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“Cerro Cherripo Hike - what you need to know”

Chirripo National Park
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US$84.99*
and up
Whitewater Rafting on the Chirripó River from San Jose
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Arlington, Virginia
Level Contributor
40 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 123 helpful votes
“Cerro Cherripo Hike - what you need to know”
Reviewed 19 January 2014

Here is your no nonsense list of what you need to know about hiking the Cerro Cherripo trail to Costa Rica's tallest peak.

Getting There
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.




Permits
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).


The Hike
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.

Camp Crestone
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.

Summit
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.

Final thoughts
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.
2.
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.

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
66 Thank coldblaze
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
39 reviews
35 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 414 helpful votes
“Spectacular Trail”
Reviewed 9 January 2014

Since many people have written about the beauty of this trail, and it is stunningly varied and beautiful, I thought that I would just provide some information that you might find useful in planning your hike.

Length of Trip-
Your first decision will probably be how many days you would like to take hiking the trail. Most people opt for two or three days, spending their nights at the beautiful Crestone Base Camp. This is sufficient time for most hikers to do the trail if they are only hiking Chirripo; however, if you stay at Crestone longer it is a wonderful basecamp to use for many of the other high peaks, lakes etc. in the area. Chirripo can also be hiked in one day but it is a long day (12-18 hrs) even for fit and experienced hikers. Choosing the length of trip that is right for you can make all the difference. If you choose to do the hike in two days you will climb 9 miles and 6200 ft (including ups and downs) to the Crestone Base Camp on the first day. On the second day you will climb the final 3 miles and 1700 ft to the summit. Then you will descend 12 miles to the trailhead. On the descent you will climb another 800+ vt. feet. If you take three days to do the hike the first day will be the same as the two day hike. On the second day you will hike the six miles out and back to the summit. On the third day you will descend the 9 miles from the Crestone Base Camp to the trailhead. Whichever way you do it the total is 24 miles and 8800 feet of elevation gain.

Approximate climbing times for experienced and fit hikers with a 15-20 lb pack are:
Trailhead to Crestone Base Camp 5 - 7.5 hrs
Base Camp to Summit 1.5 - 3 hrs
Summit to Base Camp 1.25 - 2.5 hrs
Basecamp to Trailhead 4 - 5.5 hrs
These estimates are just to give you a rough idea. Some can do it faster, others will need more time. Make adjustments for your level of fitness, experience, pack weight, weather conditions, etc.

Permits-
If you are going to spend at least one night at the base camp you need to acquire an overnight permit. You can call the park office ahead of time but if you are hiking in the dry season (Dec- April) all of the permits will probably be gone. If you do call ask for Harold. He speaks some English and is very helpful. If you can not reserve a permit ahead of time then you will have to show up at the park office the day before to try to get one of the ten permits they make available for the next day. At times there are already 10 people waiting in line before it opens at 8 am. Other days you can show up at 4 pm and still get a permit. It all depends on how many others wish to hike the next day. If you have to hike on a certain day you should probably arrive 2 hrs before the park office opens. If you are not going to spend a night on the trail you still need to go to the park office to get a day permit. These are unlimited in number so you can go to the office at any time and know that you can hike the next day.

Guides-
You do not need a guide to hike this trail unless you want them to carry some of your gear. The trail is extremely well marked every kilometer.

Early start-
Start early. The hottest most humid sections of the trail are at the lowest elevations. Early morning is the most comfortable part of the day to do these sections.

Water-
There is potable water at the Refugio Bonito at 7 1/2 km (4.7 miles), at km 13, and at Crestone Base Camp km 14 1/2. I carried only two (or at times three) 20 oz bottles and always had sufficient water. I do not think you need to carry as much water as others recommend but this is your decision.

Trail-
The first 5-6 km of the trail can be muddy and slippery (especially descending) depending on the season that you are hiking. The upper section of the trail is generally in good condition. The steepest sections are the 2 kms after the Refugio Bonito, the last 1 1/2 km to the Crestone Hut, and the last 1/2 km to the summit.

Crestone Base Camp-
The location has stunning views. It is a wonderful place to just hang out after a day of hiking. I did not stay there but I heard that the accommodations were good, although a number of people commented on a lot of snoring (bring some small ear plugs). There is a woman who works at the base camp (I forget her name) who cooks for some of the groups that come up. She was happy to cook up a small feast for me (in less than 10 minutes) for a small fee and a large tip. It's a nice option to have if you're tired of the food you carried up.

Weather-
Chirripo has mountain weather, ie, variable, unpredictable, and can change fast. Be prepared for heat, cold, sun, wind, rain, etc. You'll probably experience all on your trip so bring whatever you need just in case. I spent the first 4 1/2 hrs of my hike in cloudy, humid conditions, the next 5 in the sun and wind, and the last 5 in a steady rain.

I hope this info helps, and that you enjoy this beautiful trail and magical experience as much as I did. If you have any questions you can contact me at argustmr@yahoo.com.

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
16 Thank TMR1004
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
113 reviews
27 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 64 helpful votes
“Costa Rica Bucket List Event”
Reviewed 3 November 2013

I did this last September with two good friends and loved it. We hired a sherpa and donkey to carry our stuff up for us - no need to try and be a tough guy on this trip, it's such an opportunity it is best to enjoy it. We hiked up with just day packs with some extra clothes and snacks, and of course water. It's a beautiful hike as you go from below the clouds to the cloud forest to above the timber line. We made it up to base camp in about 7.5 hours, made a delicious meal, and then slept. Sleeping was really hard the first night due to the altitude, but we got over it. The next morning you get up early and climb to the peak of Chirripo, obviously best to do it to see the sun rise. It's absolutely stunning. After climbing to the summit you can hike all the way back down and leave, but we stayed the night to enjoy it. I'd definitely recommend buying small propane heaters to cook a warm meal, it will taste delicious after that hike!

Visited December 2012
Helpful?
3 Thank Chris A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Nature at its best!”
Reviewed 16 October 2013

I book a guided tour trough Rainforest adventures and it was superb! the amount of animals, the scenery and the proximity to the city is very convenient at this national park, next to Manuel Antonia was the best place i saw in the entire country!!!

Visited September 2013
Helpful?
5 Thank Derek J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
“natrual beauty grate guide people wewr friendly food was really good”
Reviewed 6 October 2013

the views was outstanding ,park was clean the paths were will maintained plenty to see .one could spend their entire day walking in the park

Visited September 2013
Helpful?
Thank cee b
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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