Hiking Cerro El Pital is one of the best things you can do in El Salvador. Located in the department of Chalatenango, this mountain in El Salvador has many spectacular Miradors. By hiking Cerro El Pital, you’ll also explore Piedra Rajada, which is one of the most amazing natural attractions in El Salvador. In addition, the hike involves reaching El Mojon, which is officially the highest point in El Salvador.
In this guide, we’ll cover all the necessary information you’ll need to visit Cerro El Pital. We’ll talk about the best hiking route, which includes the best Miradors, Piedra Rajada and El Mojon. Then, we’ll look at how to visit independently, the best group tour option from San Salvador and hotels in El Pital in El Salvador. Finally, we’ll cover other things to do in the area other than hiking and talk about other superb national parks and mountains in El Salvador.
Cerro El Pital: The Highest Point in El Salvador
At 2,730 metres above sea level, Cerro El Pital is well-known for being the highest point in El Salvador. By hiking Cerro El Pital, you’ll visit El Mojon. Technically speaking, El Mojon is actually the highest point on this mountain in El Salvador, and, the highest point in El Salvador! And, for those wondering, the Pacific Ocean is considered the lowest point in El Salvador!
Cerro El Pital, commonly known as, El Pital, is a binational natural park and mountain, shared with Honduras. The area of El Pital belonging to El Salvador sits in the municipality of San Ignacio. Whilst, the part of El Pital belonging to Honduras belongs to the region of Ocoatepeque. In fact, the portion of Cerro El Pital in Honduras is the country’s third-highest point. It’s actually Cerro Las Minas which is Honduras’ highest mountain. The Cerro Las Minas elevation is 2,870m, making it the highest point in Honduras.
Anyway, we’re not here to talk about Honduras. Let’s talk about the amazing Cerro El Pital hike, which starts in Rio Chiquito. From the bottom of the mountain, similar to Conchagua Volcano, you’ll follow a 4×4 accessible only road. As you gain elevation, you’ll enjoy fantastic views of El Salvador mountains. Then, near the summit, you’ll reach epic Miradors with even better views. With extra exploration, you’ll also check out Piedra Rajada and El Mojon.
Cerro El Pital Hike in El Salvador Preview
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 10km
- Time: 4–5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 600m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Rio Chiquito
Cerro El Pital Hike
From the quiet streets of Rio Chiquito, you’ll follow a wide and bumpy road leading you up Cerro El Pital. Passing farmland, you’ll immediately ascend into the forest. The trail to the summit of Cerro El Pital passes many heavily vegetated areas, which you’ll see right from the get-go.
There are plenty of pine, cypress and oak trees. These alpine vibes at Cerro El Pital are very different to the landscapes found elsewhere in El Salvador. Compared with the tropical dry forest at El Imposible National Park and the typical dry forest in other national parks in El Salvador (such as Cerro Verde National Park or El Boquerón National Park), the flora at Cerro El Pital is very unique.
Eventually, you’ll reach the ticket office and pay the $3USD entrance fee.
Around the corner from the ticket office, the winding trail straightens towards a car park. Here, you’ll find benches, which provide some incredible views of El Salvador mountains. This is actually one of the best vantage points on the Cerro El Pital hike.
Following a sharp bend in the road, you’ll pass by many beautifully perched cabins. Attached, are mini-lookouts, a small tree-top walkway and a small shop. Further along, you’ll reach the main campground. There’s a small restaurant and the first official Mirador next to it. But, we think the views from the Mirador perched on the grassy area of the campground are even better! In fact, there are plenty of nice spots on the grassy area to enjoy the many El Salvador mountains in the distance.
There’s even an extra Mirador to check out. Just a small distance from the campground, there is a slightly higher vantage point.
Piedra Rajada El Salvador
Once you’ve enjoyed the main Miradors, it’s time to head to Piedra Rajada. Located deeper into the alpine-like forest, you’ll find Piedra Rajada – one of the best natural attractions in El Salvador.
This awesome split-rock formation is often overlooked. Most people visiting Cerro El Pital are just focused on reaching the Miradors. But, they miss out on one of Cerro El Pital’s major highlights. The other benefit of going to Piedra Rajada is experiencing even more luscious and less-explored areas of forest. Beck and I were even lucky enough to see a hummingbird!
When we finally arrived at Piedra Rajada, we were a bit confused as to where the attraction actually was. We crossed a shaky and rickety suspension bridge to another viewpoint. From the lookout, we thought we would be able to see the amazing Piedra Rajada in El Salvador. But, we were wrong.
The suspension bridge is actually built over a huge gap in the mountainous rock formation. It’s from the suspension bridge that you can peer down into an awe-inspiring gap. The split in these gigantic rocky landforms is what’s known as Piedra Rajada. We recommend following a short trail that takes you closer to the gap. The views from here are mindblowing and even better than the birds-eye views from the suspension bridge. For sure, Piedra Rajada is a highlight of this magnificent hike in El Salvador.
