The Dominican Alps is the highest mountain in the Caribbean. Ascending its 3,098 m walking along its steep paths leaves us with an amazing experience, although it is also exhausting, even if you are in excellent physical condition.
Unfortunately, neither the Dominican Alps nor Pico Duarte enjoy the popularity it deserves, especially since it is located in a country that shines most of all for its exuberant beaches, coconut palms, and tropical climate.
But the good news is that you don’t have to miss doing this enriching hiking trip to Pico Duarte . Upon reaching the top, you will feel enormous satisfaction, and you will not have any doubts when realizing that, for many Dominicans, climbing this steep mountain is synonymous with national pride.
So, if what you are looking for is to live new experiences, and delve into the depths of the Dominican Republic during your stay, you should consider signing up for a hiking excursion to Pico Duarte.
Below, you will find a complete guide to the excursion, as well as essential information that you should not lose sight of if you decide to embark on this new adventure. Read on and start your journey well informed!
Where is Pico Duarte located?
The Dominican Republic is a country with a highly varied topography, which is why we also find tropical jungles, lakes, open water caves, waterfalls, deserts, and even cold mountainous areas such as the Dominican Alps.
The latter is usually little known by tourists and travelers who want to get to know a country as beautiful as the Dominican Republic in depth. So, let us tell you that this Caribbean country is home to a considerable number of mountain ranges.
Only a third of the country is occupied by this chain of mountains, known as the Central Cordillera, which crosses the “heart” of the country from east to west, reaching Haiti. Let’s remember that this country is located right next to the Dominican Republic, being part of the Hispaniola island.
The name of the Dominican Alps is due to the fact that the Cordillera has a cool climate, green valleys covered with pine forests, and high mountain peaks where the snow falls. Yes! As you read it. In addition, it houses the highest mountain in the Caribbean with 3098 meters high.
El Pico is located specifically between two national parks: the José Armando Bermúdez National Park and the José del Carmen Ramírez National Park. Currently, there are several routes to walk the Cordillera and enjoy spectacular views such as the exuberant tropical forests.
Plus, along the way, you’ll see many amazing bird species, making it a treat for wildlife enthusiasts alike. Also, you will cross some rivers, and you will camp in the middle of an exotic landscape to rest.
Therefore, if you are a lover of nature and hiking, this is a mandatory tourist attraction on your travel itinerary through the Caribbean country.
When is the best time to hike Pico Duarte?
The ascent to Pico Duarte is best done between the months of January and February , when the temperatures are more pleasant and cool. We advise you to avoid summer, the risk of storms makes the ascent more unsafe.
Hiking to Pico Duarte: Guide with all the information to organize yourself
First of all, you should know that climbing this mountain takes 3 days, consisting of 45 kilometers round trip. You can also rest easy, because it is not an active volcano, so it is not dangerous to climb it .
You can do the walk on your own, although it is much more advisable to do it through an excursion program with expert guides, who are trained to make your journey much easier and safer.
Let us now see some travel recommendations and practical information on how to successfully prepare for this new adventure through the Dominican Alps.
Where to sleep before starting the hike up Pico Duarte
You have several lodging options before starting the hike to Pico Duarte. If it is part of the excursion program, you will be able to spend the night at the base camp in a tent in the park the night before. And without paying anything!
Otherwise, you can stay at the Hotel Gran Jimenoa, located next to the river that bears the same name. This hotel includes a free breakfast. For those with a more limited budget, they can take into account the Jarabacoa Mountain Hostel.
Routes to get to Pico Duarte
According to residents, there are several hiking trails to reach Pico Duarte (at least 5). The busiest route is La Ciénaga , which takes 2 to 3 days on average, and has about 23 km of walking. In addition, it is the shortest and, therefore, the most chosen by most travelers.
Park entrance fee
To get to La Ciénaga, travel to the town of Manabao, located 45 minutes by car from Jarabacoa. In Manabao there is an official entrance to the park where hikers start the trail. Here you will also find the park office where you must pay to enter with a local guide licensed by the park, which costs 100 pesos.
Please note that the local guides do not speak English, so be prepared and bring everything you will need. Fortunately, in later lines we tell you everything that should not be missing in your backpack, from food, clothing, and more.
How to prepare for the hike
First of all, it is important to note that the walk is not suitable for everyone. This is because, being a steep mountain, it requires good physical condition and an iron will to be able to cross it completely successfully.
In addition, the budget is another of the most important aspects. As we will see below, the hikers will have to save energy in part of the route, and cover this section on the back of a mule, so they will have to negotiate with the peasants of the area to obtain a mount used to the ascent.
