The Pipeline Trail

Before commencing my Central American drifting escapade over two months ago, I had it in mind to engage in various hiking excursions during the trip.  I enjoy moving my body along the earth, especially upward, and with a destination in mind.

After having my toe chomped on by a stingray at the Pacific beach of Las Peñitas near León in Nicaragua, that tentative plan was temporarily thwarted.

The good news two months later is that the toe feels around 95% healed.  Since hiking India Dormida in El Valle a week ago, when  mentioning that the toe was about 90% healed, I’ve managed more hiking in the gorgeous mountain-cloud town of Boquete.

The Pipeline Trail sits in the Bajo Mono forest area.  Bajo means down while mono translates into monkey.  My best translation is ‘Monkeys climbing down the mountains in trees’.  I didn’t see any monkeys but I did see an exotic Quetzal and heard what sounded like a big animal moving in the woods. 

The Pipeline is one of the more popular short trails in Boquete.  Most of the path is an easy ascent that follows along a water pipe.

There are a couple of steep and slippery spots.  Three foot bridges must be crossed along the way.  The trail becomes picturesque as you get closer to the waterfall that culminates the path.

Upon reaching the end of the trail, the gushing, cold waterfall crashes down constantly from about 40 meters or 131 feet.  That’s a rough estimate as I haven’t been successful in finding the exact height.  It’s possible to get underneath (although not quite directly) to feel the refreshment.  Directly under lay big slippery rocks.

I recommend relaxing near the waterfall and having lunch, a snack or a meditation session.

Getting down is fast.  It only takes between half-an-hour and an hour.

To get to the Pipeline Trail take a Bajo Mono minibus from the center of town.  When you see the microbuses, simply ask for Bajo Mono and there should be one leaving within half-an-hour.   The driver/conductor will assume that you’re going to the trail and will drop you off there.  The ride takes 20-minutes or less.

Upon entering the trail, a woman may come out from her house and charge you $3.  If you don’t see anyone, just walk through the open gate.  Chances are the woman will be on the trail to greet you and ask you for the three bucks.  If you don’t see anyone, don’t worry about it. 

Up until very recently, there was no charge.   This makes me wonder:  As tourism/expat residency continues to grow, how will this idyllic mountain town change within the next few years?

I stopped and spoke to an elderly local man while walking towards the Pipeline Trail.  As I was hiking with a blond-haired Dutch girl, I wasn’t surprised that he was more interested in talking to her than to me.  He told us:

With all the foreigners moving here, the prices are going up.  Things are so expensive now.”

4 Responses to The Pipeline Trail

  1. Katrina Smith & Roderick Landau says:

    The trail you are referring to has always been private property (the property of my husband’s family – the Landaus). In the past 10 years, the property started being overrun by tourists who have degraded the trail, the bridges (built for the maintenance of the pipeline), and they have left garbage. We saw that big tour groups were being led directly to the trail with guides from town. Similar to how you might not want random people walking through your own private property, the family realized that this was becoming a problem and built the gate. We spoke about charging the $3 for all visitors so that the land is still shared with the public but now we know who is there. Maybe you noticed that recently one of the bridges was replaced, some of the local trees have been identified with signs and parts of the trail have been improved. The alternative (especially now after learning that you are encouraging people to ignore the lady and walk through) is to close off the land completely in order to keep it wild and protected, allowing only people through needed for the farming operations.

    • earthdrifter says:

      KATRINA: I had no idea that the Pipeline Trail is private property. When I was there about 11 months ago, it seemed that tourists were encouraged to hike the trail. I and probably many others assumed that it’s public land. Actually, I’m surprised that you’ve let so many people onto your property for so long, especially huge tour groups. As I’m passionate about and like to document my independent travel, I wouldn’t enjoy hiking with huge groups, so I can empathize with your feelings.

      To me, leaving garbage on a nature trail is completely uncalled for. Where I come from it’s common sense to take your trash with you. However, this often isn’t the case in the developing world.

      As mentioned, I haven’t been to Boquete since last April so I haven’t been able to see the replaced bridges, labeled trees, and improved parts of the trail. I think it’s great that the money is going towards the upkeep of your wonderful path.

      I must assure you that I in no way meant to encourage people to ignore the lady and walk through the gate: as is demonstrated in the above post where I wrote:
      Upon entering the trail, a woman may come out from her house and charge you $3. If you don’t see anyone, just walk through the open gate. Chances are the woman will be on the trail to greet you and ask you for the three bucks. If you don’t see anyone, don’t worry about it.

      I also wrote a reply to a previous below comment:
      The $3 trail charge is only for foreigners. I’m guessing they use the money for upkeep. It’s very hard to say where it all goes. It’s a popular trail and well worth it for the waterfall. Three bucks still makes for an inexpensive activity and a cheap day.

      In my blog I typically write about what things cost. This is why I mentioned the $3 and how in my situation I paid the woman when I saw her about half way up the trail. If I hadn’t seen anyone, then I couldn’t have paid anyone. I don’t feel that that’s encouraging people to avoid paying the $3.

      If you have any further concerns please feel free to contact me via email: mike@earthdrifter.com

      Thanks!

  2. It’s like in NH years ago when they started to charge to park in the trail head parking areas. I guess it is a good thing so they can finance trail maintenance.
    I wonder where the money goes down there? Not much is free anymore. Soon we’ll have to pay for the air we breath.

    • earthdrifter says:

      More ex-pats from North America and Europe are immigrating to Boquete. They are mostly US retirees. Also, the area continues to get more popular with backpackers and vacationers. Prices for things will naturally go up. Panamanian tourist destinations is becoming what tourism has become in Costa Rica. I paid $.70 to use a bathroom at the bus station in Liberia, Costa Rica.
      The $3 trail charge is only for foreigners. I’m guessing they use the money for upkeep. It’s very hard to say where it all goes. It’s a popular trail and well worth it for the waterfall. Three bucks still makes for an inexpensive activity and a cheap day. Still, to go from free to $3 is a big jump. Most of the other trails don’t charge yet.

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