Years ago, I had the chance to do the famed Mt Pulag hike which is one of the best weekend getaways from Manila… and boy, it was amazing!
At that time, I have never climbed a mountain before so I was a bit hyped and anxious about the trip — of course, we were going on the easy trail, but I have heard of people saying that it can still be a challenge… Nonetheless, I wasn’t planning on backing down from it, especially because I was set on seeing this view:
Some travelers have been unfortunate on their hike because they are usually greeted by rain; but since it was April at that time and it was freaking hot in Manila and the Philippines all over, I had high hopes that I would see this view.
Here’s how my experience went!
Mt Pulag Hike
Mt. Pulag towers 2,922 meters above sea level. It is the highest peak in Luzon and the 3rd highest mountain in the country in which a large part is regarded as a National Park!
The mountain also has over hundreds of documented plant species and wildlife, some of which are the Philippine deer, cloud rat (4 species of them), “bowet“, and the long-haired fruit bat.
There are 4 major trails to the summit, namely for Benguet: the Ambangeg (for beginners), Akiki (challenging, takes about 10 hours), and Tawangan. If from Nueva Vizcaya, the Ambaguio trail.
Some people often combine the trails such as Akiki-Ambangeg, totaling to about 16km in total.
Since we were beginners, we took the Ambangeg trail (takes around 4 to 6 hours).
» Best Season to Do Mt Pulag Hike
It’s highly recommended to do your hike around November to March, a season wherein there is less rain.
» Tour Companies for Pulag
You can definitely DIY the hike to Mount Pulag, but as with any hiking experience, it’s best to do it with other people to ensure your safety — as well as for hassle-free planning. For this trip, we decided to go with a tour company called Travel Factor.
» What to Bring
With our tour company’s guidance, we were told to bring the following…
- Sleeping Bags and Sleeping Mat
To protect you from the cold and to give you comfort from the hard ground
- Water Bottles
2-3 liters per person should be enough. (Bring more of course if you get thirsty rather quickly).
- Flashlights or Headlights
If you don’t have a rain-proof one, make sure to wrap your things inside in plastic; just in case!
- Snacks for the hike
Lots of it! Consider packing energy gels too that are great for replenishing carbohydrates (usually taken by runners)
- Gloves, scarf, bonnet/cap
…anything to heat you up! They weren’t kidding when they said that it’s gonna be chilly during our Mt Pulag hike — and I tell you, it was MORE than chilly. It was ice cold!! (I’ll tell you more about this later on.)
To protect yourself from the heat during the Mt Pulag hike.
Preferably rain-proof jacket, rain-proof pants. RAIN-PROOF EVERYTHING.
- Extra clothes for layering.
- Rain Gear
Again, another just in case, and definitely no umbrellas. If you don’t have ‘rain gear’, you can use trash bags.
- First Aid and Medicines
If you are prone to motion sickness, best to pack up Bonamine for the drive up the mountains.
- Hiking Shoes
…and hiking poles if you have those. Not really required; only for your ease.
- Extra Footwear
A light one; a slipper for example. Just in case your shoes accidentally get ruined.
- Lots of Plastic
To put your trash into, clothes, etc. etc. Don’t throw any of these away in that mountain of course!
- Eating Utensils
Now can you tell me what’s missing from this list?
….yep, you’re right. A tent. Your meals.
I haven’t included it because Travel Factor will provide it for us — for you! This is one of the perks that you’ll get to experience when you book your Mt Pulag hike with them. More than that, their package also includes the round-trip journey, bus/jeep fare, meals, insurance, and more!
But of course, you might have to share a space in the tent assigned to you with another person(s); so if you want total privacy, please do bring your own to set up and carry.
» Hike Itinerary
- Day 0
Assembly time at 09:00PM at the Victory Bus Liner station
– We left at around 11PM
- Day 1
Arrival in Baguio
– We arrived early in Baguio, at around 3AM
– We had an early breakfast in Baguio
Jeepney ride and arrival in Ranger Station and Lunch
– From 6AM up till 11PM to the DENR Station and then arrived at the Ranger station at around 1PM
Start of the trek and arrival at the campsite
– This took us up until sunset
– Overnight at Mt. Pulag
- Day 2
Wake up early to start the Summit Assault
– As early as 3AM for sunrise watching
Start of the trek down
Arrival in Ranger Station and then Lunch
Arrival in Baguio
– Late afternoon
Depart from Baguio to Manila
- Day 3
ETA Manila around 03:00 AM
– We left early from Baguio (3PM instead of the 9PM supposed-to-be-departure) so we arrived in Manila at around 11PM
What to Do & What to Expect
TIP 1: Pack light and right
This is common knowledge, but I feel the need to reiterate it because some hikers just seem like they’re going to elope given the number and size of their bags on this regular hike.
