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.

Arbol Solitario

Not-So-Lonely Tree

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.

Arbol Solitario

Our Hike

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.

Arbol Solitario

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.

Arbol Solitario

Details

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 ...

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! Read more about Safety →

Comments & Discussion Leave a Comment »

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Greetings! Hiked the trail today; very overgrown. The guy that used to let us park on his property had the entrance closed with a barb wire fence (but the signs to park were still up). I didn't see anyone there. We parked on the side of the road a little ways up past the man's property. The paved road to the trailhead was also closed with barb wire fence but we asked a neighbor in his yard if we could pass and they said yes. The paved road is all washed out and basically like a rocky trail. It was a bit hard to find the trail at first because everything was so overgrown, but we used a saved GPS route from our last hike to guide us. If you go, bring a machete and wear long sleeves and pants because there's a lot of chicharrón and other thorny bushes on the trail. The view at the top is still as gorgeous as ever. We did see another group up there, so glad to see it's still being used.

Comment by Marujita on 24 Nov 2018

This was our second time hiking the trail and today (Christmas Eve 2016). We parked on the man's property and this time he charged us $5 per car. He gave us his cell phone number in case of emergency, which was nice. And there is a bathroom you can use on his property. The grass and bushes were quite overgrown this time, so I'm not sure it's being used as much as it previously was. Or maybe the plants are growing fast because of all the rain. The first half mile was extremely muddy and very difficult going down on the way back - we basically slid down the hill grabbing onto the trees. It was still hot at times but the breeze was very nice once we approached the peak. There was only one swing left on the tree today. It took us about 1hr 15 minutes to reach the top (with several rest stops) and just under an hour to get back down (also with some stops). Total mileage was 2.77 miles and over 1400ft in elevation gain according to my GPS watch.

Comment by Marujita on 24 Dec 2016

I know very well the area and have hiked it several times for several years now. But I have never entered on Route 52 because it illegal to do so and leave vehicles there and it' a PRIVATE PROPERTY. We've entered with permission from the owner and parked without problem. It's irresponsible to give this information as a travel information because the property is owned by someone and it's TRESPASSING. Plus it has lead to what has been happening, inexperienced people getting lost or hurt. Also leaving trash. It's sad to see something that has been used correctly by the right people now it's being abused and may be causing for the area to be closed off.

Comment by Maevebell on 05 Jul 2016

Just be careful, hiker have to TRESPASS about 3 different private properties!

Comment by Jav on 05 Jul 2016

Thanks for the notes regarding the hike. We took the longer route so as to not have issues with cops and tickets on the highway side. We used the coordinates in the article in my iPhone and took is directly there, no issues. We parked in the land owners lot, they didn't charge us and gave us quick instructions on the trail and made sure we had enough water. There were signs to park in that specific area, so we didn't just drop in their yard. I was a bit skeptical about parking there, but after talking to the helpful guy was out at ease. From there you have to walk up the paved hill to get to the trail head. The hike is like all have said before about 1:30-2 hrs up and took us 1:15 down. That being said, this is not an easy hike. Stated as the easier safer route, but still a tough hike in the beginning while you're still under the tree line. It's steep and the ground is a bit muddy, still a lot of fun, but keep in mind if you've never hiked before, not a beginner course. I would recommend hiking poles for sure. It's a super scenic and great hike up with you crossing a forest setting, followed by a dry stream bed (probably more like a rain run off) you have to trek through, then the grassy (razor grass, longs sleeves and pants highly recommended. We had the Columbia PFG to help with heat and sun also) area, with grass above your head. We got some great tips from a guy who does the trek 3x a week as exercise, specifically staying to the left once you hit the grasses to avoid getting lost, as some people have gotten lost because they stray down what appear to be other paths. In the grasses stay to the left going up and to the right going down. The route is pretty well marked with red paint on trunks and red ribbons also in grassy areas. I also noted that some people have put foil markers also. It's real hot, so make sure you got lots of water. We had a 100oz hydration packs and a Gatorade and went through the it all. Just 2 of us on the hike. Like another guy said, "it's like walking through hell, but the sights at the top are heavenly". Totally worth the hike. There will be people up there as has gotten pretty popular, but most take the short route from the illegal parking spot on the highway. We had the top to ourselves for about 30 minutes and were able to hang out on the swings by the tree and even had a pack lunch up there. Was a great experience. Highly recommended. If you're a real hiker, you'll enjoy the longer trek.

Comment by Charles Qprill on 18 Apr 2016

Thanks! I will add them to the article.

Comment by Gwenn on 10 Apr 2016

The GPS coordinates for the Southside parking are 18.055479, -66.238724. Continue up the road on foot to reach the trail head.

Comment by EGhost on 10 Apr 2016

Great trip. However, you will get a ticket and/or scolded by the police if you park on the side of the highway or on the ramp. We spoke to a kind Police Officer who was ticketing cars parked on the highway. He kindly informed us that too many people are parking along the highway and it is illegal and they will be ticketed. Too many people have found out about this hike and too many cars are parked along the highway now. He kindly drove us (2 cars/8people) to the south side of the mountain and showed us where to enter the hike from there. The hike was hot and steep; and difficult. Bring water and snacks and take your time. Many people got lost in other groups because they weren't paying attention to red paint/red ribbons attached to trees to follow. If you park on the southside of the mountain and climb up it's about 1.5 hours of Hell, but the sight is heavenly

Comment by stephen jordan on 02 Apr 2016

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