Sierra de Agalta is a mountain range in Eastern Honduras. It includes a National Park and is almost entirely located within the department of Olancho. Sierra de Agalta National Park, near Gualaco, offers a fascinating glimpse into the changing ecosystems encountered as you enjoy the area. Sierra de Agalta is probably the best place to encounter the furtive cloud forest mammals.
Gualaco is probably the best source for information regarding Sierra de Agalta National Park, which is administered by Cohdefor, the state run forestry department. They have an office in town where information is readily available. The Grupo Ecologista de Olancho, the local environmental association also has offices here, both located on the main road, across the street from the gasoline station. Comidas Sharon, a small restaurant has a nice selection of photos, posters and information regarding this lovely park. La Picucha is not the only attraction, although it is the most famous because of the spectacular view that rewards its climbers and the midget forest on its top. Other attractions are the Chorros de Babilonia or Babilonia Waterfalls. These are a series of 8 waterfalls that have a combined drop of over 150 ft (50 m). They are located between Gualaco and San Esteban, and access to the lower fall is very easy by car, providing a spectacular view of the falls above! You can hike up to the higher falls taking the trail that leads from the town of El Ocotal to the community of Planes de Babilonia.
Red TapeIn order to travel in and around Honduras, you should have a good command of the Spanish language.
No permits are necessary, but due to the remoteness of the area, it is best to check in with the Park Service and COHDEFOR (wood ministry).
Located in the Agalta Mountain Range which is the backbone of Olancho, La Picucha is the fourth highest peak in Honduras and offers spectacular views and options to discover, and will provide you with an outstanding adventure paradise. The normal and most common access to this national cloud forest park is via the community of Gualaco, which is located on the road leading towards San Francisco de La Paz and San Esteban. The detour is clearly marked on the road between Tegucigalpa and Juticalpa. Gualaco is a pleasant, sleepy rural community typical of Olancho. From here you can start the climb up a relatively well kept trail to La Picucha, the highest peak in the department. The expedition should take you some 4 to 5 days in total up a well marked trail, non the less, it is a good idea to hire a local guide to assist you.
A hundred miles farther east, El Carbón is a traditional Pech village that's a microcosm of the region's divergent cultural and topographical elements: an outpost for one of Central America's smallest indigenous groups, surrounded by mestizo cattle ranchers and set in a landscape that's a mix of savanna, pine-forested mountains, and tropical rainforest. The 900 or so Pech villagers are now working to have this area designated an anthropology and ecotourism preserve, and indeed El Carbón makes a convenient base from which to hike out both to mysterious pre-Hispanic ruins and to La Cascada, a 260-foot waterfall that plunges spectacularly into Lago de la Sirena.
Just north of the pueblo's hundred or so thatch-roof adobe huts, along the road to the Caribbean coast, ask the bus driver to drop you off at the colegio. Behind this cement-block building are two newly built hostels with clean, comfortable beds for three dollars a night. Ask here for Linton Escobar, the indefatigable, 32-year-old leader of the local ecotourism cooperative, who'll set you up with a Pech guide for five dollars a day. Escobar can also arrange a botany hike with Natividad García—a wiry, thoughtful curandero of about the same age who can explain the medicinal uses of even the most innocuous-looking plants—as well as a day trip to an unexcavated ruin near the village of Agua Amarilla. Thought to have been built by the ancestors of the modern-day Pech, only the outlines of walls, stairways, and what may have been a ball court are visible under the dense jungle growth.
Better yet, take the overnight trip out to La Cascada. You'll hike for three and a half hours, much of it along a trail that winds 70 feet above the Río Ojo de Agua. The sound of fast-flowing water echoes up from the narrow gorge, but dense surrounding forest often blocks your view. Then the gorge opens up and you see the falls: a 100-foot-wide sheet of water that breaks into scores of rivulets as it tumbles over vine-covered boulders, finally dumping into a pool of water the size of two football fields. Jump in and swim out to the group of rocks in the middle of the lake, which is about as close as you can get to the mist-churning blast: Its sheer force will take your breath away, literally if not figuratively.
Source: Outside Magazine October 1998 By Chris Humphrey
When the Tough Get Going... El Carbón
Talgua CavesTalgua Cave, (“The Cave of the Glowing Skulls”; “Cueva del Rio Talgua”), is a cave located in the Olancho Valley in the municipality of Catacamas in northeastern Honduras. The misnomer “The Cave of the Glowing Skulls” was given to the cave because of the way that light reflects off of the calcite deposits found on the skeletal remains found there. The site has gained the interest of archaeologists studying cave burials of Central America and of Mesoamerica as one of the most extensive Early to Middle Pre-Classic (~1000-900 BCE in this case) ossuary cave sites currently known to have been in contact with the Maya societies of nearby Mesoamerica. It provides many valuable clues to how the inhabitants of the Talgua Cave may have been an important link between Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and parts further south and east in Central America and extending into those societies in northern South America and the Andes.
Susmay CavesAnother worthwhile side trip is to the Caves of Susmay. These are a series of caves that are unique, specially the one with an subterranean river. To get to the caves take the road that leads from Gualaco to the village of Jicalapa until you arrive at the tiny village of Las Joyas de Zacate. From here follow the trail that will take you across a small creek through a cattle field towards the heavily wooded area were the trail begins. The most unique of the caves has a lovely, crystal clear river running through it. The cave is quite large and has several sections, so its not a good idea to venture to far in without a guide. The pools are deep, so it’s a must to know how to swim well. If you have snorkel equipment with you, make sure you bring it with you! The entrance to the other caves is just a little beyond this first one. Once again, I must stress the fact that these are large and unmarked so you must be careful not to get lost in them. The water is ice cold, year round, so you may not have very much time in the water before hypothermia becomes a very real risk. I have swam in the caves three or four times and didn't last more than about 15 minutes. Also talk with the folks at Comidas Sharon and they will help you out.