Prepare Mount Pulag Hike: What To Expect And What To Bring
I can still remember when we were almost at the top of Mount Pulag when dawn broke the darkness of the sky. The horizon still looked purplish-red at that time, and at that moment, I had my first sight of the sea of clouds.
I almost cried with awe and happiness. Hiking on Mount Pulag gave me an experience that I would not forget all my life. Mount Pulag is my mother mountain; I’ve been at its peak twice, and going back for the third time is definitely a YES!
In this blog post, I will share everything you need to know about Mount Pulag, like what to expect, requirements, what to bring, the best time to go, and other tips. (A checklist of things to bring when going for a hike in Mount Pulag is included in this post)
Affiliate Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a tiny commission at no additional cost to you. They will help me maintain this blog and create posts to fulfill the mission of this blog.
Use the table of contents to skip to topics.
Disclaimer: I based every information about Mount Pulag in this post on a document (Mount Pulag National Park General Management Plan) from the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
My hiking experiences and shared knowledge from my fellow hikers and research are the basis of my tips and recommendation. If you have any questions, please send me a message here.
Introduction to Mount Pulag
It is necessary for everyone planning a hike to Mount Pulag to know facts and information about the mountain. So, first, I’ll introduce you to Mount Pulag and throw in some facts. This way, you’ll have an idea of what you will “personally” need apart from the ones mentioned in this post.
So, without further ado! Let’s begin with the following questions:
What is Mount Pulag?
Mount Pulag is the third tallest mountain in the Philippines and the first on Luzon island, reaching an altitude of 2,926 meters (9599 feet) above sea level. It was declared one of the national parks of the Philippines in 1987.
Where is Mount Pulag?
Mount Pulag lies in northern Luzon, 85 kilometers (53 miles) north of Baguio City and slightly more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Manila. The peak of Mount Pulag is the point where the borders of the provinces of Ifugao, Benguet, and Nueva Vizcaya meet.
What can you expect in hiking Mount Pulag?
Depending on which Mount Pulag’s hiking trail, the hike may start around 1500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level. From that point to the peak, the trek will go through the mountain’s three regions: Pine Forest, Mossy Forest, and the Grasslands.
From the elevation,1100 meters (3608 feet) above sea level, recognized as Mount Pulag National Park, to 2300 meters (7545 feet), you’ll be within the pine forest area.
After the pine forest, the landscape slowly transcends into Mossy Forest. Here, the trees have branches covered with moss. Hence it is called Mossy Forest.
Mossy Forest looks like a magical place, especially when strong sunlight hits the trees’ mossy branches. The sunlight makes the mosses glow, making a light effect similar to the “Halo” effect in photography or image editing.
When I hiked Mount Pulag, I did not notice the Mossy Forest right away during our ascent. We started hiking after midnight, and it was still pretty dark when we arrived in the Mossy Forest. I even thought it was just an ordinary forest.
I think that’s mostly the case for hikers starting their hike after midnight, as we did.
Mossy Forest covers around 50% of the total land area of Mount Pulag national park. Ambulalakaw lake, a mystic lake believed to be the Kalayunga ancestors’ home, lies in the heart of the Mossy Forest.
After the Mossy Forest, you’ll emerge to the Grasslands. It’s the highest portion of Mount Pulag and indicates that you’re near the peak.
However, don’t let it give you a false impression that you’re now only minutes away from the summit!
Although the Grasslands of Mount Pulag account for only 7% of its area, hiking it until the summit can still last for more than an hour to two hours. Of course, it’ll still depend on your speed and phasing.
If you start hiking Mount Pulag after midnight and the weather turns unfavorable (there’s no chance of a clearing), I suggest you don’t leave the Mossy Forest until sunrise.
The Grasslands is literally an open field with no tree cover. Unless you are used to a freezing cold climate, the chilling temperature, worsened by strong winds, can cause hypothermia. The trees in Mossy Forest can be your shield from the chilling winds in case of bad weather.
But, of course, I hope it will not be the case (rainy weather) for you!
I may have previously depicted Mount Pulag’s Grasslands as not an enticing part of the hiking trail. But the thing is, it’s where the most stunning views are when the weather is pleasant.
Mount Pulag’s Grasslands is a panorama of endless rolling hills, beautiful slopes, and cute dwarf bamboo trees.
What’s the best part?
Even if you haven’t reached the summit, you can already witness a sea of clouds from Mount Pulag’s Grasslands! At an altitude of 2,500 meters (8202 feet) to 2926 meters (9600 feet), you are already above the height where overcast clouds form.
This is why you should not worry that you haven’t reached the summit of Mount Pulag before sunrise.
