Steep Steps to Sta Fe
From the summit, the trail goes all the way down. We were ecstatic to find a sari-sari sore in the area though as it was near the camp site. It was a welcome relief to find a warm cup of coffee and freshly cooked Banana Q stick available. While having snack, I was impressed by the number of birds playing around the nearby trees. I also did notice that the mini store is selling “Shoe Glue”. I guess people have lost the soles of their shoes on this trail.
It was 9:30am already when we left the store and braced ourselves on the trail down. Yes, this was sickly steep. It’s a good thing the guides made it a lot easier by making wooden steps on the trail. Alex jokes that before this, visitors becomes animals walking on all-fours on this trail. I could imagine that if we had started on this route, I would have tired easily. We passed by several rock boulders along the trail as well which houses several burial caves. Unfortunately, they no longer allow access to these caves and are now barricaded to avoid looting.
We’re glad that there’s another rest stop on the descend before the dry creek. We were able to refuel with snacks and drinks. Then continued down towards a small community by the creek, crossing several hanging bridge then exiting to the main road. We made it and completed the whole trail. It took us about 8 hours including the photo ops and stops along the way but it sure felt good to be egged by nature to go on. To continue and see the beauty of the trail. Mt Ulap Eco-trail is one of the best, friendliest and most organized trail I’ve been to. It’s a good model for other local trails to follow.
Mt Ulap Eco-Trail is a breathtaking trail. It has cool pine forest, stunning ridges and healthy vegetation. The trek can take 4-6 hours or more depending on your level of fitness or aim. If you take pictures a lot it can take longer. Some sites consider the trail as easy (3/10) but I consider it on the mid-ground since the initial and final descent (depending on where you start) can be difficult to some. The mid-way is easy moderately though. I still recommend physical preparation weeks before attempting the whole 6.9km trail. And if you have vertigo or fear of heights, there are knife-edge trails with drops on both ends.
The jump-off to the Mt Ulap Eco-Trail can be done in either Ampucao or Sta Fe. Either way, visitors needed to register and acquire guides at the Ampucao Baranggay Hall.
To get to Ampucao Baranggay Hall, Itogon Benguet:
- By public transpo from Baguio City: Take a jeep heading to Ampucao Baranggay Hall at Lakandula Street near Center Mall (across Jollibee). Trips starts at 6:00am. Fare is Php 31. Travel time is 45 minutes to an hour.
- By Taxi from Baguio City: If you are in a group of 3-4, taxis can be hired from Baguio City. Depending on your haggling skills, rates can be Php 500-700 one way. Travel time is 3-45 minutes.
- By Private Car from Baguio City: Take the Loakan road heading to Balatoc road. Make a right turn for the winding Philex Road. There will be a signage on your left on when to turn for the Ampucao Baranggay Hall. Cars can be parked near the hall.
Notes before the climb:
- Registration is Php 100 per person
- Guides are Php 400 for a group up to 10pax. If camping overnight, guide fee is for 2 days (Php 800)
- There are camp sites at Abanao Paoay and near the summit hill of Mt Ulap
- Treks/Hikes usually starts from 3:00am
- Bring at least 1 liter of water per person and snacks
- If hiking on day time bring sunblock as there are a lot of open trails
- Gungal Rock can be crowded on weekends. Do exercise caution when having photo ops here.
- There are emergency respondents at key areas of the trail.
- Mini stores and souvenir shops are available near the Sta Fe area of the trail
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.