Distance: 5 kms return Duration of hike: 4 hours Degree of difficulty: Moderate to strenuous.
Some hiking experience recommended. Initial half hour is gradually uphill through farm before we enter the forest and climb for another hour and a half. The trail is clear but currently is not well formed with some scrambling over fallen tree trunks and across streams over slippery rocks. After rain the trail can be slippery and muddy. This won't be too difficult if you are relatively fit and agile.
The cloud forests of Honduras are home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals and there are only a few opportunities for easily accessing them. Parque Nacional de Santa Bárbara is one of the easier places to experience this forest ecosystem.
The limestone massif of Montaña de Santa Bárbara rises imposingly over the villages of El Sauce, San Luis Planes and El Dorado. On this hike, we set out from El Sauce, climbing gently through farmland with views over the village of San Luis Planes.
At the edge of the farmland, a wall of trees confronts us and, with a few paces we are enshrouded by the majestic forest. As you climb more steeply up the forest trail, your guide will describe the medicinal and edible plants of the forest, the insects, fungi and birds and, if you are lucky some of the mammals and reptiles that are occasionally encountered.
Depending on the season you may get to witness “la cascada mistiriosa” - the mysterious waterfall. Because of the porous nature of the limestone mountain, much of the rainfall quickly disappears into the ground and it is only after particularly heavy rain that it emerges from a spring to cascade over the rocks before disappearing once again into the earth – a waterfall with no stream above or below!
After a snack in the forest at the highest point in the trail, we descend once more, completing a loop where we will be rewarded by another snack of fresh fruits grown by one of the locals! We then return to San Luis Planes for delicious lunch in a family home.