But, for me, it would be better to arrive at Mount Pulag’s summit before sunrise. You can expect the view from the peak to be more breathtaking as there’s no other peak that can obstruct the scenery of the spectacular sea of clouds.
If the sea of clouds did not appear, you could still see picturesque layers of mountains. It’s a wondrous view you’d also love to see.
Read my story about how I conquered Mount Pulag twice from this post. Here is my bucket list of mountains (most famous in the Philippines) you can also go to for a hike.
Mount Pulag is one of the places I always recommend to my friends when they ask me where to go in the Philippines. Aside from Mount Pulag, I always suggest:
- South Cebu — is the adventure capital of the Philippines! This part of the Philippines has all the experiences you might be looking for, whether it is a city, beach, hike, or even canyoneering!
- Sagada — is the best place for soul searching, discovering the culture in the northern Philippines, and having good times with family and friends in nature. There’s also adventure here!
- Maligcong — is a hidden gem in the northern Philippines where you can hike a mountain and behold the most beautiful rice terraces in the Philippines. It is totally unmissable!
Find more attractions and discover the best things to do in the Philippines from the links below.
Requirements before hiking Mount Pulag
Before going to Mount Pulag, be sure you comply with the only requirement: A prepared and healthy body + health certificate.
Please note that the requirements to hike mount Pulag can change without prior notice. You can read the announcements and updated list of requirements from the Mt. Pulag Protected Landscape – Bulletin (Facebook)
Once you arrive on Mount Pulag’s Facebook page, use Facebook’s search function and enter “requirements.” You should see the recent announcements from the park’s officials.
TIP: You could join a travel group that has an organizer. They often assist you in everything you need before hiking Mount Pulag, including the health certificate.
TIP: If you are making DIY trips, it’s better that you already have your health certificate before going to Mount Pulag.
We must be sure that we are in good shape before we hike. I want to share an experience with this.
On my second hike to Mount Pulag, I had a fellow hiker who injured her knee on our way up. I did not know how it happened exactly. But it’s good that she still managed to reach the summit.
I admire her for that! It’s pure determination. But at the peak, she could barely move her leg, so our guide radioed two more guides for help to pick her up.
Back at the ranger station, she showed me her photo while being carried by two guides/porters. It’s pitiful and hilarious at the same time as how she was transported back to the ranger station.
The backup men carried her through an improvised stretcher in the photo she showed me. It’s funny how she looked like an animal captured from a hunt. LOL.
Ugh, I should not be laughing. But in fairness, the stretcher seemed to be durable and safe.
I just thanked God; she made her way to safety.
She was an acquaintance, but we became friends in only two days! We shared many stories while in the homestay and the trail. Our craziest and scariest experiences were our topics.
Friend, if you are reading this now, please leave me a comment and tell us about your experience. I miss you!
How to Go to Mount Pulag?
There are three ways you can go to Mount Pulag: by using a private vehicle, by commuting, and by joining an organized group tour. But, before you go, make sure you have your reservations accomplished before heading to Mount Pulag. The park has a daily limit for the number of visitors.
We’ll discuss them all in this part.
If you plan a DIY trip to Mount Pulag, you can find the exact details in the “How To Commute To Mount Pulag” section.
For travelers coming to the Philippines for the Mount Pulag hike, you might want to book accommodation in Manila or Luzon. After hiking Mount Pulag, I’m absolutely sure you’ll need a day to rest. You can use this link to find the best hotel deals in Manila or the Philippines.
How To Go To Mount Pulag By Car
Using a private vehicle is the most convenient way to reach Mount Pulag. However, you can only bring it up to the jump-off site or ranger station. The summit of Mount Pulag is only accessible through its hiking trails.
If you plan to bring your own vehicle to Mount Pulag, make sure to consider the following:
- Driving experience
- Health and power of your engine
- Parking space
Going to Mount Pulag from Manila, the road will mostly be flat until after the great rice fields of Central Luzon.
When you reach Central Luzon, you can take the Baguio route or Aritao (Nueva Vizcaya) route.
Use the Aritao route to skip Baguio traffic, but expect it to be more challenging because of the gigantic trucks also using the road. They are slow and can be dangerous for the enormous load they have.
Either way, both routes are zigzag and would require expert driving experience. If you haven’t tried driving in the Philippine mountains, I strongly recommend you ask/hire a more experienced driver to drive your car.
After you reach Bokod (a barangay in Bokod Benguet), expect that you’ll drive by inclining roads. I think some of the road’s inclination gradient is more than 40 degrees.
Thus, you must have your car’s engine checked up if you will use your car to get to Mount Pulag. It would be a nightmare if you got stuck in the middle of the mountain roads because your engine failed.
Actually, I was in disbelief that tricycles in Bokod could carry 3 people and were still able to climb the inclining parts of the road. They were moving extremely slowly, but still!
