Volcan Barú

Volcano Baru or Volcan Barú is in Chiriqui Province of the Pacific West in Panama, in Panama’s northernmost region.

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The national park is 14,325 ha in size, and Panama’s highest peak at 3,475 m. The volcano has been dormant for over 600 years; but with the bubbling Hot Springs and frequent seismic activity, it might not be entirely extinct.

If you are lucky you might see the Pacific and the Caribbean ocean from the top. Best chances for that is right on the sunrise.

There is a rough and very steep 4×4 road to the top. Near the summit, there are numerous cellular towers, and the rock face of the summit is covered with graffiti. In spite of this, the views beyond are breathtaking.

The famous Sendero de los Quetzales Trail (Quetzal Trail) passes through the lower slopes of the Volcan Baru.

This not a tropical forest because of its altitude. There are plenty of birds to see and it has characteristics of a cloud forest. Timber line is close to the summit.

From May till November it is pretty wet and above 3000 meters it could get very cold at night.

The easiest way is to take a cab from Boquete for $5 until La Casetta.

It costs $3 for citizens of Panama and $5 for foreigners. Camping is $5 and $3 for students.

Walking is the way to go but it is possible to get up until the summit.

The best views from the peak are at dawn. On some days (if you are lucky), it is possible to see both the Atlantic and the Pacific, as well as Costa Rica. On other days (if you are unlucky) you will just see the surrounding mountains in the fog.

There are two possible ways to be at the peak at dawn. First, you can start around midnight and be on the top for sunrise and hike back the same day. Second, you can go the day before until the camping site one km before the peak, sleep there, wake up early see the sunrise, and then walk down. It typically takes 6-8 hours to reach the summit, and 4-5 hr to come back down.

The most common hike is up the 4×4 road from Boquete, but there is also a highly challenging trail from Volcan. A taxi to the ranger station near Boquete can be made from in town; if you are doing the night time hike, this will need to be arranged the day before.

Campers typically hike at the Fogones campground, which is 12.5 km into the trail (1 km before and about 200 m below the summit). The campground has a shelter. The shelter is typically kept free of debris by fellow hikers, but the overall area is strewn with garbage and a bit smelly. There are mice.

The first 3 km, and 6 to 9 km, and 11 to 12.5, are the steepest. There is a downhill around 10 km, which is followed by a steep uphill.

There is an indigenous path going across the park to Bocas del Toro, but it is long, perilous, rarely traversed, and none of the tour operators offers trips across it.

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