So, in addition to the cost of the local guide service, you must also have at least 350 pesos for a mule saddle, where you can also transport your equipment and travel bags.
Prepare yourself physically before hiking to Pico Duarte
If you are a person who does little physical activity, but you want to take the tour and not miss out on this magical experience, then follow our recommendations. First, train your body for at least two weeks so that you can strengthen your legs.
Do cardiovascular exercises and stretches. Do not stop doing the latter every morning before going for a run or walk. At night, we recommend giving your legs some massages before going to sleep. In this way, you will reduce muscle pain the next day.
Do not stop drinking water at all times, as this helps prevent the appearance of leg cramps.
What to pack?
Consider the following items and equipment needed to climb the slope of Pico Duarte. Many of these recommendations will make your trip much more comfortable and safe. Do not forget.
- Light backpack: it is essential, because in it you can carry your water, snacks, phone and all the hiking equipment. It is important that it be very light, since you will have to carry it almost all the way (with the exception of the route on the mule).
- Take some hiking boots: without a doubt, it is the best investment for this type of activity. They are very comfortable, and will allow your feet to adapt to all types of soil, adding greater firmness and security.
- Wool socks: this material is perfect, as it absorbs moisture, allowing your feet to perspire and stay warm and comfortable at the same time. Plus, they’ll save you some blisters! The alpaca wool ones are ideal.
- Tent: You will need a small shelter to spend the night. This element will depend on the hiking program you have hired, as some programs include refuges or official Sharing camps.
- Gloves: will keep your hands warm.
- Hiking jacket or jacket .
- Several layers of clothing.
- Warm blanket or sleeping bag liner . Also a tarpaulin to protect you during the nights from the cold and possible rain.
- Thermos to carry tea/coffee or hot water.
What food to bring?
The food that you bring will also depend on the program or organized excursion that you have hired, since some of them include breakfast, lunch and dinner, solar charging stations for phones, cameras and first aid kits.
Similarly, we recommend you talk to them beforehand to know what to expect. In case the main meals are included, be sure to add nuts, dried fruit or energy bars to your backpack, as well as some snacks that allow you to stay active and warm.
Be sure to add foods with enough carbs, protein, and overall nutrition.
What medicines to take?
Be sure to pack key medications, such as altitude sickness, the common cold, allergies, asthma (if you have it), muscle relaxants, blood thinners, antibiotics, pain relievers, and antidiarrheals.
How to choose the best package or hiking excursion for the Park?
- You will find some external organizers, who will pay the guides to lead the tour.
- Be sure to ask all the right questions to make sure you pay for a tour that meets everything offered. Some organizations do not meet the expectations of their customers.
- Some packages include everything you need, from all meals for the day, first aid, mules, lodging, necessary equipment, and more. This has the advantage that you will not need to carry a heavy backpack.
The Trail Experience: What to Expect When Hiking Pico Duarte
If as a traveler you love adventure tourism, then you can enjoy the ecotourism offered by the hike to Pico Duarte. Below, you will find complete information about the experience, divided by days and the sections of each one.
We also tell you some useful information that will help you make your trip with the greatest comfort and safety. Likewise, we add information provided by the signs, which also work as a guide throughout the journey. Let’s see.
Day 1 of the Pico Duarte hike
To get to Pico Duarte you can take various routes, it is certain that in all of them you will enjoy a beautiful view of the Dominican Republic mountain range and its abundant forests. We recommend hikers to spend the night in Jarabacoa. There they can stay at the Hotel Gran Jimenoa (this way they can rest all night before their long walk).
In case you want to do the walk on your own, take into account the time available and what you want to know. The routes are:
- From Provincia la Vega to Jarabacoa- Manabao to La Ciénega and then Pico Duarte arrival point. It is the shortest route you can choose, it only has 23 kilometers of walking.
- La Vega Province to Constanza then to the Rodríguez-Valle del Tetero-Arrival Pico Duarte. It has about 37 kilometers of walking; it is a relatively long way.
- However, the longest route to take is from San Juan Province to Sabaneta and then Pico Duarte, which is a 58-kilometer hike.
- Starting point: Manabao/Ciénaga Base Camp
At this point, travelers meet local guides, where they fill their water bottles, use the restrooms, and load their belongings onto the mules that are sent out first. Here begins the trip that normally lasts a day and a half one way to Pico Duarte, with a total of 3 days for the return trip.
This is the beginning of the trip where you must pass the following stops that are marked on the route.
- the planks
This is where your adventure will begin, as visitors can see the incredible planks that form the Yaque del Norte River along the way, where the park office is located.
