Hike to Atburan Rockies in Gen. Nakar, Quezon

Atburan Rockies is a very raw and unknown site with caverns and towering limestone rock formations hidden in the mountainous region of General Nakar, Quezon. Aside from locals who call it “Kulungang Bato,” the site has only been explored by a handful of outdoor enthusiasts and mountaineers from the UP Outdoor Recreation Group (ORG). In fact, when I was researching about the place, I couldn’t find any existing write-up or background information about the area.

When it comes tourist spots in areas near borders between provinces or villages, there are always disputes about where a certain site falls under. While the area is under the jurisdiction of Atburan, Brgy. Pagsangahan in the General Nakar, Quezon, it is more easily accessible though the village of Daraitan in the province of Rizal, which is now popular among the weekend warriors for sites like Mt. Daraitan, Daraitan River and Tinipak Rocks.

We probably would have never found out about this place if we hadn’t stayed in Kuta Bungliw, the homestead of and eco-lodge of Jacq, a member of ORG, who provided a guide from Quezon to take us there. We were staying in the lodge for the night and planned to just hike up the mountain the next morning when we found out that we could also visit Atburan Rockies on the way down. According to Jacq, the legitimate guides for Atburan are the Tatawiran Outdoor Guides Association since Tatawiran is part of Pagsangahan, General Nakar, Quezon.

Atburan Rockies is accessible by a steep hike through a trail that forks on the regular trail going up to Mt. Daraitan. The hike will take roughly 3-4 hours if that’s the only site you’re visiting, but can be combined with other nearby sites to maximize your trip.

After reaching the peak of Mt. Daraitan (border of Tanay, Rizal and Gen. Nakar, Quezon), we backtracked the same way we came up until we reached a fork leading to Atburan Falls, a relatively small waterfall along the road. From here, it was an easy hike through rolling terrain. We passed through dirt trails flanked by tall grass and open fields. By this time, the sun was getting higher, and it was a hot hike.

The terrain was relatively flat until we reached a house with beautifully landscaped grounds guarded by a friendly resident cat and caretaker where we stopped to rest for a while. I was surprised to find such beautifully landscaped grounds and gardens in the middle of nowhere. Sili plants and wild flowers lined the garden outlined with white pebbles.

Passing through the backyard of the house, it was a straight up ascent through a hill. Our guide Ronald had to make a new trail with a machete because of the thick overgrown grass covering any semblance of a path. I was amazed that our guide dogs from the lodge, Pogi and Chichi, who had joined our hike up Mt. Daraitan, managed to keep up. They liked overtaking us and nearly tripped us several times on the trail. Our guide told us that it was their second time to climb up there, though they couldn’t make it up the last portion.

The final stretch included a set of wooden ladders leading up to a rocky area. The whole place had that beautiful, abandoned feel with plants growing out of the rock walls like ancient ruins. Ronald scolded the dogs and told them to just stay, but they just didn’t want to be left behind.

After whimpering while we made our way up, we looked back and saw that the dogs managed to climb the ladder as well! They seemed very pleased with themselves from reaching the top and proceeded to take a nap while we looked around the area. They had to be carried down the ladder going back though.

After crawling through a hole in the rocks, we finally emerged at a portion that required a bit of cliff scrambling. A log perched on the edge of the rocks provided a front seat to the best view.

I guess locals call the place “Kulungang Bato” because the rock formations form a somewhat enclosed area with tall rocks. While stepping through one of the cracks in the cavern that led to a small chamber, I felt like we had stumbled on an optional bonus dungeon on our way back from a main quest. There was that joy of discovery of setting foot in a rarely visited place for the first time, knowing that only a handful of people had been there before.

The area seems perfect for rock climbing and rappelling. There’s even a chimney type formation that looks like you could scale to emerge at a hole on top. I later asked Jacq if rock climbers had been here. She said that some climber friends were planning to scout the place out soon, but the area has not been bolted yet. You can tell the place hasn’t been visited by mainstream tourists by how pristine it is. There was no trash littering the trail and the beautiful rock walls bear no trace of vandalism.

After being up since 3 am and hiking up two peaks, we were pretty much spent by the time we got back to the lodge. The dogs immediately curled up and slept in the garden as soon as we got back. After taking a dip in the mini-pool and having a late breakfast, we followed suit, just crashing for a nap.

But the adventure wasn’t over yet! We still had to drive back up the rough roads from Daraitan to Manila. After hiking down from the lodge, we passed by the village where we had parked our motorcycles at a local’s house the day before and geared up for the ride up. Anyone who’s passed through this road knows that it’s a pretty bumpy ride best traversed by 4 x 4 vehicles or sturdy habal-habals. Driving back uphill proved to be scarier and more physically demanding than our ride down the previous day.

It took a lot of concentration and effort not to skid on the dirt roads lined with loose gravel. I’m just glad the weather was fair and it didn’t rain during the night, because I don’t think I could have made it back up. It was a huge relief to reach the highway and on to smooth pavement. From there, the memories of the weekend fueled us enough to take us home.

Atburan Rockies is located in Atburan, Brgy. Pagsangahan, General Nakar, Quezon.

For overnight stays and guides, contact Kuta Bungliw Eco Lodge and Campsite page or text 0915.595.9988. Please read my related posts on how to get there and other travel guide details.

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