‘El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the national forest system. At nearly 29,000 acres, it is one of the smallest in size, yet one of the most biologically diverse of the national forests hosting hundreds of animal and plant species, some of which are found only here.’ – USDA Forest Service.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not much of a hiker. The last time I went hiking was up in British Columbia with my grandpa, back when I was 12. So, it’s been a few years since (I’m 29 now). However, with El Yunque National Forest just a quick drive from us, we packed up some gear and trekked out. Again, not much of a hiker, so it’s probably no surprise that this was my first rain forest I’ve ever hiked. But let me say this, it won’t be my last. El Yunque Rain Forest is pretty freakin’ awesome. So, if you’re traveling to Puerto Rico anytime soon, add this stop to your itinerary.
Tips for exploring El Yunque National Forest
- You don’t need to pay to get into the forest. Shocking, right!? Most national forests back on the mainland have at least a minimum cost for entry. Not El Yunque! Granted, if you opt to go on a paid tour, instead of venturing out on your own, it’ll obviously cost you. If you decide you want to go on a tour, here’s a link to check out what’s offered.
- When preparing for our hike, we dressed for what we assumed would be a muddy, slippery and wet hike. However, when we arrived at our first trail, Mt. Britton, we were pleasantly surprised to see a paved path – literally, a mix of rock and concrete all the way to the top (picture below*)! So for anyone that’s not an expert hiker, or you’d just like to take a less muddy route, head up Mt. Britton.
- One of the trails we were hoping to hike was La Mina, which leads to the stunning La Mina Falls. Unfortunately, it was closed (and has been since Hurricane Maria). However, it wasn’t until we got to the forest that we found out it was closed. So, if there’s one trail you’re dying to do, I’d recommend confirming it’s open. Regardless, there’s still a ton of other beautiful trails open and waiting to be explored! *La Mina is set to reopen this year (2020)
El Yunque National Forest: The Trails
Our first trail we tackled was Mt. Britton, also known as the tower trail. The trail I found was fairly easy, having a few steep spots here and there, but the views from the tower are worth it! The tower that greets you at the top of your hike, is constructed of stone, and was built in the 1930s. As you climb its incredibly narrow stairs and reach the observation deck…
You’ll be blown away by the panoramic views…
We then ventured over to a scenic spot named, Baño Grande.. which translated means ‘Big Bathroom’, but I can assure you, it is not. It was originally constructed in the 1930s, as a large manmade swimming pool. The pool fills with the waters from an upper branch of the La Mina River. It was open and and in use from 1936 up until 1968, when it closed down over safety concerns. Minus the safety concerns, could you image how cool this spot was back when it was open?!
Click to the next page to hear about our bizarre encounter!