Sendero Los Quetzales (Quetzales Trail) - Panama
The walk itself doesn’t need a guide but it is recommended for bird watching purposes. Normally the guides know how to call the quetzals and will improve your chances of seeing them.We also recommend you to bring a poncho and a change of clothes should it be the case you are caught by the rain.
Directions to Sendero Los Quetzales (Quetzales Trail)
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The Quetzals trail is considered one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Central America and is one of the best places in the world to encounter the rare resplendent quetzal, one of the top 10 birds to watch in your lifetime according to birders.
This trail is located within the Volcan Baru National Park and connects Boquete to the east of the volcano, with Guadalupe town in Cerro Punta, to the west of the volcano, and can be hiked in either direction.
The most popular direction to do it from is Boquete to Cerro Punta starting at the ranger station in Alto Chiquero, located 8km from downtown Boquete. It is highly recommended to start the trail at sunrise (around 6am) to maximize the amount of wildlife you can see. The trail is 9.6km (6miles) and can take on average four to seven hours to do, depending on your physical conditions and the land conditions (you will go slower if is slippery after rain). There is a considerable change in altitude along the trail because Boquete’s side is at 1,800 meters over sea level, the highest point in the trail is at 2,500 meters over sea level and Cerro Punta’s side is at 1,981 meters over sea level. This also affects the temperature, which fluctuates from 16-17° C to 10° C.
Even though the east-west hike is rather tougher as it is mostly uphill, this direction offers some advantages over the west-east hike:
The lower altitude in Boquete makes it easier to spot quetzals at the beginning (first hour) of the trail.
It is almost a fact that in Boquete it rains more in the afternoon and in Cerro Punta it rains more in the morning, so hiking on this direction will improve your chances of staying dry, although it will not guarantee it.
It can be gentler on the knees when comparing it to a steep descent in the other direction.
Anyway, some people will prefer starting in Cerro Punta, mainly because it is downhill and they just prefer to be closer to Boquete town when the hike ends to go directly to nice hot dinners or their accommodation.
If you want to start in Cerro Punta, the ranger station is in El Respingo, 4km from Guadalupe town. The street to go to this ranger station is not paved, so a 4x4 vehicle is needed to get there.
Besides the quetzals, you can see many other birds and hear howler monkeys (sometimes you can also see them).
Half way of the trail there is a viewing point called Mirador Roca that offers a great panoramic view, a shelter, camping site and picnic grounds. This is a perfect area to rest and take your lunch break.
IMPORTANT: There is no water or food stops on this trail so you need to come prepared with all your supplies.