Climb the highest peak in the Caribbean. (3 days / 2 nights)
Please contact us for available trip dates.
"Pico Duarte looms in the Caribbean imagination like a tropical magic mountain. In the heart of the Cordillera Central region of the Dominican Republic, it is the tallest point in the Antilles, taller, in fact, than any mountain east of the Mississippi on the North American continent.
The magic begins almost immediately. We set out on foot through the rain forest. Lush giant fronds and waving palms grow side by side with bamboo and banyon trees that seem to have their root systems above ground. Sometimes, we skirt small settlements just outside the park borders. Villagers everywhere stop what they are doing - washing clothes, driving a team of oxen, pounding coffee beans - to look at us. We keep fording the same serpentine river, which seems not to want to get out of our way as though it, too, is curious as to what we might be up to."
Julia Alvarez, Sophisticated Traveler, New York Times
From start to finish, a trek through the Dominican Alps is a challenging and exhilarating adventure! Pico Darte (3,087M), the highest peak in the Caribbean, is protected within the Armando Bermudez National Park. The four highest mountains in the Antilles are found within the boundaries of the park, three of them over 3000M.
We share these archaic and pristine mountains over the next few days with such rare birds as the Hispañiolan Parrot, Hispañiolan Woodpecker, White-necked Crow, Hispañiolan Trogon, the Red-tailed Hawk and 47 reported amphibians and reptiles. If luck is on our side, we will have an opportunity to spot the illusive Hutia or Wild Boar.
Truly the jewel of the Caribbean, nature lovers should not miss this Dominican Shangri-La. Accompanied by local guides and pack mules, we will ford clear mountain rivers and traverse through two subtropical mountainous life zones: humid forest and rainforest. The cool alpine temperatures, so rarely offered by the Caribbean, will energize you as we climb steeply along the path to the Zona Fria amongst serenades from Mourning Doves and the rhythmic wings of Zumbador Hummingbirds. The unmistakable aroma of Caribbean Pine and Spanish Moss fills the air as we leave the Coconut Palms and Wild Cane below us. Breathtaking views await, as we journey to the "Roof of the Caribbean".
Pico Duarte located in the uninhabited Bermudez National Park is a challenge that less than 200 foreigners take on a year. This is a 46km hike on demanding terrain. With two nights camping. In addition to our scheduled three day Mule Treks, private groups can arrange custom trips for up to two weeks trekking in the Dominican Alps.
Rated: Intermediate / Advanced Hikers
Descriptive Tour Itinerary
Transport: North Coast to Jarabacoa to La Cienega de Manabao [4.5 hours]
Trek: La Cienega de Manabao to Los Tablones [4.5 Km, elevation 1000M to 1200M]
Accommodation: Cabin or Tent camping in Los Tablones
Our day begins early with our tour briefing at Iguana Mama's store in Cabarete. Once the Iguana Mama staff has packed your gear in the van, we hit the road leaving the sandy beaches of the Atlantic behind us. Our magnificent drive takes us over the Cordillera Septentrional, through the fertile Cibao Valley, and up into the Cordillera Central to the mountain city of Jarabacoa. Our final hour in the van will have your nose stuck to window in awe of the magnificent landscapes of the Dominican Alps. The road comes to an abrupt end in the remote town of La Cienega de Manabao. While our guide searches out a team of mules for our gear and registers us with the park office, you hit the trail. Bienvendios al Parque Nacional Armando Bermudez!
The short, mild hike into Los Tablones is an excellent warm-up for the next day's serious mileage. We follow the Los Tablones River, forming the boundary of the park, along a flat path frequented by locals who live near the base camp. Towering Wild Cane lines our path and giant broadleaf forests form a canopy overhead. We arrive at the camp of Los Tablones in plenty of time for a little exploration before our evening meal.
Trek: Los Tablones to La Compartición [27 Km, 1200M to 2350M]
Accommodation: Cabin or Tent camping in La Compartición
Los Tablones to La Cotorra (4Km, 1200M to 1750M): Awakened by the brisk air, and our guide, we arise before dawn for a nutritious breakfast and "campesino coffee" made on the open flame of the fogon. Following the Tablones River for .5 Km, the trail begins a rapid climb up some of the most eroded and technical parts of the trail. The surroundings give way to a new life-zone of vegetation featuring Lirio, Myrtle Laurel Cherry, Copey, Pasture Fiddlewood, West Indies Laurel Cherry, and Sierra Palm. Our resting-place for a short break, La Cotorra, is aptly named for the Hispaniola Parrots that congregate in the area in the late afternoon.
