Saturday, February 22, 2014

PinoyMountaineer picks: Best hikes for beginners near Manila

by Gideon Lasco

For me, a good hike for a beginner is one that is easy, rewarding, and safe. By easy, I mean the trail is short enough (around 5 kilometres) and doesn't have any difficult obstacles, river crossings, or roped segments (except for parts when ropes are supportive but not necessary). By rewarding, I mean this must a mountain that has a beautiful trail, or beautiful views either at the summit or on the way. By safe, I mean it should be well-maintained, with personnel that can respond to emergencies, with cellphone signal in most parts of the trail. Other considerations include distance from Manila - you do not want to make your first-timers weary with a long travel time.

These are by no means not the only mountains that you can choose for first-timers. Actually, most day hikes around Manila with Difficulty 4/9 or less can be recommended. However, since "What is the best hike for beginners?" is a question that has confronted me many times, I decided that it's time to come up with my own suggestions. I have arranged these hikes according to difficulty and the time it takes to complete the hike.

Important Reminder: This article is intended for mountaineers who want to bring first-timers. If you are a first-timer yourself, be sure to be accompanied by an experienced hiker who can orient you properly. 

1. Mt. Manalmon (Biak-na-Bato N.P., Bulacan)
Why it's good for a beginner: It is one of the easiest hikes to do that's near Manila; the whole trail can be negotiated in less than an hour and most people complete the whole trail - a nice rest at the summit included - in just over 2 hours, 3 hours at the most. It is not steep at all, and the views at the rocky peak are rewarding: the hills and woodlands of the Biak-na-Bato National Park as well as a distant but majestic Mt. Arayat. It also features a cave and a nice river so it's has extra dimensions to the 'outdoor experience' 
The challenge: Beginners should be assisted when entering and trekking in the cave, as well as when scrambling up the rocks at the top. However this is really an easy hike and most people should find it as such. 
How to climb it: Visit the Mt. Manalmon page in 

2. Mt. Maculot (Cuenca, Batangas)
Why it's good for a beginner: The views at the Rockies are unparalleled for such an easy and short hike, providing a refreshing and rewarding culmination of a first hike. If you want to convince your girlfriend to hike mountains with you, this is a good place to start: make sure you take nice photos of her at the Rockies. It is also a proper mountain, in the sense that there is a "peak" to be reached, and a trail that's relatively straightforward. There are rest stops along the way and the trail is not confusing.
The challenge: The woodland and grassland hike to the campsite can feel steep for someone not used to hiking, so it's important to take it slowly. The scramble up to the Rockies can be done by children, but caution must be exercised and the beginner must be warned that the rocks can be slippery; and their heads can hit the rocks above them.
How to climb it: Visit the Mt. Maculot page in 

3. Mt. Batulao (Nasugbu, Batangas)
Why it's good for a beginner: Mt. Batulao gives the beginner a feel of what hiking is all about: winding trails, an imposing summit that looks far at the beginning, but is actually within reach in a matter of hours. There are enough rest stops, and much of the trail offers rewarding views. 
The challenge: It can feel too hot at times, or too muddy at the start, and there are narrow or steep portions in both the New and the Old trails, so the beginner should be oriented properly, and advised to concentrate on the trail. It is also longer than Maculot and Manalmon. 
How to climb it: Visit the Mt. Batulao page in

4. Pico de Loro (Mts. Palay-Palay / Mataas na Gulod N.P., Cavite)
Why it's good for a beginner: Pico de Loro has a lot of nice things: Well-established trails, nice forests, breathtaking views at the peak, and the unique formation of the Parrot's Beak or 'Monolith' that can be an optional reward for those who enjoyed the hike. Even experienced hikers love Pico de Loro! 
The challenge: First timers in Pico de Loro get confused with the trails especially going down (past the first campsite, there is a fork in which you have to make a left turn, counter-intuitively, because the wide trail goes on). If you're bringing first timers make sure you know the way. The trail can also feel long relative to Maculot or Batulao. 
How to climb it: Visit the Pico de Loro page in

