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Climbing
Sport climbing, Trad climbing
Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade I
Elevation Gain
200.00 m (656.17 ft)
Distance
0.60 km (0.37 mi)
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Puerta de Diablo, literally, “The Devil’s Door,"  is located atop El Chulo Hill, meaning “place of the deserter” or “place of the fugitive." This now-popular tourist attraction, which serves as a means of getting away from the bustling streets of San Salvador, is comprised of three main rock structures with great views of the surrounding area. These three rock structures were once actually one solid peak, which broke apart in a torrential storm that pounded the area in 1762, sweeping away the soil and softer bits of rock and causing a huge collapse of the mountain. This also formed the iconic cave-like crack at the base of the northern boulder (a.k.a. the Naked Boulder).

Prior to the breaking of the mountain, the single summit was supposedly referred to as Naked Peak, which is why the three broken boulders are now referred by subsets of the original name. If standing back to the road, these boulders (left to right) are named: Naked, Little Naked, and Big Naked.

Between Naked and Little Naked Boulders, look through what appears to be a doorway in the mountain to the sea of forest stretching out endlessly, or you can hike to the top of either Naked or Big Naked boulders for stunning views overlooking Balboa Park from its highest point (1,250 m). You can see the city of San Salvador to one side and a lush green oasis framed by Lake Ilopango and the San Vicente volcano to the other. On a clear day, you can even see all the way south to the Pacific Ocean.

Devil’s Door is considered the most developed crag in El Salvador. Generally speaking, standards are low given the country’s barely burgeoning climbing community. It has around 60 routes spread across 13 different walls, or sectors. While the area is quite popular among both locals and tourists for its scenic vistas and historical lore, the climbing itself is pretty unknown except for the small local climbing community. You should have most of the routes to yourself or at most a handful of others.

Historical Significance

While the place hardly looks demonic (rather than the opposite actually), it does have a dark past steeped in local lore about the formation of the site. According to one legend, Planes Renderos, the man after whom the region was named) had a beautiful daughter who attracted the attention of the Devil himself. The Devil courted the girl, much to the ire of her father, who began hunting the Devil so fiercely that he fled through the mountains, knocking a hole between the very stones themselves.

In no uncertain terms, the site was once used by the government of El Salvador, a trend that continued all the way through the country’s civil war from 1980 to 1992, in which over 75,000 civilians died. Prior to and during the conflict, Puerta de Diablo was used by the government as both an execution ground and mass burial site.

Today, the area is a popular spot to visit, but not linger. Local legend still prevents people from building in the area—hence the vast swaths of untouched forest—because strange accidents seem to happen on construction sites.

Getting There

By Car: From San Salvador, you can either drive about 45 minutes (the easiest option if you have it) by taking the Comalapa Highway toward the airport and exiting right toward Planes de Renderos and Panchimalo. From there, it’s pretty simple. Puerta de Diablo will be on your left, and you can park anywhere in the dirt lot.

By Bus: If traveling without a car, you can also take the number 12 bus to Los Planes de Renderos and get off right at Puerta De Diablo. It's finding the stop that’s tricky. The easiest place to catch the bus is in a small market square near the Palacio National. If you go there and ask around, locals will point you in the right direction. The bus leaves every 45 minutes and should only cost about $0.50.

The Climbing

Puerta de Diablo is an easily accessible climbing area because it is located just off the road. From the open parking lot nestled in between Little Naked and Big Naked boulders (where you’ll also find a handful of vendors, carnival equipment, and other oddities), you can easily walk to just about all the climbing areas in less than 5 minutes. Climbs range in difficulty from barely fifth class, at 5.6, to 5.13+ with a few standing projects.

To start, check out Sector de la Escuela (School Sector) for some super easy 5.6 and 5.7 warmup slab, located on the far right (south) side of the parking lot. From there, you can move on to harder walls. A good natural progression is to move on to the opposite side of the parking lot (the north side) and go behind the vendor stalls located under a scalloped rock archway. Follow the path up to La Primerva Vez, which has some great moderate routes.

There is no official guide or area topo for the routes or even the general wall location, so they can be tricky to find. If you spot other climbers there, don’t be afraid to ask them to give you the run-down about which routes are where!

The walls (in no particular order due to lack of area topo):

  • Sector de la Abuela, 2 routes
  • Sector de el Aguila, 14 routes
  • Sectro de el Comedor, 2 routes
  • Sector de Isaac, 3 routes
  • Sector de la Caja de Pandora, 6 routes
  • Sector de la Escuela, 6 routes (5.6 and 5.7)
  • Sector de el Primero Vez, 9 routes
  • Sector de el Puta Chero, 2 routes
  • Sector de la Repisa, 1 route
  • Sector de la Sanguinaria, 7 routes
  • Sector de las Econimicas, 5 routes
  • Sector de las Obscenidadas Verticales, 1 route
  • Sector del Piton Silvestre, 4 routes

Safety Tips

Many are fearful of El Salvador due to its reputation for crime, and the country has not yet reached the list of Central American tourist destinations like Costa Rica and Nicaragua. While the country’s murder rate is high, due to its location along a major drug trade route, rural areas like Puerta de Diablo are actually incredibly safe, despite its troubled past. Be smart. Do not bring valuables and keep any money you need and your passport on your person and hidden away at all times. El Salvador is actually a remarkably kind and friendly place (especially the fellow climbers!) as long as you keep your wits about you.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Winter

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

High route density. Stunning vistas. Volcano views. Low crag traffic. Wide range in difficulty.

Cons

Popular non-climber tourist site. Lots of trash. Questionable bolts.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

1,050.00 ft (320.04 m)

Highest point

4,101.05 ft (1,250.00 m)

Features

Cave
Old-growth forest
Historically significant
Big vistas
Bird watching
Geologically significant

Access

Vehicle

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Primary aspect

South facing

Class / Rating

5.6-5.13b

Drinking water

Unfrozen water

Location

Field Guide

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