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The author in Mt. Agua Colonia, Alimodian, Iloilo

The 12 Philippine peaks worth a dayhike

Best to take advantage of the cold the holiday season brings
Gideon Lasco | Dec 09 2018

It is the season to be hiking, Yes, one can hike year-round in the Philippines, but December marks the start of the cool and dry months that are ideal for outdoor activities. After all the  holiday partying and eating, keeping fit can be a challenge. Fortunately there’s always a nearby mountain to climb wherever you find yourself in the archipelago.

Here are twelve mountains around the country that you can do as daytrips this Christmas:

1. Mt. Iraya, Batanes - Situated in a higher latitude relative to the rest of the country, Batanes enjoys a winter season characterised by chilly winds and cool temperatures. One unique way to experience the province is to climb Mt. Iraya in Basco, the highest peak in Batanes and the country’s northernmost 1000-meter peak. After trekking up a dense forest and a reed-riddled ridgeline, those lucky to reach the summit on a cloudless day will be treated to a superb view of our northern isles.

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@ejoykevintravels on Instagram

Starting point: Sitio Banaraw (near the airport), Basco, Batanes

Hours to complete: 6-8 hours

Difficulty: Moderate


2. Mt. Ulap, Benguet - Getting tired of the crowds in Baguio City? You can always head out to Mt. Ulap in Itogon, Benguet which is less than an hour away from the city. It does get crowded in Mt. Ulap too (it’s best to start very early) but there’s still plenty of space to enjoy the cool mountain breeze; trek across rolling, pine-forested slopes; and catch a view of the Cordilleras. Instagrammable attractions like the Lion King-esque Gungal Rock will draw the most attention, but the real pleasure of Mt. Ulap lies on the trail.

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@applecors on Instagram

Starting point: Brgy. Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet

Hours to complete: 4-6 hours

Difficulty: Moderate


3. Mt. Arayat, Pampanga - If you’ve traveled anywhere north of Manila, chances are you’ve seen this mountain: at 1,030 meters, it is a towering presence above the rice fields of Central Luzon. Mt. Arayat has two major peaks—the North Peak in Magalang and the South Peak in Arayat—and a number of trail options, each featuring forested trails interrupted by scenic viewpoints. The one near the South Peak (the mountain’s true summit) offers the sight of Pampanga River meandering through the vast plains of the region.

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The author in Mt. Arayat, Pampanga.

Starting point: Mt. Arayat National Park, Arayat, Pampanga

Hours to complete: 5-10 hours (depending on the trail)

Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult


4. Mts. Pamitinan and Binacayan, Rizal - Although the surge of popularity in recent years has taken some of its appeal, hiking in Rizal remains an attractive choice for hikers owing to its stunning scenery and sheer proximity. Mts. Pamitinan and Bincayan in Rodriguez, for instance, are just 1-2 hours away from Quezon City, but they’re already on the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Don’t let the relatively low elevation fool you (just over 400 meters each): these limestone mountains require some scrambling. And if you find climbing one of them too short a hike, you can always climb both.

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Mt Pamitinan, Rizal. @dlouise_ on Instagram
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Mt. Binacayan, Rizal. @theatagulao on Instagram

Starting point: Brgy. Wawa, Rodriguez, Rizal

Hours to complete: 3-4 hours (each mountain)

Difficulty: Easy but caution advised in rock scrambling


5. Mt. Makiling, Laguna - If North Luzon has Arayat, South Luzon has Makiling: another well-known mountain that is steeped in culture and history. Mariang Makiling, the mountain’s personification and guardian, occupies a treasured place in our folklore, while history lovers will appreciate the fact that Mt. Makiling is the only Philippine mountain that Jose Rizal was documented to have hiked. Many folks avoid Makiling because of the limatik (leeches), but they’re largely harmless and you might actually miss them entirely during this time of the year. Whether doing a regular hike via UP Los Baños or doing a traverse from Sto. Tomas; Mt. Makiling and its tropical rainforest makes for a great day outdoors.

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@drewc.alba on Instagram

Starting point: UP College of Forestry, Los Baños, Laguna

Hours to complete: 5-7 hours (UPLB), 6-9 hours (Traverse from Sto. Tomas)

Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult


6. Mt. Maculot, Batangas - A distinctive, dome-shaped landmark in Batangas, Mt. Maculot in  the town of Cuenca is a highly-recommended hike for beginners. The hike commences with a steady ascent through woodland before emerging in the mountain’s open slopes. Most hikers head to the ‘Rockies’—a rocky outcrop that offer stunning views of Taal Lake, Taal’s Volcano Island, and much of Batangas, but one can also go for a longer hike up the mountain’s forested summit (930m) and through the ‘Grotto’—a hill at the other side of the mountain marked with a cross.

