How to Hike Pico Duarte?
The highest mountain in the Caribbean.
When you think about Dominican Republic you will probably think about beach, sand and a good drink, resting on a chair-long under the Punta Cana Sun. But the Dominican mountains have a totally different climate and weather compared to Punta Cana beaches.
Pico Duarte is the highest peak in the entire Caribbean and it´s an attraction you must do if you are going to spend some days in the Dominican Republic. Especially if you like to do ecotourism activities or you like to be outdoors. For most of the Dominicans that every year make their pilgrimage to see Duarte´s Bust on the summit it´s a complete satisfaction.
For most of the foreigners that hike Pico Duarte this is an amazing experience and you are welcome to live it.
So, how to hike the highest mountain in the Caribbean?
This is a question a lot of people ask to themselves when they decide to make a trip to the paradisiacal Dominican Republic because they have no clue of what to do, how it will be and if it´s safe enough to do it.
Located at the center of the Dominican Republic and inside the borders of the Armando Bermudez National Park, Pico Duarte stands at 3,101 meters (10,173 feet) above sea level. A very high landmark if you think that the entire Dominican Republic has only 48,671 square kilometers.
The shortest route to the Top is the one called “La Cienaga” which has 23 kilometers (14 miles) from Base Camp to the Top or 46 kilometers (28 miles) round trip. This is the route that goes by Jarabacoa and Manabao in the dominican province of La Vega. This is the most used route by hikers and adventurers that challenge themselves for the prize of being the highest person in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean.
La Cienaga is a small village located inside a big valley. Surrounded by beautiful mountains, La Cienaga is home to all of our guides and mules you will meet on this journey. It´s the perfect place to spend a night to acclimatize before heading towards the highest Dominican mountain.
Pico Duarte has 5 different routes:
- La Cienaga
- Oliver Puello
- Constanza – Valle del Tetero – Pico Duarte
Each of them has its own difficulty level and length.
All of our Pico Duarte trips start in La Cienaga, which is about one hour away from Jarabacoa by car.
All of the trips we make to Pico Duarte have an overnight stay in this village for some reasons:
- To know the local life, buy a beer in the colmado and to meet its people and small streets.
- To acclimatize for the next-day-hike.
You will spend the first night in tents surrounded by a beautiful river and by the amazing local flora. We will provide you with comfortable tents, sleeping bags and pads so you can spend the night the right way. But if you want to sleep a little bit more comfortable we can offer you a nice and warm room we have near base camp.
Pico Duarte base camp is a safe place and you can park your car there without any issue. There is always a ranger named German who is a very warm and kind human being. Pico Duarte base camp has proper bathrooms and solar panels so you can recharge your electronic devices that night so you can use them during the hike.
The place is the last piece of civilization you will have before the first hike.
To get to Pico Duarte Base Camp we offer transportation in our jeep from any city or airport if you don´t have access to a car or if you don´t want to drive in the Dominican highways.
The next morning you wake up early to get your gear packed so the mules can carry it properly to high camp. That morning our guides will offer you a tasty dominican coffee, hot chocolate, bread and some bananas. This is a proper light breakfast given the early hour. Remember to take your hiking snacks with you. Your next cooked meal will be at 6:00 PM.
The reason for this is that you are not allowed to cook in the middle of the trail. Just in the camps.
The hike begins!
The first hike is the most challenging of all and you can finish it in something between 8-10 hours.
The thing is that you have to hike from Base Camp to La Compartición (HIGH CAMP) and the distance between each camp is 18 kilometers of mountain. Of course, there are a lot of stops along the trail and the first one is called “Los Tablones” which comprehends an easy hike of about one hour.
Los Tablones is located at 1270 MASL (4165 feet) and the terrain is mostly flat with some small hills to warm the muscles up. When you arrive to Los Tablones you rest for about 5 minutes, refill your water bottles and go on!
There are some watersprings along the route and you can refill without any issues. All of the hikers drink from that sources and have never gotten ill but if you feel uncomfortable with this you can buy a filter and carry it with you or we can include you bottled water.
Our guides will always be with you and each of them has a walkie-talkie to communicate between them all the time. Good and fluid communication is always an important part of mountaineering!
After Los Tablones, the trail starts to tilt until you arrive to the second stop called “La Cotorra”. The stop is one hour away from Los Tablones, but now going upwards. After Los Tablones you need to save energy, hike smart and breathe properly because of the altitude changes you will experience from now.
La Cotorra is at 1720 MASL (5641 feet) and there you will do the same. Rest for 10 minutes, eat a bit of your snacks and continue the hike. La Cotorra don´t have any source of water but you will find it at the next one which is called “La Laguna”.
La Laguna is at 1980 MASL (6494 feet) and the distance from La Cotorra is 45 minutes roughly. On this stop our guide will give you a tasty pineapple to recharge your batteries and go on with the hike!
