El Yunque Peak & Los Picachos Trails
El Yunque Hiking
|Now we're ready for some serious walking.|
El Yunque Peak Trail
El Yunque Peak Trail Length: 2.5 miles. Time: 2-3 hours roundtrip. Difficulty: 3. Often very slippery and even muddy in spots. Trailhead: At km. 11.9, the Palo Colorado visitor center.
The asphalt and gravel El Yunque Peak Trail eventually leads to El Yunque Peak, 3,496 above sea level. It also connects with the Mt. Britton Caimitillo, Los Picachos and Bano de Oro trails. All the trails are clearly marked, so there's no danger of ending up on the wrong one.
Palo colorado or, red trees, dominate the lower stretch of the El Yunque Peak Trail. You'll also see giant ferns, bamboo, moss and large vines. Look in the trees for nests of the rare Puerto Rican parrot. You're most likely to spot one near dawn or dusk. They like to fly across the mountain in this particular area.
Artificial woodpecker nests, essentially man-made wooden boxes, have been set up in this area.
In several places on El Yunque Peak Trail, you'll also begin to appreciate the massive problem of erosion the Forest Service personnel face here because of the tremendous runoff. In some spots, the asphalt trail is actually 8 inches below ground level: That's how much the surrounding land has slowly built up over the years.
When rain pours down the asphalt pathway, it flows like a stream. At times the forest service employs as many as ten people to continually cut back and dig out trails like this one.
On the trail, you'll also pass beautiful beds of pink-blossomed impatiens by the pathway. They grow wild all year. Further along, you'll see both the sierra palm forest and the amazing dwarf forest (also called elfin woodland and cloud forest).
Remember it's the dwarf forest that receives most of the rain, over 200 inches per year. It's always wet here as bands of fog clouds hang just above ground.
Fortunately, the average temperature is a mild 65 degrees and, even though there are several rain shelters along El Yunque Peak Trail, a windbreaker is advisable because of the strong breeze that is partly responsible for the small size of the trees. Epiphytes love these wet conditions, which is why they grow almost everywhere.
If it's clear at the top, the observation deck will give you a panoramic view of the forest, the Atlantic and possibly even San Juan off in the distance. You'll be sharing the spot with a communications tower.
From El Yunque peak you can reach El Yunque Rock by taking Forest Road 10 to the south for a short distance. The trailhead to the rock will be on your right. It's a steep scramble to the top, worth it only if you have clear weather for more good views of the area.
Los Picachos Trail
Length: 0.2 miles. Time: 15-20 minutes each way. Difficulty: 3. Steep and often muddy. Trailhead: From the El Yunque trail.
Unpaved, the trail leads to another of the observation towers built by the Conservation Corps in the 1930s. You'll need to climb 45 steps to the observation tower, where on a clear day you can see the Virgin Islands .To Hikes Of El Yunque Homepage