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Fodor's In Focus Panama
Parque Nacional Volcán Barú
Parque Nacional Volcán Barú Review
Towering 11,450 feet above sea level, Barú Volcano is literally Chiriquí's biggest attraction, and Panama's highest peak. The massive dormant volcano is visible from David and is the predominant landmark in Boquete and Volcán, but Bambito and Cerro Punta are tucked so tightly into its slopes that you can hardly see it from there. The upper slopes, summit, and northern side of the volcano are protected within Barú Volcano National Park, which covers some 35,000 acres and extends northward to connect with the larger Parque Internacional La Amistad, shared by Panama and Costa Rica. The vast expanse of protected wilderness is home to everything from cougars to howler monkeys and more than 250 bird species. You might see white hawks, black guans, violet sabrewings, sulphur-winged parakeets, resplendent quetzals, and rare three-wattled bellbirds in the park's cloud forests. The craggy summit is topped by radio towers and a cement bunker, and unfortunately many of its boulders are covered with graffiti.
The most popular way to take in the park is the Sendero Los Quetzales, which has excellent bird-watching and is most easily done starting out in Cerro Punta. Several other trails penetrate the park's wilderness, including two trails to the summit. The main road to the summit begins in Boquete, across from the church, and is paved for the first 7 km (4 miles), where it passes a series of homes and farms and then becomes increasingly rough and rocky. You pay the park fee at the ANAM ranger station 15 km (9 miles) from town, which takes about 90 minutes to reach in a 4WD vehicle. Park your vehicle at the station, because the road above it can only be ascended in trucks with super-high suspension. From here it's a steep 14-km (8½-mile) hike to the summit. The other trail to the summit begins 7 km (4 miles) north of Volcán and ascends the volcano's more deforested western slope, a grueling trek only recommended for serious athletes.
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