Views-A-Plenty at Arbol Solitario
There are some things that have been on my to-do list for years. Hiking up to Arbol Solitario (or Lonely Tree) has been one of them. You can see the tree, all by itself on a peak, when you stop at the Jibaro Monument on Route 52 and look south.
It is one of those places that reward you handsomely for your effort. The tree itself is not what makes the journey worth it. It is the photo opportunity that awaits you at the peak, which is almost 2000 feet above sea level. Located between Cayey and Salinas, you get some great 360° views of the mountains, surrounding towns, and the Caribbean Sea.
Trekking to this tree has become a very popular expedition. Of course, it is much better when you have the peak to yourself — to reflect, take photos, or just enjoy the bird’s eye views. But Puerto Rico’s beauty is to be shared with everyone, including 20 or 30 of your new best hiking buddies!
This hike is so popular, that on weekends, it is not uncommon to see 15 to 20 cars parked at the roadside. And that is only for one of the trail heads! I had a good laugh when a Facebook “friend” mentioned how this tree should be renamed from the “Solitary Tree” to “The Tree Where Everyone Goes”.
On a recent Monday morning hike, we met one other group that reached the summit just when we did, and another group heading up while we were heading down. However, this should not deter you from venturing up if you are relatively hardy hiker, and want to get some amazing views. Just try to plan your expedition with the “crowd-factor” in mind.
There were two trails up to the tree. The one that we used starts on Route 52, on the north-east side of the mountain, but as of 7/16, this route is not allowed anymore. Currently, the only available trailhead starts on the south-west side of the mountain.
The hike begins by walking up the emergency ramp at the side of Route 52. At the top of the ramp, there is a sign directing you to start your hike by heading to the left (purportedly the “easier” path) or to the right. It doesn’t matter which you choose — both paths lead to the same trail up the mountain.
Note that the “trail” is not easy and it is steep, and gets steeper as you ascend. Almost the whole way to the peak, you are climbing steep dirt paths. There is a gain in altitude of almost 600 feet over a very short distance. There are no handrails, ropes, or steps to make it any easier. It must be a real nightmare when it is wet/muddy, both on the way up and down! I suggest you bring a walking stick, as it will help on the descent. It is at least a
30 to 45- 90 minute walk/climb to the first peak, but most people will take longer. It’s a better cardio workout than you’ll get on any gym stair-stepper machine! Take your time and be careful.
The trail is pretty obvious, and has some marking tape occasionally on the trees on the side. But people somehow manage to get lost, so maybe it is not as obvious as I think! You will eventually get to the mango tree. It now has 2 swings on it. The peak is up the trail a little bit and you will see the flag poles. The mango tree is nice for photos, but I think the photos from the peak are the amazing part of this trek. We stayed at the peak for about 20 minutes and then made our way back down to our car.
Important note about Parking — I have heard that you will get a parking ticket if you park on the emergency ramp or in the shoulder of RT 52 and try to go up this way.
This hike is definitely rated as a difficult hike. You should think twice about doing this hike if you have mobility issues, cardiac issues, or are otherwise not in good physical shape.
Take water, sunscreen, hat, and your camera! Watch where you walk and place your hands. There are cactus with thorns along the path. We had no problem in shorts and hiking shoes. Definitely no flip flops!
The trail head that we used is the emergency ramp on the southbound side of Route 52, at KM 50.5. This is just a short distance south of the Jibaro Monument.
For the safer parking area the only allowed access to the peak, take the other trail to the peak starting on the west side of the mountain, from a road off of Route 1 in Salinas. We found info about that trail head on the GeoCaching site, but we did not try to find it. It is a longer hike (maybe 1½ hours each way). I hear this is a safer and less steep route, but you need long pants/long sleeves for protection from the razor grass. The GPS coordinates for the Southside parking are 18.055479, -66.238724. Continue up the road on foot to reach the trail head (thanks EGHost!). I have heard the owner of the parking area now charges $5 per car which inludes the use of his bathroom.
We are in the process of updating the maps we use on our web site. While we're working on that, you can click on the GPS coordinates below to view the location on Google Maps ...
- Arbol Solitario, lower peak: (18.054774, -66.224583)
- Arbol Solitario, parking: (18.055479, -66.238724)
- Arbol Solitario, upper peak: (18.054562, -66.225261)
- Jibaro Monument / Monumento al Jibaro Puertorriqueno: (18.071872, -66.217121)
PuertoRicoDayTrips.com assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it!