Now it´s time to keep on going to the next stop called “El Cruce”.
El Cruce is at 2100 MASL (6888 feet) and there is a fork that divides the route to Valle del Tetero (LEFT) and Pico Duarte (RIGHT). Obviously you want to be the highest person in the Caribbean so the trail that goes RIGHT is your destination!
El Cruce is 30 minutes away from La Laguna and this part of the trail is very sunny and dry so you better keep your body temperature as low as possible because this is one of the reasons people tend to dehydrate and get tired in this part.
Take it easy and climb slow and steady. You will make it!
Pico Duarte is a mental challenge and your thoughts will determine your success on this mountain. Avoid negative thoughts, try to clear your mind with good music or a good conversation with your partner or guide. This will definitely help you a lot to deal with the endless slopes.
At the middle of the Hill you will have a stop so you can rest for 10 minutes and keep on going to your next and last stop called “Aguita Fria” which is at 2.5 hours away from El Cruce.
Aguita Fria is a pretty interesting place. Located at 2600 MASL (8528 feet), there you will start to see the Cao, which is an endemic black bird very alike to the raven. They will be waiting for you so you can give them food but don´t worry they are calm and not dangerous.
Aguita Fria gives birth to two of the most important rivers in the Dominican Republic Yaque del Norte and Yaque del Sur so this stop it´s a very important place for the whole Dominican ecosystem. From these sources of water you can refill your water bottles.
If you have the opportunity of having bad weather conditions on this stop, you better keep on going because this part can get really really cold!
The hiking time from Aguita Fria to La Comparticion High Camps is 2.5 hours.
Finally! The first hike is over!
La Comparticion is a nice place. There you have a kitchen, a big wood hut, a campfire area and proper bathrooms. Here you will spend one or two nights depending on your trip itinerary.
For the 2.5 days / 2 nights itinerary you will spend one night at base camp and a second night at high camp La Comparticion.
For the 3.5 days / 3 nights itinerary you will spend one night at base camp and two nights at high camp La Comparticion.
Once you get to high camp you pick up the bags that the mules carried and pick a sleeping spot in the big wood hut available for all the hikers. We can also set you one of our tents if you want more privacy.
Our cook will be preparing a nice dinner based on rice, salads, chicken and soup. This will fill your energy levels and help you adapt better to the altitude of High Camp (2450 MASL / 8036 feet). Meanwhile you can go to the water springs and get a nice and rewarding bath that is great for your sore muscles.
If you decide to do our 2.5-day-itinerary you better go to sleep after dinner because you will need to wake up at 3:00 AM so you can be on Top of the Caribbean just before sunrise.
Watching the sunrise on top of Pico Duarte is a beautiful and rewarding spectacle you must experience. At this hour the summit is cold and windy so you must have your layers ready so you and your guide don´t get frozen because of the low temperatures.
Temperatures on Pico Duarte can be very cold at night and early in the morning and sometimes can be below the freezing point.
After watching the sunrise you hike down back to High Camp where a proper breakfast will be waiting for you made by our guide.
After eating your breakfast, you finish to pack your gear and start the hike back to BASE CAMP.
If you choose the 3.5-day-itinerary you will spend a second night in High Camp and hike down the next day.
The distances and times between each camp are these:
Distance between La Cienaga Base Camp and La Comparticion High Camp
18 kilometers (11 Miles) / 8-10 Hours
Distance between La Comparticion High Camp and Pico Duarte Summit
5 kilometers (3 Miles) / 3 hours
Distance between Summit and La Comparticion High Camp
5 kilometers (3 Miles) / 2 hours
Distance between La Comparticion High Camp and La Cienaga Base Camp
18 kilometers (11 Miles) / 6-8 hours
Once at Base Camp, our cook will provide you a nice Dominican lunch before our driver takes you to Jarabacoa. Pico Duarte is an amazing experience. Our guides from Santo Domingo and our local guides will definitely make the difference on this trip.
Some hikers tend to hire local guides once they get to La Cienaga, but having a previous reservation (No down payment needed) is the best choice. Our guides know how to deal with a lot of situations and they definitely know how and when to give you the right information on every stage of the trail.
Pico Duarte is not an easy game. A very important thing we require is that you start to read little by little about the route, conditions and so on. For most of the hikers that go to Pico Duarte, the first impression they received it´s a bit shocking because they believed it was a bit easier. A good previous training is the best tool to deal with this mountain.
Pico Duarte is also a mountain with no luxury at all but we will do our best to make your experience a good and satisfactory one providing good advice, kind guides, mules and specially a lot of food. If you are expecting a luxury-all-inclusive trip, maybe this is not the trip you are looking for.
The magnitude of this mountain range, the beautiful nature and the things you will enjoy and learn, will make about this experience a good and an unforgettable one.