Mt. Pulag (National Park)- Hiking Guide
Why Mount Pulag is known as the Playground of the Gods?
One of the highest peaks in Luzon, Mount Pulag is situated between the borders of Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya. It stands 2,926 meters above sea level and is famous for its sea of clouds. It’s also called the “Playground of the Gods” by the Ibaloi because for them; it is a sacred place where the Gods live and play.
You might be wondering right now if you can climb Pulag with little or no experience at all. Or if it’s worth the climb. Well, I have that same question when I went there, and I have no regrets at all. All the sweat and pain, and the super cold weather that makes me squeeze were worth it.
Let me share with you our recent Mt. Pulag experience, along with a sample itinerary, estimated budget, important contacts, and some FAQs.
Preparation for the Hike
It was March 12, 2019, when we decided to go to pulag, after how many tries looking for available and legit tour organizers. Back to the preparations for our Mt. Pulag climb. Jane, Eva, madam Fe (mother of Eva) and I are so excited, even Jane secured her personal accident insurance, in case somethings gonna went wrong, you can also grab yours for personal purposes. Eva is in charge of everything, She’s our go-to gal when it comes to contacts. Securing permits, homestay, and travel guides.
We opted to book a Victory Liner bus ticket in advance bound to Baguio (from Cubao) which costs P485 so we can save time instead of falling in line at the bus station. The only catch is that there is a P50 online booking fee per person.
Aside from Victory Liner, you can also opt for JoyBus if you wish to get to Baguio in just 4-5 hours.
2019 Update: Bus fare from Cubao to Baguio is now amounting to P485. You can book bus tickets here: https://www.victoryliner.com/
Off to Mount Pulag
We arrived in Baguio at 5:00 AM as planned. We meet our organizer Etag Journeys. The cold of early morning breeze which emitted the pine trees was something I missed the most about that beautiful place. It was totally refreshing. At 6:00 am we depart from Baguio.
Side Trip #1
Our next stop was the Ambuklao Bridge. Alright, let’s have some history here (yey), Ambukalo Bridge is located in Brgy. Ambuclao, Bokod, Benguet With a maximum water storage capacity of 327,170,000 cubic meters (265,240-acre-ft), can produce up to 105 megawatts of electricity to Luzon. Aside from power generation, the dam also used as flood control as it holds a large volume of water during the wet season and releases it on a calculated amount of flow. It is also used to irrigate the agricultural lands of the provinces nearby (Alright). We just have some pictures there, and after that, we went to Jiangjang or Lolo Cancio’s Inn and Restaurant to take our breakfast. The place is amazing, perfect view while having a cup of coffee on hand, fresh air, and a view of the Ambuclao dam and its majestic mountains, this is indeed one of the best ways to start a day.
Side Trip #2
Our next side trip was Daclan Sulfur River, also known as Badekdek Sulfur spring. As we were approaching the area, we can barely notice the smoke around the area emitted by the spring. Though it has a smell of like a rotten egg, still it was tolerable and the place was very pleasing to our eyes, it is also muddy hot spring and is said to be a dead volcano.
At 10:00 AM, we were on our way to DENR (visitors center) for log-in and registration. At DENR everyone is required to present their medical certificate to prove that you are fit to hike Mt Pulag. Then we went through one-hour orientation, were sleepy and tired, the only thing I remembered during orientation is that “Respect Pulag” which I already know but is still great to be reminded once in a while.
Tip: To avoid the “sea of crowds”, plan your Mount Pulag trip on a weekday.
Its time to heads off to the Ranger Station which meant another hour of going through a long, steep and winding road, so better prepare some medicine for road sickness for those who are not into a roller coaster road. Finally, we reached the Ranger Station after the painstaking hours of a journey along the uphill road that doesn’t seem to end. When I got off the van, I got my first taste of how bad the cold weather in the mountains can be. I’m squeezing even when I’m already inside the hosted house where we stayed for 2 days. There is no cellular signal inside the homestay. Don’t expect that you can play Mobile Legends there. I can’t even text my family that I am safe and still alive (lol) because the signal was going on and off.
We take our lunch at around 1:30 pm since we have our organizer (Etag Journeys) our lunch was already prepared by the hosted house. The foods are good, although I cannot eat that much because brown rice was served, which is unusual for me, it is more delicious compared to regular rice(white rice) that I eat. After that, we took some time to explore the place look for something that we can eat, and go back to the hosted house to take some rest.
The actual Hike
We started at around 12:30 AM, after the briefing courtesy of our two guides and our organizer sir Luis. We also offered a prayer for a safe journey.
The way to Camp 1 is through the Mossy Forest and they say there are leeches there but we saw none, thankfully! There are a lot of different kinds of trees, plants and red flowers with pretty small leaves. We left jane behind with the tour guide because she can’t control her breathing properly. We made it to camp 1 an hour after we started. We rested for a couple of minutes there to eat and catch up with each other before doing another hour of the hike. The amazing things happen when all the flashlights are turned ñ. Look up and you can see the stars (and shooting stars!) with your eyes. Not just the typical view when we look up from the city. It’s the clearest view of the sky that you will see.
At 5:30 AM, we reach Mt. Pulag summit, freezing and shaking because of the cold wind, . I can’t even describe the feeling of seeing one of the most amazing things in the world – sunrise with the sea of clouds.
After a while, we decided to trek down and I swear the brownish Grassland was more beautiful with sunlight hitting on it. The trail was mixed with flat and gradual assault so the whole experience was not really hard for us. Hiking before sunrise makes you appreciate the stars in the sky but when it’s time to descend, you’ll appreciate the beauty of the whole trail. Imagine the rich biodiversity in the area. You’ll encounter the dwarf bamboo grassland, mossy forest, and pine forest. The area is actually called the Grassland. On our way down was easier but it felt more tiring, maybe because we were already very tired. But one thing about it is that we’re happier on our way back because we already have the incredible wonder that Mt. Pulag gave us.
Tips & Recommendation
When hiking Mt. Pulag, we recommend that you bring the following to protect you from the cold weather:
- Several dri-fit clothes (preferably long sleeves)
- Thermal jacket
- Waterproof jacket or poncho (raincoat)
- Hiking pants
- Thick pair of socks
- Hiking shoes
- Gloves, bonnet, scarf, headwear
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid supplies
Mt. Pulag is accessible throughout the year, but it is much more advisable to climb it during the early months of the year, for many reasons. Bad weather, for instance, may not allow the jeep or van to reach the Ranger Station. Also, clouds may very well obscure the fabled Pulag views, which may lead to disappointment. Moreover, rainy conditions would make it even colder. Thus the advisable time frame for Pulag is between December-early May. However, Pulag may be climbed year-round and if you’re lucky you can have nice weather even in the so-called typhoon months of June to September.
There are growing concerns about the sustainability of the ecotourism activities in Mt. Pulag, with many pointing out that the current hikers exceed the carrying capacity of the mountain during the weekend. To reduce the impact on the mountain, Travel Adventuristas suggests avoiding camping in the weekends or peak seasons such as the Holy Week. This suggestion is also for the hikers’ sake: you may not enjoy the beauty of the mountain full of people. And as what DENR always says “Respect Pulag”.