After exploring Piedra Rajada, it’s time to check out El Mojon, which is technically the highest point in El Salvador. To reach El Mojon, you’ll hike through more spectacular dense forest. Although, soon enough, you’ll reach an exposed grassy area. This leads to a small campsite at the foot of the El Mojon attraction.
From there, you’ll join a short winding trail to El Mojon. Admittedly, reaching the highest point in El Salvador isn’t the most special experience. You’ll pass a heavily secured communications tower, protected by loud and aggressive guard dogs. This was a good time to speed hike!
What’s speed hiking? It’s a way to cover a trail quickly for whatever reason you may have! Like, avoiding the brunt of barking guard dogs. Find out more about speed hiking here.
At the highest point in El Salvador, you’ll find a mojon, which is a marker used to indicate the El Salvador-Honduras border. There are several mojons in the area. The biggest mojon, located at the highest point in El Salvador, is known as El Mojon.
Unfortunately, Beck and I experienced a white-out at the top. This meant we didn’t have any views of the El Salvador mountains or the surrounding towns, such as San Ignacio and La Palma. Admittedly, the tower and building didn’t make for a serene lookout. At least, El Mojon was an impressive landmark to visit. And, by visiting, you can say that you have officially reached the highest point in El Salvador! From there, you’ll simply retrace your steps to complete the trail!
Cerro El Pital Hike Recap
Hiking to the highest point in El Salvador is a great experience to have during your Central America travels. Plus, exploring Piedra Rajada is a memorable part of visiting Cerro El Pital. We highly recommend visiting this mountain in El Salvador. Continue below for all the logistical details, including camping options and El Pital El Salvador hotels.
How to Get to Cerro El Pital
If you have your own car, you can simply drive to the trailhead in Rio Chiquito. If you want to skip the hike, it’s possible to drive up the mountain road to a car park near the main campground. But, you’ll need to drive a high-clearance 4×4, as the road is uneven and bumpy. Keep in mind, there’s a $2USD road access fee and parking at the top is around $4USD.
If you’re using public transport, take the #109 bus from Terminal de Oriente in San Salvador to San Ignacio in Chalatenango. The journey takes around 3 hours and should only cost a few dollars. From San Ignacio, take the #509 bus towards Las Pilas. But, you’ll need to alight at the Canton Rio Chiquito bus stop. Thankfully, the bus stop is a short walk to the trailhead/mountain road leading to Cerro El Pital.
Cerro El Pital Group Tour
If you’re a bit short on time, it’s possible to visit Cerro El Pital as a day trip from San Salvador. There are a few tour companies that offer this trip, usually charging around $150USD per person. Luckily, Beck and I found a company offering a day trip for a more reasonable price. Club de Mochileros organise cheap tours in El Salvador, including the Cerro El Pital day trip. Their group tours are cheaper because they charge per group, instead of per person.
The Cerro El Pital group tour with Club de Mochileros is $120USD per group. So, with a group of six, it’s only $20USD each! Plus, you’ll pay the $3USD entrance fee. For this hike, a local guide isn’t mandatory or necessary.
Where to Stay in El Pital
Depending on your preference, it’s possible to camp or hire a cabin on Cerro El Pital, or, stay nearby in any of the great hotels in El Pital El Salvador. Let’s look at those options below.
Cerro El Pital Camping
To maximise your time at Cerro El Pital, we highly recommend camping. For $5USD per person, per night, you can camp atop this beautiful mountain in El Salvador. There’s plenty of space on the large grassy areas to pitch. You’ll also find decent facilities at the campsite. There’s a restaurant, a small shop and toilets. Also, booking in advance isn’t generally required.
Admittedly, the main camping area can get quite crowded on the weekends. So, if you want a quieter campsite at Cerro El Pital on the weekend, we recommend heading to El Mojon. There’s a small camping zone there that fewer people use. Of course, you’ll be further away from the facilities at the main camping area. But, you’re only a 5 minute walk away from there.
Cerro El Pital Cabins
If camping isn’t your thing, but you’d like to spend overnight at Cerro El Pital, consider renting a cabin. Next to the main campground, there are four cabins available to rent. Each cabin has a double bed and a bunk bed. But, toilets are located outside of the rooms. To rent a cabin, it’s $35USD/night for two people, $120USD for 10 people and $125USD for 12 people. Although, prices can increase during the high season. For more information and to make a booking, contact the owners on +503 2313 5470 or +503 7789 2493.
El Pital El Salvador Hotels
If you’re not looking to stay overnight at Cerro El Pital, we recommend staying at a hotel at the foot of the mountain. There are many fantastic hotels in El Pital El Salvador to choose from. Here’s our pick of the three best El Pital El Salvador hotels for exploring Cerro El Pital.
