A country rich in biodiversity and landscapes, the Philippines is teeming with mountaineering adventures even for families with small kids.
If you have always dreamed of climbing a mountain with your kids, check out these beginner-friendly mountains across Luzon that even toddlers can hike:
1. Mt. Pinatubo (via Sta. Juliana trail)
Tarlac and Zambales
Mt. Pinatubo, topographically different from other mountains in the country, overwhelms the senses with awe.
Imagine being taken aboard a 4×4 through a vast valley of lahar and sulphuric streams, surrounded by life-size boulders and glacier-like peaks on either side. These images continue as you descend from your vehicle and begin the two-hour walk to Pinatubo’s crater lake, which undoubtedly is the highlight of the trek.
The calming and changing hues of the lake (cyan to blue green during December to February and green to brown the rest of the year) is a great treat both for kids and the kids at heart.
What also makes Pinatubo well-suited for children is its easy and flat terrain. The only ascent occurs during the last 30 minutes of the trek to the crater, and even my then three-year old daughter was able to manage the ascent.
2. Mt. Balagbag
If you are looking for an easy hike near Manila, consider Mt. Balagbag. Located just an hour-and-a-half from the city, Mt. Balagbag offers a wide, open trail with a gradual ascent, an unobstructed view of the Sierra Madre mountain range, as well as the Ortigas skyline.
From the jumpoff in Sitio Balagbag (you can hire a tricycle from Sitio Karahume or take another hour-long walk), it only takes a couple of hours to access the summit. Give it about four hours tops if you are walking with your toddler. Ours trekked half of the time and we reached the summit in four hours, photo-ops included.
Be sure to check out the beautiful rock garden en route to the summit. There are also some rivers and waterfalls along the way – including the famous Otso-Otso Fallswhich you and your family can visit as a sidetrip.
3. Quitinday Greenhills Formation
If you’ve always wanted to go to Bohol for its Chocolate Hills but couldn’t make it, head over to Camalig in Albay for a similar – if not, better – vista of undulating green mounds.
Standing at 350 feet, Quitinday Greenhills’ first peak is accessible in only 15 minutes – yes, even by toddlers and seniors! Here, you can rest under a thatched hut while enjoying Mayon Volcano as a backdrop.
You can choose to explore several hills in the area, including a 450-foot hill (the highest), passing by a hidden cave along the way.
4. Mt. Samat
Want to teach your kids a history lesson while trekking? Take them to Mt. Samat.
Famous for its Dambana ng Kagitingan – a huge cross at the summit – Mt. Samat features a historical shrine at the peak housing a marble altar, real war cannons, and a WWII museum.
The shrine also affords visitors encompassing views of the Central Luzon plains and adjacent mountains like Mt. Mariveles and Mt. Natib. However, the best vantage point for all these is the lookout atop the cross, which soars over 600 MASL and is accessible via an elevator.
The two-hour, six-kilometer-long trail is wide and cemented all the way up to the summit, making it a good first-time hike for kids. This was my kid’s first hike; I took her here when she was only 21 months old, so one kilometer is definitely doable for your little one!
Otherwise, you can take a tricycle (₱300 two-way) or a private vehicle to the gate, then simply walk the remaining one kilometer to the summit.
After the trek, you can also cool down in Dunsulan Falls 20 minutes away from the mountain’s base.
5. Mt. Tapyas
More of a hill rather than a mountain, Mt. Tapyas entails a breezy 30-minute hike through 718 paved steps to the top.
Take respite in the benches below Mt. Tapyas’ famous cross or in two viewdecks fronting Mt. Darala, the highest mountain in the Calamianes group of islands. Either way, you’ll enjoy postcard-worthy glimpses of Coron and the surrounding islands dotting the emerald seas.
6. Mt. Pulag (via Ambangeg Trail)
It may be Luzon’s highest peak, but don’t let Mt. Pulag’s sheer height intimidate you. The Ambangeg trail – one of several established trails – leading to Mt. Pulag’s summit is an easy hike that even parents and children can do.
The trek, which now entails hikers dimtrekking (hiking very early in the morning or late afternoon) from the Ranger Station (at 2,400+ MASL) to the summit during dawn, can be managed even by toddlers – all thanks to its mostly flat, albeit sometimes muddy trail.
If you’re hiking with one, it is best to bring a built-for-hiking carrier such as Kelty or Tula so they can snooze during the night trek, and then let him walk as much as he can on theway down in the early morning. This is what I and felllowparents did to better manage the trek.
The ascent is gradual, passing by pine forests; gentle, foliage-fringed slopes; a mesmerizing mossy forest, and a vast expanse of dwarf bamboos – the grassland. Finally, there’s a 300-meter assault to the brown summit where you can behold a sunrise amid a lofty sea of clouds rising from the Cordillera mountain range.
If you’re lucky, you might even chance upon Pulag’s resident dwarf cloud rat on your way down! Indeed, it’s easy to see why Mt. Pulag is called “the playground of the gods.”
As of writing, campers – except those who are trekking from Mondays through Thursdays – can only stay at the Ranger’s Station (by camping or homestay). The Ranger’s Station is a good base for hikers with kids since the temperature at Camps 2 and 3 (where tent camping is usually done) can get extremely nippy from night till dawn.
The bigger concern when trekking Mt. Pulag is not actually its altitude or the trail itself, but the cold and the thin air. To avoid issues like hypothermia and altitude sickness, be sure to read up about proper layering prior to trekking, as temperatures can drop below zero degrees, especially from November to February.
If you haven’t trekked high-altitude mountains before, it is recommended that you stay in high altitude places for a night (e.g. Baguio or the Ranger Station) to allow your body to acclimatize to air pressure.