Adults generally grow to 30–40 cm (11¾-15¾ inches) in total length, with a maximum of 51.0 cm (20 in). It is terrestrial and moderately stout.
The color pattern consists of a blackish ground color, overlaid with a vague dorsal zig-zag stripe that extends down the flanks, which looks like a series of triangular markings. The skin between the scales is rust-colored, as are the sides of the head.
This species is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCNRed List of Threatened Species with the following criteria: B1ab(iii) (v3.1, 2001). A species is listed as such when the best available evidence indicates that the geographic range, in the form of extent of occurrence, is estimated to be less than 5,000 km² (1,930 mi²), estimates indicate the population is severely fragmented or known to exist at no more than five locations, and a continuing decline has been observed, inferred or projected in the area, extent and/or quality of habitat. It is therefore considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. The population trend is down. Year assessed: 2007.
^ abMcDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Washington, District of Columbia: Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
^Jadin, RC; Smith, EN; Campbell, JA (2011). "Unraveling a tangle of Mexican serpents: a systematic revision of highland pitvipers". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society163 (3): 949–951. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2011.00748.x.|accessdate= requires |url= (help)
^ abCampbell JA, Lamar WW. 2004. The Venomous Reptiles of the Western Hemisphere. 2 volumes. Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Associates. 870 pp., 1,500 plates. ISBN 0-8014-4141-2.
^ abcMehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
^Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Cerrophidion barbouri, p. 16).