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Nearly all the lodges and outfitters in the area offer guided hikes through the park to the fumaroles, hot springs, waterfalls, summit, or the edge of the active crater.
If you're doing a self-guided hike, stop for trail maps and hiking information at the park stations at both entrance gates. To give yourself enough time to complete the longer hikes, make sure you start out between 7 and 9 am.
Trail to the summit. The 8-km (5-mile) trail to the summit heads up into the forest from Las Pailas park entrance, then emerges onto a windy, exposed shale slope that's slippery and hard going, and has poor visibility owing to clouds and mist. It's a trip for serious hikers, best done in the dry season with preparation for cold weather at the top. The trail is occasionally closed due to volcanic activity. Check with park rangers to make sure the trail is open when you visit. Rincón de la Vieja National Park.
Loop through the park. A less-strenuous option is the fascinating 3-km (2-mi) loop through the park, which takes about two hours to complete, starting at Las Pailas entrance. Along the well-marked trail you'll see fumaroles exuding steam, a volcáncito (little volcano), and Las Pailas, the boiling mud fields named after pots used for boiling down sugarcane. If you tread softly in the nearby forest, you may spot animals such as howler, capuchin, and spider monkeys, as well as raccoonlike coatis looking for handouts. Remember the cardinal rule of wildlife encounters: don't feed the animals. Rincón de la Vieja National Park.
La Cangreja Waterfall loop. Another popular hike out of Las Pailas is the four-hour, 10-km (6-mile) La Cangreja Waterfall loop, passing through beautiful primary forests and windswept savannas. The catarata (waterfall) has a cool swimming hole below; the surrounding rocks have pockets of hot springs. Check with park rangers to make sure this trail is open. Rincón de la Vieja National Park.
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