Last updated: 22nd October 2020
Dubbed as the highest peak in Luzon, Mount Pulag is situated between the borders of Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya. It stands 2,926 meters above sea level and is famous for its sea of clouds. It’s also called the “Playground of the Gods” by the Ibaloi because for them; it is a sacred place where the Gods live and play.
You might be wondering right now if you can climb Pulag with little or no experience at all. Or if it’s worth the climb. I have been there three times now, and I have ZERO regrets at all. All the sweat and pain were worth it.
Let me share you our recent Mt. Pulag experience, along with a sample itinerary, estimated budget, important contacts, and some FAQs. But before we start, let’s look back on my first and second hike in the Playground of the Gods.
Hiking Mt. Pulag for the First Time (And Second)
My first and second hike on Mt. Pulag was on November 2016 (Ambangeg trail) and January 2017 (Akiki trail). It was my fourth mountain to climb and I was so lucky to witness the sunrise with a sea of clouds.
The Ambangeg trail, or simply called Amba, is classified as a major hike with a 3/9 rating from Pinoy Mountaineer. To experience a more challenging climb, we decided to team up with the ‘Batangas Boys’ (our hiking friends in Batangas) and opt for a 3-day hike via the Akiki trail (7/9 difficulty).
I thought I was going to die.
It was THAT hard. My heart pumped so hard that I thought it’s going to burst. The trail is steep, and almost endless. And the bag I carried was around 12 kilos (I don’t even have a tent with me so I can’t recall what’s in there) and it made my life worse.
And here’s the fun part. The itinerary was designed for us to be at the Mt. Pulag summit on the third day. It happened as planned, yes, but it rained so hard on our second night that we missed the chance of seeing the beautiful sunrise. It was so disappointing. After all the near-to-death moments we’ve experienced hiking via the Akiki trail, we witnessed no breathtaking view as a reward.
So we decided to go back. Again.
Preparation for the Third Hike
It was July 2018 when we decided making the preparations for our next Mt. Pulag climb. The target month was on November to celebrate the anniversary of our hike on 2016. Gladys, a super close friend of mine, the one who introduced hiking to me, organized the event. She’s our go-to gal when it comes to contacts. Securing permits, homestay, monster jeep rental; Gladys can arrange it all.
Mt. Pulag Itinerary
This was the proposed itinerary:
We were so organized that even the meal plan was based on the joiners’ votes. Everything was well coordinated and well communicated within the group, especially when the hike is getting nearer.
We also opted to book a Victory Liner bus ticket in advance bound to Baguio (from Cubao) which costs P450 so we can save time instead of falling in line at the bus station. The only catch is that there is a P50 online booking fee per person. On the travel date, I just presented my ID and claimed the tickets in behalf of the joiners.
Aside from Victory Liner, you can also opt for JoyBus if you wish to get to Baguio in just 4-5 hours. You can read our JoyBus experience here, https://chamtravels.com/joybus-premiere-experience.
Off to Mount Pulag (Yey!)
We arrived in Baguio at 4:00 AM as planned. Our next stop was supposed to be the Ambuklao Bridge and Sulfur River but we decided to visit those on our way back home. We went to the public market instead and bought food to cook at the homestay.
2019 Update: The lovely and hospitable caretakers at the homestay can cook food for your group. Fee is P100 per head, per meal. You can contact the homestay for more info. Contact numbers can be found below.
At 6:00 AM, we were on our way to DENR.
1. DENR Visit
For those who haven’t been to Mount Pulag , all hikers are required to visit DENR before the hike. Actually, the organizer must call in advance to reserve slots for the group. The number of hikers in this mountain is growing rapidly (especially on weekends) that the local government must control it. Click here so you can contact them on their Facebook page or you can reach them at 09165424030 and 09612499071.
At DENR, everyone is required to sign-up and provide their medical certificate which shows that you are “Fit to Hike/Climb”. There is also a 30-minute seminar in where you’ll learn the guidelines in hiking Mount Pulag.