Sure, that much packing and preparedness will help strengthen your chances of survival if you get lost in the mountain (let’s hope that doesn’t happen)… but for simple hikes such as this Mt Pulag hike, it’s best to contain yourself. And by that, I mean: just pack light and only the essentials.
I considered myself to as out-of-shape back when I did this hike, but I managed with a medium-sized day pack (not even those hiking backpacks) and it all contained the things that I needed. I didn’t need a porter either (someone who could carry your things for you).
But of course, it’s best to let go of your pride and hire a porter if you know that you can’t manage long hours of hiking with your bag on your back.
– – –
TIP 2: Brace yourself for the ride up
The image might not make sense to you, but hear me out: the jeepney ride is to die for. Not.
But say goodbye to it because as it goes high up to the DENR station, it’s gonna get bumpy!
I hardly get dizzy or nauseous on trips no matter how serpentine or ragged the drive could be, but… this one got me. I got dizzy at one point and it was horrible! So as a precaution, it’s best that you take a pill of Bonamine, sleep before the voyage, or pray that in time, they fix those roads.
FEES (taken care of by Travel Factor)
– Non-Philippine residents – US$ 15.00/person (Php720~)
– Philippine Residents – Php100.00/person
– Non-Philippine residents – Php50.00/person/day
– Philippine residents – Php50.00/person/day
Green tax for Philippine/Non-Philippine Residents: Php25.00/person
All hikers are required to take licensed or trained tour guides.
– – –
TIP 3: Listen & follow well
A requirement before going through the hike: a brief stop at the DENR station to attend a required orientation briefing.
Mt. Pulag is a protected area so by all means, listen, follow, and respect nature as it is. We have polluted Manila enough so let’s not pollute this place as well, okay?
Basically, you just need to abide by the reminders that they tell you. Some examples: (1) no spitting, (2) no shouting, (3) no taking or reckless touching of plants, (4) stay on the trail, and more.
– – –
TIP 4: Gear up!
After another rocky jeepney ride up, you’ll come to the second stop: Baba Lak Ranger Station, and in here, you can prepare for your hike. (We also had lunch here, c/o Travel Factor.)
If I may impart an important tip that you should do before starting your Mt Pulag hike: go and abuse the restroom.
If you gotta go, then go! It’s hard to find a good spot during the hike to ‘relieve’ yourself so it’s better now than later. It’s actually a sub-par toilet (excuse me, I meant dirty) but it’s better than the one high up in the mountains. You’ll see what I’m talking about later on in this post.
Also, eat and pack some energy here. There are small sari-sari stores around this area so if you forgot to bring water (important!) or snacks along the way, buy them here. After that, gear up: wear the proper hiking clothes, secure your bags, and hire a porter if you must. It’s not so much, costing around Php300 for the porter.
– – –
TIP 5: Pack enough water
I know that I’ve already said it above, but I’ll say it again: 2-3 Liters of water per person should be enough for a one-way hike up.
And please, if you have read/heard people say that there are clean water springs up the mountain…. please don’t put so much trust in that advice especially if it is summer because the springs along the trail were dry (they are always marked with a signpost like this).
During our Mt Pulag hike, there wasn’t that much water in it, not even a drop — a muddy drop maybe, but basically: NILL.
They said it hasn’t rained for a while, so go figure! Still… even if you went here on a good season and you’re picky with the water you drink, then it’s better to bring your own.
If you rather plan on using the spring water, take note of the signage: don’t take a bath there (then again, who takes a bath in the middle of the trail road?) and don’t wash your clothes/shoes/utensils there either.
– – –
TIP 6: Take a rest
Like I’ve already mentioned, my friend and I were both in bad shape when we did this hike and we often needed some time to catch our breath!
Remember that you’re human, so it’s okay to admit that you have your limits. Don’t be scared if people are passing you by during your Mt Pulag hike when you feel that your body badly desires a break — because sweetie, it’s not a race.
You’re going to reach the top sooner or later; it doesn’t matter, so do take your time. But don’t abuse it okay? Taking more than 6 hours to do the Ambangeg trail is overkill. I think we only took around 4 hours of hiking up to our camping spot.
And oh, just another reminder: whenever you pass someone, especially a local from the tribes, say hello/hi/good morning/good afternoon as a sign of respect. And also, do take the liberty of enjoying the view, enjoying your drink, enjoying your snack… and yes, of course, harassing your camera. Click away like mad!
