Mt. Ulap Eco Trail - Top Tips Before You Go

Mt. Ulap Eco Trail – Top Tips Before You Go

Mt. Ulap’s close proximity to Baguio City, its relatively easy Ampucao-Sta. Fe trail, its bearable foot traffic, and its magnificent views – not to mention Gungal Rock – make this mountain an ideal non-Rizal hike for beginners. It also makes a good prep hike for a Mt. Pulag, a Mt. Ugo, or even a Mt. Kinabalu climb.

The whole trail can be completed in less than 8 hours depending on your speed and fitness level, but you can choose a 2-day itinerary and spend a chilly night in one of the mountain’s camping grounds.

Here are some tips to heed before hiking Mt. Ulap this weekend.

[Credits to my bundok friends for the images.]

Bring an umbrella, a UV protection jacket, or a bottle of your favorite brand of sunblock.

Occassionally, you’ll hike along shaded pine trails especially in the beginning, but many sections are open. Even the peaks, including the summit, are bare.

While it’s tempting to forego these hiking essentials because of the cool weather, it’s wise to be protected at all times.

Here’s what we mean.

Mt. Ulap Eco Trail

Hike early to avoid the crowd converging at Gungal Rock.

Gungal Rock is the highlight of the Eco Trail, so expect other groups to flock into and spend a lot of time at this IG-worthy landmark. Depending on their number, a group of hikers can take at least 20 minutes taking pictures and braving the heights of the rock. If your group is third in queue, expect to wait at least an hour.

This can be a concern because save for one pine tree, the place is basically shade-less. It’s therefore a good idea to start early so that you can have Gungal Rock by yourself.

Watch this video of Gungal Rock to know what to expect.

Downhills can be slippery because of loose rocks.

You might need a hiking stick. If you don’t have any, there are wooden sticks on sale for 15 or 20 PHP at the start of the trail.

If you easily get height-sick, you can avoid the summit and Gungal Rock.

Going up the summit isn’t the hard part. It’s the descent that makes you dizzy. Skip this part by taking the trail that goes around it, leading to the camping grounds.

If Gungal Rock is too much for you, you can choose not to do what everyone else is doing. A few meters from the rock, there’s another spot that is as IG-worthy. All you have to do is find the perfect angle. Take a look.

Mt. Ulap Benguet

If you want a more challenging hike, start at Sta. Fe.

At the Ampucao side, expect a gradual uphill climb. But at the Sta. Fe side, expect to start with a steep ascent that lasts for 2 hours.


Cow dung is everywhere. Don’t forget wet wipes or a hand sanitizer.

You’ll have your lunch along the trail, so a hand sanitizer is a must-have especially if you’d like to take shots like this one.

Summit of Mt. Ulap

Where to Stay in Tabuk City, Kalinga

Where to Stay in Tabuk City, Kalinga | Top Recommendations

Tabuk is the capital of Kalinga, and with Baguio, is one of only two cities in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). It’s your first stop to get to Apo Whang-Od if you’re not coming from Bontoc.

There’s not much to see or do in Tabuk during non-festival days. But if you want to learn about the culture, or perhaps sample Kalinga coffee, then spending a few days in the city will satisfy these purposes.

RELATED: How to Go to Tabuk City, Kalinga

Dagupan vs Bulanao

Where can you stay in Tabuk?

The city’s most developed barangays (or districts/areas) are Dagupan (West and Centro) and Bulanao.

Between the two, Bulanao has more establishments. Three hotels/inns are located in this area. A potential issue is that the establishments are a bit far apart. When the heat becomes unbearable, you may need to take a tricycle (motor taxi) to take you to Jollibee.

This is not a problem in the Dagupan area. Mercury Drug is a few buildings away from LBC, Infinitea, and the City Hall.

Best Hotels in Tabuk City

Here are our top recommendations for the best hotels in Tabuk.

Davidson Hotel: Located at the northern tip of Bulanao, Davidson is one of the most established hotels in Tabuk. Since it’s along Provincial Road, it’s not hard to find. Transportation is also very convenient. When it comes to facilities, there’s an outdoor pool and a restaurant.

