Photo by David Berkowitz.
Cerro San Cristobal is one of two iconic hills from which you can get a good aerial view of Santiago, Chile. It has two main access points, with the bulk of people going up on the Pio Nono (Bellavista) side on Saturdays and Sundays. A good option is to take the funicular, a near-vertical train/elevator which rides up the rails to near Plaza Tupahue, the topmost plaza on the hill. The system works through counterweights, and the cars always pass each other at the same point on the rails, where they split into two sets briefly.
But if you’re looking for a more energetic way to see the cerro, a good option is one of the trails mentioned on the Parque Metropolitano website. (in Spanish). The favored and favorite trail is called the Zorro Vidal, and though steep, it is only just short of a mile, and makes a good way to wake up, or to build up some thirst so you can enjoy a refreshing mote con huesillo (Chilean drink of reconstituted dried peaches, hulled wheat kernels and a syrupy peach juice) up top.
The access to the trail is off the main road from Pio Nono, about 500 meters in, on the right side, opposite a sign that says “Campos de Deporte,” and is signposted with the words “Sendero Zorro Vidal” (Zorro Vidal trail). From there, follow the trail (when in doubt, follow fencelines and other hikers) about a half hour’s walk (you will first start seeing the Virgin at about 20 minutes in) up to Plaza México, which is the second to last plaza. Cross the plaza and head up and to the right to finish at Plaza Tupahue to get your hard-earned drink.
Along the hike you will see various native and non-native plant species including acacias, pines, privet and rosewood, among others. Up near Plaza Mexico there is a large assortment of pelargoniums/geraniums and other planted flowers (in season). Choose busier times to avoid getting lost. The trail is closed at night. You can walk down the trail to your starting point, take the funicular, or follow the road down to either Pio Nono (in Bellavista) or Pedro de Valdivia, where you’ll end at the sculpture garden.