When I visited Mount Pulag, I saw a few visitors who brought their 4×4 vehicles. However, I’m not sure where they parked their vehicle.
To be sure that you’ll have a place where you can leave your car safely while you’re hiking, I suggest you book a homestay with a parking space. Contact your homestay owner and tell them you are bringing your own vehicle.
Note. Most Mount Pulag homestays are located 1 kilometer (20-minute walk) from the ranger station.
Take note. Remember that there’s an extra step (DENR registration and orientation) before you go to your Mount Pulag Homestay. I included this step in the next part.
How To Commute To Mount Pulag
Going to Mount Pulag won’t be that easy for first-timers, especially if you plan to commute and have it all done DIY. If you are a foreigner and are not used to commuting in the Philippines, you should think twice of commuting.
I’m a local, and even I also think commuting to Mount Pulag is inconvenient. Looking at the flip side, it can be adventurous at the same time!
Avoid all the inconveniences by joining an organized tour which I’ll discuss in the next section. Anyway, here is the steps if you are going to commute or have a DIY hike to Mount Pulag:
- From Metro Manila, you can book an overnight bus headed to Baguio City. The trip lasts only 4 to 5 hours (depending on season and traffic).
- When you arrive in Baguio City, rent a taxi going to the Terminal of Kabayan (Near the Old Slaughterhouse)
- Take a bus or van to Kabayan and tell the driver/conductor to drop you off at the DENR office. (See Google Map tips below)
- At the DENR office, sign up your details for safety purposes and complete your payments and requirements.
- You will be required to attend an orientation about hiking in Mount Pulag.
- After the orientation, move out of the office and hire motorcycles / habal-habal to bring you to the ranger station of Mount Pulag.
- Request a guide on your arrival at Mount Pulag’s ranger station or jump-off area.
- Rest in your homestay and prepare for the hike.
Google Map tips. Before you start commuting, make sure you have marked the important locations on your Google Maps—especially the DENR office. This way, you can see whether you’re already close to the DENR office and alight at the proper location (in case the driver/conductor forgets your drop-off request).
Also, don’t forget to download the map and make it available offline. This way, you can still identify your location even if there is no cellular signal. Although there is no cellular signal in most parts of the road to Mount Pulag, the GPS still should work.
Join An Organized Group Tour To Mount Pulag
Because of the difficulty and cost of going to Mount Pulag, joining an organized local group tour is undoubtedly the best way to visit Mount Pulag.
I’ll tell you why.
The tours to Mount Pulag cost only 70 to 90 USD (approximately 4000 to 5000 PHP as of 2022) for a day hike. Considering the cost of gas and ease of transportation, the price is absolutely worth it!
The day hike, however, typically starts at 1 AM (of day 2), and you will be staying on a homestay the night (of day 1) before the actual hike. So, overall, it’s a 2-day trip. And if you’re from Manila, you’ll begin the journey at 12:00 am on Day 1 (departure from the city).
Most group tours conducting a day trip to Mount Pulag have these inclusions:
- Homestay or Tent
- Dinner (Day 1), breakfast (Day 2), and lunch (Day 2)
- Guide Fee
- DENR Fee
- Vehicle Rent
- Toll fee
- Coordinator fee
Basically, there will be nothing to worry about for the transportation, accommodation, and registration. All that you will have to do is to prepare yourself for the hike.
Currently, no international companies (Klook/GetYourGuide) conducting hiking tours to Mount Pulag. Almost all tours are led by local groups and organizers. You can find their official pages and contact information on Facebook and Instagram.
If you haven’t found trustworthy tour organizers, I suggest the two travel groups below. They are very professional, and I have tried joining them a few times.
- Malaya Travels PH — Join them for a more premium experience. They are a group of talented photographers that organizes tours and gives you a bunch of photo souvenirs after the trip.
- TaraKahitSaan — Try them for good quality, budget-friendly tours.
Reserve Your Mount Pulag Hike
To prevent overcrowding and destruction of Mount Pulag National Park, the park’s caretakers limit the number of visitors who can enter the hiking trails. Everyone wanting to visit is required to reserve a slot.
To reserve, you may send a reservation message through the numbers below. These numbers are sent by Mount Pulag National Park’s Facebook page autoresponder. If none of them works, you go to their Facebook page and check if there are newly announced contact numbers.
Please send a message only during office hours from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Mondays to Fridays.
Alternative contact numbers:
Contact for visiting Mount Pulag Park’s mountain lakes:
Hiking trails and ranger station contact numbers:
Tawangan — 09161551667
Babadak Ranger Station — 09462435212
Akiki Trail — 09127986765
Best Time To Visit Mount Pulag?