Grand Zion: Although Grand Zion is located along a main road it’s quiet and peaceful. Distance-wise, this hotel with a pool is the nearest to Jollibee. You may not, however, want to walk towards the fast food chain.

Golden Berries: This hotel is located between Bulanao and Dagupan, but it’s much closer to the former. The disadvantage is that you have to take a ride to get to grocery stores, markets, and top landmarks in the city.

M Hotel: M Hotel is the newest hotel in the city, but just like Golden Berries, it’s also located between Dagupan and Bulanao. This hotel has a pool, a resto, and a bar.

RELATED: Mt. Ulap Eco Trail – Top Tips Before You Go

Sagada to Besao Walk

That Sagada to Besao Walk

As expected, we arrived in Sagada at 2:30 in the afternoon. We could have chosen to stay on the bus until Besao – the next town and the venue for our family reunion – but our itchy feet decided to walk.

Can you tell we love to walk?

We spent our 20-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur walking from KLCC to Bukit Nanas. We also led our friends on a Ho Chi Minh walking tour to check out top landmarks and attractions.

“How much time did it take?” a cousin asked when we finally reached Besao’s St. James High School. It took an hour and 40 minutes. It was an easy 7.1 km route along the well-paved Sagada-Besao road.

Here’s the itinerary.

15:20 – After lunch at Alapo’s, we put on our UV-protection jacket and started walking. A few meters from the cafe is Sagada Homestay. There’s a vantage point where you can see a part of Sagada.

Sagada Homestay

15:34 – We passed by Sagada Pottery.

Sagada Pottery

15:40 – It had been six years since we last visited Sagada. There were many changes, but it was refreshing to chance upon these traditional houses. The last time we saw one was in high school.

RELATED: That’s Uniquely Southeast Asian! Must-Experience and Must-See in the Region

Traditional Houses in Sagada

15:44 – When a van stopped in the middle of the road, we felt nervous. But as we walked past it, we noticed that the driver was fixated at this cottage. We can’t blame him. It’s a pretty sight.

RELATED: Mt. Ulap Eco Trail – Top Tips Before You Go

Cute Cottage along Sagada Besao Road

15:50 – At the top of the first waiting shed along the Sagada-Besao road, we found these cute children having a fun time.

Waiting Shed Sagada Besao Road

15:59 – We passed by the entrance of Lake Danum, where two tourist vans were parked.

16:04 – We had to pick up a stick and a stone because two dogs were ready to attack. Earlier, we encountered another angry dog, which made us think that dogs here aren’t friendly to tourists. We had a similar experience when we went cycling around Nyaung Shwe in Myanmar.

In the image below, one of the dogs was following behind.

Rabid Dog Sagada Besao Road

16:11 – At this point, everything you see is pine trees.

16:21 – We arrived at an arch that says “Welcome to Barangay Kin-Iway.” We were no longer in Sagada.

Brngy Kin Iway Besao Arch

16:35 – We arrived at a vantage point of the Besao Rice Terraces. It’s not as beautiful as Maligcong, or as grand as Sapa’s terraced rice fields, but it’s a testament to the “ingenuity” and “agricultural astuteness” of the Igorots.

RELATED: Where to Stay in Tabuk City, Kalinga | Top Recommendations

16:40 – Houses started to emerge.


16:44 – We reached a junction where another waiting shed can be seen.

Besao Waiting Shed

16:47 – There was a wedding celebration taking place.

16:50 – We passed by the Barangay Hall of Kin-Iway in Besao.

16:53 – We arrived at St. Benedict’s Parish. From what we were told, our great grandfather helped build this church when he was a mayor of Besao.

RELATED: How to Go to Tabuk City, Kalinga

St Benedict's Parish Church

17:00 – We were greeted by the family who were at the playground near St. James High School

Speedcross 4 Review by Salomon

Review: Salomon Speedcross 4

We love our Speedcross 3. It was reliable in Mt. Agung, and it helped us get through my first winter trek in India. But it’s time for an upgrade. It’s time to say goodbye.

We were glad Salomon introduced Speedcross 4, the improved version. We bought a pair purposely for Mt. Fuji, but before the trip, we were able to test these shoes’ performance during the following treks and tours.

