Take a Long Rain Forest Hike on Trade Winds Trail

Update- Nov 2018- This part of El Yunque and this trail have NOT yet reopened after the hurricanes. The roads and forest sustained a lot of damage. This trail has been officially closed for years, not sure if they plan on reopening it. We will post when they have reopened.

Peak of El Toro in El Yunque

The north side of El Yunque National Forest in Rio Grande has a number of marked trails. Some of them are well-used (for example, by 10am La Mina Trail is loaded with tourists going down to La Mina Waterfall) and some of them are less frequently used and allow you a more natural experience (for example, El Yunque Trail to EL Yunque peak).

Then there are some other trails that are more difficult, very rarely traveled, and are for more experienced hikers. Two of those lead up to El Toro peak (El Toro Trail and Trade Winds Trail). Another leads from the north side of El Yunque over to the south side at the end of Río Sabana. On these three trail trails, you may not see another person all day! So to me, that’s where one can enjoy the rain forest at its best.

In a others articles, we have written about El Toro Trail and Rio Sabana Trail. Here is the story about our day hiking on Trade Winds Trail.

Getting Started

Trade Winds Trail is the longest marked trail in the El Yunque National Forest system. It is rarely used and not maintained as well as the other trails. It isn’t even on the map they hand out at the visitors center! Ray and I usually like to hike these lesser-used trails (especially ones we haven’t done before) with someone else, just in case some problem arises. So when my brother and sister-in-law came to PR for a visit, I suggested that we hike this trail and they agreed to do it.

Trade Winds Trail Head

There is not too much information out there about this trail. So before starting out, I spoke with a ranger to get the scoop about what we setting off to do. He told us it was a long trail and we should bring supplies, like food and water, for the day. We were prepared for both of these factors. And when he said a Boy Scout troop had just walked the trail, I said "If a Boy Scout can do it, we can too!" Of course my brother was quick to point out that we are all 30-35 years older than those kids. :-( Strangely, he did not tell us it was closed, so off we went.

To get started, you have to drive up Road 191 and then turn onto the Mt Britton road (930 or 9938) and park at the last marked parking areas you can. Then walk up the road to RT 191 and turn right to the locked gate at about KM 13.3. To get to the trail head, walk up Road 191 until about KM 13.5 (you will see the trail head sign). The hike to the peak is 4.6 miles each way. This does not take into account the walk from the trail head to where you parked the car (which at the end of the day seemed like it was miles instead of just ¼ KM!).

The Hike to the Peak

Trade Winds Trail in El Yunque

The trail is packed dirt with lots of uneven rocks (many were very slippery). You have to watch your step all the time. But it was lovely. There where beautiful views along the way and many pretty plants. I believe we spotted about 5 or 6 different types of wild orchids throughout the day. The trail head is at about 2427 feet and the peak is at 3533 feet. That’s a gain in altitude of about 1100 feet over 4.6 miles — the trail is a gradual climb. I don’t remember feeling like it was steep in many spots. I thought this was a very pretty trail, I liked it much better than El Toro trail.

It took us about 3.5 hours to reach the peak of El Toro (though we did make a few stops along the way). We ate our lunch at the top and enjoyed the views. The views from the peak are beautiful. There are no cell towers or buildings, like at El Yunque peak. Just nature and a great refreshing breeze. We rested a bit up there and then headed back. We made it down in 2.5 hrs. Our total time from getting out of the car in the morning and getting back in the car in the afternoon was 6½ hours.

Observations & Suggestions

This trail is infrequently maintained. During our trip in 2009, we had a few twisted ankles (luckily none serious), but if you have comfortable hiking boots with ankle support, that might help. There was one point where a landslide had taken out the trail, so that was a bit "difficult" to shimmy across this large void, and a few other older slides, where makeshift ledges and paths got you around them.

Trade Winds Trail in El Yunque

A number of large fallen trees blocked the trail, so you had to either go over or under them. There was some mud, but it was not as muddy as El Toro trail! And there were grassy areas that had a type of grass that easily cut your skin. My suggestion is to wear lightweight long pants and, if you have it, a lightweight long sleeve shirt. But even with all that said, we really enjoyed ourselves on this trail!

When we were all done, we decided it was moderate difficulty trail-wise. But the slippery rocks, obstacles, and the length made it on the more difficult side. But if we and the Boy Scouts did it, then maybe you can too!

Some people confuse EL Toro Trail and Trade Winds Trail and assume they are just one long trail. Actually, they are 2 separate trails that meet at El Toro peak. You can do them together by going up one and continuing down the other, but you need to have someone move your car from the one end to the other because El Toro trail head is on Road 186.

If you want to hike from the north side of El Yunque to the south side, you can pick up the Rio Sabana Trail along the Trade Winds Trail. It’s a long hike, but it does get you to the "other side" of El Yunque.

Bring a cell phone (in case of emergency), plenty of water/snacks and lunch. There are no facilities, nor rangers, on this trail.

No matter which way you do in (in/out or a straight through to El Toro Trail) remember that the gate at KM 8 on Road 191 gets locked at 6pm. You need to be back before that, or your car (and you!) will be stuck there for the night and they will probably freak out that you are lost and set up a rescue to find you.

Like the rest of El Yunque National Forest, there is no charge to hike on this trail.

Open daily 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m . Ranger stations are open 9-5. The gates close at 6pm.

Remember to pack out all of your trash! Hike safely- it is at your own risk.

