Espinazo del diablo

Espinazo del Diablo, a treacherous mountain road in Mexico

Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil's Backbone) is a famous mountain road in Mexico. Located between Mazatlan on the west coast of mainland Mexico and Durango, which lies east of the Sierra Madre Mountains, this road is known by locals and internationally for its hairpins and zigzags turns. The road lies almost entirely over 2.000 meters above the sea level.

El Espinazo del Diablo is a natural viewpoint at 2.440 meters above the sea level, flanked by two deep ravines, located at kilometer 168 of the Mexican Federal Highway 40. It covers a stretch of highway about 10 km, where you can see the wonderful spectacle of the Sierra Madre Occidental topping out at 2.744m (9,002ft) above the sea level. This section of the highway is narrow with lots of curves (around 2.000). Despite of many cautionary tales about crossing the Devil's Backbone, El Espinazo del Diablo, is exceptionally well maintained and there are many cautionary signs marking most of the hazards. There are some tight curves, too. So tight that a truck needs all the road to make it around. The road ascends and descends across spectacular landscapes, sharp bends and bottomless cliffs.

During the winter months there is the added danger of ice. The road passes through mountains and deep ravines. The construction of this road was a hard job in some sections: one side has big banks and the other cliffs. If we add that is one of the routes with more assaults, robberies and even murders, it becomes one of the most dangerous roads. It is advisable to start with a full tank of gas. The road runs across dozens of deep ravines, bends with bumpy asphalt and rocks bordering at 2.000 higher. It suffers from recurrent fogs and roaming wild animals which cause frequent and fatal accidents. At afternoon is usually covered in a thick fog that traps less cautious drivers, turning every curve and narrow way into an odyssey.

Why is called El Espinazo del Diablo?

There are some versions of the name given to the area. One says that the impressive ravines deployed on both sides of the road allow to see the devil. Local legend says that when the Archangel Michael threw the devil from heaven and he landed here on earth, his backbone formed the rugged ridgeline of the Sierra Madres. The road has had a bad reputation for many reasons: it’s accident-prone and hundreds of people have died on it, these mountains have historically been remote and inaccessible enough that they are used for growing marijuana and poppies, and therefore, there has been a lot of crime in these mountains related to drug trafficking. Its steep gradients and narrow sections have earned it the adjective of “bleak”. Along the road you can contemplate the marvelous spectacle offered by Sierra Madre Occidental. The road runs between mountains and canyons. This road is so curvy and twisted that it takes 7-8 hours to cross (that’s an average speed of 20 mph or less). It is the only place to cross the Sierra Madres for more than 500 miles.
In 2013 this road was bypassed by the scenic Mexico 40D. The highway, of 140-miles-long, has 115 bridges and 61 tunnels and costed $2.2 billion. The new highway will move 5 million vehicles a year—four times the number handled by the old road.


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