Philippines Travel

Benguet, Philippines: Mt Ulap Eco-Trail Reverse

mt ulap eco trail reverse itogon benguet

Benguet, Philippines – I was awoken by my roommate in the middle of the night. She asked if I felt the earthquake. Groggy, I mumbled something and went back to sleep. Next thing I know, we missed our waking up time, causing us to miss the 6 AM jeep to Ampucao by a few minutes. And that’s how our Mt Ulap Reverse adventure started.

Waiting by the sidewalk, contemplating whether to eat breakfast at Jollibee, turned into half an hour of waiting. By the time the jeep arrived and left, our stomach was grumbling, We really should have eaten breakfast.

See also: Where to eat in Baguio

So we tried to lessen our hunger pangs with green tea KitKat that Aki brought from Japan. Hopefully, that will tide us over until Ampucao.

Upon reaching the entrance near Ampucao Barangay Hall, we were amped up. Luckily, there were a few vendors near the registration area. With the registration finished, I hurriedly bought boiled eggs and we’re on our way.

Our guide, Josephine is even younger and of smaller stature than us. So I asked her how many times she has already climbed Mt. Ulap. And she answered with a simple word – countless.

Reassured, we walked back to the highway until we reached the jump-off point. It was around 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking. The cemented path uphill was a shock to our system. An intense warm up. Only then we did realize that we didn’t stretch before the hike.

It was a series of assault after assault and very few descents until Ambanao Paoay, the first summit. My poor knees were screaming. But the views were definitely awe-inspiring.

I ran out of adjectives resorting to saying “ang ganda” (it’s beautiful) every time I was amazed.

Rows and rows of pine trees lined our way and the steep cliffs of the mountainside. The winds were quite strong up at the first summit and there was nothing to hold on to. The clearing and the hills reminded me of Batanes. Even more so when we saw a herd of cows grazing just after Ambanao Paoay.

As usual, my jelly legs were ever present so the steep descent from Ambanao required me to ask help from our guide. Or else, I would have been tumbling down the hill like Jack and Jill.

From there the terrain got even rockier. It was a different scenery from the ones we have passed by which were full of trees. The earth was also dotted with cow dung. We were like playing “patintero“, taking care not to step on cow shit.

We trudged on, passing by two smaller rocks on the mountainside that could pass off as smaller versions of the most awaited Gungal Rock.

The wind was getting colder. The dark clouds looming yonder. Thankfully, upon reaching an even more rocky terrain, our guide declared that we are here.

Here referring to the most popular spot in the mountain – Gungal Rock. We were overjoyed. True enough, the ever famous rock is jutting just beyond the towering rocks.

People were already taking pics near the edge of the rock and some were waiting patiently for their turn at the bottom of the jutting rock, away from the sight of the cameras.

When it was my turn, I didn’t expect that the walk to the edge wouldn’t be as easy as the others made it seem. With the wind blowing hard and nothing to hold on to, I pleaded one of the Rangers to help me reach the edge. I tried so hard to stand at the edge but my jelly legs wouldn’t cooperate. This time, the body wasn’t as strong as the will.

Mt. Ulap οΏ½ Benguet Hello from the other side! ?? . This is the highlight of our hike, the famous Gungal Rock. Standing at 1814masl, we reached this spot via a rocky terrain after the grassland slopes of the first summit, Ambunao Paoay. We were quite lucky that there was no queue when we got here. But the wind was strong and reaching the edge of the rock without taking extra care can be fatal. Good thing there were rangers present to discourage the daredevils and to assist climbers who want to have their pics taken near the edge. Jelly legs, I tried my best not to take a peek below. My knees couldn’t take it so I just sat down. Reaching the Gungal Rock was enough of an achievement for me. Conquering my fear of heights one day at a time. . PS. Thank you 15k followers!!! Hoping to engage with you more! Happy travels always! ??? . . . #PSwanderlust #WorldCitizenPassport

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After a few clicks, I couldn’t wait to get back on the stable and level ground.

We took our lunch near the entrance to Gungal and shortly after that, started our way back the trail. We decided against a traverse that time because we were pressed for time. The rain clouds were closing in, and the mist making it colder up in the mountain.

The steep ascent earlier now turned to be steep descent as well, making the most impact on our knees. Trying my best not to slide down the cliff, my hyperactive brain thought of comparing hiking to love. The higher you climb, the higher you fall. That while it was all excitement going up, going down is the harder and more painful part (or at least in my case). Guess I tend to get emotional when faced with imminent danger.

See also: Buscalan: Tattooed by Apo Whang-od

In between water breaks, we took the time to just take in the feeling of being surrounded by nature. Β Trying to slow down our heavy breathing with our sweat trickling down our faces. Appreciating that precious calm that can be sometimes so elusive in our daily lives.

And as we reached the roadside, we asked ourselves.Was it all worth it? Heck yeah.

So thank you Mt. Ulap, for a worthy travel experience, and to meeting new friends. Til we meet again.