Tip: To avoid the “sea of crowds”, plan your Mount Pulag trip on a weekday.
Another important update from Mt. Pulag Management (2019):
All trekkers and organizers are advised to have one month earlier booking in Mt. Pulag NP starting at Day 1 of the preceding month. Reservations on week ends are usually taken on Day 1 which has the highest demand. Those who will have reservation through calls shall be supported with payments and are advised to pay thru electronic means or other modes within the day as much as possible with administrative charges on the SMS too. The management shall cancel reservation thru calls without complying with the required period of payment. Upon receipt of the amount, the Official receipt shall be sent photoscanned.
You can visit their Facebook page for more updates: https://www.facebook.com/Mt-Pulag-National-Park-Bulletin-499104300135824/
2. Securing the Guides
After our DENR visit, we headed to the Ranger Station. It is the jump-off point going to Mt. Pulag. We arrived around 11:30 AM and secured our guides.
The topload experience is a must-try when you’re going to Mount Pulag. We did that from DENR to the Ranger Station. It is where you sit on top of the jeep while it ascends the mountains. What a beautiful way to enjoy Benguet.
3. Baban’s Homestay
We arrived at the homestay at almost 12 noon. It is located in Babalak, Kabayan, Benguet, and is managed by Teacher Baban. The place never fails to give us a cozy and relaxing feel.
There is no cellular signal inside the homestay. There is a spot outside though, overlooking the mountains, which says “Signal here”. But don’t expect that you can play Mobile Legends there. I can’t even text my family that I am safe and still alive (lol) because the signal was going on and off.
You can contact Ma’am Odel Baban Sarapao at 09483577154 to reserve your accommodation at Baban’s Homestay. You can also check out their Facebook page here.
4. The Outfit
Everyone looked like they were part of a Korean drama. Everyone looked cute! I wore a t-shirt, long sleeves, thick jacket, and a light waterproof jacket. Add the leggings, hiking pants, thick socks, and of course, the hiking shoes.
Accessories include these must-haves: headlamps or flashlights, gloves, bonnet, and scarf. If you wonder where I bought the jackets from, it’s from Columbia. And the shoes is from there too.
5. The Actual Hike
We started at around 1:30 AM, after the briefing courtesy of our two guides. We also offered a prayer for a safe journey.
On the first hour of the hike, we were surprised that it wasn’t cold as expected. Some even removed their gloves, bonnets, because really, it wasn’t like 9 degrees Celsius. But when the wind started to blow, damn, everybody suited up once more.
We stopped at the dedicated resting stations to eat and catch up with each other. The amazing things happen when all the flashlights are turned off. Look up and you can see the stars (and shooting stars!) with your eyes. Not just the typical view when we look up from the city. It’s the clearest view of the sky that you will see.
At 5:30 AM, freezing and shaking because of the cold wind, we arrived at Mt. Pulag summit. I can’t even describe the feeling of seeing one of the most amazing things in life – sunrise. Here are some of the pictures:
6. The Descent
The trail was mixed with flat and gradual assault so the whole experience was not really hard for us. Hiking before sunrise makes you appreciate the stars in the sky but when it’s time to descend, you’ll appreciate the beauty of the whole trail. Imagine the rich biodiversity in the area. You’ll encounter the dwarf bamboo grassland, mossy forest, and pine forest (if you’re coming from the summit), in one mountain. The pine forest part of the trail looks the same with the views in Mount Ugo. Here are more pictures:
After of almost four hours of walking, we reached Ranger Station where we “logged out” and thanked our guides for looking over us during the hike.
You can also watch our travel video below.
