Mt. Ulap – Have you ever wondered why this mountain called Mt. Ulap? Simply because it will give you the feeling of being high up with the clouds. Yes! we have experienced it. I just realized how beautiful and blessed the Philippines is. We have a lot of wonderful destinations in every part of the country just waiting for us to be explored. The attribute of this majestic mountain is very unique. Mt. Ulap is located in Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet and a part of Cordillera Administrative Region. I promise that Mt. Ulap will give you another perspective about the environment and will surely grant you a magnificent view of Cordillera mountain ranges, an amazing view of greenery and the sea of pine trees. Mt. Ulap is literally heaven on earth.
MT. ULAP ECO TRAIL
- Entry point: Brgy. Ampucao, Itogon
- Exit point: Brgy. Sta. Fe, Itogon
- LLA: 16.2904 N, 120.6312 E, 1846 MASL (Mt. Ulap)
- Days required / Hours to summit: 1 Day / 2-3 Hours
- Specs: Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-3
- Features: Grassland and pine ridges, scenic views of the Cordilleras, burial caves
It’s already 1:00 AM when we left Manila. It’s summer and sultry. There’s no chance of rain. While we were on the road, I grabbed the opportunity to sleep to gain energy and prepare myself hiking the mountain. I spent almost 4 hours sleeping and then I woke up around 5:00 AM then suddenly the buildings in Manila I saw before I close my eyes transformed into beautiful scenery and an amazing view of the mountainous terrain of Benguet. However, It was so scary as some part of the road is narrow and curvy.
6:00 AM when we finally reached Ampucao Barangay Hall where registration area is located and which conveniently 40 minutes away from Baguio City. There were already a bunch of hikers there when we arrived at the registration area. The moment we get off from the van, the breath of unpolluted fresh morning air touches everyone’s skin coming from the highlands of Cordillera mountain range make us feel more excited as just in a minute we will conquering one of the famous hiking heaven located in Itogon, Benguet. Of course, you need to register and get a guide before to hike this mountain because it’s mandatory. You are not allowed to just visit Mt.Ulap on your own without a guide.
Aside from other hikers, guides and a row of vans parked in the registration area, you can also see vendors selling mountain equipment especially wooden trekking pole, bags, bonnet, and some souvenirs. Mang Daniel and his cousin was the assigned tour guide for us. They were already 64 years old but they both look like they’re stronger even we were younger plus they’re obviously accustomed to hiking since it’s a part of their daily lives. Honestly, we get tired faster than them.
There’s a short orientation with the local guide regarding on the trails, peaks and especially the do’s and don’ts when hiking Mt. Ulap. After a few minutes of orientation and a thorough briefing from the tour coordinator, we prayed for our safety and we headed to the starting point which was located 5 minutes away from the Ampucao Barangay Hall.
We started to hike around 7:00 AM, the starting point is through the ascended paved road served as a warm-up which just requires a few steps to reach the jump-off or what they called Tomtombek. Tomtombek is a marked with a signage that welcomes hikers to the Ampucao – Sta. Fe ridge with the trail map of the Eco-trail. I didn’t expect that the first part of the trail was surprisingly challenging as it requires stamina even though it’s moderately steep and ascended. Nevertheless, the trail from Tomtombek to Ambanao-Paoay is mostly easy and good for newbie hikers.
We reached the Mt. Ulap signage after 30 minutes. From there, you can see the far distant marvelous view of the mountain surrounded by fog and clouds. So beautiful not to stare. I couldn’t resist myself from taking photographs of the scenic view and the surroundings. There’s also a traditional costume of Igorot tribe that you can be used for photo ops. , We started to walk again after a few minutes.
A vast of gigantic pine trees welcomed us from the first part of the trail going to the first peak. The trail from the jump off to Ambanao Paoay is mostly covered with pine trees and it offering a beautiful view of the Cordillera mountain ranges in between gigantic trees and valleys plus the sound of wind in the trees and rustling of leaves making us feel more the essence of nature.
After 1 hour and 15 minutes, we reached the first view deck. As usual, photos ops shouldn’t be forgotten especially when there’s a lot of girls in the group. We spent almost 20 minutes there and then we headed to another moderately steep ascent going up to the first peak. The surroundings offer extremely enjoyable relaxation and retreat to hikers in the psithurism and the songs of nature.
There are a lot of cows and goat that roam around freely in the mountain. Don’t be worried as they’re not that wild to attack hikers, just don’t bother them, they’re all good and harmless. You can also take photos next to them just like what I did. haha
Passed the sea of pine trees, we have finally reached the first peak after 2 and a half hours of trekking. It was already 9:30 when we reached the first peak. You can see the signpost of Ambanao Paoay indicating its elevation. The first peak is 1788 meters above sea level. It’s almost equivalent to the combined two Mt. Hapunang Banoi and one Mt. Pamitinan in Rodriguez, Rizal.
At the top of the high ground, you can see a rock balancing, picturesque hill and an area for a campsite. Ambanao Paoay is basically a slope of a vast grassland that’s why it became its name. The ambanao actually means “vast” while Paoay means “grass”.
