Pico Duarte Trail Hiking

On a hiking expedition through the Dominican Alps, dont forget the ascent of the 10,400 feet Pico Duarte, the Caribbeans highest peak. The region has truly epic jungle trails and dramatic mountain scenery. High waterfalls and lush valleys contrast the white sandy beaches lining the azure-blue seas.

There is a well-maintained system of trails leading up to the summit, with trailheads at several locations. The easiest access is from the town of La Ciénega, near Jarabacoa. Most people will begin in Santo Domingo. From Santo Domingo, you must make your way to Jaracaboa. Caribe Tours is the bus company that has transport to Jaracaboa. The bus leaves Santiago four times a day from the Caribe Central Bus Station. The journey takes 2.5 hours and cost $5 in December 2004. There are several hotels in Jaracaboa and this is the logical place to arrange a required guide (park service requirement) for Pico Duarte.

From Jarabacoa, you will need to arrange transportation to La Ciénaga. In December 2004 this road was in very bad condition and we had to get out and walk to avoid bottoming out in several places. There is one very narrow bridge that only a small vehicle can cross, and landslides often close the road.

La Cienaga Route - The trail is 23.1 km (14.4 miles) to the summit, with a total elevation change of 1,977 metres, and a shelter 5 km away from the summit. Tourist-friendly travel agencies in the town of Jarabacoa can help arrange trips from this trailhead, using mules in their employ to help lug food, sleeping bags and supplies for the overnight stay in the shelter. A tent is recommended as there can be rats around the shelter. A few fresh water springs labeled "Potable" are along the trail, but water filters or purifying tablets are recommended. The vast majority of hikers travel by this route.

Route Description

The first part of the trail is a very gentle and pleasant walk. There are many wild citrus fruit trees along the way which offer a treat, and it is a nice walk through the forest and along the river to Casa Tablones (House of Tablets), which is at about 1270 meters/4170 feet and after 4.5 kms/2.8 miles of walking. After Casa Tablones, the route steepens and the trail climbs steeply along the ridge all the way to the little valley at the base of Rucilla (mountain). Much of the trail is high on the ridge, so carry lots of water. There is good water at a place called Aguita Fria which is located 11.5 kms/7 miles past Casa Tablones. Aguita Fria is the sorce of the River Yaque South and North, the two longest rivers in the country. Signed locations along the trail are Casa Tablones at Km 4.5/Mile 2.8 and elevation 1270 meters/4170 feet, La Cotorra at Km 8.5/Mile 5.3 and elevation 1720 meters/5640 feet, La Laguna (The Lake) at Km 10.5/Mile 6.5 and elevation 1980/6500 feet, El Cruce (The Cross) at Km 11/Mile 6.8 and elevation 2180 meters/7180 feet, Aguita Fria (Little Cold Water) at Km 16/Mile 10 and elevation 2650 meters/8700 feet, and La Camparticion at elevation 2450 meters/8040 feet and is where the hut and campsites are located. It is 19.5 kms/12 miles to the cabin/hut/camping area from La Ciénaga. Even though there is a cabin in the valley, you may want to chose to pitch a tent because the cabin sometimes attracts rats.

After spending a night at or near the cabin, most trekkers leave very early the next morning and well before sunrise. This gives you a better chance to hit the summit when the views are clear. Viewing the sunrise is also spectacular. The trail starts off pretty steep and it will be dark, but the required guides will know the way. After 3 kms/2 miles, the trail becomes less steep and reaches a beautiful are known as the Vallecito de Lilis (Little Valley of Lillies). The trail splits here at a minor junction; go left and follow the trail to the summit. The summit is only one km/.6 miles from the Vallecito de Lilis, but is steep in a few places. The route up is just a trail, but the top pitch had some very minor class-2 scrambling to liven things up. If the sky is clear, the views were incredible and you will see all the way to the ocean.

As stated above, the standard La Ciénaga Route is the easiest and shortest route available up Pico Duarte, but if you have the time and energy, consider returning via a different route. On possiblity is the Valle de Tetero Route. This will take an extra day or (preferably) two.

Valle de Tetero Route

For the more adventurous, there is another trailhead northwest of the town of San Juan de la Maguana called the Valle de Tetero Route. These three-day (two night) trips that end at the Ciénaga trailhead (or, for an extra day of hiking, back at the starting location) are run entirely by local Dominicans who cook the food you provide and help you camp along the way. Each night is spent in well maintained shelters, and due to the distance traveled, riding by mule-back is strongly encouraged. Far off the beaten path, it is highly unlikely that there will be anyone else on the trail until you merge with the trail from La Ciénaga. Although a Peace Corps worker has been helping to organize the trips, a strong command of Spanish is recommended for anyone that attempts this route.

