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The Fat Rock of Tapalpa

Text and Photos ©2014 by J. Pint

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The Fat Rock is located just a few kilometers from the picturesque mountain town of Tapalpa, one of the most famous of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos.

Santa Maria Flower "war"

Filemón Dávila, left, and John Pint duel with Santa Maria flowers, an old Independence Day tradition in Tapalpa.

Muddy trail in the rainy season

If you visit the Fat Rock during the rainy season, be prepared for plenty of mud.

 Sea Holly near Tapalpa, Jalisco, Mexico

Sea Hollies abound near the Fat Rock. This flower, known as Hierba del Sapo (Toad Weed) in Spanish, supposedly lowers cholesterol and prevents heart attacks. According to Wikipedia, the root and tender leaves are good in salads.

Mario Guerrero near Fat Rock of Tapalpa

Mario Guerrero after crossing a stream on the way to the Fat Rock. In the past hikers had to cross the brook eight times, but now, after the construction of a new, low-quality road, only one crossing is required.

Setting a bolt in Fat Rock - Piedra Gorda, Tapalpa

An unnamed visitor tests a bolt placed in the Fat Rock by Mario Guerrero, Hugo Arrambula and Filemón Dávila of the hiking/camping club CEO. Altitude, 2400 meters.

Caves beneath the dunes? Check out our Saudicaves page:







Enjoy a magnificent view of the forest

By John Pint

The Fat Rock of Tapalpa (La Piedra Gorda)There's something special about Tapalpa. Meandering through its narrow, picturesque streets is a pleasure all its own and what better way to end a day of wandering than in an armchair in front of a roaring fireplace, sipping a potent Ponche de Granada?

Should you have the time, you might possibly spend a few hours visiting Las Piedrotas, several huge rocks which look out of place lying in a flat meadow just outside of town, as if they had been tossed there like peanuts dropped by a passing giant.

The Piedrotas have been turned into a tourist attraction in recent years but actually they are mere pebbles in comparison with La Piedra Gorda, a monolith located only four kilometers away, but a bit difficult to reach, so that few people ever visit it, although the view from its peak is well worth the effort.

Twenty some years ago I found out why not many have seen the Fat Rock. First of all, you had to hike uphill for five kilometers and second, you had to cross a winding stream eight times, hopping from rock to rock and hoping not to fall in.

Last week I had a chance to revisit the Piedra Gorda with friends who planned to install a bolt in the rock to which visitors could attach a safety line while peering over the edge of a sheer drop of some 50 meters.

View from Fat Rock - Piedra Gorda, Tapalpa
We drove northwest out of Tapalpa to the DIF (Family Development Center), parked and—of course—immediately came to that famous stream, which, of course, we crossed by leaping from rock to rock. The altitude here is about 2092 MASL. Just a few meters beyond the stream I found something new. The old trail of bygone days had been replaced by a road...well, maybe I should call it a brecha, because it is rough, full of ruts, and closed to vehicles (except those of people living in the area). This road goes up close to the Piedra Gorda taking away the guesswork we had to deal with years ago. It's also important to note that drainpipes have been installed under the road in strategic places so now you only have to cross the river once on your way to the Fat Rock.

Well, as long as you don't mind walking through mud, mud, and more mud (Don't worry, it will dry up at the end of the rainy season), this is an easy hike through a gorgeous forest and you can even nibble on crab apples along the way. At N19 58.853 W103 48.975 we took a shortcut across a big curve in the road. This brought us into a charming meadow filled with wildflowers. Since Tapalpa has a strange tradition causing people to throw Santa Maria flowers at one another on Mexican Independence Day, we waged a few battles of our own before crossing the road again at N19 58.916 W103 49.018. At this point you just head uphill (there's no path) and after 190 meters you'll come to La Piedra Gorda, which is nestled among a few smaller rocks. There's a sort of ladder here to help you get up to the top of the rock where you suddenly come upon a magnificent, eye-popping view. It's Mother Nature making IMAX look like a postage stamp! The Altitude here is about 2400 meters above sea level. The hike is 4.5 kilometers one way and took us about 90 minutes, strolling along at a leisurely pace.

How to get there
Head west out of Tapalpa on Camino a San Gabriel. At N19 56.561 W103 46.294 turn right onto Calle Sierra del Tigre and follow it northwest 2.6 kilometers to the Tapalpa DIF building. Continue past it another 480 meters and park at N19 57.326 W103 47.744. You'll find the stream just 180 meters north of you. Cross it and in a minute you'll come to the brecha. Follow this northwest for 3.9 kilometers, at which point you can take the above-mentioned shortcut for a pleasant change in scenery. The Fat Rock is at N19 59.010 W103 49.056. You'll find the entire route, from Tapalpa to the Piedra Gorda on Wikiloc.com under “Fat Rock of Tapalpa.”


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