“Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” – Ed Viesturs, American high-altitude mountaineer
The reserve offers many kilometers of hiking trails that range in difficulty from moderate to strenuous. Each trail has special qualities, including unique wildlife, waterfalls or mountain views. The reserve is open from sunrise to sunset, but the best hiking conditions are usually in the morning, when it is typically cooler and the skies are clear.
Most reserve trails are open to all guests and day visitors. A few trails, marked with ‘Privado’ signs, are reserved for our research projects. We ask day visitors to please stay on the public trails to minimize interference with ongoing research.
- Memorial Garden
- Waterfall Trail
- Sendero Montaña Loop
- Sendero Rio
- Cloudbridge North
- Piedra de Zopilote (Vulture Rock)
Time (Round-trip): 10 minutes (without stops for viewing)
Distance (Round-trip): 200 m (219 yd)
Elevation: 1575 m (5167 ft)
Map: Memorial Garden Map
The garden, constructed in memorial for Cloudbridge founder Ian Giddy, is located just a few minutes walk from the parking lot. This is a good option for visitors who want to experience being in the cloud forest, without taking a more challenging hike. There is a gorgeous array of colorful flowers, native plants and cultivars. The garden is a pleasant place to take a break from hiking and to enjoy the many different hummingbirds and butterflies against the backdrop of the cloud forest and the sound of the Rio Chirripó.
Time (Round-trip): 40 minutes
Distance (Round-trip): 1 km (0.6 mi)
Elevation: 1550-1625 m (5085-5331 ft)
Map: Waterfall Trail Map
This trail takes you through Ian’s Memorial Garden (see above) and along the Rio Chirripó past the stunning Pacifica and Julia Falls. Walk through one of Cloudbridge’s reforestation plantations and see the young trees starting out their new life in the cloudforest. Stop by the Meditation garden and enjoy the Labyrinth, or, if you’re lucky, sit on a bench and watch the monkeys swinging through the trees in the river valley!
Sendero Montaña Loop
Time (Round-trip): 4-5 hours
Distance (Round-trip): 8 km (5 mi)
Elevation: 1514-2120 m (4967-6955 ft)
Map: Sendero Montaña Loop Map
From the Cloudbridge entrance, follow Sendero Principal past the creek crossing, and continue until you see a trail exiting to the right through an old wooden fence. Go right and follow the trail up the steep slope of the Montaña trail. Zigzag up the grassy ridge and enjoy one of the few unobstructed views of the reserve. Clouds rolling up the valley can eliminate visibility in minutes; this can pose a practical challenge, but is also a sight worth seeing. Continuing up the ridge, the path enters forest at about 1920 m (6300 ft), which progresses into old growth forest further up the ridge. Follow the trail uphill for about 1.5 km until it joins the main Chirripó Peak Trail at 2170 m (7150 ft). From there, you can follow the Chirripó trail downhill 4 km, where the trail exits onto the road up to Cloudbridge, just uphill of the Casa Mariposa and Hotel Uran. From there it is an easy 1 km walk back to Cloudbridge.
Time (Round-Trip): 20 minutes (from junction with Sendero Principal)
Distance (Round-trip): 350 m (383 yd)
Elevation: 1710-1765 m (5610-5791 ft)
Map: Sentinel Trail Map
This is a small side trail that takes you through a patch of remnant old growth forest in a small creek valley. The trail branches off to the right from Sendero Principal just before the creek crossing. Cross a small wooden plank and follow the trail along the side of a small creek. The trail can be a bit wet and muddy, so watch your step! At the end of the open area, cross the creek and head up into the forest where several massive trees still stand watch over the valley. The trail ends near a small waterfall.
Time (Round-trip): 1.5-3 hours
Distance (Round-trip): 3.4 km (2.1 mi)
Elevation: 1550-1720 m (5085-5643 ft)
Map: Sendero Rio Map
After an initial steep climb up Sendero Principal to the viewpoint overlooking Cloudbridge Falls, follow Sendero Principal past the creek crossing and along the valley until just before the trail begins to descend into the valley. At this point you can enter the Sendero Rio through a gate/gap in the fence to your left. Sendero Rio will take you down into the river valley to walk alongside the roaring, crystal clear waters of the Rio Chirripó Pacifico. Following the river through a reforested area planted in 2002 you will come to a Y in the trail. The left branch is an easy hike back up to the Sendero Principal. The right branch continues on and past Cloudbridge Falls and returns up to Sendero Principal via the “stairmaster”, a steep section to the bench on Sendero Principal just before the descent back to the Welcome Centre.
Time (Round-trip): 4-6 hours
Distance (Round-trip): 6.4 km (4 mi)
Elevation: 1550-1845 m (5085-6053 ft)
Map: Cloudbridge North Map
Take the Sendero Principal past the covered bridge to a fork in the trail. Turn left and continue on the path through a small gate. Cross the Rio Uran by wading across where the old suspension bridge used to be. The best access to the river is just downstream of the old bridge. The river is generally safe to cross, with the waters usually around 40-50 cm deep (16-20 in), but can become deeper and faster during periods of heavy rain, so exercise caution. We recommend that you take a complimentary walking stick from the Welcome Centre, to help with crossing the river. Continue along the main trail, which winds up the Rio Uran river valley. Eventually the trail forks, continue along the right hand fork along the ‘Don Victor’ trail. The left hand fork will take you further up the mountain to Piedra de Zopilote (Vulture Rock) (see the trail description below). Continue along the Don Victor trail, which will lead you to Don Victor Falls.
At this point you may choose to return the way you came, or wade across the river to continue along the Los Quetzales trail. The river depth here is quite variable, ranging from about 50 cm to around 1 m (20 in to 3 ft), so ensure it is safe before crossing. Follow the Los Quetzales trail back along the east side of the Rio Uran, past the only remaining pasture in the Cloudbridge valley, demonstrating how far reforestation in the reserve has come. One section of the trail can have issues with landslides, so check the condition of the trail at the Welcome Centre before hiking. The Los Quetzales trail rejoins the Sendero Principal just north of the covered bridge.
Piedra de Zopilote (Vulture Rock)
Time (Round-trip): 50 minutes to 1.5 hours (from the junction with Don Victor)
Distance (Round-trip): 1.6 km (1 mi)
Elevation: 1800-1905 m (5906-6250 ft)
Map: Vulture Rock Trail
Starting at the junction with the Don Victor trail in Cloudbridge North (see description above), take the left hand fork and follow the trail up the mountain to Piedra de Zopilote (Vulture Rock). Vulture Rock offers panoramic views of much of the valley, and is well worth the strenuous climb. The trail can get quite hot on a sunny day, so start early to avoid the worst of the heat.