Hiking in Parque Nacional Soberanía
Soberanía's natural treasures can be discovered along miles and miles of trails and roads, whereas the western edge of the park can be explored on boat tours through local companies. The park also protects a significant portion of the old Camino de las Cruces, a cobbled road built by the Spanish that connected old Panama City with a small port on the Chagres River, near modern-day Gamboa. It's more than 10 km (6 miles) long and intersects with the Plantation Road before reaching the river, but you don't have to hike far to find cobbled patches that were restored a couple of decades ago.
The Plantation Road is a dirt road that heads east into the forest from the road to Gamboa for about 4 miles, to where it connects to the Camino de Cruces. That wide trail follows a creek called the Río Chico Masambi, and it's a great place to see water birds and forest birds. Two kilometers (1 mile) past the entrance to the Canopy Tower is the Sendero el Charco (Pool Trail), which forms a loop through the forest to the east of the road to Gamboa. The charco (pool) refers to a man-made pond near the beginning of the trail that was created by damming a stream. The trail follows that stream part of the way, which means you may spot waterbirds such as tiger herons, in addition to such forest birds as toucans and chachalacas. It is one of the park's most popular trails because it's a loop, it's short (less than a kilometer), and it's flat enough to be an easy hike.
The park's most famous trail is the Camino del Oleoducto (Pipeline Road), a paved road that follows an oil pipeline for 17 km (11 miles) into the forest parallel to the canal. One of the country's premier bird-watching spots, it is here that the Panama Audubon Society has had record-breaking Christmas bird counts year after year. The Pipeline Road is a great place to see trogons (five species have been logged there), motmots, forest falcons, and hundreds of other bird species as well as monkeys and agoutis. You can hike any of these on your own, but you'll see and learn more if you take a bird-watching tour.
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