There are a lot of good views, sceneries, and flora that are worth taking pictures of. But again, don’t take too much and take all of your camera’s capacity because the view up the summit of Mt. Pulag is going to be way better!
– – –
TIP 7: Prepare for the “5-star” toilets
Since this section is also about ‘what to expect’, then yes. Expect THIS kind of toilet.
This is part of a true hiking experience, ladies and gentlemen. So you better be ready for it!
– – –
TIP 8: Be camping-equipped
By the time we reached these camping grounds, we weren’t at the top yet — but the surrounding view was already breathtaking!
We arrived here around 5PM, right on time to see the sunset! We took pictures, socialized, and ate; but, we slept early too in order to prepare for our early morning hike to the top.
Again, no need to bring tents because Travel Factor gives them to you. But let me just say it again: the important things you should bring are a sleeping bag and a mat. The sleeping bag will help you in the cold and the mat will help protect your body as a whole from the hard ground.
We made the error of not bringing mats and did our bodies ache the morning after!
– – –
TIP 9: Don’t underestimate the cold
This was another error on our part (we kept making errors, haha!). We were thinking that since it was summer anyway and heck, we’re in the Philippines… then it wouldn’t get too cold, right? A jacket and some pants would do it, right?
Come nighttime and early AM we were shivering like little puppies in the cold. It was crazy!
We layered up for sure, but it was still damn cold. We didn’t bring gloves or scarves either so thank goodness we packed a lot of socks. We doubled it up on our feet and even wore it like gloves for added heat! Some people just ended up staying awake because of the cold. Yep… It was that bad.
Take note of this: we went up to Pulag in the heat of the summer but it was still darn cold in the evenings (actually even during the day) so how much more if you were hiking up here during the rainy season, right?
We really could have never imagined that it would be that cold up there. I mean it makes sense because it’s not like we’re all accustomed to such temperatures, but still, I think we reached 2 degrees that night! …And it even felt colder than that as the night went on.
– – –
TIP 10: Be careful & leave no trace — take only pictures!
By 3AM, we all set out for a hike to the top to witness the sunrise and the sea of clouds (if we were lucky!). It wasn’t a problem to sleep early because we were exhausted, but it was a bit hard to wake up.
As for the scene, it will be relatively pitch black so you should arm yourself with a good flashlight; better if it’s a headlamp so you don’t need to carry it around. This is pretty important because the trails up the mountain are steep and narrow.
As you can see from the photo above, the small white specks at the bottom are the flashlights of the hikers below us who were also making their way up to the summit.
…and then finally, after a couple of hours, we reached the top and saw a magnificent sunrise!
As for the sea of clouds? …unfortunately for us, there wasn’t much.
And I blame you, summer. Anyhow, we still did see a sea of clouds, but it was a bit far from where we were. I still loved the view and I couldn’t stop taking photos — which should be the only thing you “take” from the mountain! (Remember to stay on the trail and never leave your things and trash behind).
There were definitely a lot more pictures that we took, but I think this is enough for this post!
All in all, despite not seeing a lot of the famed sea-of-clouds at Mt. Pulag, we’ve got NO regrets. We absolutely enjoyed the hike and the views alone were phenomenal. It had also been a while since we last did a nature trek, so this was definitely refreshing for us!
– – –
» Travel Factor
- Phone: (02) 746 5119
- Email: [email protected]
- Disclaimer: My experience with Travel Factor was complimentary as I was asked to review their service in partnership with WhenInManila.com. As always, all views that are expressed here are entirely my own and NOT of any other entity in their favor.
• • •
TIP: It’s a good idea to crosscheck the prices with other popular travel insurance providers like World Nomads and HeyMondo (as my reader, you get 5% off)!
However, take note a travel insurance’s affordability typically means lesser coverage; so please always ensure that you read the fine print in order to decipher which travel insurance company is the right fit for you and your trip!
Looking for more travel tips for the Philippines?
Check out my other detailed Philippine travel guides!
• • •
If you’re looking into escaping the city heat or if you’re looking for a picturesque adventure, then give Mt. Pulag a try! A lot of people have tried and loved it, so I bet you’d adore it too. And of course, if you want a hassle-free arrangement, book with Travel Factor — after all, we loved their service through and through.
Before I end this post though, remember: the things that you are ONLY allowed to leave with after your Mt Pulag hike are your own things, the pictures, and the memories. Don’t take or leave anything else, and ENJOY!