OverviewIsolated in eastern Olancho, is Honduras's second-highest mountain range and its accompanying 148,000-acre national park. "La Picucha" as the locals call, is a three or four day hike from the 6,000 person town of Gualaco in the state of Olancho in Eastern Honduras. Although not in the Gracias A Dios state (UNESCO world biosphere site), La Picucha is the tallest mountain in the Sierra de Agalta mountain range that runs SW-NE approximately 50 miles from the border of the two states. It is worth taking the time to travel here because you won't see other hikers but you will see a real life dwarf forest near the summit.
This remote cloud forest is isolated from the other cloud forests in Honduras and some unique endemic species have already been found by scientists. The amazing scenery, very abrupt topography, and permanently cloudy area gives a high relative humidity near the top of the mountains, where hundreds of crystalline and pure water creeks give way to lush vegetation decorated with abundant epiphytes. Temperatures range between 5 and 25 degrees centigrade and the flora and fauna composition give this park a truly unique appearance.
Getting ThereYou should arrange transportation in a 4x4 vehicle from Tegucigalpa or La Ceiba to Gualaco (elevation - 500m) that will take approximately 6 hrs.
From Gualaco, head north toward San Esteban, turning east after three miles onto a marked dirt road, which you'll follow until it dead-ends at the trailhead. You sould notice fallen trees that act as benches. There may or may not be a sign there.
You'll then climb for about four hours along a sweet-gum-forested ridgetop and then zigzag across the Río del Sol until you reach a two-pronged waterfall at La Chorrera, the base camp where you'll sleep the first night located near a refreshing crystal water stream (4 hrs).
From here, the sometimes faint trail rises steeply for five hours. The following day is a steep hike up to the second camp (elevation - 2,000m), that should take roughly 5 hrs. At this point you will start seeing the typical cloud forest vegetation: orchids, bromeliads, mosses, lichens, tree ferns and others. With some luck you might see the beautiful green toucans, quetzals, wild boars, monkeys, and/or a one-in-a-million jaguar. If you get thrown off while circumnavigating one of several hurricane-felled trees, just look for machete marks and backtrack to the trail. Pitch your tent when you reach a tiny clearing. I have climbed this mountain 5 times and made it to the summit 3 times - you need to pay attention on the trail and I would recommend setting wands or twist ties on branches (make sure you remove them on the way down!) in order to stay orientated.
You might want to leave most of your gear at the second camp, taking some warm clothes, water, a snack for lunch and cameras to hike the steep slope to La Picucha. On the way up, you will enjoy the typical dwarf vegetation with its impressive colors. During the two-hour ascent the third morning, the world around you changes form, as the trail is masked by a dense, slippery mass of aboveground roots; the air becomes wetter, intermittently opaque; and the forest shrinks, its gnarled, stunted pines covered in moss and lichen—a rare ecosystem cooked up by the altitude, high winds, and near-constant moisture. If the skies are clear you'll command 360-degree views over the treetops, from 8,010-foot Pico Bonito on the northern coast to the parrot-green Mosquitian jungle off to the east.
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).
Watch out for the monkeys. Howler and Spider monkeys will go through your things at night (but will stay well clear of you during the day).
Water is avaialble at Camp 1 in the river, but will need to be brought to Camp 2. Treat all water with purification tablets and/or filtration.
There are stories I heard about the locals during the rainy season where they would drain rain water out of the various plants and trees along the trail, but I think it is probably due more to their sheer toughness and less to due with some Bear Grylls maneuver with a palm frawn.
Fires are discouraged and difficult to get started due to the wetness in the area, so you will need to bring a camp stove and fuel. Fuel (especially white gas) is very hard to find in Honduras, so when arriving in one of the bigger cities, try to look for it at gas stations and hardware/painting stores.
External LinksLa Moskitia Expeditions
From Chris Humphreys - Oustide Magazine October 98. Ironically, the article below is dated the same month Honduras was devistated by Hurricane Mitch.