All you need are some sun block, a pair of sturdy legs, reliable climbing equipment, and trekking buddies you can trust and you’re good to go. Here are some places you can visit if you are interested in hiking and the great outdoors:
Apo – The highest mountain in the country at 2,954 meters is one of the most popular hiking destinations. The breathtaking view is not the only thing that draws climbers all over the Philippines to attempt touching its peak, the lush rainforest that surrounds you as you trek up the mountain makes it worth the visit. The diverse terrain, from mossy forest floor to jagged rocks, gives its visitors a chance to experience various ways of hiking. Mt. Apo is also one of the few remaining places where you can spot the famous Philippine Eagle.
Situated between Davao Del Sur and North Cotabato, one can reach Apo’s summit through different routes. You may go up via the Kidapawan trail which most climbers agree is the easiest route or challenge yourself using the Kapatagan trail which will take two to three days to trek.
Pulag – Mt. Pulag or Pulog is the highest point in Luzon. Situated at 2922 metres, this mountain is considered by many as the most photogenic of all the mountains. As you climb up the mossy forest and walk the winding trails along the grassland area, virtually every sight is postcard ready. Once you reach the camp, prepare for the early wake-up call as the sunrise in Pulag cannot be missed.
Pulag is located between the borders of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Ecija and boasts one of the coldest climates in the country. You definitely need to bring warm clothing as temperature can drop in the single digits. There are three ways up the mountain – the Akiki trail, Vizcaya route and the easiest one, Ambangig trail. Since its declaration as a National Park in 1987, strict enforcement of Leave No Trace principle (see below) has been effected. Most locals also consider Pulag as a sacred mountain.
Kanlaon – Its being one of the most active volcanoes in the country that does not only stop mountaineers from visiting Kanlaon. The highest peak in the Visayas region, this mountain takes its name from an ancient god and means “He Who is Ruler of Time”. Rich in biodiversity, the volcano is home to endemic fauna such as the Philippine spotted deer and flora such as Rafflesia speciosa, a member of the world’s largest flower.
Situated in Negros Island, Kanlaon can be ascended using different trails that have different levels of difficulty. Using the Wasay-Guintubdan trail is recommended as it passes the attractions of the mountain such as lagoons and huge dipterocarps. It makes for a challenging climb as it is full of natural obstacles such as tree trunks and massive roots. For an easier route, you may try the Mapot-Masulog trail which will take you to the summit in less than two days.
Climbing Kanlaon requires DENR approval as it is active and considered dangerous.
Tarak – A relatively easy trek with a fantastic view at the campsite, Tarak Ridge in Mariveles, Bataan is a favorite of Manila climbers. About five hours by bus from Manila, this mountain offers a clean river known as Papaya, where one can swim and get drinking water for the climb.
There is an option to assault Tarak’s summit which is about thirty minutes from the campsite. However, the real beauty of the mountain is camping on its ridge, where you have a 270 degree view of the surrounding areas such as Corregidor, Manila Bay and Cavite. Make sure tents are securely pegged as it can get really windy at night.
You may get in touch with one of the local mountaineering groups in Bataan, the Dong-in Outdoor Society, to know more about Tarak.
Pinatubo – One of a few ways you can swim in a volcano’s crater (Taal being another popular Mount Pinatubo (photo by Dennis Lopez) one) is to go to Mt. Pinatubo. Famous for its high-impact eruption in 1991, this volcano has become a must-visit destination for mountaineers as it is the only mountain where you can see a seemingly endless expanse of volcanic ash. Steep fees may be a deterrent to some but the photogenic site when you reach the crater more than makes up for the price.
Located in the intersection of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga, the only way to reach the crater is by a 4X4 vehicle and two hour trek. Once you reach the crater lake, you may opt to swim along the banks or just revel in the beauty of the place.
Guiting-guiting – Even at only 2,058 meters, Guiting-guiting is still considered as one of the most difficult and technical mountains to climb in the Philippines due to a jagged ridge that will take one whole day to climb and descend. Situated in Sibuyan Island, Romblon, this mountain has seen four climbers from the UP Mountaineers die in 1985. Due to the dangerous assault to its summit especially during bad weather, many mountaineers have been forced to turn back and abandon the attempt.