See also: 22 Captivating Philippine hideaways that will steal your heart


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Akiko in her victory pose

Mt Ulap Reverse Timeline:

7 AM – Lakandula St, Baguio (in front of Jollibee) – Jeep to Itogon

7:45 AM – registration at Barangay Hall

12 PM – leave Gungal Rock, start descent

1:45 PM – roadside, wait for jeep to Baguio

Mt Ulap Quick Guide:

How to get to Mt Ulap from Metro Manila:

  • Take a bus going to Baguio from Pasay, Cubao, etc.
  • Ride jeep to Ampucao, Itogon (or Philex Mines) at Lakandula st.
  • Get off at Brgy. Ampucao
  • Walk to Barangay Hall for registration


  • Registration fee: Php 100 per head
  • Guide fee: Php 400 per day

What to Pack: water, trail food, jacket, flashlight/headlight (if you’re going to start before sunrise)

Mt Ulap stats:

Elevation: 1846 meters above sea level (masl)

Difficulty: 3 out of 9

Trail class: 1 – 3

Number of peaks: Three – Ambanao-Paoay, Gungal, and Mt. Ulap summit

Features: grassland, pine ridges, views of Baguio and Cordillera

Other attractions along the trail: burial caves, hanging bridge (Sta. Fe traverse)

Do you hike? What was your most memorable mountain?Β 


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  • Sandy N Vyjay
    June 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    What a lovely trek. The landscapes are really stunning, no wonder you ran out of words looking at the beautiful scenery around you. Looking at the pictures of the pine trees and the meadows, I am reminded of somewhat similar landscapes in Switzerland. Would love to get there someday.

    • Darlene
      June 28, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      Thank you! I would love to see the mountain landscape in Switzerland πŸ™‚

  • Michelle
    June 27, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    I would have been terrified to stand up on Gungal Rock! I’m very clumsy, and I think that wind would have blown me over! I always think of beaches when I consider the Philippines, but I loved this inside look on Mt. Ulap. It’s definitely somewhere I would consider visiting if I get the chance!

    • Darlene
      June 28, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      Yeah, if you love hiking, Mt Ulap is a good day trip from Baguio. πŸ™‚ Hope you visit Philippines soon.

  • Megan Jerrard
    June 26, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Wow, what an incredible hike! I have the same weak knee syndrome when I’m climbing rocky terrain – really takes it out on me! But I would definitely climb Mt Ulap, what a stunning landscape, especially when you get to the views from Gungal Rock – your photos are spectacular. Thankyou for sharing!

    • Darlene
      June 28, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks Meg. Mt Ulap is an easy day trip from Baguio. A good break from the city views. πŸ™‚

  • Rahul Khurana
    June 25, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    I love hiking in mountains. Views from the top are really amazing. I just returned from a trek last week and reading this post now is making me want to go for another one. Loved all the pictures. and I can understand your feeling of legs crumbling as it happens on a steep climb, but it was worth I am sure πŸ™‚

    • Darlene
      June 28, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      The view is always worth the climb! πŸ™‚

  • Jennifer
    June 25, 2017 at 2:30 am

    I’m jealous of that nice ridge trail! I most recently was trekking in Nepal and it was just straight up and down. My knees still hurt going down a lot of stairs and I’ve been home for three weeks now.

    The trail looks like it has beautiful views. How many kilometers was the hike?

    • Darlene
      June 28, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      Only around 8 kilometers, but Mt Ulap sure did not make it easy πŸ˜‰

  • Fiona Maclean
    June 24, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    What a fabulous hike. I don’t think I’d manage it – so I have to live vicariously through your description. It looks wonderful

    • Darlene
      June 28, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      The views were definitely worth the climb! πŸ™‚

  • Mei
    June 24, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Wow, the views from Mt Ulap are totallw awesome! And your photos are so beautiful! They make me want to back my luggage and jump in the first flight to Philippines! πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Darlene
      June 28, 2017 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks! Hope you could visit Mt Ulap and the Philippines soon. πŸ™‚

  • Marcus and Mel
    June 24, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Love the first pic of the rock. It looked pretty quiet there, was it quiet or were there lots of other hikers?

    • Darlene
      June 28, 2017 at 5:17 pm

      When we went to Mt Ulap, there weren’t much hikers. But I heard, now it can get crowded especially in weekends!

  • Kavey Favelle
    June 24, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    It seems that serendipity made you miss your intended plans so that you could enjoy this beautiful visit to Mt Ulap instead. I love the photos of the beautiful views along the trek and especially the ones of you guys on that famous jutting rock. What a wonderful experience!

    • Darlene
      June 28, 2017 at 5:17 pm

      Glad you liked the photos!

  • Adrenaline Romance
    June 23, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    The mountains in Benguet are truly awesome. We have a plan to do the Bakun trilogy then head off to Mt. Ulap as a “side” climb. Something career-wise came up, and we had to set that aside for half of the year. But we’ll surely do the trilogy soon as well as a visit to scenic Mt. Ulap.

    • Darlene
      June 28, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      Hope you get to visit Mt Ulap soon!