Big Tree Trail
El Yunque Hikes
|Perhaps the most popular walk in the Caribbean National Forest.|
Big Tree Trail Length: 0.9 miles. Time: 25 minutes each way. Difficulty: 1-2. Trailhead: At km mark 10.4.
Big Tree Trail is probably El Yunque's most popular walk. For one thing, it is the best walk through the tabonuco or true rain forest, offering more diversity in one small area than perhaps anywhere else.
You can try counting and distinguishing the 160 different tree species here, not including ferns and vines (good luck!). This short walk also goes to La Mina falls
A distinctive species of the rain forest is the candle tree. The smooth gray bark oozes a pungent white resin (smells similar to pine pitch) that can be used to start fires.
Even more remarkable is the laurel sabino that grows nowhere else in the world except in the Caribbean National Forest. The laurel sabino is draped with a dense community of vines and airplants that use the tree for support. They do not cause it any harm.
With luck, on Big Tree Trail you may see some of El Yunque's eight different lizard species, most of which live in the rain forest zone. Each type has adapted to its particular niche so that none compete. For instance, some species live on the ground, others in trees; one in the sun, another in the shade...a good example of peaceful coexistence.
Near twilight, you may see bats, an important resident in maintaining a tropical forest. By carrying and dropping fruit seeds or pollinating night-flowering plants, they help ensure the forest's regeneration.
Note also how many trees have wide buttressed roots. They require them because the soil is so saturated. Don't expect to see the usual, forest-type creatures in this or any other rain forest. They would need to float to survive here.
Big Tree Trail ends at La Mina Falls, which have a 35-foot drop. You can stop here and swim, return to the trailhead or connect to the La Mina trail (the next hike), which will take you to the parking lot at the Palo Colorado Recreation Center at km 11.9 on Hwy. 191.