Travel Diary: A Guide to Survive Mt. Pulag
“Faith can move mountains.”
- Mount Pulag is Luzon’s highest peak and the Philippines third highest mountain with an elevation of 2922 MASL.
- The name Mt. Pulag, means bald since there are no trees from grassland to summit.
- Located within the municipalities of Buguias, Kabayan, and Bokod in Benguet, Tinoc in Ifugao and Kayapa in Nueva Vizcaya.
- It is one of the best mountains you can ever hike in the Philippines.
- Mt. Pulag was proclaimed a National Park by virtue of Pres. Proclamation No. 75 on February 20, 1987 covering an area of 11,550 hectares.
- Best time to visit is during the summer months from March to May.
- If you want to experience Mt. Pulag at its coldest, visit from December to January.
- It has three types of landscapes, the cool pine forest, the eerily but beautiful mossy forest and the vasty grasslands approaching the summit.
- It is known to be the “Playground of the Gods” because of its glorious view at the summit surrounded by the sea of clouds.
- Mt. Pulag is an important watershed providing the water necessities of many stakeholders for domestic and industrial use, irrigation, hydroelectric power production and aquaculture.
I’m certain that every travel enthusiast, newbie hiker, trekker and veteran mountaineer here in the Philippines had once a “Mount Pulag” on their bucket list. Mt. Pulag has been on my bucket list since 2015, the year I discovered it on Instagram and I’m so thankful that I had it ticked off my bucket list May of 2017. My trek to Mt. Pulag was only a side trip to an official travel which was held in Baguio City. 🙂 #UnexpectedBlessing
- All hikers are required to submit a medical certificate as a validation that they are physically fit to climb the mountain.
- The park charges an additional fee for non-Filipino.
- Attend the pre-climb meeting so you know what to expect and it is also an opportunity for any of your questions to be answered.
- Keep your voices down in the campsite and when trekking so you don’t disturb other hikers near you and nature. Locals believe that it tends to rain unpredictably when hikers/tourists of the mountains are noisy.
- For the locals, Mt. Pulag is a sacred mountain and considered to be the dwelling place of the Gods of the natives, as such, you are not allowed to smoke a cigarette or drink alcohol. The DENR Office will explain more of that during the registration/orientation.
- The national park does not allow visitors without a reservation.
- For DIY hikers, better secure a reservation at the Mt. Pulag National Park Management since they only allow a maximum of 500 hikers a day to climb Mt. Pulag. (See contact details at the end of this post)
- A licensed hiker guide from the Pulag National Park is mandatory or required.
- Mt. Pulag is a National Park, a Protected Area, and is on the tentative list to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is too important to be treated with less than reverence.
- It’s not guaranteed that you’ll experience great weather, see a beautiful sunrise and witness the sea of clouds when you get to Mt. Pulag, even during summer. Mountain weather is fickle. So lower your expectations a little and pray hard for a good weather!
How to get there
Opt for Travel Agency (TRIPinas Travel and Tour Ventures http://tripinas.com.ph/)
- I selected the weekend public/shared group climbs services of TriPinas.
- They offer tours that can start from Manila or Baguio City as a joiner or in a private trip.
- Tour rate from Baguio: Php1,799-2,199/person From Manila: Php2599-2,999/person
- A licensed tour guide from the Pulag National Park
- Entrance fee + camping fee + green/LGU fee + cultural fee
- Certificate of conquest
- Service of a camp director/tour coordinator
- Side trips to Ambukalo dam, hanging bridge and sulfur springs
*Tents, sleeping bags, and headlamps are not included in the package. TRIPinas Travel and Tour Ventures have all of the aforementioned items for rent.
*You can also decide to spend overnight in a homestay. They will arrange it for you and your group.
*Full board meals are also available as an add-on.
DIY Via Metro Manila
- Ride a bus in Cubao (Victory Liner/Partas/Genesis) bound for Baguio City.
- Travel time is 4 to 5 hours.
DIY Via Baguio
- Upon reaching Baguio City, you have two options to get to the DENR registration site.
- 1. Hire a jeep/van going to Bokod, Benguet where the DENR (also the registration site) is located. Travel time is only 2 hours. This is time-efficient but expensive.
- 2. Take a regular passenger van from Baguio to Kabayan, Benguet. Passenger vans are parked at Baguio City’s Old Slaughterhouse.
- The first trip usually leaves at 7 AM or until the van gets full of passengers. Succeeding trips depend on the number of passengers.
- Tell the driver to drop you off at the junction in Ambangeg (Bokod, Benguet), near the DENR Station. Travel time is 3-4 hours. This is more affordable but time-consuming.
Mt. Pulag is part of the National Integrated Protected Areas Programme, as such DENR registration and orientation are required for trekkers, hikers, and climbers. There is a one-hour orientation that you need to attend to. It is necessary and of great importance to inform, guide or direct mountaineers on the do’s and don’t’s before, during and after the hike.
