We never considered ourselves as hikers, nope, not at all. But the call of Mother Nature’s serene greenery was so strong that we had to at least try. We soon found out that it was one of the best impromptu day trips we've spent with nature.
*Our trekking experience covers Flat Rocks and Mud Springs Trail only, estimated at 11.2km
IN THE KNOW
Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve was declared an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2013 (wow, right!) and is under the jurisdiction of UP Los Banos College of Forestry and Natural Resources. At the Visitor's Registration Area, you are required to log your personal details, leave a valid ID and pay PHP10 each as entrance and conservation fee. (ALERT: They just issued new rates as of July 1, 2018) Be aware that they have access hours to ensure everyone gets back to Station 1 before it gets dark. For Peak 2, you need to register before 9AM and for Mudsprings before 2PM. Our farthest trail for this hike was Mudsprings and we were just in time because we arrived at the registration area by 1:40PM (whew!). If you have other questions or concerns, you may contact the Forest Reserve at:
Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve
(049) 536 3572
There are 30 stations in total that take you up to the summit of Mt. Makiling. For inexperienced hikers like us (and trekking with a child), our goal was to make it to Station 8 and down to Mud Springs Trail and back to Station 2 then follow down the Flat Rocks Trail. (Map courtesy of the Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems)
Since we live in the South, Los Banos Laguna was just an hour away from our home. If you're coming from Makati, an additional 30 minutes (with no traffic) would be a good estimate. Using South Luzon Express Way, we exited at Calamba and from there made our way to UP Los Banos. If you're bringing your own vehicle, I suggest you use Waze as a guide. Once at the UP Los Banos College of Forestry entrance, turn left then turn right and head straight until you find a gated area with a big sign of MARIANG MAKILING TRAIL (MMT) Entry Point on the right side. This would be the jump off area for all Mt. Makiling visitors. (Free parking is on the left side of the gated entrance)
Here are our top 5 reasons why we think Mt. Makiling is a great starter trek for your kids:
#1 MT. MAKILING TRAIL IS MAINLY FLAT AND A CEMENTED TERRAIN
The main trail is flat and cemented which is easy for your kid’s feet and legs. The only time when the trail becomes uneven is when you get to Flat Rocks and Mud Springs Trail. These 2 trails will take you to slightly uneven path with rocks and loose top soil.
Allow your child to initially dictate the pace, so she gets comfortable with the physical effort she needs to exert. It takes a bit of motivation from us parents to get those little legs working. On this note, be prepared for lots of zigzags in the road that will take you up and down slopes at times.
#2 SEE GEOTHERMAL STEAM RISE FROM MUD SPRINGS – IT IS AN INTERESTING AND EXCELLENT GOAL FOR YOUR TREK
Legend has it that Mud Springs is the crater of Mt. Makiling, of course this was debunked by the nature reserve authorities but it still makes a great story for your kids to work hard for. Mud Springs Trail is found a few meters after Station 8, and from the main road – it will take you another 700m to reach the hot springs.
Once past the Mud Springs signage, you will smell a bit of the sulfuric acid as you get close to the fenced area.
#3 SEARCH FOR ANIMALS AND BIRDS THAT LIVE IN THE AREA
We found this gorgeous Spotted Wood Kingfisher between Stations 4 & 5. We also saw monkeys hopping from tree to tree but we were not able to capture it. Our little girl was always on the lookout for animals she would see in the wild.
#4 THERE ARE SO MANY PLANTS AND TREES TO KEEP YOUR YOUNG ONES WONDERING ABOUT THE WORLD OF TROPICAL RAINFORESTS
We saw Centenarian Toog Trees, Jade Vine, colorful Birds of Paradise, lovely orange Fire Trees, Mahogany Trees, and more.
#5 BE REWARDED BY DIPPING YOUR FEET AT FLAT ROCKS ON YOUR WAY BACK
MMT is not just mountains and trees, there is also a small river where you can swim or dip your weary feet in. Flat Rocks Trail is a short hike down from Station 2 and we had this as our last destination for the afternoon. It was a rewarding feeling after the hike to just sit down by the river and get your feet wet. Just like the Mud Springs, getting to Flat Rocks will take you off the main road with a bit of rocky and uneven terrain. One way is about 400 meters.
AGUIVENTURE FAMILY TRAVEL TIPS
Restrooms are far and apart - one at Station 1 and the next one would be at Station 7 near the Picnic Area. Make sure you get your little ones to pee (or poo) before heading off.
Bring water - lots of it. We consumed about 2.5 liters of water the whole afternoon. Remember to keep yourselves hydrated.
Bring a change of clothes and a small towel. Keep your child's back from getting too soaked for a long time.
Don’t forget to bring first aid kit just in case of small nips or bites or scratches.
Make sure you are wearing comfy strapped sandals or closed shoes. You don't need hiking shoes for this kind of trek but at least something that would keep you balanced when walking on uneven rocks.
When hiking with kids, it's important to make them realize the end goal. There were clear signs in between stations so that made it easier for us to visualize the next step. We also planned our pit stops every after each station to keep up with the pace and still allow rest without getting too overwhelmed.
Start with the farthest trail first (Kuya Mike from the registry suggested this). Making Flat Rocks last is rewarding for your weary feet.
There are small sari-sari stores near Station 7 where you can buy food and drinks. We would suggest that you bring your own trail food just in case the little one feels peckish.
Near the entrance of UPLB College of Forestry is the Makiling Botanic Gardens. We missed going here because it was late in the afternoon when we finished our hike. But we will definitely come back here to check their nature trail.
WE MADE IT! It was the first official trek together as a family and I am super proud of our little one. It was a bit tough, but nothing that a few stops can't manage. I hope we can get more experience with hiking and trekking so we can all make it to Peak2 (fingers crossed)!