Completing the impeccable selection of stunning mountains in Benguet from my 10-day North Luzon wanderlust is the newly opened hiking heaven situated in Itogon, Benguet lies the 1,846 masl Mt. Ulap. This mountain is known for its picturesque view of the Cordilleras while trekking the grassland hills to the pine forest ridges.
Mt. Ulap was opened last September 2015 to welcome the avid mountaineers to its rich and unspoiled sceneries. It is one of the most-sought mountains in Benguet sitting next to the more coveted highest peak in Luzon, the Mt. Pulag.
If you want to experience a day-hike to escape the heat of Manila, Mt. Ulap is the perfect getaway with family and friends. I was in the hype of hiking and I considered Mt. Ulap as one of my hiking bucket-lists. I contacted a group and scheduled for a day-hike to conclude my hiking experience in the Mt. Province.
Without enough sleep from my continuous Mt. Province travel wanderlust, the group started the trek at around 7AM after our registration at the Ampucao Elementary School to the main jump off point along a concrete pavement for about 10 minutes. Then we ascended a narrow concrete road approximately 15 meters before reaching the major trail of Mt. Ulap.
Once you passed the sign that welcomes all hikers, this will be the start of the first steep assault going to the slopes of overgrown bushes. We marveled the trail carved few inches away from the edge of the cliff that led us west towards another steep assault.
Hiking Mt. Ulap is not really an ordinary wallk-in-the- park activity. This mountain would knock your feet off during the first leg of the hike but still it gave me tons of reasons not to regret for having a try.
According to our guide, Mt. Ulap has 3 distinct peaks:
Ambanao Paoay Peak – This peak welcome hikers with clumps of Pine trees and wild flowers
Gungal Peak – this peak is very popular to all hikers because of its big Gungal Rock. Considered as the signature of Mt. Ulap in all its ways.
Mt. Ulap – this is the last and third peak of the mountain. Known as the summit.
Continuing our trail, I was fascinated by the so called Ambanao Paoay Peak. It has a marvelous sea of pine trees along the ridges, endless slopes of grasslands and the 360 view of the cordillera mountain ranges.
Mt. Ulap will keep you cool as you trek along despite of the intense heat of the sun. All the steep assaults and the walks on flat surfaces was made bearable by the stunning view in all its direction.
The refreshing scent of pine trees, the colorful forest flowers and the spectacular surface rock formations made Mt. Ulap as one of a kind mountain trail I’ve ever had. The first peak was so beautiful, it was enough to cap off my day.
Looking at the very wide rolling hills and mountain ridges, I got even more excited of what the summit looks like.
After the first peak, we hike along the grassland hills. This was more relaxed and easier compare to the latter peak. I really enjoyed this part of the trail. The views were amazing, it was so beautiful that I tend to forget my weariness.
It was noontime when we reached the second peak – the famous Gungal Rock. I was really amazed and excited to put my feet on this iconic rock even the height and the inclined portion can sometimes scare the hell out of you.
The Famous Gungal Rock
We had an opportunity for a photo op on this rock. It looks like you are floating in the air, touching the clouds with the stunning views of the mountain.
It was still a couple of assaults until we finally reached the final peak – The Mt. Ulap summit. After hours of hiking and reached the summit, we finally camp out on a sloppy grassland for our lunch and and a nap in preparation for the descent. We were lucky enough to see the overlooking view of Mt. Arayat, Mt. Ugo and Mt. Pulag because of the good weather condition.
We started our descent, traversing Sta. Fe ridge. It was another trail of steep terrain full of pine trees starting to feel pain on my knees. Going farther, we passed some stores and souvenir shops, it signaled that we finally reached Sta. Fe.
The Group with our Tour Guide
There were cemented pathways and hanging bridge on our way. We finished the whole trek at around 5PM. Our van was waiting at the end of the trail waiving and welcoming the tired yet fulfilled hikers including myself.
Truly, Mt. Ulap is like a never ending hike of going up and down on rolling hills.I realized that I won’t limit myself. Once you reached the summit, you can feel the tantamount feeling of satisfaction beyond the clouds.
Photo Credits: Sir Edward Dipay