El Cerro del Aripo is the highest mountain in the country of Trinidad and Tobago. It is the wettest and coolest part of the country. Although the ascent of the peak is non-technical, the climb is challenging and exciting. It is one of the best climbs in the Carribean. No real trail exist from the top and much routefinding is required in order to reach the summit. Animal life, especially birds, is very prevalent. At the least you have a good chance of seeing giant butterflies, bats, hundreds of birds, and mountain crabs. The truly lucky may get a glimpse of an ocelot.
Out of all the highpoints in the Caribbean, this one probably had the greatest chance of getting lost, so you must pay close attention to the routes. Only experienced jungle trekkers should try this one without a guide.
The mountain is covered in thick rainforest and is usually mist shrouded so views are usually limited, but the virgin rainforest is spectacular. No matter what time of year you plan on climbing this magnificent peak, prepare to get soaked and mud covered.
Kim on part of the route on El Cerro del Aripo. It was a rugged jungle climb. Cerro Aripo is the highest mountain in the country of Trinidad and Tobago and appears to be seldom climbed.
There are at least three access routes to El Cerro del Aripo, but I’m only familiar with the one from the La Laja South Trace.
La Laja Trailhead
There is public transportation along the Arima to Blanchisseause Road, but it is sporadic. On the way up, the best way might be to take a taxi from Arima. This will also be cheaper than renting a car. The La Laja Trace (road) itself is rough, but it can always be walked.
From Arima in north central Trinidad, drive up (this road can be hard to find if you are driving and not familiar with the town) the Arima to Blanchisseause Road to mile marker 6. (The sign pointing out the road was missing in December 2013). Turn right onto the La Laja South Trace.
The La Laja South Trace is paved, but usually in poor condition. Cars may not make it very far up the road. Follow this road up to a divide between the Arima Valley and the Guanapo Valley. We had to get dropped off here because of the poor condition of the road past this point. From the divide, continue along the main road (ignoring one steep side track descending to the right) to the trailhead which is just past the second waterfall and bridge. There are some private property sign around at the nearby houses, but the road and trail accessing Aripo are public access.
This is important: The trailhead sign is mostly deteriorated and may not be around that much longer, but the correct waterfall is the one in the photo below. The sign as it appeared in December 2013 is also in a photo below.
The little waterfall at the trailhead for El Cerro Del Aripo. There are actually two waterfalls, so make sure to find the right one in order to find the correct trail.
This is the sign at the trailhead as it appeared in December 2013. It may not be around that much longer.
Brasso Seco Trailhead
This is an alternate trailhead for the same West Ridge of Aripo that the La Laja Trailhead accesses. The road is in better condition that the La Laja Trace, but the access is longer, at least from Arima.
Brasso Seco is accessed from the signed turnoff along the the Arima to Blanchisseause Road not far north of the pass between the Aripo Valley and the Marianne Valley. Reaching Brasso Seco can be problematic by using public transport, but an occasional bus does head this way from Arima. Hiring a ride from Arima may be the best bet.
I am unfamiliar with this route. The trailhead is at Aripo Caves which is at the end of the Aripo Road 14 kms/9 miles long which heads north off the Eastern Main Road between Arima and Valencia. Supposedly you have to have permission to climb Cerro Aripo from this direction, but as mentioned, I’m not familiar with this route.
There are at least three routes up Cerro Aripo. All require routefinding and have a real danger of becoming lost.
West Ridge via La Laja
This is perhaps the easiest route to reach using public transport or a taxi and is the route we took. From the trailhead, the route follows the old La Laja to Paria Road (which fades into a trail after not too long) to the pass between Morne Bleu and El Cerro del Aripo. The west ridge of Cerro del Aripo is then followed to the summit. There is no real trail and the going is pretty strenuous. The route is sporadically marked with ribbons or slashes on trees. There are several up and downs along the route.
Plan on an all day hike and if you are walking all the way from the Arima to Blanchisseause Road, get an early start.
See the Route Page
Kim navigating the thick jungle in order to climb Cerro Aripo via the West Ridge.
West Ridge via Paria and Brasso Seco
Another trail accesses the saddle between Morne Blue and Cerro Aripo from Brasso Seco. Since it follows an old (completely unusable) road, it should be fairly easy to follow, but I don’t know where it begins. Ask in Brasso Seco for the trail to La Laja. Once at the saddle, the same West Ridge is followed to the summit.
Cerro Aripo from Aripo Caves
This is said to be the easiest (though still challenging) route to the summit of Cerro Aripo, but I am unfamiliar with it. Most guided climbers seem to go this way.
Permission is said to be required to climb the mountain from the Aripo Caves. Inquire locally.
Expect more greenery than red tape.
When to Climb
January through May is the “dry” season, with February through April being the driest. December is an in between season. June through November are very wet and especially July and August. Even in the so called dry season, prepare to get soaked as El Cerro del Aripo is very wet year round
Although prices in Trindad aren’t as effected except during Carnival, if you are visiting Tobago on the same trip, prices sky rocket between mid-December and mid-April. Carnival in Trindad is in February or March depending on the year. If going to Trinidad during Carnival, make sure to book accommodation far in advance. Even though a bit wetter, early to mid December and May can be good months to climb since it’s not tourist season.
Despite the fact that Kim has been bushwhacking through the jungle and mud in the pouring rain for the past several hours, she is still smiling. Prepare to get soaked and you won't be disappointed!
Camping and Accommodation
You could probably drop a tent near the saddle between Morne Bleu and El Cerro del Aripo, but don’t camp near people’s homes.
There is plenty accommodation in Arima and it is more reasonably priced than in Port of Spain.
We stayed in the Chateu Guillaumme
and it was very nice and reasonably priced. They also arrange transport to places like the trailheads for El Cerro del Aripo.
Brasso Seco and the Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary (not too far from the La Laja trailhead) have nature orientated accommodation as well.
This is the easy section of the trail to saddle between Morne Bleu and Cerro Aripo. You could probably camp in this area.
Weather averages for Brasso Seco are below, but the mountains will be much wetter and cooler than Brasso Seco.
CLICK FOR BRASSO SECO WEATHER FORECAST
| Month || High (° F ) || High (° C) || Low (° F ) || Low (° C) || in. Rain || mm Rain || Rain Days |
| Jan || 88 || 31 || 70 || 21 || 2.98 || 75.6 || 21 |
| Feb || 88 || 31 || 70 || 21 || 1.70 || 43.2 || 18 |
| Mar || 90 || 32 || 72 || 22 || 1.14 || 29.0 || 14 |
| Apr || 91 || 33 || 73 || 23 || 2.28 || 58.0 || 14 |
| May || 91 || 33 || 75 || 24 || 3.97 || 100.8 || 20 |
| Jun || 90 || 32 || 75 || 24 || 9.20 || 233.7 || 25 |
| Jul || 90 || 32 || 73 || 23 || 12.13 || 308.1 || 26 |
| Aug || 91 || 33 || 73 || 23 || 11.16 || 283.5 || 25 |
| Sep || 91 || 33 || 73 || 23 || 9.37 || 238.1 || 22 |
| Oct || 91 || 33 || 73 || 23 || 6.86 || 174.2 || 22 |
| Nov || 90 || 32 || 73 || 23 || 7.87 || 199.8 || 25 |
| Dec || 90 || 32 || 72 || 22 || 4.72 || 119.9 || 22 |
It isn't cheap, but if you plan on doing much hiking in Trinidad and Tobago, The Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club Trail Guide is a very valuable resource.
The Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club Trail Guide