Mountain Hike Vacation in Puerto Rico
The Mountain Hiker Rating: 8 out of 10
- Contributor: MGF
- Time required: 2.5 – 4 hours round trip
- Degree of Difficulty: 6 out of 10
- Height: 3,461 feet (1,055 meters) / Actual vertical hiked was less than 1,500 feet (450m), as the trailhead began around 2,080 feet (630m) above sea level
- Distance: Just under 3 miles (5 km) round trip
- Guide Required: No – The trailhead and trails are well marked.
From Fajardo, we drove about 20 minutes west to reach the Park. The El-Yunque National Forest Reserve, located in the north east corner of the island, is the largest and best maintained of Puerto Rico’s parks and Pico El-Yunque is the highlight of up-hill hiking in the park.
After a quick stop at the El Portal Visitor Centre to pay the nominal $4 usd per person to enter the park, we continued to drive uphill, deeper into the park. We passed Las Cabezas Observation Point, La Coca falls (a dramatic waterfalls on the side of the road), as well as the Yocahu Tower observation area, all good areas to stretch your legs and take a look around… before reaching the Palo Colorado Information Center where we parked our car for the hike.
As this was our first-ever rainforest hike, we were very excited to get started. The El-Yunque & Mt. Britton trail was a mix of natural rocky path with some man-made sections. The “palo colorado” forest canopy was pretty thick and the air was moist, but it did not rain on us. We passed a number of small waterfalls, or perhaps more accurately, cliff like rock-faces with water pouring down them. After about 40 minutes of gradual incline, there was a split in the trail. We decided to check out the trail to Mt. Britton, and we were glad that we did. At just over 3 thousand feet (900m) above sea level, we came across a small stone tower, with a spiral staircase inside that lead us to the roof-top. From there we had fantastic views to the south of the park. We could see the mountaintops for miles, as well as a birds-eye view of the Information centre that we had just left. It was a short 10-15 minute walk back to the intersection, where we continued the hike.
Back on the trail to the top of El-Yunque, the trail was a little steeper as we entered the “mountain palm” section of the forest, and there were sections that were near cliff like on the side of the trail. The forest was lush and green, and while we had some nice views in the occasional breaks in the trees, it became more and more difficult to see as we seemed to enter a pocket of mist. While it didn’t rain, there was a constant trickle of water coming down the rocky trail we were hiking. Suddenly, we came across buildings and antennas which indicated there was a telecom facility there. As we really couldn’t see more than 10-20 feet in front of us at this point, we pushed on through the “dwarf” forest to the top of the mountain.
There were some pretty rough sections of the El-Yunque & Mt. Britton trail, however nothing too difficult for the average hiker. Fortunately (and like magic), by the time we reached the top of the mountain, it had cleared and we were suddenly above the clouds on a large flat platform with breathtaking views! We could clearly see the north and east shorelines of the island, the ocean, along with the nearby mountain tops of La Roca and Los Picachos, as well as down into the surrounding valleys. Absolutely stunning!
On the way back down the trail, the cloud/mist had cleared, so we walked the short distance on a paved road to the Telecom area, where there was a large concrete observation platform. From there, we experienced more great views, including one of the tower on Mt Britton where we had previously hiked to/from. It was kind of eerie, as the clouds moved back in and we were enveloped in moisture once again. So, we headed back down the rest of the wet trail.
In summary, we were very excited to do our very first rainforest hike, and we were not disappointed. The El-Yunque & Mt. Britton trail was an exciting and fairly easy hike, with rewarding views from the top. The mix in trail type and flora provided a nice variety, and walking through the clouds was an interesting experience. While this is a very popular hike, we only saw one other couple on the trail. We did this hike in just over 3 hours, including a 15 minute break on the top.
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