5. Mt. Makiling (Los BaƱos, Laguna) 
Why it's good for a beginner: Mt. Makiling is not a very popular choice for a first mountain, I think it is a good choice. Especially now that it's becoming easier to start from the Nursery, it is a very manageable 3-4 hour trek going up. Because it's almost completely forested, beginners won't easily get drained with the heat, and the trail is well-maintained by the forest rangers. Though the summit is also forested and doesn't have views, there are parts that offer a glimpse of Laguna de Bay and lakeshore towns of Laguna. What will enchant the beginner here is the loveliness of the forest, not the views. 
The challenge: It can feel too long and the 600-meter altitude gain from the Nursery may be too much for some, but most people with average physical fitness can manage Makiling. The soil can get a bit slippery at the top, and beginners may freak out with limatik (leeches) but there's always the first time for everything. 
How to climb it: Visit the Mt. Makiling page in

Talamitam, Manabu Peak, Sembrano, Tagapo, Gulugod-Baboy and Balagbag would also be nice options. If these mountains happen to be closer or more convenient for you, then by all means consider them and the other mountains as well.

What to pick among these choices? It depends on the people you want to bring. For those who are not active, or you think are likely to get tired after just an hour of hiking, it might be better to bring them first to Manalmon or Maculot. For those who are athletic, those who regularly run or engage in other sports, Batulao and Pico de Loro are good choices. Foreigners and people who like forests would enjoy Makiling very much. 

Even though these mountains are relatively 'easy' and can be done by beginners, they should never be underestimated. Always be sure to orient first timers about the basic principles in mountaineering. Importantly, they should be told not to leave their trash behind. Before doing the hike make sure they have all the necessary gear, enough food and water, and even if it's a dayhike, make sure they have headlamps. They should also have fully-charged mobile phones and emergency contact numbers, including numbers of the other members of the team. 


Anonymous said...

Mt. Balagbag might be a good venue to the beginners, easy trail and nice overlooking around metro manila and budget friendly. -tomas

Marco said...

My first hike was Mt. Tagapo, it easy too! Thanks for inspiring us! :)

maria said...

Sembrano is also a good hike for first timers as the trail itself is a bit challenging because of the rocks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sir Gideon for the information.

Anonymous said...

Mt.Mabilog sir Gid ... great for beginners too ... :D

Anonymous said...

Mount Manalmon was the easiest and it would definitely be good for beginners. thanks sir! :)

Siegfried Jurgen said...

I like Mt. TAGAPO very much...kasi you get to travek by boat pa and tour Laguna de Bay and the view is breathtaking!

Anonymous said...

hi sir gid, and hikers. please bear with me with these some observations/comments. the mountaineering community is growing fast and more trails invite hikers now than before. mas marami na ang may interes ngayon sa pag-akyat na maganda naman dahil marami na ang pwedeng maging mulat sa ganda ng ating mga bundok at ng ibang mga bagay na nasa kanya. mas marami na ang pwedeng magkaroon ng kaalaman sa kahalagahan ng mga bundok at likas na yaman, at kung bakit sila kailangang alagaan.

kaya lang, marami sa mga umaakyat ngayon ang iba ata ang dahilan ng pag-akyat at iba din mga ugali habang nasa trail, sa campsite, at sa summit.

nitong sabado (feb 22, 2014) eh nakabalik ako kasama ng mga kaibigan sa pico de loro. excited kami dahil sa pwede namin ma-experience sa magandang bundok na yon. kaya lang pagdating namin sa campsite eh puno na ng mga umiinom na campers at sumisigaw pa sa ingay. halata ang tama ng alak sa pananalita nila. hanggang alas 3 ng umaga eh umiinom pa rin sila at sumisigaw habang nagkukulitan. parang wala silang pakiramdam sa ibang campers na ndi makatulog dahil sa ingay na ginagawa nila. yes, ginawa nilang bar ang pico de loro.

