ApproachMost people will begin in Santo Domingo. From Santo Domingo, you must make your way to Jaracaboa. Caribe Tours is the bus company that has transport to Jaracaboa. The bus leaves Santiago four times a day from the Caribe Central Bus Station. The journey takes 2.5 hours and cost $5 in December 2004. There are several hotels in Jaracaboa and this is the logical place to arrange a required guide (park service requirement) for Pico Duarte.
From Jarabacoa, you will need to arrange transportation to La Ciénaga. In December 2004 this road was in very bad condition and we had to get out and walk to avoid bottoming out in several places. There is one very narrow bridge that only a small vehicle can cross, and landslides often close the road.
La Ciénaga is at about 1100 meters/3600 feet elevation.
Route DescriptionThe first part of the trail is a very gentle and pleasant walk. There are many wild citrus fruit trees along the way which offer a treat, and it is a nice walk through the forest and along the river to Casa Tablones (House of Tablets), which is at about 1270 meters/4170 feet and after 4.5 kms/2.8 miles of walking. After Casa Tablones, the route steepens and the trail climbs steeply along the ridge all the way to the little valley at the base of Rucilla (mountain). Much of the trail is high on the ridge, so carry lots of water. There is good water at a place called Aguita Fria which is located 11.5 kms/7 miles past Casa Tablones. Aguita Fria is the sorce of the River Yaque South and North, the two longest rivers in the country. Signed locations along the trail are Casa Tablones at Km 4.5/Mile 2.8 and elevation 1270 meters/4170 feet, La Cotorra at Km 8.5/Mile 5.3 and elevation 1720 meters/5640 feet, La Laguna (The Lake) at Km 10.5/Mile 6.5 and elevation 1980/6500 feet, El Cruce (The Cross) at Km 11/Mile 6.8 and elevation 2180 meters/7180 feet, Aguita Fria (Little Cold Water) at Km 16/Mile 10 and elevation 2650 meters/8700 feet, and La Camparticion at elevation 2450 meters/8040 feet and is where the hut and campsites are located. It is 19.5 kms/12 miles to the cabin/hut/camping area from La Ciénaga. Even though there is a cabin in the valley, you may want to chose to pitch a tent because the cabin sometimes attracts rats.
After spending a night at or near the cabin, most trekkers leave very early the next morning and well before sunrise. This gives you a better chance to hit the summit when the views are clear. Viewing the sunrise is also spectacular. The trail starts off pretty steep and it will be dark, but the required guides will know the way. After 3 kms/2 miles, the trail becomes less steep and reaches a beautiful are known as the Vallecito de Lilis (Little Valley of Lillies). The trail splits here at a minor junction; go left and follow the trail to the summit. The summit is only one km/.6 miles from the Vallecito de Lilis, but is steep in a few places. The route up is just a trail, but the top pitch had some very minor class-2 scrambling to liven things up. If the sky is clear, the views were incredible and you will see all the way to the ocean.
As stated above, the standard La Ciénaga Route is the easiest and shortest route available up Pico Duarte, but if you have the time and energy, consider returning via a different route. One possiblity is the Valle de Tetero Route. This will take an extra day or (preferably) two.