Here are some of the DENR rules for Mount Pulag hikers.
- Uphold the sanctity of Mt. Pulag.
- Leave No Trace Principle. Simply, it is captured in the nugget “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.”
- Do not dispose waste near water sources
- No spitting, no fires, no camping, no swimming or bathing near lake streams.
- CLAYGO! Clean as you go and dispose of waste properly.
- Remove all traces of group and personal presence.
- Respect wildlife.
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
- Respect. Say “Tabi-tabi po” The local tribes consider the mountain as a sacred place. Learn how to respect.
- All the locals in Mt. Pulag are really friendly, sharing a smile. Greet them.
For DYI hikers, after the registration/orientation, you can hire a habal-habal (motorcycle) to bring you up to Babadac Ranger Station, the jump-off point. If you rent a jeepney/van skip the habal-habal as your rented vehicle must take you up to the Ranger Station. Travel time is 1 hour. From the Ranger Station, you may arrange for a guide and a porter.
Side trips (Ambuklao, Hanging bridge, Hot springs)
Where to stay
- You can choose for a tent or a home-stay. I chose a homestay for a more comfortable sleep and because it would be too awkward to sleep in a tent, alone. Haha!
- TriPinas can arrange both. They have tents for rent and they can reserve your night at the homestay.
- If you only have a weekend, then a 2-day trip is sufficient.
Trails to Mt. Pulag
Via Ambangeg Trail
- The Ambangeg Trail is the easiest trail going to the summit of Mt. Pulag.
- It is called the “Artista Trail” due to its relatively easy trail compared to other trails.
- But based on personal experience, Ambangeg trail is not as easy as you think. Some hikers only reach Camp 2 because of struggles with breathing from the first part of the hike.
- Trek usually starts at the ranger station after you’ve secured a guide and registered your team.
- From the ranger station, it is a 4-5 hour hike to summit and trek starts in the midnight.
Via Akiki Trail
- Known as the killer trail, as it requires 10-11 hours to reach the summit whose up-and-down paths pass by Eddet River (2 hours) where one can camp, rest, and bathe, and continuing across steep, scenic pine-covered slopes (4 hours).
- Unsurprisingly, the name of the trail is derived after a bird call because Mt. Pulag is a bird sanctuary, home to 143 species of birds. From the small birds whose high-pitched chirped sounds like “Aki-ki-ki…”. Cute! 🙂
What to expect
- Trail Difficulty: 3/9 | Trail class 1-2
- Days Required: Hours to summit – 4-5 hours | 1-2 days
- Features: Sea of Clouds | Mossy Oak Forest | Pine Forest | Dwarf Bamboo Slopes
About The Climb
The trails from the ranger station up to camp 1 did weaken my knees and it’s so exhausting. I did not expect that it would be so cold even in May and it is that difficult to climb with the cold weather even if you are dressed properly for the climb.
When we reached Camp 1 at 1 AM, we got the opportunity to rest. I took my water out from my bag and drink, ate the banana and finished a “fun size” bag of M&M’s. After 15 minutes, we continue to walk and arrived at Camp 2 at around 2:15 AM.
HELLO MT. PULAG!!! 🙂
What to bring
- Bonnet/Beanie hat, scarf, and gloves – these may be small in size but trust me, I won’t survive the hike without them!
- Fleece Jacket – this is a soft type of coverings to wear as your base layer
- Thermal Jacket – wear as your mid layer to keep you warm
- Waterproof Jacket – wear as your outer layer to protect you from rain
- Hiking shoes
- Flashlight, lamp or headlight, whistle
- Power bank
- Rain Coat – Just in case you will be hiking in a rainy weather
- Thick Socks – This will keep your feet warm. Bring an extra pair just in case your shoes get wet
- Trail food – My trail food would include peanuts, chocolates, apple, and banana.
- Trail water
- Personal first-aid kit. Medicines.
- Trash bags – Clean as you go! Do not litter. Bring trash bags or plastics to put your food wrappers or garbage.
- When you climb Mt. Pulag, come prepared, expecting the coldest temperature and the most rain so that you are well-equipped.
- Your preparation may include walking exercise and running a week before the planned hike. This preparation will greatly improve your breathing during the hike.
- Never underestimate the freezing temperature of Mount Pulag. Temperature could drop to as low as -5 degrees Celsius, so make sure you have some warm clothing. Coldest season is from December to February.
- Although the mountain weather is fickle, hike with the right attitude. As they say, “It is the journey that matters.”
- Waterproof everything! You’ll notice how it gets progressively colder the higher you go.
- Trek light. Minimize the weight of your backpack. Only bring the necessary.
- Make sure your family knows about the planned hike. Have at least one person know where you will be going, with whom, and when you are expected to return.
A Mt. Pulag First-time Hiker’s Confession
“Forest, jungles, mountains or coast; I don’t have a preference. If I’m out in nature with everything I need in the world on my back, chances are my smile is wide and my thoughts are clear.”
