El Valle's northern edge is protected within the 827-acre (335-hectare) nature reserve Monumento Natural Cerro Gaital, which covers the hills of Cerro Gaital, Cerro Pajita, and Cerro Caracoral. Cerro Gaital is a steep, forest-draped hill that towers over the valley's northern edge, rising to a summit of more than 3,500 feet above sea level. The lush wilderness that covers it is home to more than 300 bird species, including such spectacular creatures as the red-legged honeycreeper,
bay-headed tanager, and blue-crowned motmot. It also protects the habitat of the rare golden toad (Atelopus zeteki), which has almost been wiped out in the wild by a fungal disease. The bird-watching is best along the edges of that protected area, since its lush foliage provides too many hiding places for those feathered creatures, and the terrain is dangerously steep. The areas around El Nispero, Los Mandarinos hotel, and the old Hotel Campestre are excellent for bird-watching. There is a trail into the forest by the ranger post on the right, above the Refugio Ecológico Chorro Macho, approximately 10 kilometers from the church. It requires good shoes and decent physical condition and is best done with a guide.
Turn right at end of Av. Principal, continue past Canopy Tour, trail on the right., El Valle, 0211, Panama
Jul 20, 2010
Please not that the trail entrance at Los Mandarinos hotel listed above has been abandoned for several years, is very treacherous and not well-marked. You should not attempt this ascent without proper rock climbing gear and a guide. Definitely not for bird watchers (unless you count vultures circling around your corpse after you fall 300 feet). The correct entrance to the Gaital trail is about 10 km away from town, close to Pollos Toledano. This
trail is very gentle until the lookout, and then is steeper but well-marked.