There are actually several locations to start this trek. Costanza, Padre las Casas/Las Lagunas, and La Ciénaga are all possibilities. The route from La Ciénaga is the only one that will be descibed here, because it is the route I have trekked.

This route starts at the same trailhead as the standard standard La Ciénaga Route, but is much more strenuous. The route is also more scenic as well, and the trip is well worth the effort. At least three days are needed to complete this route through the Valle de Tetero and to the summit. Four days are recommended.

The Valle de Tetero itself is the most delightful part of the trek, with nice waterfalls, huge pools, and mountain meadows surrounded by beautiful trees full of colorful parrots and other birds. There are ancient petroglyphs in the valley as well. I would recommend spending a layover day in the valley as it is a real paradise.

The first part of the route is shared with the standard La Ciénaga Route. This first part of the trail is a very gentle and pleasant walk. There are many wild citrus fruit trees along the way which offer a treat, and it is a nice walk through the forest and along the river to Casa Tablones (House of Tablets), which is at about 1270 meters/4170 feet and after 4.5 kms/2.8 miles of walking. After Casa Tablones, the route steepens and the trail climbs steeply along the ridge all the way to El Cruce. Much of the trail is high on the ridge, so carry lots of water. Signed locations along the trail are Casa Tablones at Km 4.5/Mile 2.8 and elevation 1270 meters/4170 feet, La Cotorra at Km 8.5/Mile 5.3 and elevation 1720 meters/5640 feet, La Laguna (The Lake) at Km 10.5/Mile 6.5 and elevation 1980/6500 feet, El Cruce (The Cross) at Km 11/Mile 6.8 and elevation 2180 meters/7180 feet. This is where the Valle de Tetero Route branches from the main La Ciénaga Route. Turn left on the trail marked for the Valle de Tetero. The trail drops off the ridge and descends steeply down into the valley below. The vegitation becomes very lush and there are some stream crossings. The main path continues on to the Valle de Tetero passing through some beautiful meadows full of wild horses and surrounded by parrot-filled trees. You will reach the newly built cabin/hut which is next to a rushing river. Even though there is a cabin in the valley, you may want to chose to pitch a tent because the cabin sometimes attracts rats. The Valley de Tetero is a real paradise, and is the highlight of the trek. It is located at 1500 meters (4920 feet) and is surrounded by mountains. There are some really cold and deep swimming holes and a nice waterfall if you follow the path up river from the cabin. Downriver are ancient Taino Indian petroglyphs, that are several hundred years old. Look for the sign pointing the way to "Pierda Indigena". There is also a trail following the river down towards Costanza and Padre las Casas/Las Lagunas. After spending the night in or near the cabin, the most difficult part of the trail begins. There isn t much of a trail in places and it is extremely steep. Make sure to have a full water bottle as there is no water available until reaching Agua Fria, which is a steep climb of 1150 meters/3770 feet. The route doubles back through the meadows and the trail fades. Continue accross the meadows and find it on the other side. Now the trail gets really steep! The trail is amoung the steepest (for a trail) I have been on. It climbs very steeply through the forest to Agua Fria where the route joins the standard route from La Ciénaga. Aguita Fria is at 2650 meters/8700 feet and the sorce of the River Yaque South and North, the two longest rivers in the country. There is good water here. From Agua Fria it is 3.5 kms/2.2 miles to the cabin/hut/camping area of La Comparticion. Once again, even though there is a cabin in the valley, you may want to chose to pitch a tent because the cabin sometimes attracts rats.

After spending a night at or near the cabin, most trekkers leave very early the next morning and well before sunrise. This gives you a better chance to hit the summit when the views are clear. Viewing the sunrise is also spectacular. The trail starts off pretty steep and it will be dark, but the required guides will know the way. After 3 kms/2 miles, the trail becomes less steep and reaches a beautiful are known as the Vallecito de Lilis (Little Valley of Lillies). The trail splits here at a minor junction; go left and follow the trail to the summit. The summit is only one km/.6 miles from the Vallecito de Lilis, but is steep in a few places. The route up is just a trail, but the top pitch had some very minor class-2 scrambling to liven things up. If the sky is clear, the views were incredible and you will see all the way to the ocean.

Note: Most people trekking the Valle de Tetero Route will make a loop of this route with the standard La Ciénaga Route.

MORE INFORMATION

Local Contact(s):  Tourism (888) 374-6361 or 645-5637.

Best Season:  Any

Average Difficulty:  Moderate

Base Camp:  Cabarete Surf Camp; Stay In San Jose De Las Matas; Villa Serena Hotel, Las Galeras

Luxury Loding:  Casa De Campo (809) 523-3333; Casa Bonita (809) 472-3939; Secrets Excellence Punta Cana (809) 685-9880; Breezes; Riu Hotels; Casa Veintiuno, Sosua

Date Published:  

Date Updated:  7/20/2016

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