This post and video show you what that is like to tow a fifth wheel RV down and up the Cuesto del Infierno (Slope of Hell) in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to tow an RV along one of the most challenging roads in the world? Well, we have done it, and this post and video will show you what that was like. Our post includes important things that you should know before you tow in Baja California, and before you attempt the Cuesto del Infierno.
The Cuesto del Infierno (Slope of Hell) in Baja California Sur, Mexico, is one of the steepest mountain passes on Mexico’s Highway 3. It winds down southward towards the Sea of Cortez. By the time you are at the bottom of the Cuesto del Infierno, you are at the coast.
The Cuesto del Infierno is narrow but well paved (a refreshing change on Highway 3). There are almost no guard rails, and when heading north, you are right next to a sheer drop off the side of the cliff. You are very likely to come across cattle grazing on the side of the road. There is no passing lane, and very few places where you can pull to the side of the road to rest your brakes or your engine.
Video Showing the Descent and Ascent of the Cuesto del Infierno, Baja California Sur, Mexico
We drove the Cuesto del Infierno both ways in our Ford F350, towing a 30-foot fifth wheel.
On the way south we were in a guided caravan of RVs, and on the way north we were accompanied by just one vehicle. That vehicle contained our tail gunners from the caravan, Jerry, and his wife, Kathy. So, in both directions we were in constant CB radio contact with a leader who helped us along the way. That was a huge help. We would not want to do it alone. That said, it is a short stretch (about two miles), and any skilled driver with towing experience should be able to do it safely, provided they have the right tow vehicle.
Read about all our Adventures in our Baja California Caravan here!
How to Descend the Cuesto del Infierno Safely
Be sure to have a tow vehicle that can easily manage to pull up grades that are sometimes as steep as 13%.
Our gas-powered Ford is rated to tow 16,000 pounds, and our fifth wheel, fully loaded, weighs a little under 10,000 pounds. The recommendation is that the RV you are towing should not weigh more than 80% of what your tow vehicle is rated for. With our fifth wheel weighing only 62% of our towing capacity, we expected to be fine.
It would be extremely unwise to drive this road with an under-powered tow vehicle.
Use your Gears!
Heading south, you will need excellent brakes, and of course, you will need to know how to use your gears to slow your descent. You definitely do not want to be using your brakes all the way down. Our Ford F350 has a tow package, and you can change it from automatic to manual. We did all of the descent and ascent in manual, using mainly third gear. Occasionally we had to switch into second gear.
Just drive slowly and carefully, and you should be fine. Keep a sharp eye out for cattle!
Overtaking on the Cuesto del Infierno
The most challenging thing that happened on our descent was that we came across an 18-wheeler traveling at about 20 miles per hour. Our entire caravan of 9 RVs and two vehicles had to overtake him. Fortunately, this did not happen during the steepest part of the descent. In fact, by the time we had to overtake him, the road was going uphill again. It was a test of our Ford F350, but our truck did a magnificent job. We zoomed past the 18-wheeler, and in fact had to apply the brakes to avoid getting too close to the RV in front of us! You can see that overtaking maneuver on the video, starting at Minute 11:44.
The Advantages of Towing in a Caravan
Of course, we were very lucky because we were in a caravan when we had to overtake. That meant that we had a Wagon Master up front, telling us via CB radio when the road was clear and it was safe to overtake. If you don’t have that luxury, it is not safe to overtake anywhere on this stretch of road, as it is too narrow and winding. By the time our caravan had descended, there were many vehicles behind us, waiting patiently for a chance to overtake.
Our series of posts about being in a guided caravan in Baja California start here. Each post has an embedded video, so you can really see what it is like.
Oncoming Vehicles on a Narrow Highway
Traffic is light on this road, but still, you are sure to have some oncoming vehicles, including 18-wheelers. It’s important to know that the professional drivers in Baja California are excellent and careful. They often go far over to the side of the road when they see large vehicles oncoming. Sometimes, they even stopped to let our entire oncoming caravan safely get by.
Whatever you do, don’t veer too far to the right when you see an oncoming 18-wheeler. The road is narrow, and the shoulder is almost non-existent. If a wheel of your trailer went off the shoulder, you could be in serious trouble. Similarly, do not veer to the right when an enormous 18-wheeler is overtaking you!
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Left-turn Blinkers in Baja California
It is very important to know that on the highways of Baja, when someone engages their left-turn blinker, it does not mean they are turning left! What it means is that they are trying to communicate to traffic behind them that it is safe to overtake. Drivers of 18-wheelers use this method a lot. They can see far ahead, and they seem to be happy to let people behind them know when it is safe to overtake.
If you are driving slowly because you are towing, you can also use this method to help traffic safely overtake you.
If you actually want to turn left, do not indicate with your left blinker! Instead, slow down, wait until it’s safe, then take command of the oncoming lane, and execute a careful 45-degree turn.
We hope this post helps you to safely drive in Baja California, including the Cuesto del Infierno!
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