5 trekking destinations for beginners

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Mountains like Mt. Sipit Ulang in Rizal and Mt. 387 in Nueva Ecija are famous not just for their picturesque views, but also for being accessible even to the neophyte trekker. Photos courtesy of KARIS CORPUS

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Many people have heard and heeded the call of the mountains, and this has boosted tourism in the many mountainous regions of the country. There is definitely a sense of well-deserved pride when one is able to reach the summit of any mountain. Some mountains have now become famous not just for their picturesque views, but for being accessible even to the neophyte trekker.

However, this has led to several mountains being overcrowded, taking away from the experience of being close to nature and being far from the jam-packed city.

There is also the issue of irresponsible hikers who end up causing damage to a mountain ecosystem: writing or carving names on trees and rock formations, littering along the trail, trampling of plantlife. Luzon’s highest peak, Mt. Pulag, recently suffered a forest fire that razed its famous dwarf bamboo grasslands due to the irresponsible use of camping equipment.

Those who wish to hike must be aware of their responsibility to care and preserve the mountain that they choose to visit.

Here are some hiking destinations that are less known, but are equally worth going to.

Photo-15.jpg Mt. Ayaas' summit offers a 360 view of nearby mountains, including its more famous Wawa siblings. Photo by KARIS CORPUS  

Mt. Ayaas

The mountains of Rodriguez, formerly Montalban, Rizal, have quickly gained popularity due to their being beginner-friendly and easily accessible from Manila. Many weekend warriors troop to the area for day hikes that satisfy their craving for adventure. Brgy. Wawa has been enjoying a steady stream of visitors with good reason, for its Mts. Pamitinan and Binacayan have easy yet challenging trails and beautiful views. The nearby Brgy. Mascap also has mountains that boast of gorgeous scenery.

One is Mt. Ayaas, the highest in the area at 627+ masl (meters above sea level). Ayaas has gently rolling trails with minimal assaults, making it perfect for the fledgling hiker. The summit does not disappoint: an open grassland featuring a 360 view of nearby mountains, including its more famous Wawa siblings. Be prepared for the heat of the sun should you reach the summit near noon.

How to get there: You can get to Mt. Ayaas by taking a shuttle from Cubao to Eastwood, Rodriguez, then taking a tricycle to the Mascap barangay hall. Hikers are required to register there and hire a local guide.

Photo-14.jpg Mt. Sipit Ulang is named after the crab claw-shaped rock formation at its summit. The trail, which features rock scrambling and creeping through caverns, makes for a fun, adventurous trek. Photo courtesy of KARIS CORPUS  

Mt. Sipit Ulang

Another gem in Brgy. Mascap, Mt. Sipit Ulang is much lower at only 252+ masl. It is possible to reach the summit in 40 minutes, but the guides will usually take you through the longer, two to three-hour long Paniki trail. This trail features a bit of rock scrambling and creeping through caverns, which makes for a fun, adventurous trek. Expect to become a bit muddy and dirty, especially during the rainy season. Thankfully, there are decent showers back at the jump off where hikers can refresh themselves before heading home.

The mountain is named after the magnificent rock formation at its summit, which is shaped like a crab’s claw. The sharp rocks may seem intimidating, but the guides will help you navigate its edges.

How to get there: Mt. Sipit Ulang shares the same jump-off point as Mt. Ayaas, and both may be done as a day twin-hike. Payaran Falls is also a nice, cooldown side-trip. As with Mt. Ayaas, local guides are required.

Photo-3.jpg Mt. Buntis' trail is a scenic route that involves trekking past open fields and through the Maragondon River. Photo by KARIS CORPUS  

Mt. Buntis and Mt. Nagpatong

Those with a penchant for history would know that the Father of the Revolution, Andres Bonifacio, spent his final hours in the mountains of Maragondon, Cavite. Historians are still debating whether it was in Mt. Buntis or in Mt. Nagpatong that the Supremo was killed; all we know for sure is that it happened somewhere in the quiet Maragondon mountain range.

Some may consider the two as hills rather than mountains: Mt. Buntis stands at a mere 280+ masl, while Mt. Nagpatong is only 100+ masl. Both mountains are perfect for first-timers, as the greater part of the trek is simply walking past open fields. Be prepared with your hats should sunny weather be the forecast, or risk being toasted by the sun.

The final and very gentle assault that leads to the summit will only take even the slowest ones a mere 15 minutes. At the summit, grandiose views of the nearby mountain ranges are visible, and it makes for a nice place to have a picnic. After the trek, one can take a tour of the historical town of Maragondon.

How to get there: Make your way to Maragondon by taking a Naic-bound bus from Taft, then a tricycle to the town proper. Tricycle drivers in the area often double as guides, though it is recommended to look for one from the municipal tourism office.

Photo-6.jpg Mt. Talamitam features wide, sloping grasslands with sweeping views of surrounding mountains, including Mt. Batulao, Pico de Loro, and Mt. Marami. Photo by KARIS CORPUS  

Mt. Talamitam

Often referred to as the younger sister of the more popular Mt. Batulao, Mt. Talamitam is also located in Nasugbu, Batangas. This mountain features wide, sloping grasslands that many compare to Teletubbyland (yes, from the Teletubbies), with sweeping views of surrounding mountains, including Mt. Batulao, Pico de Loro, and Mt. Marami.

Once upon a time, the mountain was covered with talamitam trees that gave it its name. Now, the only cover one gets when trekking Mt. Talamitam is the talahib lining the final summit assault. Be prepared for the sun’s unrelenting heat, and use arm sleeves to avoid cuts from the grass blades. Should the heat become unbearable, there are often vendors selling buko juice and other beverages along the trail and at the summit.

How to get there: Hop on a bus headed to Nasugbu and ask the driver to drop you off at KM 83, or Sitio Bayabasan. You won’t miss it: it’s right beside the highway and is marked by a tarpaulin that indicates the Mt. Talamitam jump off point.

Photo-12.jpg Mt. 387 is touted as the Chocolate Hills of the North, for the views of the hilly surroundings are reminiscent of Bohol’s famous hills. Photo courtesy of KARIS CORPUS  

Mt. 387

A bit further away from Manila is a place touted as the Chocolate Hills of the North: Mt. 387. The number 387 refers to the number of hectares that is covered by the Kalinga sa Kalikasan ng Puncan, a group that looks after the area.

Those who wish to trek this mountain are required to take a seedling and plant it in designated areas along the trail. The ascent consists of gently rolling trails, culminating in the summit and campsite marked by the Lover’s Tree.

True to its moniker, the beautiful views of the hilly surroundings are reminiscent of Bohol’s famous hills. A traverse to the nearby Aloha falls is possible, but beginners should be very careful as the trail from the summit down to the falls is quite steep and difficult. A refreshing dip in the falls makes for a nice reward after a grueling descent.

How to get there: Given its distance from Manila, it is recommended to use private transportation to get to Mt. 387. However, public transportation is possible: take a bus to Puncan, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija from Cubao (watch out for the Iglesia ni Cristo, the landmark).

As with any outdoor activity, always exercise caution and respect both for fellow hikers and the mountain. Follow the “leave no trace” principles, and always be aware of the impact that you will inevitably cause by going to any place.