NEW ZEALAND OF THE PHILIPPINES
The trail from the first peak up to the second peak or popularly know as the Gungal rock is somewhat easy as it doesn’t require great effort to move upward. The trail is basically composed of grass and huge rocks, some part was flat and not that totally assault, unlike the first part. The majority of the trail from there looks like a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain.
Small villages can be seen from our vantage point. There are a lot of spots for taking pictures along the trail since it offers a wide view of the mountain and the San Roque dam as good as a backdrop. We took photos everywhere that looks good to our eyes. It’s already 10:30 AM when we decided to take some rest and eat some of our trail food before we go Gungal rock.
Because of a good music and a relaxing sound of the surrounding, we didn’t notice that we fell asleep for almost 30 minutes under the pine tree while some of our colleagues went ahead to the Gungal. 11: 40 AM when we reached the second peak. Since there’s a long queue of hikers waiting for their turn for the photo ops at the famous Gungal rocks, we decided to take our lunch since we were all hungry. Sharing of food is one of the best things to do when hiking.
Check out our Mt. Ulap video below.
The Gungal rock or the Peak 2. It is undeniable the most photographed spot and one of the highlights in Mt.Ulap. Gungal Rock is 1814 meters above sea level. It became an instant celebrity in Mt. Ulap due to the number of hikers who want to take photos on that famous spot. This is really a perfect spot for those daring photo ops.
For safety purposes, there’s a guy there that will help you to manage to get into the Gungal rock. They are not allowing the hanging of foot at the edge of the rock and the picture taking is limited to 10 seconds only per person, so if you want to take photos as you can, do not plan to visit on weekends as it getting more crowded and expect a long queue of hikers.
I noticed that the Gungal rock is a bit slanted so better to watch every step as it becomes slippery especially when wet. Better to wear shoes that will reduce the chance of sliding during steep descents. We spent almost an hour at the second peak before we headed into the summit.
RELATED ARTICLE: Mt. Pulag: The playground of the Gods
Passed the Gungal rock are endless slopes of grasslands and a marvelous 360 view of the surrounding mountain ranges. Since we were all tired, we decided to go to the campsite 2 first to set up our tent before going to the summit because the place might be taken by other hikers.
It will only take roughly 30 minutes walk to reach the camp 2 from Gungal rock but the trail was a bit more challenging compare from the previous trail that we have been passed through. There’s a part of the trail that really a painstaking assault. The sloping hills and narrow ridges add more difficulties and challenges as we continue to trek.
We feel lively when we saw a group of hikers setting up their tent when we reached the campsite 2. It was already 1:30 PM. We immediately dropped our bags and set our own tents even we were still exhausted.
Finally, we will able to visit the famous 7/11. It’s basically store located few meters away from the campsite 2 where we took our dinner and breakfast. Hikers call it 7/11 because it’s available 24 hours aside from that, you can also find what you’re looking for such as cup noodles, blanket, coffee, hot & cold water, souvenirs! Name it!
Aside from cows that roam around at the camp two, you could also see animal pool around the grassy area. Just a little reminder, don’t leave your things outside your tent because cows might get it or it. Pwede din nilang ikalat kung saan-saan.
3:30 PM when the fog starts to rise covering all of the surroundings. A vast blanket of white hung heavy over the hills, we couldn’t see anything aside from other hikers near to us. It’s almost zero visibility. We spent the night full of happy memories at the camp two.
I was about to capture the Interstellar dusk like what I’ve captured in Mt. Pulag, but unfortunately, we couldn’t see anything aside from the moon shining above the dark sky.
UP TO THE SUMMIT
We all woke up around 5:30 AM to take our breakfast and to witness the amazing view of the sunrise. After some preparation, we headed to the last part of our journey, the summit. The summit is just a 15 minutes away from the campsite. The ray of the sunrise burst upon us that mixing the fresh and cold morning air as we ascent to the summit.
After a few minutes, we reached the final peak! 1846 meters above sea level! The effort of hiking this mountain has been paid off. The breath-taking scenery captivated everyone from the summit of Mt. Ulap. It was definitely a hike-worthy mountain.
The view from the summit is just amazing not to share. You can see the high mountains of Cordillera that surrounds you in all directions. One of the good things here is they have already created steps in the trail which makes ascent a whole lot easier.
It was another achievement unlocked for us as we climbed the highest point of the Mt. Ulap via Eco-trail. We took the opportunity to capture every moment as we can through the lens of our cameras. We spent 1 hour at the summit just staring the panoramic view of Cordillera mountain ranges, taking photographs, vadaring, groupies, and selfies.
We start to descend around 7:00 AM. We traversed into another 2 kilometers of descent through a rocky and downhill slope. The guide told us that this trail is the easiest way to reach the summit in term of its distance, but it’s the hardest way in terms of its steepness.
The descended trail almost angled 70 degrees covered with the plethora of pine trees. Aj knees started to shake as we took roughly 2 and a half hours going down. Thanks to the locals their because they put a wooden bar on the trail which makes the descent safer. After a drawn-out journey, we finished the traverse then we exit at the Sitio Sta. Fe where our van awaits. We also passed around 4-5 hanging bridge before we arrive at Sta. Fe. There are shower rooms at Sta. Fe where you could either just wash or take a bath.
