Hike La Mina Trail to La Mina Falls
Take a refreshing dip in clear rain forest water. Swim under a waterfall. It sounds like a dream. But it is actually a very popular and fun thing to do during a trip to El Yunque National Forest. The waterfall is called La Mina Falls, and it can be accessed by either of two trails: La Mina trail or Big Tree trail. These are both beautiful trails, but different in many ways. This article will describe La Mina trail.
The La Mina trail is probably the most popular trail for a few reasons
- it is the shortest trail to get to the falls (0.7 miles)
- it is accessible directly from the main Ranger Station – Palo Colorado
- it is extremely beautiful, as it follows the La Mina River and the sights and sounds of the water are wonderful
However, I will mention some of what I consider its drawbacks
- it is the most popular trail!
- it is not the easiest trail, in that it is pretty steep and has many steps up and down, so your knees need to be in good working order
- it is a narrow trail, and you will have to step off the trail a number of times to let people pass you
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this trail. This one and Bano de Oro Trail are probably my favorites (I am a sucker for the sound of water!). But it is best if you can go in the early morning, when there are fewer people around.
Some of the facts about this trail: La Mina trail starts from directly behind the Palo Colorado visitors center at KM 12.2 on Road 191. There are two parking lots here, and a good amount of designated parking along the road. Here you can pick up your trail map and talk with the rangers.One should check with the Rangers on the current conditions of the river before going in. There are also clean bathrooms at the Palo Colorado visitors center. If you think you want to swim, change into you bathing suit here because there are no changing rooms down in the Falls area. La Mina trail is rated "Moderate to Difficult" due to it elevation changes – almost 500 feet in a little over a half mile. It should take about 30 minutes to go down, but longer on the way up, depending on how well you can walk up stairs. Luckily the trail has a number of rain and picnic shelters where you can sit and rest. Make sure you wear sturdy shoes, the trail is paved, but it can be slippery.
One of the things we like to do when we go hiking in El Yunque is to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the rain forest. A favorite place to picnic is right along the first part of the La Mina trail. There you’ll find a number of covered picnic shelters that are hidden in the trees right along the banks of the La Mina river. Eating lunch or a snack with the sounds of nature all around is very pleasant and relaxing. So pack a lunch, or bring stuff to have a BBQ. Each picnic shelter has picnic tables and benches, a charcoal BBQ (you need to bring charcoal and cooking utensils), and running tap water. Normally these are vacant, but these are really popular with locals on summer weekends and Holidays, so plan accordingly. The picnic shelters are close enough to the parking area that you can eat, and then take your stuff back to the car, before you take the hike to La Mina Falls. Or you can do it afterwards. In any case, please do not litter. Please use the garbage cans that are near each shelter.
La Mina trail follows the course of the La Mina river as it makes its way to the Falls. The river is full of large rocks, which makes for beautiful sights and sounds. The forest all around is also very lush due to the water, and the way the sun comes through the openings in the trees is just beautiful. There are lots of different trees, plants, flowers, birds , lizards and insect life all around. This trail is very "alive" and a pleasure for (most of ) your senses. Can you tell I really enjoy this trail?
All this walking will lead you to the big pay-off — the La Mina Falls (Cascada La Mina). The water cascades over a cliff into a pool. There are two ways to enter the pool. The easiest way is to turn left just before the little bridge, so you’re facing directly into the falls. Make your way (carefully!) over the rocks, and just wade straight in. This way looks more difficult, but trust me, it the easier route. The second way to enter the water is to cross the little bridge, turn left, and then follow the steps down to the water. This way looks easier, but it’s not due to big rocks under the water and unexpected drops. The pool is not large, and it is popular, so it can fill up with people, which does take away some of the wonder of it. But I still think it is pretty and fun.
Be aware – there are lots of sharp and slippery rocks – so wear water shoes or something like that to protect your feet. There are sometimes crabs hiding in the rocks. I have never heard of anyone getting pinched, but it could happen. As the water drops over the falls it’s very heavy. Please test the "weight" of the water before putting your whole body under it. Oh, and just so you know – the water often described as "refreshing" – which translates to COLD! Be aware of the changing water conditions, flash floods could develop after a rain. There are no benches here, so you need to find a step or choose a rock if you want to relax and enjoy the waterfall. The best pictures are from the bridge that connects Big Tree trail to La Mina trail.
To leave, you can go back up La Mina trail. Or you could choose to continue and return to the road on Big Tree trail. Unfortunately, this will put you out at the Big Tree trail parking lot at KM 10.4 on Road 191, which is a little over 1 mile down Road 191 from the Palo Colorado parking lot where you parked your car. You will have to walk up on the road to get back to your car.
There is no entrance fee for the national forest.
Open daily 7:30am until 6:00pm . Ranger stations are open 9:00am until 5:00pm. The gates close at 6:00pm.
La Mina trail will take you about 30 minutes to walk one-way (to the falls). It will probably take longer on the way back due to walking up many stairs.
You can call 787-888-1810 or 787-888-1880 for more info.
You can visit the El Yunque National Forest web site for more information.
Follow Route 3 to Rio Grande. Look for the intersection with Route 955. There’s a big sign pointing to the rain forest. Follow Route 955 to Road 191. Turn onto Road 191 (there’s another sign for the rain forest here) and you’re there!
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.