La Cotorra to La Laguna (2 Km, 1720M to 2100M): Climbing away from the broad views of the La Cienega Valley, the trail follows the natural ridge-line. Once again, new flora greets us as West Indian Sumac, Palo de Viento, Wild Brazilleto, Krug Wild Avocado, and Tree Ferns decorate the thick forest surrounding us. A fresh-water spring is our reward at La Laguna.
La Laguna to El Cruce (.5 Km, 2100M to 2200M): The trail climbs steeply to the intersection where the path to Pico Duarte and picturesque Valle Tetero, featured in our 7-Day Family Vacation Mule Trek, separates. The northern slope is blanketed with green ferns.
El Cruce to Aguita Fria (5 Km, 2200M to 2600M): Climbing the natural ridgeline, the vegetation makes its final Caribbean Alpine change before reaching the barren-rock top of Pico Duarte to Creolean Pine, Lyonia Heptamera, Myrica Picardae, and low-growing bushes, like Garrya Fadyenii,Satureja Alpestris, and Baccharis Myrsinites. Our resting place for a refueling snack at Aguita Fria is just beyond a wet bog. It is in this place that the headwaters of the two longest rivers in the DR, Yaque del Norte and Yaque del Sur, subtly bubble up from the ground.
Aguita Fria to La Compartición (3.5 Km, 2600M to 2350M): Dropping down the natural ridgeline, pine forests welcome us to our cozy cabin in La Compartición. Excellent views of the mountain range are in all directions.
Trek: La Compartición to Pico Duarte to La Cienega de Manabao [28 Km, 2350M to 3087M to 1000M]
Transport: La Cienega de Manabao to Jarabacoa to Cabarete [4.5 hours]
La Compartición to Pico Duarte (4 Km, 2350M to 3087M): Beginning with a steady climb hours before dawn, we follow a switchback trail through pine forests along the wide ridgeline to an open meadow at Vallecito de Lilis. We can catch a breath enjoying the view of La Pelona, the second highest peak in the Caribbean at 3070M, before beginning the final push to the summit. Sparse pine forests give way to rock and boulders at the peak with origins dating back 60 million years to the Cretaceous period. On a clear morning, with the sun rising over our path back down the mountain, there is truly no doubt that we are on the Roof of the Caribbean! Given reasonable weather and a good pace, we should be back at the National Park Headquarters in La Cienega de Manabao by 3:00 p.m.
The Magical, Myth-laden, Shape-shifting Quality of Pico Duarte
Excerpt by celebrated author Julia Alvarez in The New York Times-The Sophisticated Traveler (May 1997) on her Iguana Mama hike to the summit of Pico Duarte
Pico Duarte looms in the Caribbean imagination like a tropical magic mountain. In the heart of the Cordillera Central region of the Dominican Republic, it is the tallest point in the Antilles, taller in fact, than any mountain east of the Mississippi on the North American continent. Intriguingly, its height keeps shifting, depending on what guidebook or map you look at.
Its name has also shifted. When I was a little girl growing up on the island, it was known as Pico Trujillo. All our grandest natural and historical locales had to bear the name of our megalomaniac dictator. The story goes that one of the regime's geographers, worried that the peak might not prove to be tall enough, went ahead and added almost 100 meters to his measurements. And so, to this day, many maps falsely claim that Pico Duarte is 3,175 meters (10,417 feet) high instead of the more accurate 3,087 meters or 10,128 feet - about one-third the size of Everest. After Trujillo's assassination the peak was given back its original name of Duarte, for Juan Pablo Duarte, one of the founding fathers in the 1844 struggle for independence. Bt these stories of a changing name and variable height are emblematic of the magical, shape-shifting quality of the mountain." --- J.A.
Comments by former Iguana Mama owner, Tricia Thorndike de Suriel
Last Winter I made my eighteenth trek into the desolate and lush wilderness of the Armando Bermudez National Park, where Pico Duarte is located. This time with my own three and five year olds, three high school girls that Iguana Mama has been sponsoring, a volunteer from our Dartmouth program, and another family of friends with children, seven and nine years old. Needless to say with that rag-tag, honky-tonk, Sesame Street gang, we did not push for the summit…not even close. The adventure is as much in the JOURNEY as it is in the DESTINATION. I was kindly reminded of this while watching the veteran national park guide balance my sleeping three year old daughter while riding a mule down a 9% grade!
Regardless of the height, 3087 meters or 3175 meters, Pico Duarte and the Armando Bermudez National Park is a magical "right of passage"-just as Julia Alvarez wrote. Be you a sleepy three year old catching a free ride just inside the park entrance or a seasoned mountaineer pausing to catch your breath with the summit in sight, these ancient mountains will capture a part of your soul to keep locked away in their rugged "myth-laden" terrain for eternity. My soul will be all the better for it.