sa isang grupo eh me nagdala pa ng baril na kinakalabit kahit na unloaded ito...tsk tsk tsk

hindi bar ang pico de loro o ang ano pa mang bundok. hindi rin ito firing range o lugar para ipakita ang impluwensya sa lipunan o sa gobyerno. naiintindihan natin ang "socials" bilang part ng itenerary. sana lang maging sensitive naman sa ibang hikers dahil maraming umaakyat ng bundok na solitude at peace ang hanap...huwag nating ipagkait sa kanila ang pagkakataon na sinadya pa nila ng maraming kilometro. isa pa, may mountaineering courtesy na tinatawag...ibigay sana natin ito sa bundok at sa kapwa natin mangangakyat.

panawagan na din sa mga grupo at iba pang nag-iimbita sa mga nagsisimula pa lang umakyat...naiintindihan natin ang saya at ang kalayaang bigay ng mga bundok pero ituro sana natin sa mga iniimbita natin ang responsible mountaineering. bilang hikers eh responsibilidad nating maging sensitive sa mga bundok at sa mga taong nakakasalamuha natin dito...thank you.

Anonymous said...

after the said mountains,, ready na for Mt. Halcon...:)

Anonymous said...

In reply kay anonymous na umakyat sa "disco" de Pico, agree ako sayo. Madami na talagang mga baguhan sa mountaineering na binabale wala lang ang kapaligiran at mga kasabay nilang umakyat.

Kamakailan lang ay umakyat din ako ng Mt. Pulag. Pangalawang beses ko na yun. Ilang taon din yung nagdaan na hindi ko ito pinuntahan at na-shock talaga ako sa pagkakaiba niya sa first time ko doon.

Unang una: mga naninigarilyo hindi lang sa trail, kundi sa SUMMIT din. Sana ay mabigyang respeto ang bundok, ang umaakyat nito at ang summit na napakaganda. Sa opinyon ko, dapat ay may sundang rules ang bawat miyembro ng isang grupong umaakyat. Example, sa grupo namin, allowed lang manigarilyo sa campsite, provided na itatapon mo rin ang butts and ash sa sarili mong trashbag. LNT principle. Malinaw na malinaw yun.

Pangalawa: Overcrowding. Nung una kong punta sa Pulag, solong solo namin ang orientation sa DENR. Sa pangalawa kong balik, sobrang puno. Think: can of sardines. Kahit ang summit parang nagmukhang malaking high school reunion. Ang dami lang talagang tao. Traffic din pababa ng trial. Ang alam ko noon, may allowed number of groups lang ang pwedeng umakyat. That doesn't seem to be the case nowadays.

Pangatlo: Hindi naman na porket wala kang experience sa climbing eh hindi mo na pwedeng akyatin ang major climbs tulad ng Pulag. Pero dapat ma-orient ng mabuti ang mga may balak umakyat nito, mas lalo na ang mga first timers. EG: I-require na umattend ng BMC ang members. If you have time to prepare for a major climb like this, what is one day of learning the basics in mountaineering? Hindi ba part din ng preparation yun?

Having said all that, there should be a set of rules and regulations when it comes to climbing. Kahit meron nito, there should be proper orientation on every mountain that you go to. Ang experience ko sa Pulag ng pangalawang beses, hindi maganda dahil sa mga bagay na ito. Although na-enjoy ko naman yung sea of clouds, mga kasama ko at malamig na klima, di lang talaga favorable yung mga commercial changes na nangyayari doon. Mas lalo na ang mga hiker na walang respeto sa mga kapwa mountaineer at lalong lalo na sa bundok.Totoo nga siguro yung saying na "first time's always a charm," so I guess that proves true for my Pulag experience.

missadventures said...

