Here is your no nonsense list of what you need to know about hiking the Cerro Cherripo trail to Costa Rica's tallest peak.
1. The entrance to the park is just beyond the town of San Gerardo De Rivas. Driving to San Gerardo De Rivas takes around 30 minutes from San Isidoro. If you are taking the bus I believe it takes anywhere up to 2 hours. The final 6km to San Gerardo is on gravel road with fairly steep inclines at parts. A 4x4 car is recommended if going to Hotel Uran as the roads near the hotel are really bad.
2. The closest hotel to the trail is Hotel Uran. It is literally a 5 minute walk from the trail head. Pretty much every other hotel is a 2km or 30 min+ hike uphill to the trail. This is worth knowing, as you will be hiking this additional distance on your way back which can be a pain.
1. You will need a permit to hike the trail - kind of. The permit that you purchase is verified by the rangers at the Base Crestones camp just beyond the 14km mark. With this, you are given a room and bed for the night.
2. To obtain a permit you can either purchase one many months ahead of time through reservations - OR - you can get one the day before you intend to hike from the National Park offices directly.
3. There are usually only around 10 or fewer passes available each day. People start lining up at the office gate around 3am, though some as early as 2 or 2:30am. It can be very cold, so bring blankets and warm clothes or an umbrella if raining.
4. Tickets are given out on a first come first serve basis.
5. You must pay in cash only. Payment must be made in a single currency; either US dollars or Colones. You cannot pay with a combination of cash, so make sure you have enough.
6. I am not sure if ticket prices fluctuate, however at the time we purchased ours (December 2013), the prices were around $30 US per person per night.
7. The rangers speak absolutely no English.
8. See the photo for reference to what the main office looks like. It’s easy to mistake.
What to bring
1. There is a printed list that we saw at Hotel Uran with some instructions and general guidelines. We laughed at some of the things on the list before the hike. After the hike we really wished we had followed some of the guidelines. For example, it suggests cutting your nails before the hike. I can tell you that after 5 hours of hiking downhill for 10+ miles, your feet will be in crazy pain if you have long toe nails.
2. Anything you are missing can be purchased from either Hotel Uran or the convenience store in San Gerardo De Rivas for a reasonable amount of money, including food, water and basic supplies.
3. See the images for the list of things to do and bring.
What I wish we knew before the hike
1. There are different kinds of gas stoves up at basecamp that I assume everyone can share. You should just have your own butane gas canister to use, but the stoves were readily available to use. We didn't know this and brought out own gas stove up with us. Hotel Uran rents a portable gas stove with gas for about $6 with a $20 deposit.
2. Silver ware, plates, mugs and pots and pans are all provided up at basecamp. No need to bring any of this with you. There is a kitchen area up at basecamp with fresh water that you can wash up with after.
3. I had heard about porters before the hike but never thought it was worth it. If I had to do this again, I would pay for a porter to carry my gear and food up and down for me. I believe you leave your stuff at the porter store in town and they will carry it up for you early morning. It will be waiting for you at the top. They will then bring it down the following morning as well. My legs and body would have been so much happier had I not had to carry all of that gear on a 10 mile death march to the top.
4. Those that did use the porter service were able to take much more food and clothing than we could. Most of them honestly ate like kings (rice, potatoes, steak, fish and more) while we had to make do with what we could carry (ramen noodles and hot chocolate).
1. The hike is listed as 14km (8.9 miles). In reality it is closer to 17km (10.5 miles). I verified this with GPS in both directions. Each km section has a marker to give you an idea of where you are on the hike. Some of the markers are shorter than a km such as the 6km to 7km section, and some of much longer than a km. Just be aware that you are actually hiking almost 11 miles in each direction to base camp.
2. The entire hike is almost a constant incline. There are two sections that are flattish. These are the 6km to 7km stretch and another around 11.5km to 12km.
3. There is a shelter at the 7km marker. It is actually just past the 7km marker. You can get fresh spring water here, take a break, eat lunch and rest before continuing.
4. Km 8 through almost 11 are brutal. Honestly my legs were dying towards the last few miles. And when you finally think it’s almost over, you have the final 13km to 14.5km stretch which is a fairly steep uphill march the entire way to base camp.
5. People keep mentioning 5 to 7 hours to hike this trail. I am going to confidently say that you can do 5 to 7 hours if you are in extremely good shape OR you are not carrying any weight / pack with you. I was carrying a 55 liter backpack with around 25 to 30 lbs of food and gear and it took us almost 9 hours to get to basecamp.
6. Most people leave around 4:30am to 5:00am. It is probably going to be dark, so you will need a headlamp. We left at 6:00am and didn't really see anyone except for those coming back down. We arrived at basecamp around 4:30pm.
1. The bunks are not comfortable. You get a 2 inch hard plastic covered mattress on a bunk bed. You share the room with 3 other people.
2. Bathrooms tend to have wet floors, so bring shoes for them. Showers and water are freezing cold.
3. There is no light after sunset, so you will need head lamps or flashlights to get around inside.
4. There is a lot of snoring and the walls are paper thin. We found that many of the other people spoke loudly, sang songs and some didn't go to sleep until after 10pm. Bring ear plugs for this.
5. There was a cacophony of alarm clocks going off at 2:30am, so you will awake yourself around that time. However, do bring an alarms clock just in case.
6. There is a single outlet with power strip to charge your phone and other items in the corner of the main kitchen area near the door and under the tv. We didn’t see this until the day we left unfortunately.
1. The idea is to give yourself 3 hours to hike to the summit. It is marked as 5.1 km and it is pretty much exactly that distance.
2. The hike will almost entirely be in the dark. Make sure you have a headlamp that will last almost 4 hours for the journey.
3. The first 4.5 km is a mix of flattish to short inclines as you head out to the peak itself.
4. The final 0.5 km is an almost straight up climb up a steep trail to the summit. This last section is only about 100 ft. climb, but it is tough and took me about 45 minutes.
5. It can be cold or rainy early in the morning, and by cold I mean freezing. We were hiking in December and with the wind chill it was below freezing with ice on the ground.
1. If you get stuck on the mountain for any reason, it is a $90 cost to have a porter come up with a donkey/horse to assist you down. There was someone that had to have this help on our way down. Of course this also means someone has to hike back to basecamp or hotel uran to call for help.
That’s about it. Feel free to message me with any other questions.
It’s a beautiful hike that covers jungle, rainforest, drier high altitudes and amazing views at the summit. Take your time, enjoy and celebrate when you get back down.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.