We got to the summit of Mt. Daraitan right after sunrise, that magical golden hour when early morning daylight bathes the landscape in a soft glow. The rays cast a hazy orange hue on one side of the jagged limestone rock formations. As I clambered to the top of one rock facing the East, I got a silhouette view of mountain peaks in the distance. The view of the snaking river below was obscured by a sea of clouds blanketing the rest of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.
I couldn’t help but think of the long travel time I endured just to see a “sea of clouds” view during two previous attempts to climb Mt. Pulag in Benguet. The first time I climbed, I made it to the summit but it was raining the whole time. The second time I attempted, our climb got cancelled at 3 am when a sudden typhoon hit and we all had to go home early. And while mountaineers will agree that the exhaustion and hardships of the journey is the true essence of climbing mountains, it’s always great to be rewarded with a stunning view once you get to the top. In that aspect, Mt. Daraitan does not disappoint.
I’ve been wanting to hike up Mt. Daraitan ever since I first visited the beautiful riverside town located in the foothills of Tanay, Rizal and General Nakar, Quezon. Standing at an elevation of 739+ MASL, this mountain is classified as a minor climb, with a 4/9 difficulty level and the jump-off is only a couple of hours away from Manila by private vehicle. For those who are just starting to get into hiking, the view from the top is worth the effort you’ll need to exert to get there.
Because of its proximity to Manila, it’s become one of the more popular day hikes and camping sites near the metro. I’ve heard accounts of long lines of people snaking up the trail and group hiking tour participants crowding and trying to get photos at the summit at the same time during peak hiking season. So it was a pleasant surprise to have this beautiful mountain peak all to ourselves early on a Saturday morning. Or at least for a few minutes.
It’s always better to schedule hikes during weekdays, but it’s not always possible because of work schedules. Art and I decided to stay overnight in the village on a ride and hike trip on a Friday and start early on a Saturday just to get ahead of other hikers. The motorcycle ride through rough roads to the village was a large part of what made the whole hiking experience so fun.
By private vehicle, it takes about 2-2.5 hours to get to the village center in Tanay. Add an hour or two if you’re taking public transport. Most day trip hikers will start their trek from the barangay hall and traverse a steep and challenging ascent early on. The normal hike can last anywhere from 3-4 hours depending on your group’s pace and the number of hikers that day.
Aside from Mt. Daraitan, one of the main attractions here is Tinipak River, one of the country’s cleanest, free-flowing rivers, surrounded by large marble rocks that are great for bouldering. After descending from the summit, hikers usually continue the trek to Tinipak Rocks and walk to the river on the other side of the village. The river’s sparkling waters and majestic white rocks and cliffs that border it are almost surreal. Visitors can choose to swim in the river or if they have time, visit the cave pool for a swim. Because of the beautiful sights in the area and travel time to and from Manila, it’s really best to allot a whole day for this hiking trip.
Hiker friends were telling me that the start of the trail going up Mt. Daraitan was really steep and challenging. But the trail starting from Kuta Bungliw Eco-Lodge in Brgy. Pagsangahan, General Nakar wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting it to be. As part of our arrangement for our overnight stay, a guide from the General Nakar Cablao Outdoor Guides Association (GENACOGA) was provided, as well as two meals (dinner and breakfast) for a rate of P950/person.
Our alarm failed to go off, so we started our hike a little past 4 am. It was still dark when we started the hike through mostly shaded forests and dirt trails, but it was a relatively leisurely trek on gradually sloping terrain. We passed a few streams and small waterfalls along the route. Despite the cool morning air, the exertion of climbing had me sweating early on.
Two guide dogs from Kuta Bungliw, Pogi and Chichi joined us and our guide Ronald, making our group a small party of five. The dogs would stop and wait during our photo ops and quick break stops and would happily overtake us on the singletrack, nearly tripping us over when we resumed hiking.
We eventually reached a grassy open field with the last tip of the summit seemingly within our reach. From there, we entered the last part of the forested trail, passing a small rock formation as the sun was starting to rise. I thought we were already near the summit, but the trail seemed to wind around a bit more taking us around to a different side of the mountain before the final slightly vertical ascent.
After about two hours of steady walking, we reached the summit covered with beautiful limestone rock formations at around 6 am. Of course, I had to clamber over the rocks for the best view. From the top of the rocks, I could see the mountain ranges in the distance obscured by the sea of clouds all around. It may sound cliche, but rewarding views like these always make hikes worthwhile.