The best time to visit Mount Pulag is during the dry season. However, there is no exact date or month when it starts. PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration) determines the dry season’s beginning and end. So it’s much better to stay in tune with the news.
The dry season is also the peak season. For a better hiking experience, try visiting Mount Pulag on weekdays. Fewer people go to the mountains during those days of the week.
A weekday hike is your opportunity to have a more peaceful time with Mount Pulag and shoot beautiful photos without the crowd.
I downloaded the charts below from meteoblue.com, and they show how the weather is going every month on Mount Pulag.
My preferred months are the ones with the lowest precipitation and cooler climate. I want to see a clear sky while we are in the mountains—that’s probably happening from December to April. We all hate the fog covering all the jaw-dropping scenic views of the mountain, right?
Though these graphs hint at when you should be hiking, they do not guarantee you’ll experience clearing. Even the chart that shows the odds of getting overcast clouds does not ensure the formation of a sea of clouds.
My first hike in Mount Pulag was in January, yet winds and rain battered us from midway to the peak. We failed to see the sea of clouds then. Thankfully, I got blessed on my revenge hike in March and finally witnessed the sea of clouds.
What to Bring for Hiking in Mount Pulag?
The things you need to bring in hiking Mount Pulag depend on how long you plan to hike (day hike or overnight hike) and when.
If you wish to hike in Mount Pulag from November to February, expect a single-digit temperature (Celsius) at night. Thus, you must bring extra jackets and emergency blankets.
On the flip side, during the dry and hot season, the temperature in Mount Pulag trails ranges from around 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. You would only need to wear layers of jackets during the evenings and early in the morning.
Anyhow, here is a quick checklist of items to bring when hiking Mount Pulag:
|Item||Overnight Camp||Day Hike|
|3L bottles of water or Water Bladder||NEED||NEED|
|Clothes of Layering||OPTIONAL||OPTIONAL|
|Extra Clothes (after hiking)||OPTIONAL||OPTIONAL|
|Plastics and Garbage bag||REQUIRED||REQUIRED|
|First Aid and Medicines||NEED||NEED|
|High capacity power bank||NEED||OPTIONAL|
|Waterproof bag or bag with a waterproof cover||OPTIONAL||OPTIONAL|
|Sleeping mat||OPTIONAL||NOT NEEDED|
|Camping tent||NEED||NOT NEEDED|
|Cooking Gear and Eating Utensils||OPTIONAL||NOT NEEDED|
|Portable fire extinguisher||REQUIRED||NOT NEEDED|
- DENR imposed hikers to bring portable fire extinguishers and safety whistles if they will be camping overnight. The authorities do not want another fire to spread in the mountains like last 2018. See the article about this rule here.
- Bringing garbage bags is required as everyone should be responsible for making Mount Pulag national park clean. Visitors must carry down the used food wrappers and plastic bottles.
What Are The Hiking Trails In Mount Pulag
In the previous section, I mentioned that you can do a day hike or an overnight hike (2d 1n or 3d 2n hike) in Mount Pulag. This is because there is more than one hiking trail to the summit. And the length of your visit to Mount Pulag will depend on which hiking trail you choose.
In total, Mount Pulag has four hiking trails. They are Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan, and Ambaguio Trail.
Before your actual hike, an officer of Mount Pulag National Park will conduct an orientation, introducing these hiking trails. Also, Mount Pulag’s history, flora, and fauna.
I can’t describe in detail every hiking trail mentioned previously in this post because I haven’t tried all of them. However, I can share the summary of these hiking trails I learned during the orientation.
Of the hiking trails in Mount Pulag, Ambangeg is the easiest. They said hiking through this track is like walking in the park.
But don’t let it fool you—that phrase only suits experienced hikers. It could be challenging for beginners, but anyone with good body stats could definitely ace it without any question.
Ambaguio is the longest of all four, and Akiki is the toughest.
If you want to see the four lakes around Mount Pulag, take the Tawangan trail. You will not only see Abeo, Ambulalakao, Iculus, and Detanapco lakes, but you will also have a glimpse of Luzon’s second-highest peak, Mount Tabayoc.
Is Mount Pulag Recommended For Beginners?
Yes, I can recommend Mount Pulag for beginners. However, beginners should choose the Amba-Amba route (Ambangeg trail round trip) and must have conditioned their bodies for hiking at least a week before the hike.
I just want to share that during my first and second hikes in Mount Pulag, more than a third of my fellow hikers said it was their first time hiking a mountain. Mount Pulag was also the first “real” mountain I hiked!
If first-time hikers I met and I were able to conquer Mount Pulag, of course, you also can!
Ultimately, the scenery on Mount Pulag summit is absolutely rewarding. Unless the bad weather strikes, you are guaranteed to see a view you won’t forget all your life!
Save it on Pinterest.