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Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 | 2 comments

El Imposible National Park: Cerro El Leon Hike

The second day on El Imposible National Park, we decided to hike to the top of Cerro El Leon (Lion’s Peak).  This is the toughest hike in the park.  It is 8km long (about 5 miles).  We asked our guide to extend the hike because we didn’t want to return to the park’s entrance by the same path.  We ended hiking 10 km (or 6 miles).

The hike is so tough that some guides prefer not to do it. We witnessed this first hand.  During our first hike in the park (Viewpoints Hike), we discussed with our group the options for the following day.  Only three of us were up to the challenge.  The other part of the group was going to do a simple 1 km hike to one of the park’s river.

Let me tell you what happened next.  The guide offered to take one part of the group to the river.  Ja!! Did you think he was going to offer his services for the long walk?  He said he was going to call the coordinator and tell her WE wanted him to take one group to the river.  He was also going to request another guide for the ones wanting to do the long hike.

My husband and one of our friends were a little bit surprised by the guide’s decision.

I told them: “Hey, if this guy is going to get paid the same amount of money for taking us to the river or to the peak, which job do you think he is going to take”.

My husband replied:  “You know what? I bet you the coordinator is going to send a woman.  She is going to prove who is who in this park”.

Guess what? Next day, a lady was waiting for us in the park’s entrance.  She told us she can do the hike in 1.5 hours (it usually takes 4 to 5 hours). We are talking about muddy, slippery and steep terrain (full of wild animals).  Now, that is what I call extreme.  Can you tell me again who the weakest gender is?

Our guide for the Cerro El Leon Hike


Anyway, she turned out to be a great guide.  She shared her knowledge of the park, discussed her daily life and patiently waited when I needed to rest.

The hike ended to be full of surprises.  I am not going to lie, it was tough.  Keep in mind this statement is coming from a person totally out of shape.  I made it to the top of the peak but I sweated my way up (literality).  I took it slow and stopped to rest several times.

Take into consideration the terrain is highly variable. We started to hike downhill towards the Ixcanal River.  The trail was wet and slippery.  We were moving towards the lowest points in the park.  Once we reached the river, everything started to go uphill.  I am saying uphill like in 3 hours of climbing a mountain.  On a positive note, you don’t feel the oppressive humidity while walking around since the park is a dry tropical forest.

Hiking towards the Ixcanal RIver


Ixcanal RIver


We walked about 40 minutes over a marshy part covered with rusty leaves.  This is where I got one of the biggest surprises of my life.  I had my first encounter with a snake in the wild.  I get goose bumps just thinking about that particular moment.

Suddenly, I saw a strange pattern in the path.  I saw circles in a bed of leaves. I knew it was a snake. I was the last one on the group. I don’t understand how any of us didn’t step over it. I ran to tell my husband I saw a snake. One of our friends went back to try to spot it. He told me I was paranoiac. Then, he saw it. My husband ran to see it while I stood there almost crying. The guide told them to keep a prudent distance. She went to see it too but couldn’t tell the specie because it was coiled. She just knew it was poisonous. You know, I tried to contain myself but I just wanted to get out of there. I continued walking in shock like for 45 minutes. Did I mention I was hiking in Tevas. I am buying hiking boots after the experience.

Even though I was kind of traumatized after the snake encounter (I hate snakes), I can affirm the hike was something special.  The thought of being in the heart of the last wild place of a country made me giddy.

We were hoping to see lots of wildlife (coatis, anteaters, agoutis).  We didn’t see any of those but were pleased with what we saw.







Bird in Flight


The flowers in the park were amazing.  I saw some of the most amazing orchids I have seen anywhere.

White Flowers


Orange Flower


Amazing Orchid


The park was also full of edible fruits and vegetables.  No wonder so many animals call this place home.



Mamey Tree


Well, and let me not forget about the views from the top of Cerro El Leon.  From there, we witnessed the vastness of the park.  We were even able to see the hotel from the top (its solar panels were glistening).

View from the top of Cerro El Leon


More Views from the top of Cerro El Leon


Me at the top of Cerro El Leon


After reaching the goal, we returned happily to the starting point.  We left the guide at the front of her house (guides come from the community).  We continued to the hotel where our pre-ordered lunch was waiting.  Later, we told the rest of the group about our adventurous hike.  The kids were happy because we saw a snake.  Go figure.  I just know I was thankful for the opportunity to have an experience like this.

Have you done an extrenous hike? Let me know in the comments section below.



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  1. wow lindisimo mi pais como lo extra~o

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