- El Pital Highland: one of the most popular hotels in El Pital in El Salvador. There’s a mix of cabins and deluxe rooms for couples and families.
- Eco-Cabañas Nubes del Pital: you’ll find three wonderful eco-lodges, that were built from locally sourced wood in the area. Also, it’s possible to book directly on AirBnB.
- Hostal El Pital Lechos de Flores: this hotel in El Pital in El Salvador comes highly rated. It has excellent cabins and an outstanding restaurant on-site.
Things to Do at Cerro El Pital
Other than hiking, there are plenty of other things to do at Cerro El Pital. This usually involves other outdoor activities, such as birdwatching, canopy zip-lining or exploring the wildflowers. Also, there are tonnes of different viewpoints around Cerro El Pital to discover. Go and find your favourite! And, when it’s time for a rest, you can spoil yourself with a nice meal at the campsite restaurant. There’s also good old-fashioned relaxing at camp. Why not chill out on the swing?
Cerro El Pital Weather
The altitude of Cerro El Pital makes it’s one of the coldest areas in El Salvador. On average, it’s around 10°C at El Pital, which is much colder than the rest of El Salvador. Unbelievably, it can reach -6°C in the colder months! Also dissimilar to the rest of El Salvador is consistent rainfall. Personally, Beck and I didn’t experience rain on our visit. But, it was quite cloudy and overcast.
Cerro El Pital Snow: yes, it can snow in El Salvador! Who would have thought?! Snow at Cerro El Pital is uncommon. But, in 2016, there were quite a few periods of heavy snowfall at Cerro El Pital. With global warming and resultant unpredictable weather, perhaps there’ll be more snow at El Pital in the future.
Other Mountains in El Salvador
El Salvador is known as the land of volcanoes. But, there are actually amazing hills and mountains in El Salvador to explore. Other than Cerro El Pital, here are our other favourite El Salvador mountains and hills to hike:
- Peñon de Comasagua: this spectacular landform isn’t really a hill or a mountain. Essentially, it’s just a huge rocky outcrop. Nevertheless, we guarantee that Peñón de Comasagua is worth the visit. We highly recommend this short hike at sunset.
- Cerro Leon: forming part of the long El Imposible National Park hiking loop, Cerro Leon is a superb mountain range. Reaching the peak of this mountain provides extraordinary views of El Imposible National Park.
- Cerro Eramon: one of the most picturesque natural attractions in El Salvador. The hike to Cerro Eramon is an absolute must for nature lovers and keen hikers.
National Parks in El Salvador
Cerro El Pital isn’t technically a national park. But, many refer to it as a natural park. And, honestly, it sometimes felt like a national park, when we were hiking in some of the highly vegetated areas. If you’re wanting to explore other national parks in El Salvador, check out the list below:
- Cerro Verde National Park: home to the well-known Santa Ana Volcano hike. But, make sure you also do the Izalco Volcano hike. We actually think it’s better than the hike at Santa Ana Volcano.
- El Boquerón National Park: this is an easy-to-reach national park from San Salvador. We recommend hiking around the entire crater of San Salvador Volcano to experience an adventurous trail.
- El Imposible National Park: this was one of our favourite national parks in El Salvador. We recommend hiking La Llorona, the Hidden Waterfalls Trail and the long loop trail, which includes Cerro Leon, Piedra Sellada and Los Enganches.
- Montecristo National Park: similar to Cerro El Pital, Montecristo National Park sits on the El Salvador-Honduras border. Make sure to do the main hiking trail, called El Trifinio.
Five Hiking Essentials
Why do you need this?
See it in action
These hiking boots are super comfortable and a great choice for the Cerro El Pital hike
This camera is lightweight and compact, so it's perfect for hiking. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes high-quality photos and 4K videos
El Pital experiences the most amount of rainfall in El Salvador. So, a waterproof jacket is a good idea
You can't beat a GoPro when it comes to action cameras. We captured some great footage with the GoPro at Cerro El Pital
A warm fleece jacket will come in handy during the colder months, particularly for locals who aren't used to the cold weather
Make sure to also pack 2L of water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
For a more complete hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, for a broad summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Don’t skip El Salvador: many tourists skip El Salvador during their Central America travels. Read our El Salvador guides to find other incredible places to visit in El Salvador. #dontskipelsalvador
- El Pital Supermarket: if you arrive at El Pital and need supplies for camping or hiking, head to Mini súper Walter y Lilian. It’s just down the road from the trailhead/mountain access road. Although, there are plenty of options for food and drinks at the campsites atop Cerro El Pital.
- Visit during the week: the campsites can get very rowdy on the weekend. Visit during the week for a more peaceful camping experience.
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