Ho Chi Minh walking tour (concrete roads and flat surfaces)
Phnom Kulen day-hike (sandstones, jungle trails, swamp)
– Mt. Rokko DIY day-hike (boulders, muddy and wet trails)

Here’s our review.

Speedcross 3 vs Speedcross 4

How does it compare with Speedcross 3?

Aesthetics-wise, these shoes look the same at first glance. But if you examine them carefully, they’re actually different.

When the Salomon staff showed us both shoes, the first thing we did was to flip them to check their almost-identical outsoles. Our first reaction was that of hesitation when we saw Speedcross 4’s. Speedcross 3 has dots on its lugs, but Speedcross 4 doesn’t. To us, this was initially a red flag because we assumed that the dots helped with traction.

There are two other changes introduced to the Speedcross 4. One, the lugs are a bit taller than Speedcross 3’s. Two, the midsole (or at least the heel portion) is taller as well.

We asked the lady to explain what these changes can do, but she couldn’t give the answer we were looking for.

Obviously, we still went ahead and bought the new version.

Lugs of Speedcross 4

Speedcross 4 Has Better Grip on Tiled Surfaces

When traveling abroad, we always make sure to pack light to comply with the 7-kg hand-carry requirement of airline companies. It’s therefore imperative that my footwear can serve at least two purposes – as both hiking and walking shoes.

We found that this goal can be difficult to obtain because our previous pairs (i.e., Speedcross 3 and Merrell’s All Out Terra Light) did not do well on smooth, tiled, and flat surfaces. Meaning, their outsoles may work well on the mountains, but they’re slippery on airport floors, especially when moist or wet.

Thankfully, Salomon has fixed this problem with the Speedcross 4. We’re not saying it’s 100% slip-proof, but the grip is A LOT better compared to its predecessor.

Salomon Speedcross 4 Review Speedcross 4 Review

Wet Jungle Trails Are Not a Problem with Speedcross 4 But…

Upon research, we learned that Speedcross 4 is equipped with a feature called “Premium Wet Traction Contagrip.” Perhaps this can explain the shoes’ good performance on wet, flat surfaces?

In Phnom Kulen, we had to walk through a swamp and a long stretch of wet jungle footpaths. The shoes had no problem tackling swampy and muddy trails, but it wasn’t reliable on mossy rocks and wet roots.

RELATED: Mt. Ulap Eco Trail – Top Tips Before You Go

Speedcross 4 Phnom Kulen

Speedcross 4 Breezes Through Rocks and Boulders Just Fine

This applies to Phnom Kulen’s sandstones, Mt. Rokko’s boulders, and Mt. Fuji’s volcanic rocks. These surfaces can give the most stress on our feet, but the Speedcross 4 managed to deal with them just fine.

In the past, when we were still using a different brand, our feet, particularly the arch, would hurt after a hike. But when we switched, we no longer had any post-hike pain.

With the Speedcross 4, we love that the insides are well-cushioned, and the soles are thick enough to prevent me from feeling the ruggedness of rocky surfaces (unless the rocks are really pointy).

In Japan, our Speedcross 4 was able to give us a nice grip when ascending and descending Mt. Fuji’s rough paths (images below) and Mt. Rokko’s boulders. We don’t recall any instance when we slipped on our way up to the summit.

The lugs are durable, too. On our way down, we used the “heel kicking technique” to tackle Mt. Fuji’s slippery trail of crushed lava rocks. Those kicks were pretty aggressive, so we expected the lugs to come off. But they didn’t. Had we worn our Speedcross 3, we don’t think the lugs would be as neatly intact given the same amount of pressure applied on the same type of surface.

Descending Japan's Mt. Fuji Climbing Mt. Fuji

Our Recommendation

We’re happy with the Speedcross 4’s performance. We’d like to stick to it for now, or at least until a newer version (or a better brand) comes along.

So if you ask us, here’s our recommendation. If you’re still using your Speedcross 3, it’s time for an upgrade. It’s worth it. Get a pair of Speedcross 4.

Where to Purchase Speedcross 4