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The author in Mt. Maculot, Batangas.

Starting point: Brgy. Siete, Cuenca, Batangas

Hours to complete: 4-5 hours (Rockies), 6-8 hours (Summit)

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate


7. Mt. Asog (Mt. Iriga), Camarines Sur - Mayon Volcano may be currently off-limits to hikers, but there’s plenty of alternatives in Bicol Region. One of them, Mt. Asog in Iriga, Camarines Sur, is a volcano in its own right. Dayhike-able from Bicol’s major cities (e.g. Naga, Legaspi), a hike up Mt. Asog takes you to its crater rim, which offers spectacular views of caldera underneath, as well as Bicol’s fabled mountains, from Mt. Isarog to the peerless Mayon Volcano.

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@keemenerva on Instagram

Starting point: Sitio Ilian, Brgy. San Nicolas, Iriga, Camarines Sur

Hours to complete: 5-7 hours

Difficulty: Moderate


8. Mt. Agua Colonia, Iloilo - With its highest peaks over two thousand meters above sea level —many of them unexplored—Panay island is a mountaineer’s paradise, and fortunately there are some peaks close enough to do as a dayhike from Iloilo City. One of them, Mt. Agua Colonia, features a beautiful forest and Bato Dungok, an impressive rock formation reminiscent of Pico de Loro (which would have made it to this list were it not officially closed at the moment).

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@ronnieboy on Instagram

Starting point: Brgy. Lico, Alimodian, Iloilo

Hours to complete: 5-7 hours

Difficulty: Moderate


9. Mt. Bahile, Puerto Princesa - Palawan is more known for its beautiful islands, beaches, and two World Heritage Sites, but it is also home to numerous mountains that straddle the island province’s central spine and reflect its unique geology and biodiversity. Some of these peaks take days to complete, but others - like the 747-meter Mt. Bahile - are close enough to do as dayhikes from Puerto Princesa. Flanking the taller Mt. Tapyas, its summit offers views of Palawan’s slender landmass, surrounded by Sulu Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

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@felicomcco on Instagram

Starting point: Brgy. Salvacion, Puerto Princesa City

Hours to complete: 6-8 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

10. Osmeña Peak, Cebu Festive Cebu can be as crowded as Metro Manila, but those who seek to go outdoors have plenty of options both north and south of the city. Perhaps the most picturesque of them is Osmeña Peak which, at 1,013 meters, is the island’s highest point. Located in Dalaguete and accessible by habal-habal, it actually takes just 30 minutes to reach the peak, but one can take more time (and burn more calories) to explore the summit area which is characterised by distinctive jagged peaks - or traverse to Kawasan Falls, whose milky blue waters comprise another of Cebu’s fabled attractions.

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@surf_and_turf_travel on Instagram

Starting point: Brgy. Mantalongon, Dalaguete, Cebu

Hours to complete: 2-3 hours

Difficulty: Easy


11. Mt. Hibok-Hibok, Camiguin - Climbing Mt. Apo or any of Mindanao’s major peaks takes an average of three days, but there are plenty of dayhikes too. One highly-recommended option is Mt. Hibok-Hibok, a forested volcano that rises to 1332 meters in Camiguin, the “island born of fire.” At the summit, one can peer down the verdant crater and enjoy views of Bohol and Northern Mindanao. There is the option to go down the crater and traverse to Brgy. Yumbing—or go back to the trailhead to the hike with a reinvigorating bath in Ardent Hot Springs.

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@aidsbautista on Instagram

Starting point: Ardent Hot Spring, Mambajao, Camiguin

Hours to complete: 6-8 hours

Difficulty: Moderate


12. Lake Holon, T’boli, South Cotabato - Another fantastic dayhike in Mindanao can be found in Mt. Parker (also known as Mt. Melebingoy) in T’boli, South Cotabato. The very summit of this mountain can be completed as a long dayhike or overnight hike, but there is the easier option to just hike up Lake Holon. Held by the local T’boli to be a celestial portal, the lake possesses some of its spellbinding qualities, not least of which are the tranquility of its waters and the majesty of the peaks that surround it.

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@jeremy_glick on Instagram

Starting point: Brgy. Salacafe, T’Boli, South Cotabato

Hours to complete: 6-8 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Anyone can climb the above mountains, but be sure to be physically and mentally prepared for any hike. Also, make sure you practice responsible outdoor recreation by coordinating with the local authorities, taking your trash with you, and respecting the local communities. See you on the trails.