining short distance to the trailhead.  Coincidentally, there was already a contingent of US Border Patrol vehicles and personnel in the gravel parking lot.  Although this group did not stay in the area, another US Border Patrol vehicle was perched on a nearby hilltop for at least the duration of our trip if not the entire day.  Compared to all the excitement of registering our trip with the police and the dispatcher, the actual hike up Sierra de Cristo Rey felt rather anticlimactic.  We had no difficulties following the wide trail which gains elevation almost imperceptibly as it switchbacks up the north side of the mountain.  Throughout the trail are numerous shrines dedicated to various saints or important Christian figures, and on our way up, we stopped at each one to pay our respects.  Near the top, the trail winds briefly to the south side of the mountain before rising up to the summit on a steep paved ramp with handrails.  The summit grants commanding views of the cities of Sunland Park, El Paso, and Ciudad Juárez as well as the infamous wall separating the United States and Mexico.  Fortunately, we did not witness any illegal activities in the area.

When we had our fill of Jesus Christ's statue, Zosia and I uneventfully retraced our steps down the mountain.  Upon returning to our car, I phoned the US Border Patrol dispatcher again to inform them that we had finished our hike and were leaving the area.  Ironically, Zosia and I would visit the fascinating US Border Patrol Museum in El Paso later that afternoon.
Feels like we're in a movie... US Border Patrol personnel are present as Zosia begins her hike from an open gate.
Lord bless this hike!

An arch marks the actual trailhead for Sierra de Cristo Rey.  The summit is visible in the distance.

It wouldn't be too tough to short cut the trail and scramble straight up. Although the summit is close, the trail takes a long and meandering line up the north side of the mountain.
Unfortunately, there's also a lot of garbage everywhere.

Numerous shrines such as this one are scattered along the trail.

It looks like heaven is at the summit! This is the northwest aspect of Sierra de Cristo Rey.
Wish I had my e-bike!

Zosia continues hiking along the wide and gently rising trail.

Our Lady of the Worthless Miracle? Zosia takes a short detour to visit the last and biggest of the shrines--this one devoted to the Virgin Mary.

It's odd that the wall doesn't extend over the southern flank of Sierra de Cristo Rey.

A wall separating Mexico and the United States of America stretches away to the western horizon.


The last part is actually paved!

The steepest part of the trail is right before the summit.

The statue of Jesus faces east on the mountain. Sonny and Zosia stand below a giant statue of Jesus Christ on the summit of Sierra de Cristo Rey (1416 metres).
The movie "Sicario" comes to mind...

The view to the east is largely comprised of the cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

Apparently, this is the more affluent side of El Paso.

Franklin Mountains and West El Paso are visible to the north.


Jesus Christ Superstar! Here is one last look at the statue of Jesus Christ on the summit.
I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! Sunland Park Lake stands out to the northwest and is situated within Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino.
Not exactly a wilderness experience, but the climb is unique in its own way. Total Distance:  7.9 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  3 hours 1 minute
Net Elevation Gain:  220 metres

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