Colombia Latin America

How to Hike Valle del Cocora

June 21, 2018

Valle del Cocora (Cocora Valley) is located in Salento, Colombia. It’s known for its wax trees — tall and skinny trees that look like something straight out of Dr. Seuss. The view is stunning, but the hike isn’t for the faint of heart. The full loop through the valley is about a 5-hour excursion through lots of mud (mixed with horse poop) and plenty of uphill trekking. Your shoes and clothes will get dirty and you might slip if you’re not careful.

Note: There is a way to see the wax trees without all the mud. Start the hike clockwise and turn around once you reach the viewpoints.

What to bring

  • Hiking shoes (or rainboots)
  • Trekking poles
  • Light rain jacket
  • Bug repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Snacks or light lunch
  • Water (hydration pack if possible)
  • Bandaids (in case you hit barb wire)
  • $18k pesos to cover the jeep and entrance fees (including the entrance fee to the hummingbird sanctuary)

How to hike Valle del Cocora

Jeep Willy to Valle del Cocora

Walk to the town center and request a jeep for Valle del Cocora ($8k pesos). You’ll want to get there early in the morning (before 9am) to beat the heat and get back before nightfall.

The jeep will drop you off in a parking lot near a restaurant with a sign for bathrooms. Head towards the main road, turn left, go straight until you hit an unmarked path to the right. This will take you through the valley in a counter-clockwise direction, which means you’ll be traversing the mud uphill rather than downhill. If you don’t want to do the full hike, but still want to see the main sights of the valley (i.e. the wax trees), you can walk straight up the road to start the hike in a clockwise direction.

Muddy pastures

The mud of Valle del CocoraHike through the mud out in the open pasture for a good stretch. To be honest, I lost track of the exact amount of time we were trekking through mud, but it must have been at least an hour. You’ll have to pay $2k pesos to continue forward and you’ll later have to cross about 7 bridges (one person at a time) in the actual forest.

Bridge crossing in Valle del Cocora

Acaime (hummingbird santuary)

For a break, follow the signs toward the Acaime hummingbird sanctuaryThe entrance fee is $5k pesos and includes a hot beverage of your choice (some of which includes a cheese). While Acaime is a small place with not too much to see, it makes for a nice rest stop.

Acaime, Valle del Cocora

To continue onto the rest of the hike, you’ll need to backtrack down the hill from Acaime. You’ll see signs for Estrella de Agua, but that’s not where you want to go. Eventually, you’ll hit a minor fork in the trail. Go up the path that appears to be a switchback.

Top of Valle del Cocora

You’ll know you’re headed the right way when you keep hiking uphill for an indefinite amount of time. This is probably the most challenging part of the hike (aside from the mud and barb wire), but ultimately, you’ll reach a viewpoint at the top.

The top of Valle del Cocora

Sendero Bosque de Palmas

From here, you’ll be walking downhill (finally!). You’ll have to pay $3k pesos to enter the Sendero Bosque de Palmas, where you’ll finally be rewarded with a few scenic viewpoints of the wax trees.

Wax tree in Valle del Cocora

If you look closely, you’ll even see the muddy trail that you first embarked on (and perhaps some poor souls struggling through it). Be proud — you’ve come a long way!

Standing among wax trees

After the viewpoints, it’s straight downhill with more wax trees. Yes, you’ll probably feel exhausted, but the worst part is over. Easy peasy from here!

Hiking down Valle del Cocora

You’ll eventually hit the main road and the parking lot with the jeeps to take you back into town. It’s over!

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