Often labeled as ‘The toughest hike in Panama’, Cerro Gaital hike will definitely challenge you while making your way up to the epic viewpoint.
Cerro Gaital leads you through a tunnel of the dense forest before hitting you with intense vertical rock-climbs into the foggy summit. The hike takes less than three hours depending on how long you spend at the top. It is possible to walk to the trailhead from Anton Valley Town or you can catch a bus to the trailhead for $1.
HOW TO GET TO CERRO GAITAL TRAILHEAD
You have two options to get to Cerro Gaital trailhead.
- Catch the local bus from Anton Valley Town: Head to the main grocery store next to the gas station and wait for the La Mesa – Anton Valley bus. The bus cost $1 and if you tell the driver Cerro Gaital, he will drop you right at the trailhead. Before I even opened my mouth he looked at me and just figured I was heading to Cerro Gaital.
- Your second option is to walk from the town to the trailhead. You don’t take the same route as you do the bus. The walking route cuts through the front side of Cerro Gaital. If you put the directions in on Google Maps or Maps.me and select ‘walk’ icon you will see it takes you along the dotted path, not the road. The Cerro Gaital is 3-kilometers from the town.
CERRO GAITAL TRAIL
Our bus took a little longer to get to the trailhead than expected. We spent the final ten minutes of the drive held up by a herd of cows. For $1 a trip, you don’t hear many complaints from the back of the bus.
I arrived at the trailhead, which was signposted extremely well. This is a rarity in Panama and I read that in the high season, there is a fee for entrance. I visited in August and there was no-one in the little office, so I stepped through the archway and entered the barb wire gate to begin the Cerro Gaital Trail.
The trail was different to most as it was not a dirt trail it was grass. It felt like a secret garden or an enchanted trail. The trees on either side of the grass laneway crept overhead to each-other creating a natural tunnel. I was solo-hiking once again and this is a great trail for it. When I’m by myself, I take notice of all of the flowers, plants, creatures, and animals that I come across. There were some beautiful specimens on the Cerro Gaital trail.
You will reach a T-intersection early in the trail, which leads you to one of two options. Within the trail, there is a loop. I went up the right side of the loop and came down on the left. They were both beautiful and it is worth taking one on the way up and the other on the way down to experience both.
From this part of the trail, it will only take you about 15-minutes to reach the first viewpoint. It is quite easy, you won’t get too muddy and many people only hike to this first viewpoint. After reaching this plateau the trail gets a little tricker, a lot muddier and there is an element of risk involved with some rope and rock climbs required.
At the first viewpoint is an old wooden platform. You may want to hang out here and take in the view as it is highly likely you might be inside a cloud as you reach the final viewpoint. There were signs saying no entry but I saw another hiker coming out of the bushes from the summit and decided it was an old sign.
This is where the trail gets fun. Your shoes will be entirely covered in mud by the end of the trail so don’t try and avoid it. Embrace it.
There are three reasons why the trail gets tougher from this point on:
- The incline steps up big time. There are quite a few points where you are climbing up steep walls and crushing stairways like no tomorrow. It is shortlived and you can all handle it I am sure but be warned it is no walk in the park, you are walking to the tallest peak in Anton Valley at 1185-meters.
- The drops on either side of the trail are at times quite steep and the trail will get slippery. There are many places you might take a misstep. However, the great part is that most of the risky spots are inside bushes and trees. There are very few spots where you could slip and fall down the side of the mountain like some narrow crests. I found the trail wide enough in all sections.
- The main reason Cerro Gaital hike gets difficult after the first viewpoint is because of the rock climbing. There are ropes installed on almost all of the sections in which you would require it. You will need to pull your body-weight up some rock walls with the aid of the rope. Definitely take that into account before you plan this hike. If you aren’t comfortable doing some medium difficult rope/rock climbing I would take a pass on this one.
It is important to note that I did this hike in dry conditions and this top section would be quite hazardous in rain and I would actually advise against this hike in rain because of the slippery rock climbs.
After half an hour from the first viewpoint I summited Cerro Gaital and the view from the top was completely clear. I had received nature’s blessing. Knowing that the fog would roll back in at any minute, I Jumped up on the little cement hut and sent the drone around the summit to investigate. This is what I found. (There are a lot of photos! I really love sending the drone up and can easily chew through three batteries just for the fun of flying.)
As I suspected. The fog rolled back in and never left. I ate my lunch on top of the cement hut and hung out watching the fog come in waves. It’s an awesome spot to hang out and I would suggest bringing your lunch. Keep in mind you may have to wait for up to an hour at the summit for a clearing in the fog if you do want a glimpse of the epic views, which are possible in clear moments. It all depends on how patient you are.
Coming down the trail is quite difficult and you need to take it slow and really watch every step, especially if you are solo. My shoes were covered in mud but I was stoked on this challenging and rewarding trail. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a down and dirty hike, which will challenge you but at a moderate level.
ADVENTURE BAG FROM CERRO GAITAL
This is an adventure bag. It is full of trash. Every time I go on an adventure I collect one adventure bag full of trash. It’s my small way of saying thanks to mother nature for allowing me to enjoy her beautiful creations. If we have time to go on an adventure we have time to collect an adventure bag on the way back out of the trail once we have enjoyed the waterfall, the hike or the beach. Adventure hard!