Mountain Hiking

Throughout Panama there are more than 500 official, well-marked trails that are maintained by the state.

Metropolitan Natural Park, in the heart of the city, has a clearly marked trail system with routes that can take up to four hours. On your walk through the protected park you will likely see:

  • Toucans
  • Monkeys
  • Countless birds

Metropolitan Natural Park is one of the few places on the Pacific coast of Central America that conserves the tropical dry forest ecosystem.

Camino de Cruces, or Trail of the Crosses, was a route taken by the Spaniards up until the world's first transcontinental railroad opened in 1855. They paddled the first stretch in canoe on Chagres River, then continued on foot or by mule to Panama City. You can still walk on the stone path through the forest, preferably from Gaillard or Forest Highway to the crossroads with the plantation road.

Many have gotten lost on this path, so it is advisable to notify an ANAM (National Environmental Authority) ranger before you begin.

El Valle de Antón, in the provinceof Coclé, is like a hub for hikers. A good starting place for beginners is a hike to La India Dormida on a trail that winds through the jungle and runs along a creek, providing wonderful contact with nature. In exchange for a few dollars, one of the youths waiting at the trailhead will accompany and guide you on the hike.

If you want challenge yourself, we recommend a climb up to El Gaital, the highest hill in El Valle de Anton at an altitude of 1,149 meters. If you ascend on a sunny day, you will be able to take in a view of both oceans once you reach the summit. The best access point is past the poultry sheds in La Mesa, onwards to the ANAM guardpost, and then up the trail in front. Be careful because it is hard to make out the entrance and there is risk of getting lost or even tumbling down the hillside.

Another option for a brief jaunt to an interesting attraction is to check out the square trees. Walk behind the Hotel Campestre for a few minutes and then enter the forest and continue until you see trees with square trunks. The path is easy to follow.

The Altos de Campana National Park is a 60-km drive from Panama City. Of the many marvelous and impressive peaks, worth mentioning are:

  • Cerro Campana (1,007 m.a.s.l.)
  • Cerro Peña Blanca (907 m.a.s.l.)
  • Cerro Trinidad (969 m.a.s.l.)

A cool climate that hovers around 23º C facilitates the growth of tropical rain forests, very humid pre-montane forests, and very humid tropical forests. These masses of forests protect the headwaters of the local rivers, some that flow into Gatún Lake, like Trinity River, and others that drain into the Pacific Ocean, such as El Chame, Capira, and Sajalices rivers.

It is best to request that one of the ANAM rangers accompany you on a hike, as it is easy to get lost on the trails.

What to bring

  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Pair of lightweight long pants
  • Hiking boots
  • Poncho or rainjacket
  • Winter gloves if you want to climb up El Gaital
  • Water bottle
  • First aid kit: band-aids, gauze, plasters, tape for bandages, hydrogen peroxide, disinfectant for wounds, eye drops
  • Compass
  • Map with the trail marked
  • Knife
  • Flashlight
  • Insect repellent
  • Chapstick
  • Hat or cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Water purification tablets
  • Bring only crucial gear and lightweight items

For more information

Walking Panama is a nonprofit organization that advocates this activity and provides extensive information. www.caminandopanama.org

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