If there’s one mountain in the country that I would highly recommend to enthusiast climbers, Mt Pulag would be on top of my list.
Mount Pulag is probably the most visited mountain here in the Philippines because of its undoubtedly magnificent scenery, marvelous grassland and the frothy sea of clouds. The beauty of Mount Pulag will introduce you to the fabled mossy forest like in the movie, The Lord of the Rings, the beautiful pink ayusep flowers, the distinct dwarf bamboos – all which contribute to a certain feeling of inexpressible splendor. 🙂
“Achievement unlocked!” I said to myself!
When you reach the summit of the mountain, the view will captivate you that you can’t help but sit down and take everything in.
I was stunned and speechless that taking a photo would only be a second priority because I want to seize the moment and just stare at it without blinking afraid of missing a single detail.
You peacefully watch as the sea of clouds slowly rolls into the horizon to make way for the glorious sunrise. And then you smile, thank God for His works of wonders and then smile again. You are at peace. 🙂
Trust God. It kept raining through the night and we were praying and hoping that the sky would clear so the climb would be less exhausting. God indeed make a way for us to get to the summit, catch a glimpse of His glory and faithfulness and see the wonders of His creation. 🙂
After an 8-hour hike, I deserve an exotic treat! 🙂
10 Reasons to Love Hiking (And why it will have you coming back for more)
1. There’s only you and the mountain.
Nothing else really matters when you are trekking up a mountain. The world seems to come to a standstill where your next step is really the only thing that matters.
2. You are surrounded by nature.
Living in the city where almost everything is designed, made, and maintained by people. It’s easy to forget about all the other species that we share with the world. Birds chirping, tree leaves blowing in the wind, it’s a refreshing escape from usual city life.
Being in the mountains reminds me of what much of the world still looks like. It connects me with the elements: rocks, dirt, trees, leaves, bushes, air, water, light etc.
Hiking takes you out into the most natural, untouched parts of the world and allows you to see the magnificent wonders of nature.
3. It is a great workout.
There’s sweat pouring down your face even when it’s cold, you can feel your heart picking up speed, and you can hear each breath you take. Reminds me that doing hard things is good sometimes. But when you get to the top of a hike, it’s usually worth it.
Researchers have found two things: One, that walking offers 80% of the benefit of running. So walk 20% longer and you’ve got the same benefit with less knee/ankle stress. And two, being in nature relaxes your mind. The colors and sounds change your hormones to a more relaxed state by dialing down stress hormones.
4. Relaxes your mind.
Moving through nature can relax your mind. You focus only on the steps, obstacles, and what’s in front of you. It’s you and the trail. The rhythm and focus are rejuvenating.
5. Silence is golden.
Listening to nature is one of the best parts of hiking. If it starts raining, it may sound like you’re in a tropical rainforest. If you hear a swarm of bees, you’ll know it’s time to pick up the pace a little. Listening to your surroundings is beautiful, but also necessary.
Hiking helps you to reconnect with yourself, helps to quiet the mind, and promotes serenity.
6. Conversations on trails are more genuine, relaxed
Conversations in offices involved a lot of statuses, ego, and following norms. Conversations on trails or on the top of mountains often bring out a more genuine, relaxed, and honest version of someone. While walking on a trail with someone, you’re part of the same tribe, on an interesting and challenging journey together.
There’s something about hiking where if you pass someone, it’s like greeting an old friend: ‘Hello!’ ‘Good morning!’ ‘Keep going!’ ‘You’re nearly there!’ It’s the unspoken hiking rule that if you see someone, you’re gonna have to say hi.
7. It makes you happy.
It can improve your mood, decrease your anxiety and even improve your memory. It also helps people mitigate the negative effects of stressful life events and perceived stress.
8. Keeps you motivated.
Hiking gives you motivation and focuses not only to complete your trail but also for challenges in life.
9. The feeling of accomplishment right after a hike.
There’s something about being on the trail, feeling the wind brush against your skin and the sun beat against your back, that’s the feeling that has hikers constantly going back for more. You feel you accomplished something bigger.
10. Because in doing so, I feel like I’m achieving and being more than myself.
I spend weekdays in front of a computer and in the office – working all the time. Whereas on a hike I’m out in a new environment. I’m one with nature and absolutely free, of the constant engagement that city life brings.
The joy of hiking gives you eagerness and desire to do it again…sooooooooooooon! 🙂
To the mountain that showed me how strong I am and can be.. Thank you, Mt. Pulag!!!🙂
For DIY, contact DENR office to know how to go about with your climb. Please refer to the contact information below.
PASU E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
PASU Mering’s Mobile: 0919 631 5402
Office Mobile: 0929 166 8864
Office Landline: (074) 444 2720
’til the next climb! 🙂 Hope your holidays is filled with love, light and happiness. Happy holidays, everyone!
Keep wandering & wondering,
*All photos are mine unless otherwise stated. 🙂