Allow 3–4 hours each way.

Walk up hill beyond the gate at end of RT 191 for about ¼ kilometer. The trail head is marked with a sign on your right.

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 »

There are 14 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

Thanks for the update!

Comment by Gwenn on 23 Apr 2017

Hello everyone, I recently took it upon myself (and my dog) to do the long trail from El Toro Peak all the way to the end of the Trade Wind trail on the 191. I did it this past week on 04.21.17 and BOY, was that something. The hike to the peak was challenging but it gets frequently used as people have left hiking sticks by the trail sign at the entrance for anyone. The real challenge began with the descending hike from the peak through the Trade Wind trail; it was longer, narrower and uneven in many parts. Now, the trail IS still there and the markings by past hikers helped out a lot. That being said, there were plenty of places where landslides abruptly stopped the trail and required some maneuvering, but the tags always lead the way. Be aware that there has been a massive landslide at the beginning of the Trade Wind trail (or in my case, the end) so keep an eye out for the tags as they go through a safe path. I don't mean to discourage anyone looking to do it, it was a beautiful experience being deep inside the forest and looking at all the vegetation and small wildlife. My advice is to take snacks and plenty of water and more importantly: start early! I made the mistake of starting at 10:45am and barely made it to the North side of the forest before they closed. I hope this was helpful to anyone reading this. I had As you would expect the trail has degraded over time although still completely doable for those stubborn hikers.

Comment by Javier on 23 Apr 2017

I finally did this trail on 1/31/15 after months of changing the date. The trail is much nicer than I expected but here's what happened to me: We started at 10am, BIG mistake, by 2:45pm we still had to walk about 15 min to reach the top so my partner and I decided to head back down before the park closed and accidentally took the Rio Sabana trail and ended up spending the night at a small rain shelter when we made it back to the Trade Winds tail. What an experience... Both trails were decent to walk on, lots of mud and uneven slippery rocks like it is described here but doable.

Comment by Jose Oliveras on 03 Feb 2015

Technically still closed. After the big rains we had earlier this year, probably still in bad shape. Let us know how it goes.

Comment by Gwenn on 28 Jul 2014

I'm thinking of doing this one next week, if anyone has any updates on it please let me know.

Comment by Jose Oliveras on 28 Jul 2014

11 Friends and I tackled this hike over the weekend. The writeup here is 100% accurate. Due to landslides, some of the areas are caved-in, and you must walk carefully over these sections. Also, those who wore longsleeves and long pants were safe--those who did not, got cut severely by the long grasses which came from every direction (even above, somehow). It took us exactly 4 hours to reach the top; and four hours back down. We trekked through mud about 75% of the time. And kept in mind that safety was our utmost concern. But still had a great time as a group and glad it did not rain once. Otherwise, I'm not sure if we would have been able to make it up the entire way. A great hike, but not for the amateur or for solo hikes.

Comment by Jordan on 16 Feb 2014

Yes, it is still officially closed for refurbishment ( there were some areas that need cleaning up and landslides cleared etc). But it is still usable. I don't want to say it is okay to use since it is closed, but people have used it recently. It was closed when we went on it years ago and it is still closed, but in worse shape.

Comment by Gwenn on 12 Aug 2013

It is officially closed, but some people still go on it.

Comment by Gwenn on 12 Aug 2013

The information under the headline says CLOSED, but I see some people as of 3/13 went on the trail. Can anyone verify that we can still try it out?

Comment by Jordan on 05 Aug 2013

I see near the headline of this article it states 3/13 it was closed. But I see Comment #3 here of someone hiking it. Can someone verify if it's okay or not to hike it? And is there a reason it's closed?

Comment by Jordan on 05 Aug 2013

I am glad you enjoyed your trip! I don't remember a stream on El Toro trail.

Comment by Gwenn on 16 Mar 2013

Hi, my 8-year old son and I set off on this trail for an overnight backpacking trip in early March 2013. We did not make it to the peak, we turned around and set up camp about a mile and a half from the top as it was getting late. Wondering if anyone can tell me whether there are water sources near the peak of El Toro, or approximately how close the nearest stream is. We had a wonderful time. The fireflies at night were spectacular. Thank you for the valuable information that made our trip possible. Even with our small 2-person tent it was very difficult to find a spot to set up camp. Next time we will try hammocks.

Comment by Mbirds on 15 Mar 2013

Hello, We successfully did this trail on 06/01/12. On the way back we missed the fork to return to 191 and instead ended up at 186. This required us to navigate the poorly maintained trail on the landslide section of the closed part of 191. It took us 8 hours total to complete the treck (with about an hour lunch at the peak). It was fun but definitely few lessons learned! I have a higher resolution photo of the trail map sign, think it is a good idea to include a larger image in the article. Just let me know and I will email it to you. I could also add a few additional details about the trail it self. Let me know if I have an option to contribute an update. :) Thanks again for great info! -Igor

Comment by Igor K. on 05 Jun 2012

Thank you for such a detailed and organized write up! Will post back after give this trail a shot. :) -Igor

Comment by Igor K. on 01 Jun 2012

Leave a Comment & Continue the Discussion

All fields are required.

@
Your email address will not be published.
More Info
Ads & Sponsors

Other Puerto Rico Resources …

Coqui's Hideaway Rainforest Villa in Rio Grande Located in the Foothills of El Yunque
San Juan Bus Map - learn about public transportation in the San Juan metro area