Can you also do a feature on kid-friendly hiking trails here in the Philippines? I'm hoping to expose my daughter to the great outdoors as early as possible. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Agree po ako sa inyo,.. nandun din po kme sa pico nung mga araw na yun,...maiingay yung grupo na yun lalo na yung may baril,..mukang hindi ata mountaineer yung mga yun,..parang nagkayayaan lang,..pero mountaineer ka man o hindi,..kung naturuan ng tama yun sa umpisa plang hindi siguro ganun mga pagaasal nila,...kahit nasa kawayanan campsite na kme e dinig prin ingat nila,..tama kayo dumadami na ang nagiinterest na umakyat,..pero kung kadalasan nasa nagiimbita na grupo yun kung paano nila tuturuan ng tama ang mga baguhan,..kmi nung baguhan kni wala kme bmc,..pero swerte nmin dahil mga batikan ang aming mga leaders,. Tinuruan nila kme ng tama by experience,(salamat kila),...ngayong kme naman ang tumatayong leader ng grupo nmin,..inuunahan na nmin ng basic rules sa pagakyat ang mga baguhan,..para pag sila nman ang nagimbita matuturuan din nila ng tama,...alam naman natin kung sino yung talagang mountaineer,..wala sa branded gears or equipment yun,..nasa pag aasal at disiplina yun,..maraming salamat din sir gid,...-io

Anonymous said...

siguro gawin nating advocacy ang responsible mountaineering...let us make it a culture na ang mga umaakyat ng bundok eh may sensitivity sa kapaligiran at sa tao. huwag din nating gawing business or money making venture ang pag-akyat dahil nababalahura talaga hindi lang ang bundok kundi pati ang sport na ito. mag-encourage tayo ng mga bagong paa na aakyat pero may pang-unawa sa ginagawa at may malasakit...

Ronalyn Davis said...

Sad to know na may mga ngcclimb these days pra lng mgpasikat. Ano ng nangyari s mountaineers' quote "leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time"....

Anonymous said...

magandang idea na gumawa tayo ng campaign para sa responsible mountaineering or hiking...umpisahan natin sa sarili at pakalatin sa iba. hindi na siguro natin kailangan pang gumawa ng grupo para dito. gawin na lang natin itong advocacy ng bawat grupo...tamang orientation siguro sa mga iniimbita natin at mga simpleng paalala habang nasa trail at campsite...maliit na ambag lang ito para sa napakadaming ibinibigay sa atin ng pag-akyat...kita-kits sa mga bundok...

Anonymous said...

mam,sir sino po maghahike dis month pwede po kmi sumama ng friend ko.? Gusto rin kasi nmn maranasan Ang pagakyat na bundok. Reply po kayo plssss.. thanks po

Anonymous said...

Regarding dun sa maiingay sa campsite, same what happened to us nung umakyat kami ng Mt. Romelo dati konti lang umaakyat dun pero ang daming hikers nung umakyat kami weekends ng April 2015, my group decided to sleep around 9pm kasi gusto namen mapuntahan lahat ng falls bago kami umuwe kinabukasan. Deadma kami sa ingay inisip namen mamaya tatahimik na din sila pero nung quarter to 12 na yung isang group na maingay nagkantahan na sila at nagsisigawan tapos nagmumurahan pa sila halatang mga lasing na. Sana naisip nila na masyadong late na tapos walang kuryente dun at sobrang tahimik na pag ganung oras saka madami ng tulog pero until 5am hyper pa din sila napuyat tuloy kami kasi naiistorbo tulog namen. No one dared to stop them syempre nakikisama tayo eh. Pero sana hindi na maulit yun kasi hindi lang sila ang tao dun. Okay lang magsaya as long as walang naaapektuhan.

Carl Angelo Tardecilla said...

Mt. Binacayan and Mt. Pamitinan super lapit sa manila isang sakay lang from cubao!!
check ninyo iyong review ko here maganda na iyong mt. malapit pa

Carl Angelo Tardecilla said...

Mt. Binacayan and Mt. Pamitinan super lapit sa manila isang sakay lang from cubao!!
check ninyo iyong review ko here maganda na iyong mt. malapit pa

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