However, the most difficult part is the abundance of mud when crossing the streams. Although at first glance it seems simple, you will only be starting the walk. Remember that having good physical conditions is important. We continue.
- High the Parrot
This is where the real fun begins. Although the trail is mostly flat, as you progress, you will notice that the vegetation will change. In addition, little by little it becomes steeper, and the path will become more difficult to navigate.
It should be noted that the real challenge of this hike is how long it takes to reach each breaking point. On the first day, you walk for approximately 10 hours, without any type or rest period. Imagine how long it might take if you take extra time to rest!
Likewise, you should know that the beginning is the longest and most difficult, but if you want to reach the finish line you must have a good rest and have a good breakfast, since after this stop, the road is literally downhill.
For unprepared and unconditional hikers, you may want to do this trek in 4 days, so you can get to the first stop in more time (ie split the first day in half).
- The Lagoon (1.7 km)
This is the first real stop, where there is a log cabin with no walls. In general, hikers take advantage of this point on the trail to take their medicine, have lunch or a snack. In the same way, they can fill their water bottles.
From the beginning to this point, at least 9.6 kilometers have been traveled and only 1.7 kilometers from Alto la Cotorra. Once there, no one knows exactly how far to go, however, you only know that you are halfway there. Good news is that at this site you can take a break on a mule.
- The crossing
El Cruce is a point on the path that usually interests hikers due to the Tetero Valley. From this part, travelers can get off and on their mules whenever they want to take a break or share them with other visitors. In addition, they can eat something and renew their energy to continue walking on the path.
- cold water
It is a spring that is located on the firm ground of the hill. From this point, you will notice that the landscape changes to slender pine trees and olive green vegetation. Thus, Agüita Fría is a tiny stream of water that comes out of the earth that gives rise to the Yaque River. However, from that point follow the path.
This stop is a beautiful valley, thanks to the misty clouds and tall grass. Depending on your aesthetic appreciation, you may find it pleasant or disturbing, as it presents an ethereal and not very colorful climate. However, it is still impressive.
- Upper Rest of the Sail
In this route, the path is full of large rocks, which can make the walk slower, especially if you are not used to it or your ankles are very fragile. However, this trail offers several impressive views of the mountain.
- Shared sleeping
In this place, all visitors gather in a large and shared cabin to rest and enjoy a campfire. Similarly, there is a large river where hikers can take a bath, although the water is very cold.
In this case, it is best to avoid a cold, and clean yourself with wet wipes or a damp towel. Your guide or organizers may offer you to eat the famous Dominican stew (asopao casero), to warm you up and sleep well at night.
It’s really restorative!
Day 2: Pico Duarte Hike
- Awaken in Sharing
The next day, you can enjoy watching the sunrise in the mountains, although you will be very tired from the long way, your body will adapt quickly and you can continue. This stage lasts approximately 5 hours before reaching the finish line, Pico Duarte!
Before leaving you can do some stretching to avoid muscle cramps and be able to enjoy the majestic view of Pico Duarte.
- Lilis Valley
It is a very popular place for hiking, and the first stop on the last section to reach Pico Duarte, it is also the coldest, and it is covered with pine trees and other plants that are only found in the coldest areas of the world such as South America. North.
Here you can find a fireplace to warm up. If it starts to drizzle you can take out your umbrella, take a break and drink water and eat a snack.
- Pico Duarte
We have finally reached the top of the mountain! You will enjoy a unique sensation after facing and coming out victorious from a long and difficult walk. Depending on the weather of the moment, you can enjoy a big cloud that covers the whole panorama (including you) or a beautiful mountain view.
Likewise, you will be able to see some unique plants of their kind. Also, if you want more information you can take a guided tour with some experts.
- Rest + Second Night in Sharing
It’s time to head back so you can relax by a big campfire. At this point some experienced hikers will be able to walk to Manabao and go home. But most visitors rest and walk back the next day.
Day 3: Pico Duarte Hike
This day is usually very relaxed, and trekkers can go at their own pace, enjoying the ride upon returning to the starting point or their main place of accommodation.
You can go accompanied by a guide and return with the mules, the path will clear and you will be able to see the mountains. The last day is usually very easy, since your body got used to the long walk and going through steep and complicated paths.
As we can see, hundreds and even thousands of hikers from all over the world come to measure themselves against the steep mountains of the Dominican Alps.
Without a doubt, reaching the summit is well worth it, since its ascent involves crossing dense forests, facing low temperatures and, sometimes, having to deal with sudden rains. Quite an adventure for a satisfying and enriching ending!