WARNING: The water in the shower room is really cold like it came from a melted ice.
Mt. Ulap is definitely a wonderful destination just waiting to be explored by you. A sweet release from the worries of the world after you reach the summit. I highly recommend Mt. Ulap for beginners. Honestly, Mt. Ulap trail is far easier than the trail of Mt. Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal. The trail of Mt. Ulap was actually a combination of a relaxed and gentle ascent although several parts of the trail are also steep while Mt. Daraitan is really an assault from the bottom of the mountain up to the summit. Overall, the Mt. Ulap trail is easy enough for hikers of all levels, from beginner to seasoned hikers.
Did you know that famous local celebrity couple Nadine Lustre and James Reid also climbed Mt. Ulap? Yes, you can check it on their IG profile.
CONTACT: TOUR GUIDE AND ORGANIZER
For the tour organizer, you may contact Meo Fernando. He’s nice and approachable. Aside from being a tour organizer, he has an extraordinary skill in photography. So if you’re looking for someone who could organize your trip and take photos to the next level. This guy might you’re looking for. The budget for the Mt. Ulap tour is PHP 1800 per head and it includes the following:
- RT Van Transfer(MNL – BENGUET – BAGUIO CITY – MNL)
- Parking Fee
- Driver’s meal
- Toll Fee
- Registration Fee
- Ecological Fee
- Guide Fee
- Camping Fee
- Tent (Sharing
- Trail Food
- Bag Tag
- Hot water for coffee
- Side trip (Botanical Garden & Diplomat Hotel in Baguio)
If you’re planning to visit Mt. Ulap via DIY. Don’t worry, we got the contact number of Mang Daniel.
Mang Daniel – 09104401461
SUMMARY OF EXPENSES
|2D1N MT.ULAP + Baguio Side trip||1800|
|Trail food & water||200|
|Dinner at 7/11||100|
|Breakfast the next day(Cup Noodles)||50|
|Lunch at Baguio City||150|
The estimated budget would be PHP 2500-2700. The expenses may vary depending on your budget on foods.
THINGS TO BRING
- Bring a lot of water(at least 2 Liters)
- Energy drink (Gatorade)
- Hand Gloves
- Packed lunch(Optional). You can buy foods at the 7/11(A store located at the camp 2)
- Garbage Bag(Leave no trace)
- Extra clothes
- Cameras(Actioncam, Phone, DSLR, etc)
- Arm sleeves to protect your arm from getting tanned.
- Trekking pole (You can buy wooden trekking pole at the registration area)
- Extra socks
- Basic First Aid Kit/Personal meds
- Trail foods
- Extra money
Check out this outdoor equipment from Lazada
USEFUL TRAVEL TIPS
- Mt. Ulap can get a little crowded on weekends.
- Begin your hike as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
- You may need sun protection since some portions of the trail are open and have no trees to cover which you could hit by direct sunlight. Apply sunblock lotion or wear arm sleeves.
- There are shower/restrooms at Ampucao at Sta. Fe.
- There are available sari-sari store at the campsite which they called 7/11
- Follow LNT principle. Leave No Trace. Bring a garbage bag to keep the mountain clean.
- Do not disturb other animals that roam around the area. Do not provoke them to do such thing that you wouldn’t want to happen.
- Bring flashlight or headlamp because it’s too dark at night.
- There’s a 10 seconds time limit per person when taking pictures at the famous Gungal Rock. So better to think of your desired poses before your turn.
- Follow your guide and stick with the established trail.
- Visitors have an option to go on a day hike or spend the night at the campsite.
- There’s a signal in Mt. Ulap especially Globe Telecom.
- Bring at least two liters of water.
- The weather will surely be colder at night, so better to double your clothes and wear a jacket.
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WHAT TO WEAR
Any outdoor clothes are advisable such as dry-fit, long sleeve, hiking short/pants, leggings, and a camp shirt. Wearing hiking shoes and outdoor sandals are much advisable than slippers. We also recommend wearing at least 2 clothes, 3 layers of socks and don’t forget to bring a jacket since we all know that temperature in Benguet has a big difference in Manila. It could hit below 15ºC even on the daytime depends on the weather. I remember when we woke up around 3 AM. A bone-chilling mist clung to every surface and it really makes us chill. Our tent was covered by moist. I also forgot to bring a blanket and we just borrowed a piece of a cardboard from the 7/11 that served as a pad to protect our back.
1:00 AM PICK UP (Cubao)
1:30 AM ETD
3:00 AM Breakfast: Leezas
6:00 AM REGISTRATION. (Mt. Ulap)
7:00 AM START TREK
12:00 NN LUNCH (PEAK 2: Gungal Peak) – Optional
3:0 PM SUMMIT
4:00 PM CAMPSITE (Set up: Tent)
DAY 2 6:00 AM BREAKFAST (7/11)
7:00 AM START TREK
10-12:00 NN WASHUP.
12-5:00 PM BAGUIO CITY TOUR.
11:00 PM ETA MNL.
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