Philippines

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.

Watch.

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.

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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.

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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.

Besao

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

Ways to Go to Kalinga

How to Go to Tabuk City, Kalinga

Tabuk City is the capital of Kalinga, one of the 6 provinces that comprise the Cordillera Administrative Region.

In recent years, the province was put in the spotlight thanks to the popularity of Apo Whang-Od, a Filipina that’s often regarded as the last tattoo artist (mambabatok) of the Kalinga people.

To get to Apo Whang-Od, many travelers, especially local guests, prefer to take an organized Baguio – Sagada/Bontoc – Tinglayan tour. If you’d like another route, Tabuk City makes a good base.

How can one go to Tabuk City, Kalinga by public transport? Here are your options.

1. Plane – Van/Jeep

Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (PAL) offer daily one-hour flights from Manila to Tuguegarao City (Cagayan). From Tuguegarao, you can take either a passenger van or jeepney bound for Tabuk. The trip is about 1.5 hours.

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Tuguegarao Airport

2. Bus

There are three bus companies offering daily Manila-to-Tabuk trips. Choose among Victory Liner (Kamias and Earnshaw branches), ES Transport (Cubao), and Dangwa (Sampaloc). All these buses pass by the top hotels in Tabuk City.

Should you run out tickets, there’s an abundant supply of buses bound for Tuguegarao. From Tuguegarao, enjoy a van or jeepney ride to Tabuk.

If you’re coming from Baguio, you can purchase a ticket from either GL Trans or Dangwa.

RELATED: Layover in Kuala Lumpur? Check Out Bukit Nanas