Estimated Budget in Hiking Mt. Pulag (2019)
- Bus from Cubao to Baguio (one way) – P485 per head, additional P50 (also per head) if you will book online
- Monster jeep rental – P8,000 (Baguio – Ranger Station – Baguio)
- Registration at DENR Pulag – P175 per head
- Tour Guide Fee – P120 per head (to be paid at Ranger Station, 2 guides)
- Environment and Cultural Heritage Fee – P150 (to be paid at Ranger Station)
- Accommodation at Baban’s Homestay – P300 per head, overnight
- Food at Baban’s Homestay – P100 per meal, per head
Assuming that there are 10 hikers in the group who booked their bus tickets online going to Baguio, and ate lunch + dinner at Baban’s Homestay, the total expenses would be P2,765.
This estimated amount includes the share expenses on the jeep rental and bus ticket going back to Cubao (tickets bought at the terminal).
Important Contacts & Links (Save This!)
- Victory Liner Online Booking – https://www.victoryliner.com/
- JoyBus Premiere Bus – read this article on how to book, https://chamtravels.com/joybus-premiere-experience
- Monster Jeep Rental – Ma’am Gina Epe, 09198169234
- Mt. Pulag Park Management – 09612499071, Facebook Page
- Baban’s Homestay – 09483577154
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How High is Mt. Pulag?
Mt. Pulag is 2,922 MASL (meters above sea level) and is dubbed as the highest peak in Luzon. It is third in the Philippines while Mt. Apo (Davao) and Mt. Dulang-Dulang (Bukidnon) rein at the first and second spots.
2. Is Mt. Pulag a Volcano?
Mt. Pulag is tagged as an inactive volcano by Wikipedia. A mountain and volcano have similarities, like how it was formed but Mt. Pulag does not have an active crater that might explode anytime soon. You can hike here all-year round with the assurance that you’ll not be burnt when you arrive back home. 🙂
3. How Long Does It Take To Climb Mount Pulag?
Climbing Mt. Pulag would take 4-6 hours to summit if trekking via Ambageg trail. If via the Akiki trail, it would take 2-3 days to get to the summit. The estimated hiking duration would still of course depend on the pace of the hikers.
4. How Can I Prepare for Mt. Pulag?
Prepare for your Mt. Pulag adventure by jogging and exercising at least 2 weeks prior the hike. This will put your body in the right condition and to get yourself used to being “tired”. You might think that hiking via the Ambangeg trail is so easy that you don’t need to workout anymore but hey, never underestimate the mountains.
5. What Should I Bring to Mt. Pulag?
When hiking Mt. Pulag, we recommend that you bring the following to protect you from the cold weather:
- Several dri-fit clothes (preferably long sleeves)
- Thermal jacket
- Waterproof jacket or poncho (raincoat)
- Hiking pants
- Thick pair of socks
- Hiking shoes
- Gloves, bonnet, scarf, headwear
If your group opted to stay at a homestay (like what we did), you’ll be able to leave your bags there. You can bring a small bag during the hike to carry your trail food, water, and camera. Don’t forget to put your gadgets inside a ziplock (any plastic would do) so it will not moisten.
6. How’s the commute for solo hikers or smaller groups? We don’t want to rent a monster jeep.
You can commute from Baguio to DENR without riding a monster jeep. Go to Slaughterhouse and from there, you can ride a bus (Norton Trans) going to Kabayan. First trip is at 6:00 AM. Ask the driver to drop you off near DENR and ride a habal-habal (ask the owner of the store in front of DENR). Or you can ride a van from Dangwa too and do the same thing.
What I Learned from Hiking Mt. Pulag
Now that I have shared you our itinerary, estimated budget, important contacts, and answered a few FAQs, I’m sure that you are now ready to hike Mount Pulag.
Hiking the Playground of the Gods changed my perception about life. I once thought that I must travel abroad, because the most beautiful places can be found there.
But Mount Pulag taught me that I don’t need to spend a lot of thousands just to be amazed with the beauty of our world. This mountain made me look forward to the sky every morning and afternoon, where its colors are always different and beautiful, whatever shade it is on.
Mount Pulag showed me that beauty can be found even in the simplest things. And that, makes me happy. Check out more of our hiking itineraries here.
Hope to see you in the mountains! 🙂