How To Hike Luzon’s Highest Peak

I don’t remember where or how I first saw pictures of Mount Pulag’s sunrise and sea of clouds. All I know is that from then on, it became a part of my growing bucket list of places to visit. Finally, last Chinese New Year weekend, armed with my P500 cheap round trip Cebu-Manila tickets, I was on my way.

Mount Pulag is the third tallest mountain in the country and Luzon’s highest peak, with a summit at 2,922 meters above sea level. There are different trails that reach the summit, the easiest being the Ambangeg trail. But although it is considered the easiest, the four to five hour trek from the Ranger’s Station is still a challenge.

It is cold and windy at the summit, so make sure you’re dressed warmly, especially if you go during the cold season. I had four layers on me and I still felt cold.

If there is no sunrise and sea of clouds during your visit, like on ours, don’t worry. Mount Pulag is more than just those two, which would have just been icing on the cake. It has unique landscapes that make you feel like, as cliche as it sounds, you’re not in tropical Philippines. The landscape changes at different elevations, so there are three different experiences as you go up and down the mountain. The grassland is in the topmost portion, the mossy forest in the middle, and the pine forest below.

The pine forest is not as dense along the trail. This zoomed-out view of a mountain covered with pines is only one of the breathtaking sights to see during your trek.

They say mountain weather is very unpredictable and seeing the sunrise and the sea of clouds is not always guaranteed. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t blessed with seeing both that weekend. Instead, we got a sea of fog. Still, being a lowland tropical island dweller, I still found it a fascinating sight.

The mossy forest is, well, literally covered in moss. It has huge ferns, which reminded me of those dinosaur movies I used to watch as a child.

We stayed at the Ranger’s station area because we were told that Camp 2 (which was higher up) was closed to give the area time to recover from all the campers that stayed there before. Vehicles can actually go up to the Ranger’s station and park there overnight. See?

After witnessing first hand the toilet situation at Camp 2, I would STRONGLY and highly recommend staying at the Ranger’s station area where toilet facilities with modern plumbing are available. If you can stand the cold water, you can even shower there. 

FAST FACTS

About four hours away from Baguio, Mt. Pulag is home to many rare species of animal and plant life, including the dwarf bamboo, the Philippine dear, the cloud rat, and so on. 

Many tour operators have packages that include Manila pickups for a more convenient arrangement.

Some tips:

  • Bring rain-proof and warm clothing. The mountain gets pretty chilly, so make sure you have something to fight the cold.
  • Pack only the necessities. You’ll have to carry your backpack all the way to the summit, so don’t fill it up with things you don’t need.
  • Wear shoes with traction. Wearing shoes with grooves in the soles will come in handy when navigating through damp terrain.
  • Bring water. Hiking while dehydrated is never a good idea.
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