As we were taking photos, a group of hikers coming from another trail arrived and seemed surprised to see us since they were the first group that registered that day. We told them we had stayed overnight and come from another trail. We took turns taking photos in the different spots and vantage points.
Times like these, you just want to stay in one spot and enjoy the view. I wouldn’t have minded staying there all morning. But as we heard the chattering of another group approaching, we decided to start our descent to give them the others a chance to enjoy the mountain. Since we had already trekked to Tinipak Rocks during a previous trip, we decided to hike to a lesser-known site: the Atburan Rockies in General Nakar.
NEXT POST: Hike to Atburan Rockies.
Major jumpoff: Brgy. Daraitan (village centre), Tanay. Minor jumpoff: Brgy. Pagsangahan, General Nakar. LLA: 14°36′48.5′′N 121°26′19.5′′ E, 739 MASL (+600)
HOW TO GET THERE:
Via public transportation:
- Take a jeep from EDSA-Shaw to Tanay, Rizal (1.5 – 2 hrs; P50)
- Get off at Tanay Public market and go to jeepney terminal; Take a jeep to Sampaloc, Tanay (30 mins)
- Take a tricycle or hire a habal-habal to Brgy. Daraitan (P100/person; 30-45 mins)
- When you arrive at Daraitan River, cross the bridge to the other side and take a trike (P10/person – 5 mins) to the Daraitan Barangay hall
- Allot 3-4 hours travel time because of stops and delays
- From Cubao Aurora Blvd, ride a jeep to Cogeo Gate 2 (P24) First trip is 5:30 am.
- At the end of the ride, walk to the intersection, turn right to the road up to reach Sampaloc Tanay jeep terminal (that’s after the Wet Market). First trip is 5:30am.
- Ride a jeep (P65) to Sampaloc. From Sampaloc, walk past the intersection towards Shell gas station.
- Across Shell is the Daraitan TODA trike & habal terminal (ride only w/ Daraitan TODA). Trike to Brgy hall is P300/trike/max 5 passengers. Habal habal is P100/habal/max 2 passengers.
WHAT TO WEAR:
Mt. Daraitan is considered a minor hike and is day hikeable, so any type of outdoor clothes/dri-fit shirts, leggings or shorts will do. Wear or bring swimwear underneath if you plan to swim in Tinipak River. For footwear, wear closed shoes with good traction or outdoor sandals. Slippers not recommended. Bring a fresh change of clothes for after the hike. You can take a shower for a small fee in houses near the Brgy. Hall.
WHAT TO BRING:
- Camera and smartphone
- Drinking water (you can buy water in sari-sari stores when you register)
- Light trail snacks (you can eat in the village before or after your hike)
- A cap/headware
FEES as of June 2017: (as listed in the Tanay Brgy. Hall)
- Environmental Fee – P50/pax
- Cultural Fee – P20/pax
- Tourism Fee – P30/pax
- Tour Guide Fee – P500 per group. 1 tour guide = 1-5 pax for mountain climbing; 1 tour guide = 1-10 pax for river trekking and caving
- Tour Guide Fee Overnight – P1,250/group
- Photo shoot (non-commercial deput, prenup, hobbyists with model and equipment) – P1,500
- Headlamp/helmet rent for caving – P30/piece
- Parking Fee – P20-50/vehicle
- Camping site Fee – P200/tent
- Tent Rent – P200/tent
- Picnic Shed – P300/shed
- Floating Shed – P500/shed
- Horseback Riding with Horseman – P500/hour
- Porter Fee – P500/day
- Butterfly Garden Fee – P20/pax
- Location Shoot – P5,000-P10,000
- Event Fee – P10,000-P20,000
- Banchetto / Kiosk rent – P3000
- Tourism Sticker – P1,400
- Research Fee – P200
TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:
- For those with their own private transport, it’s possible to climb this DIY. No need to join package tours unless you want the convenience of having a tour group take care of all the logistical arrangements for you.
- Guides are mandatory. You need to register at the Brgy. Hall before your climb.
- For those with private vehicles, parking is available for P20/motorbikes, P50 for 4-wheelers and P100 for overnight parking.
- Comfort rooms are available around the village. They charge P15 for taking a bath and P5-10 for other business.
- It’s much better to schedule your hike on a weekday because weekends can get crowded.
- Bring enough water and light trail food.
- Hikes may be cancelled if weather is bad.
- Read my previous posts on Daraitan and Tinipak River for more information.