A hiker is perched in one of the rocks at the summit of Mt. Binacayan, Rodriguez, Rizal.
Travel Destinations

Manila by lunchtime: Six hikes that will only take half a day

Itching to climb, but can’t find a lot of time in your schedule? Here are six peaks that are within reasonable reach of the city.
Gideon Lasco | Mar 30 2019

We all long for a day or two on the trails, which isn’t always possible. But having a busy schedule shouldn’t be an obstacle to going out for a nature walk on a weekend—or better yet a weekday—and getting all the positive energy from the mountains.

Fortunately—and even despite the traffic—there are a number of hikes that you can do in half a day; you can leave early in the morning and get back to Metro Manila by lunchtime. (When going down a mountain, lunch can be a powerful motivation!) I must emphasize that “leaving early” is an essential element here, because it’s the only way to beat the traffic, especially on weekdays. Plus, an early start has the additional advantage of having much better views and more benign sun.

More peaks to explore in 2019:


The range is wider for people willing to leave much earlier (like 2 am) and walk much faster. Here are a number of hikes that a reasonably-fit person can do, leaving the Metro at a somewhat-reasonable time (4 to 5am) and trekking at a moderate pace. Travel time for all destinations is no more than two hours, and trekking time no more than four hours return:


Mt. Pamitinan

Mt. Pamitinan with Angel Locsin

Located at Brgy. Wawa, Rodriguez, Rizal, the 426-meter Mt. Pamitinan is one of two rocky peaks on either sides of Wawa River that figures in legend. As the Pinoy Mountaineer entry for this mountain writes, “the mythical folk hero Bernardo Carpio himself is said to have separated the two mountains by his brute force in an act of self-liberation.” Beyond folklore, Mt. Pamitinan is a short but spectacular hike; it may not feel easy when one is scrambling up limestone formations (don’t forget to bring gloves), but the whole-body movements only serves to make Pamitinan a great workout. Because of the countless scenic spots, hikers flock on weekends so if you want peace and quiet make this a weekday hike.


Mt. Binacayan​

The other mountain in the Bernardo Carpio tale, Mt. Binacayan is virtually a mirror of Pamitinan in terms of height (424 meters) and environment. A brief hike through woodlands takes you to a series of limestone trails, requiring some scrambling and whole body movements. But again, the trail is short and the view is rewarding: one can see Arayat to north, the Sierra Madre mountains to the east, and, of course, Mt. Pamitinan itself looming close by. If the weather is nice and you’re feeling good, you may even be tempted to do both mountains in one day. Not at all a bad idea!


Mt. Balagbag

Photograph from @nigeledra on Instagram

If the first two mountains require a lot of hand movements, the 777-meter Mt. Balagbag won’t require it at all. Basically, the hike entails walking up a wide path to reach a plateau-like summit. Located in another barangay (San Isidro) in Rodriguez, it is near the boundary with Bulacan and is family-friendly given the absence of ravines, or other precarious spots. Perhaps a view of Metro Manila isn’t the most inspiring sight at the summit, but as long as you’re not hiking in the sweltering heat of the sun, this hike can be pretty refreshing.


Mt. Maculot 

Mt. Maculot, Cuenca Batangas

Thus far I’ve mentioned three destinations that are quite friendly for people in the north (such as QC or Marikina). For those living in the south, SLEX makes it easy to reach mountains in Laguna and Batangas. One of them, the 930-meter Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas, is a longtime favorite of mountaineers. It has scenic views of Taal Lake and the dramatic rock formation called the “Rockies,” which just takes 1 to 2 hours to reach. (If you’re tempted to do more, you can always extend to the summit for an additional hour).


Manabu Peak

Photograph from @crizavia on Instagram

Trodding the same route as Maculot—going to Lipa via SLEX and STAR Tollway—the 760-meter Manabu Peak is a much more forested trek compared to the above destinations. It’s part of the Malipunyo Range that occupies a good part of Batangas. If you leave early in the morning, you can still hear the cacophony of birds as you meander through the wooded trail. Somewhere in between, Mang Pirying offers local coffee, which many hikers look forward to as much as anticipate the meadowy, garden-like summit marked by a white cross. If your entire day is free, have lunch in Lipa and proceed to Maculot!


Mt. Kalisungan

Mt. Kalisunga, Calauan Laguna

Also incidentally measuring 760 meters in elevation, Mt. Kalisungan is a slightly-underrated mountain in Calauan, Laguna. It offers a glimpse of the Southern Tagalog environs; coconut palms, bananas, and dalandan trees cover its slopes. The forest cover isn’t enough to stave off the heat and humidity later in the day. But, with an early start, you can breeze through the orchards, reach the grassy summit in good time, and enjoy the view atop: on one side Laguna de Bay, and on the other side, the Seven Lakes of San Pablo under the shadow of majestic Mts. Banahaw and Cristobal.

Click on the arrows for slideshow

Mt. Pamitinan, Rizal Photograph from @djjeffreng on Instagram

Mt. Pamitinan, Rizal Photograph from @mia.harra on Instagram

Mt. Binacayan, Rizal Photograph from @phil.trip on Instagram

Mt. Binacayan, Rizal Photograph from @cielshio on Instagram

Mt. Balagbag, Rodriguez, Rizal Photograph from @lifesourtrip on Instagram

Mt. Balagbag, Rodriguez, Rizal Photograph from @prantit_ el on Instagram

Mt. Maculot, Cuenca Batangas Photograph from @marielle_m_ on Instagram

Mt. Maculot, Cuenca Batangas Photograph from @batang_layaw on Instagram

Manabu Peak Photograph from @h1nky on Instagram

Manabu Peak Photograph from @javespeaks on Instagram

Mt. Kalisungan, Calauan Laguna Photograph from @iamdelynpretty on Instagram

Mt. Kalisungan, Calauan Laguna Photograph from @adventurous.herbivore on Instagram

Beyond these six peaks, there are many others you can do in half a day. In Brgy. Wawa alone, there’s several, including Mt. Parawagan, a trail running favorite. There’s also Mts. Batulao and Talamitam in Nasugbu, Batangas, but Tagaytay traffic may not allow it as a half-day. Hikers will also find the collection of entrance fees though private lands in Batulao annoying. Meanwhile, in cities other than Metro Manila, there are also half-day hike possibilities; I’m thinking of Baguio and Cebu—but that’s for another piece!