Mt. Balagbag has got to be one of the cheapest hiking destinations near the metro that still offers stunning views from its summit as expected from a mountain that is part of Sierra Madre. And last Sunday, October 25, I was fortunate enough to be able to hike up this beautiful mountain.
Height: 777+ MASL
Location: Rodriguez, Rizal/Norzagaray, Bulacan
Trek to Summit: 1 hour 30 minutes
Even though the trek to the summit is relatively fast compared to other mountains, one should still not underestimate the trail. Allow me to share my take on hiking Mt. Balagbag, my 8th mountain!
For those planning to hike the same mountain, kindly refer to the table below for the cost breakdown and travel details:
We all gathered at Jollibee Tungko around 7:00AM and left to ride a jeep to Licao Licao at 7:25. Please take note that the last trip from Licao Licao back to Tungko is at 5:30PM so hikers must prepare their itineraries carefully especially if there is a plan to do a twin hike to Mt. Maranat.
After all the final preparations in Licao Licao, we began the trek going to the baragay that also functions as the registration site. There is an option to ride a tricycle from Licao Licao going to the barangay but we chose to travel by foot instead to at least have our legs warmed up for the hike. Although it took us 55 minutes to reach the barangay, the trek did not feel as long because the ascent was very gradual. Because some of my hike mates already climbed Mt. Balagbag before and one of them is already known in the area, the registration only took about five minutes.
The real trek starts after the barangay registration.
Unlike the other mountains I have climbed, Mt. Balagbag’s trail is rather wide and bare making it a perfect destination for bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts who bring their own 4×4 trucks. However, since the trail is bare, expect the heat of the sun to be felt all throughout the hike. Yikes! More than the heat, one should prepare for a steep ascend that will last for about an hour – yes, an hour without any flat surfaces. This may just be the reason why this mountain is tagged with a 3/9 difficulty because aside from the steep ascend coupled with the heat of the sun, the trail is very easy with no roped segments, river crossing, rock climbing, cliff jumping and the like.
Even though I was sweating profusely, I found the trail really enjoyable because I liked the challenge it gave my legs. What also made the trek less tiring, for me, was the fact that we were listening to music through the speakers I brought and casually laughing at the jokes of each other.
There will be another registration site in a store somewhere along the trail. Be sure to restock on food and/or hydration because there will be no more stores after this. Here, we also met a very friendly dog who randomly decided to accompany us in our trek. It was very amusing to watch how he stops when we stop, rests when we rest and how he runs in front of us when we resume our trek. Because of this, we all allowed our new four-legged friend, Jepoy, to lead the way.
There are a couple of rest areas along the trail where we encountered several groups of bikers. I am not familiar with the types of bikes they were using but they looked pretty awesome. Again, what’s great about hiking is that you get to meet new people along the way and everyone’s so nice to each other.
We spent a few minutes in the rest area to recharge and take photos. There were not that many hikers that day mainly because majority went to Mt. Maranat so we had the trail mostly to ourselves.
The final assault to the summit is not as steep compared to the first one after the barangay registration so the trek was not as leg-crunching. Upon reaching the summit at around 10:20AM, I got disappointed that there was no clearing! The view of Sierra Madre was enveloped by so much fog that we were unable to fully appreciate what we hiked up for. Despite the fog covering the horizon, we still took a generous amount of photos before finally settling down for lunch. Unfortunately, Jepoy, our four-legged friend, disappeared moments after we reached the summit – Thanks for taking us there, buddy.
Originally, we planned to go to Maranat Falls after Mt. Balagbag. However, since we started late already, our organizer suggested not to push through with it since it will take about three more hours from Mt. Balagbag to Maranat Falls and we were already pressed for time because we still had to make sure to catch the Licao Licao jeep’s last trip going back to Tungko. After we established the decision of not going to Maranat Falls, there wasn’t any pressure when we descended because then, we had a lot of time to spare.
We spent this exploring the other parts of Mt. Balagbag and looking for nice spots to take photos. Luckily, the fog has cleared up a bit allowing us to see the vast number of mountains surrounding Mt. Balagbag. When we were satisfied with all the photos, we resumed our descent.
Remember how challenging it was to ascend because of the steep trail? Well, it was the opposite during the descent thanks to gravity. After several minutes of running down the mountain, we reached an intersection where a resort, Azure Mountain Resort and Farm, is located. And because we failed to go to Maranat Falls, we decided to go for a quick dip in the resort instead. It was no surprise that we were the only ones there because as I mentioned earlier, majority of the hikers that day went to Mt. Maranat.
After fixing and freshening up, we resumed our descent to the barangay where we took a very bumpy tricycle ride back to Licao Licao. To celebrate a successful climb, we bought grilled hotdogs from one of the stores in Licao Licao before riding the jeep back to Tungko. Instead of alighting in Jollibee Tungko, we all alighted in Starmall Bulacan where we rode the bus back to Coastal Mall.
Here’s a short clip that summarizes our hiking trip to Mt. Balagbag:
4:30AM – Bus from Coastal Mall to Tungko (P75)
7:25AM – Jeep from Tungko to Licao Licao (P28)
8:05AM – Arrival at Licao Licao. Final preparations
8:50AM – Barangay. Register (P10 each)
8:55AM – Start Trek
10:20AM – Arrival at Summit. Take photos. Lunch. Explore
11:45AM – Start descent. Explore the other parts of Mt. Balagbag
1:00PM – Arrival at Azure Mountain Resort and Farm. Swim. Rinse off (P80 each)
2:00PM – Start descent from Azure Mountain Resort and Farm
2:10PM – Back in Barangay. Wait and ride tricycle to Licao Licao (P30 each)
2:45PM – Back in Licao Licao. Eat and rest
3:30PM – Jeep from Licao Licao to Tungko (P28)
4:15PM – Arrival in Starmall San Jose Del Monte Bulacan. Ride Bus to Coastal (P75)
7:30PM – Arrival in Coastal Mall
It was nice to finally be able to hike again with the squad. Lol. Thank you for inviting me, Jen and thank you for organizing this, Robin! (Do you want to hike with us? Tell me so I can inform our “organizer”, Robin. Lol.)
Thank you also to my fun hike mates, Jena, Jepoy, Khen and Nerli!
Can’t wait for the next one!
A bit sad that we were not able to go to Mt. Maranat but still happy because I was able to see Sierra Madre again! Although it takes an extra effort on my part to be able to go to Rizal, the mountains there are always worth it. Glad to have crossed Mt. Balagbag off my hike list. Onto the next!