Hiking to the Summit of Cerro Chirripó

An out-and-back climb to the rooftop of Costa Rica. The summit offers a sweeping 360° panorama over the surrounding Talamanca mountains, and on a clear day, you can see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. I hiked Chirripó in February 2000, during a two-month backpacking journey through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. All logistical information has been updated as of March 2020. 

Distance:  24.9 miles (40 km)b_10

Average Time:  2 days

  • For strong hikers that make an early start, it is possible to do the return journey in a single day.

Start / Finish:

  • Out-and-back hike from the village of San Gerardo de Rivas to the summit of Cerro Chirripó (3820m), located on the outskirts of Chirripó National Park.

Season:

  • The dry season from December to April is considered to be ideal for hiking Chirripó. Summit temperatures range from daytime highs of around 18°C (65°F) to below freezing at night.
  • Outside of these months, you will see far fewer hikers on the trail. That being said, during the wet season it generally doesn’t rain before midday, so if you are an early riser who wants to avoid the crowds, May to November may be a more suitable option.

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Planning Information:

  • Permit: A permit is required to hike Chirripó. It needs to be purchased in advance via the National Park’s website. As of March 2020, the price for foreigners is US$18. Note that the Chirripó summit hike has become very popular over the years, and weekends and Costa Rican holidays can be booked out months in advance. If possible, try to arrange to do your hike mid-week when the trail will be less crowded.
  • Accommodation:  Most people do the Chirripo hike over two or even three days. As camping is not permitted on the main trail, the only accommodation option is a 52-bed mountain hostel called Crestones Base Camp (3392 m). Located at El Paramo, 3.1 mi (5 km) from the summit, it also needs to be booked in advance. Once you have your permit organised, email info@chirripo.org with your details (i.e. permit number and dates). After you have received confirmation, you will need to make your payment in person at a Banco Nacional in Costa Rica.
  • GPS: See Wikiloc for downloadable GPX data for the Cirripo hike.
  • Travel Guide: For a general travel info on Costa Rica, it’s still hard to go past Lonely Planet’s Costa Rica guidebook.

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Route / Conditions :

  • The trail from San Gerardo de Rivas to Chirripó summit (3820m) is well marked and easy to follow. Most folks take 8 to 10 hours to ascend and 5 to 7 hours to make the return journey.
  • Though the path climbs more than 2500m, the ascent is a gradual one, and hikers with a reasonable level of fitness should be fine. Note that there is no need to carry a heavy load, as meals are available at the Crestones Base Camp.
  • The path begins in the pasture lands around San Gerardo de Rivas (1350m) and ascends gradually into tropical lowland montane forests. From there it continues climbing into montane/evergreen forests, before finally emerging above the tree line into the windswept landscapes of the Paramo (tundra).

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  • There are no water sources until halfway up the ascent at the Llano Bonito shelter. It is recommended that hikers carry at least a couple of litres of water from the starting point at San Gerardo de Rivas.
  • If you are doing the hike over multiple days, be sure to make an early start from the hostel, in order to catch the sunrise from the top.

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Overview :

  • The two things that really stood out for me about the Chirripó hike, were the diversity of flora and fauna and the wonderful views from the summit.
  • Final Tip: There is a hot spring located a couple of kilometres from the National Park Ranger Station, which is perfect for a soothing post-hike soak.