As mountains become increasingly accessible to common folk, more and more of them are getting packed with eager hikers seeking respite from urban chaos. Which is why trekking less-trodden mountains is a much better alternative, especially if you’re looking to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Below is a rundown of lesser-known mountains that adventurers can explore.
1. Mt. Arayat (North Peak Trail)
Location: Magalang, Pampanga
Elevation: 1,030 MASL
Pampanga’s only mountain features two peaks, each with its own charm: the South Peak, whose trail commences at the Arayat National Park in San Juan Bano; and the North Peak, which starts at Magalang. Each trail entails three to four hours of hiking.
Since the North Peak trail is not as popular as its counterpart in Arayat, you can expect the path to be more lush and quieter. Adding to the charm are the big boulders that line the trail, said to be rocks once spewn from the mountain’s mouth when it was still an active volcano. Roots of massive trees that have grown on these boulders and occasional wildlife like civets and wild boar make for a whimsical atmosphere.
En route to the summit, you will pass by a lava formation called “White Rock”, believed to be the home of the fabled Apung Sinukuan. Hikers can expect an expansive vista of the Central Luzon plains, Sierra Madre, and Pampanga River from North Peak’s summit.
Brave souls opt for a traverse hike from the North to the South Peak, a feat that requires rappelling on dangerous cliffs with jagged slopes. The eight-hour traverse hike ends at the Arayat National Park, where hikers can enjoy nippy, spring-fed pools.
2. Laiban Circuit (Mt. Lubo, Mt. Ngusong Kabayo, Tangwa Peak + 4 falls)
Location: Laiban, Rizal
Elevation: 488 MASL (Mt. Lubo); 625 MASL (Mt. Ngusong Kabayo)
Love challenging hikes? The trail at Laiban Circuit will certainly quench your thirst. The six-hour hike starts at Laiban’s barangay hall and will proceed onward to three peaks: Mt. Lubo, Mt. Ngusong Kabayo, and Tangwa Peak. Like most mountains in Rizal, the trail consists of open grasslands, lush bamboo forests, and unlimited mud. Although the inclines are gentle, there is little shade to take refuge in, so an early morning hike is recommended.
At the summit of Mt. Ngusong Kabayo, you can climb a horse-shaped rock formation, which the mountain was named after. The most scenic views, however, can be seen from Tangwa Peak, which affords a 360-degree view of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and other nearby mountains like Mt. Binutasan. Prior to culminating in the same jumpoff point, you will trek to Laiban Falls (also called Laiban Cuatro), a majestic four-tiered cascade. Though getting from one waterfall to another requires scrambling down slippery rocks, swimming in its soothing waters is the best way to end a tiring hike.
3. Mt. Gola
Location: San Miguel, Bulacan
Elevation: 196 MASL
Although only two kilometers long, the trail going to Mt. Gola—the lesser-known sister of Mt. Manalmon—promises one action-packed adventure. The trail consists of several thrilling sections, including an optional walk on a monkey bridge over Madlum River. Hikers also need to go inside a cave and cross two sections of the river during the trek.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the trail is a 45-degree rocky slope that requires rappelling. From here, the summit is only 15 to 20 minutes away. At the peak, stunning views of Mt. Arayat, Biak na Bato National Park, and Madlum River await hikers.
4. Mataas na Bato
Location: San Rafael, Bulacan
Elevation: Approximately 100 MASL
Rock climbing enthusiast? Gear up for a thrilling climb up Mataas na Bato in San Rafael! The one-hour hike through rocky terrain takes you to a cliffside rock formation that towers at over 100 meters.
Overlooking adjacent towns, the rock formation is similar to those found in Mt. Daraitan and Pamitinan. Little is known about this place except that it is being mined for its mineral-rich rocks. Drop by Malangaan Cave along the way and swim in its cool waters.
5. Mt. Malasimbu
Location: Dinalupihan, Bataan
Elevation: 411 MASL
An off-the-beaten path find, Mt. Malasimbu lies in a quiet community in Dinalupihan. Known for its conical shape, the mountain features a loose, earthen path and a cross at the summit. Aeta guides are available to take you from the jump-off point going to the summit, where a cross rests. The site is a popular destination during Holy week, when it tends to be filled with local pilgrims.
6. Mts. Tayawan and Kalugong
Location: Tawang, Benguet
Elevation: Approximately 1,500 MASL
Spice up your traditional Baguio trip with a visit to the twin formations of Mt. Tayawan and Mt. Kalugong in Tawang.
Easily accessible after a 45-minute taxi ride from Baguio, these mountains boast of a cool, pine tree-lined trail. Be treated to unique rock formations and a panoramic view of nearby Mt. Yangbew and La Trinidad at the summit.
The hike takes no more than one hour, with Mt. Tayawan found halfway through Mt. Kalugong’s summit. Rest breaks can be done in a hut at Mt. Tayawan. Be sure to sample cakes and local coffee at the cafe found on Mt. Kalugong’s summit. Tourists say they’re the best in La Trinidad!