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Top 5 Hiking Trails In Panama City, Panama
Panamanians sometimes refer to Panama as “Puente del mundo, corazón del universo” meaning bridge of the world, heart of the universe. Though very patriotic, the saying refers to the worldwide connectivity this seemingly small country is able to provide. Another popular phrase Panamanians use to describe the country’s charm is abundance of butterflies and fish, referring to the rich flora and fauna found here… Living up to its name, Panama City is truly a nature lover’s paradise. From birds and whale migration to lush rainforests and waterfalls, you don’t have to go far to enjoy the wonders mother nature has created here.
When it comes to hiking trails, this place doesn’t fall short…
Although the most famous hiking expedition in Panama is climbing up the Volcán Barú near Boquete, there are lots of other trails that will allow you to breathe fresh air, enjoy the outdoors, and get some exercise in without having to travel that far.
Here are the top 5 hiking in trails in Panama City and surrounding areas.
Located just 5 minutes from Albrook Mall, Cerro Ancón is a beloved national treasure. Kids in school even have to learn a famous poem dedicated to the hill. On the summit you’ll find an enormous Panamanian flag said to be the size of a basketball court and a statue of the infamous poet who put pen to paper to ensure her patriotism and love for the place would live on even after she passed.
The hike up is a fairly easy one, roundtrip the hike will only take about 45 minutes or more if you stop to really take everything in. You’ll find breathtaking views of the Panama Bay and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot sloths, ñeques, toucans, and even monkeys. The hill is a national reserve due to its wildlife and historical meaning.
Cerro Ancón is the perfect morning hike and one of my favorite places to visit. At the summit you’ll find lookout points with views of the city and the bay or overlooking the nearby port and entrance to the Panama Canal. Both bridges over the canal can be seen from here.
This hill in particular gives off such a relaxing vibe that Panamanians’ usually private demeanor towards foreigners completely changes here. People from all places greet each other as they pass by with their friends, family, and pets. There are a lot of rich people who live on Cerro Ancon and a lot of nice houses. There are also 2 entrances to the trail. You can choose to enter through the Panama Canal Administration Building (it’s the one with lots of steps) or through Mi Pueblito, a tourist center filled with traditional Panamanian artifacts and souvenirs.
Cerro Ancón is the perfect place to clear your mind and read a good book under the trees, the best part is how accessible it is… a little nature retreat smack in the middle of the city.
Parque Natural Metropolitano
Known as the breathing lunges of Panama City. This natural reserve is composed of 230 hectares and is the only tropical forest located in such close proximity to a metropolitan zone in all of Latin America.
There are actually 7 trails to choose from, each with its own charm and level of difficulty. The most challenging trails include El Camino Del Mono Tití (famous for monkey viewing) and Cerro Cedro (views of Panama City). Along the trails you’ll spot turtles and several parts of airplanes from World War II.
The entrance has a cost of $4 for foreigners, a guided tour comes at an extra cost. The park is opened from 7-3:00 p.m. and hikers must make it back to the entrance by 5 p.m. It’s also important to note that pets are not allowed.
Similar to Cerro Ancón, Parque Natural Metropolitano is less than 10 minutes from Albrook Mall. You could easily get there by bus or cab from the Albrook terminal. Mixing beautiful wildlife, nature and history, this place is definitely worth checking out.
Parque Nacional Soberanía
About 45 minutes north of the city, you’ll find this famous park making it the perfect day trip out of the city. The park has several trails to choose from but the most popular ones are Camino de la Plantación and Camino de Cruces. This park is halfway to Colon so it makes a great stop on the way. A great roadtrip involves both jungle and beach!
The former is a very scenic trail with lookout points for waterfalls, wildlife, and interesting tropical plants. It’s an easy hike stretching over 13 kms. About 1.5 kms in, there are a few benches for you to relax. The latter is a more historical trail. It was created in 1527 as bridgeway from Panama La Vieja to Venta de Cruces which was the port on the Chagres River. This is where they would ship off gold to Spain.
Another trail to look into if you want to make it a relaxing family trip is El Charco. It has a big area for picnics and also natural pools to cool off in. There’s no entry fee and the parking lot is located 5 kms after Parque Municipal Summit. It’s the same entrance as Gamboa’s Canopy Tower. The only requirement to be able to enjoy some fresh air here is to not bring pets with you as they are not allowed.
This hike starts about 20 minutes from the city, in Panama Pacífico. Also known as Bunker Hills, this trail is about 2.1 kms in which you´ll see several army bunkers from back when the U.S. Army inhabited this area. There a lot of foreign retirees in this area of Panama City.
The area is safe, there’s no entry fee and the trail is easy to follow. It’s also loaded with greenery and wildlife. If you decide you have enough time on your hands you can also check out Telegraph Hill where you’ll see a lot of old army training facilities or Trillo Tití. This last trail is a full 6 kms of tropical nature which you can enjoy by walking or bike riding. You’ll also find bathrooms here in case your nature calls.
Cerro La Cruz
Not to be confused with a trail by the same name in El Valle de Anton. This trail in particular is definitely not for the faint hearted. Characterized by a narrow, muddy, and steep path with gigantic trees towering above, this trail is only recommended if you’re fit and enjoy adrenaline. The cherry on top is reaching the summit and challenging yourself to climb up a rock (certain death awaiting below should you slip and fall) to snap a picture beside the famous cross at the top. After all, the cross is the main attraction, hence the name of the hill. However, I’d argue that the main attraction is actually the absolutely stunning views of the Chame Bay.
The biggest downside to this hike is the lack of signs to lead the way. When I tried my luck, I got lost twice before finally realizing where the entrance to that particular trail was. On the other hand, that allowed me to hike (accidentally) along the other, easier trails that were better marked.
Getting there is fairly simple, type in Sendero La Cruz in google maps and it’ll lead you to a small road that connects to Loma Campana. Once on that road you’ll start to enjoy the view. I highly recommend stopping at a lookout point (can’t miss it, there are always people there) on the way up. Once you’ve taken in the view, google maps will continue to lead you up the road to a small Mi Ambiente building where you’ll be asked to give your name, age, and your time of arrival. This way they’ll know to look for you if you somehow get lost. From there, the officers will give you instructions on where the trail starts. Once you’ve found your parking spot just head on up. At some point on your right you’ll see a sign that says Cerro La Cruz, the entrance to the most difficult trail starts behind that sign. You’ll see an arrow if you stand to the side of the sign. When you see the top of the first section, there is no arrow but you should turn right.
Roundtrip, the hike will take you about 3 hours. Be sure to take lots of water, a good pair of hiking boots, and clothes and shoes to change into when you’re done.
These are just 5 places where you can go hiking, but Panama has so many others on hand. The nature in Panama is incredible. The best cities are cities with hiking trails at your doorstep, and Panama City has that. Worth noting that, if you get hurt, Panama has the best hospitals in Central America. Whether you just want to go for a nature walk or even if you’re adventurous enough to take on Volcán Barú, Panama has a little bit of something for everyone.