Even with the danger posed to climbers, Guiting is still a popular destination especially during summer months as it is quite gifted with diverse flora and fauna. Here you can see a wide variety of orchids, birds, and one of the smallest bats in the world, the endemic Sibuyan Pygmy Fruitbat. Recently however, this majestic mountain has become threatened by mining companies wanting to excavate as it is said to be rich in nickel and gold.
Please be reminded that this mountain is for experienced climbers only.
Daguldol – Daguldol is only one of several mountains in the Batangas area. At merely 672 meters, it is a Level 1 or easy climb. The main attraction of this climb is the panoramic view on one of its peaks where one can see the neighboring mountains such as Malipunyo and Banahaw and on a clear day, even the island of Marinduque. Another plus is the jump-off point which is located on the beaches of Laiya, which is famous for its white sand.
Located in Brgy. Hugom, San Juan, you can reach Daguldol by either taking the bus or renting a jeep.
Mount Tapulao (Photo by Sally Cabral)Tapulao – Often called “Poorman’s Pulag”, Mt. Tapulao or High Peak is part of the Zambales mountain range. At 2, 037 meters, it is often compared to Mt. Pulag since part of the trek showcases pine trees and cool weather. Going up the mountain can be extremely daunting especially for beginners as there is a long stretch of exposed trail and you are unprotected against different elements. However after a few hours up the trail and you will reach the rainforest and then after some more trekking, the pine forest. When you assault the summit, the terrain will turn into a mossy forest.
The roads are wide enough for a 4×4 vehicle to pass through as Tapulao is open for mining activities. However, due to unstable road conditions during bad weather, vehicles are rarely used to climb up the mountain. It is also highly advisable that you wear sunscreen during the summer as the trek under the hot sun will last for hours. Bring a thick jacket as it can get really cold at night.
Makiling – Makiling is popular due in part to the Philippine folklore of Maria Makiling, who is said to be the guardian of the mountain. Located in Laguna, it is an inactive volcano famous for its mud springs and pristine forests.
There are two ways up this mountain; one is through the Los Bańos side and the other using the Sto. Tomas route. The Los Bańos side is the easier path but as of the moment, this route is closed due to efforts to “rehabilitate” the trails. The Sto. Tomas side is open but is a bit trickier as there are parts that require you to hold on to ropes as you climb a wall. Also, the trails can be confusing as they are not as established as the Los Bańos side. It is thus advisable that you climb this route with someone who has been to the area or you can try to arrange for a guide in Brgy. San Miguel.
Sierra Madre mountain range – The Sierra Madre is the longest mountain range in the country. The range starts from Cagayan (North) and ends in Quezon (South). The mountains that form the Sierra Madre are considered to be one of the densest and richest in terms of biodiversity in the Philippines. Five mountains, all located in the province of Aurora are open for you to explore with different difficulty levels for novice and hardcore climbers alike. These are:
a. Pamaza-pazam – Pamaza-pazam means “alluring” for the Ilongot tribe in Aurora. That said, the mountain is indeed enchanting as different forms of pitcher plants and other flora greet you on the trail. This is a major climb and must be hiked by experienced mountaineers only.
b. Udok – This is one of the easier climbs in Aurora as the jump-off point is the Aurora State College of Technology and the trek is over rolling slopes from there. The presence of different birds such as hawk eagles, hornbills, owls and sparrows makes this fun trek memorable.
c. Danayag – Another major climb with reported endemic monkeys greeting you along the trail. A 140 feet high-waterfall called Ditumabo is a highlight of the trek.
d. Pinondohan – The trek prior descending towards the campsite is of average difficulty but what makes this climb challenging is holding on to a rope made of ‘baging’ and deciding where to step as you manager your way down to Camp Vanessa. The campsite is beside the river and is a few meters away from several falls.
e. Maaling-aling – One of the highest peaks in the Sierra Madre at 1,885 meters and the most difficult of the five. Main attraction is the picturesque Magdalena Falls.