Mt Kalawitan (2,714m+): Your Complete DIY Travel Guide via Sabangan

Here is your complete DIY Travel Guide to Mt Kalawitan, considered as one of the highest peaks in the Philippines.

  • Location/Jump-off: Sabangan, Mt. Province; Talubin, Bontoc
  • Height: 2,714 MASL
  • Trekking Time: 6-7 hours (one way)
  • Special Features: Dwarf Bamboo, Sea of Clouds, Mossy Forest, Rich Flora and Fauna, Pine Forest
Sunrise View from Mt Kalawitan./
Sunrise View from Mt Kalawitan.

Mt Kalawitan is immortalized in the legends and myths of surrounding communities. It is said that during the Great Flood, the summit of Mt Kalawitan was spared, allowing a man and a woman to survive. When the flood subsided, they descended from the mountain and started a community. Through the years, the community grew and some of them migrated to other areas to build new communities.

Whether true or not, the story speaks of the prominence of Mt Kalawitan. Aside from its cultural value, Mt Kalawitan contains vast biological treasures, especially with its rich flora and fauna. It is one of the remaining pristine rainforests of the country complementing the neighboring Mt Amuyao.

Hiking to Mt Kalawitan, therefore, immerses you into an eco-cultural experience of a lifetime. Now, if you’re planning to assault the mountain in your spare time, here is a comprehensive travel guide to help you out.

READ: Top 10 Highest Mountain in the Philippines (Guide)

How to Go to Mt Kalawitan?

Deca-a & Dinumpang Rice Terraces in Sabangan.

The municipality of Sabangan is the primary jump-off point to Mt Kailawitan as it is part of its indigenous inhabitants’ ancestral domains. Here is how you’ll get there.

Manila to Sabangan via Baguio

  • Take buses bound to Baguio City leaving from Cubao or Pasay City terminals at hourly intervals. Travel time takes six hours. Fare ranges from Php 450- Php 495.
  • From Baguio, take GL Trans buses leaving from Dangwa Terminal behind Center Mall. Trips are available from 3:00 am to 2:30 pm. You can also take Rising Sun buses stationed at Slaughter Compound, Magsaysay Avenue from 4 am to 4 pm. Regular fare for both is Php 220 while the discounted fare is Php 212.
  • Drop off at Sabangan Police Station for registration and assistance to the tourism office.

Manila to Sabangan via Bontoc

  • Book your trips to Bontoc at CODA Lines leaving from H.M Bus Station at Edsa, Cubao, Quezon City. For rates and schedules, check out their website, Coda Lines. Travel times takes 10 to 11 hours.
  • From Bontoc, take a Public Utility Van leaving for Sabangan which are stationed near the Shell Gas Station or Buses GL Trans and Rising Sun leaving for Baguio stationed at Circle and Front of Bontoc Police Station Respectively.
  • Drop off at Sabangan Police Station for registration and assistance to the tourism office.

On the Trail to Mt Kalawitan

The municipal tourism office of Sabangan organizes the trek to Mt Kalawitan in the following manner:

On the first day, tourists/hikers will proceed to Apa Campsite where they will spend the first night. Before reaching the campsite, they will trek along the Dagiwdiw Rice Terraces which resembles the shape of a centipede. They will also pass by the pristine Kapangdanan River which comes from the mossy and pine forests of Mt Kalawitan. It’s a great place to experience nature’s relief. A favorite spot on the Kapangdanan River is a small waterfall with an inviting pool.

From the tourism office of Sabangan, it takes around three hours before reaching Apa Campsite.

The campsite has two old houses (part of the package) to spend the night at. They can also set up tents. It also has complete kitchen utensils, C.R., and a continuous supply of water. During the evening, you can spend time chatting with fellow hikers around a bonfire. If you’re lucky, you might glimpse a milky way.

Apa Campsite.
One of the traditional houses in Apa Campsite.

The following morning, trekkers then continue hiking to Mt Kalawitan. Initially, the trail cuts across grasslands and pine forests along a mountain ridge. There are also springs along the way where you can sip water and refill your bottles.

On the higher elevation, mossy forests offer welcoming relief because of the cool and relaxing atmosphere. Various bird species also provide natural music to the ear.

Pine trees dominate the lower elevation of Mt. Kalawitan.
A distant view of Halsema Highway as seen along the trail to Mt. Kalawitan.
Mossy trail to Mt Kalawitan
The mossy trail to Mt Kalawitan. Mossy forests dominate the upper elevation due to cold weather. Some trees here grow for only a few feet.

From time to time, trekkers may come across wildlife species such as a deer, wild pig, or a civet cat that inhabit the mountain. These are big surprises for lucky spectators. After all, Mt Kalawitan is a biological haven and is home to 59 bird species, mammals, and 72 species of rare plants belonging to 43 families. There is also high endemism in the mountain’s biodiversity.

Behold the Views from Mt Kalawitan

Another Sunrise view from Mt Kalawitan
Sunrise view from Mt Kalawitan

From Apa Campsite, it usually takes four to five hours of a hike to reach Mt Kalawitan’s summit.

Beautiful dwarf bamboo groves cover much of the summit including bonsai forests. From here, you’ll catch sight of the different provinces of the Cordillera such as Ifugao, Benguet, and Kalinga including the distant plains of Cagayan and Isabela. The towering Mt Amuyao in Barlig and Mt Pulag can also be seen.

If you reached Mt Kalawitan’s summit during the early morning, you might have the chance to view a stunning sea of cloud formation complemented by an entrancing sunrise. But if you reached the peak by night time, you can set up tents and wait for the sunrise the following morning.

After enjoying the sceneries atop Mt Kalawitan, you can then start descending. Typically, the package includes another sleepover at Apa Campsite. Here, you can again enjoy the warmth of a campfire and experience the rich cultural dances and music of the locals.

The following morning, you may then hike back to the town center and wait for a ride going to Baguio or Bontoc before catching a bus to Manila.

READ: 20+ Must-See Eco-Tourist Spots in Sabangan (Your Complete DIY Travel Guide)

Where to Stay in Sabangan?

Ina Imelda Transient House

  • Location: Nacagang, Sabangan

Saint Joseph Dormitory

  • Location: Sabangan town center, near the Catholic Church

NOTE: It’s up to the tourism to connect you to accommodation when needed.

For your Information

If you need more information that may help in setting up your itinerary to Mt Kalawitan and other tourist spots in Sabangan, do contact:

PHOTOS COURTESY OF Warden Taltala, Khristine Molitas, Jairus Abiasen Arnel Palor, Jeyraldine Morada

One Comment

  1. Noela Paredes

    HI, Daniel. I am from Sabangan and I am happy that you appreciate our ili. You did a good job in this blog but I would like to correct your caption of “Dagiwdiw Rice Terraces”, this should be “Deca-a and Dinumpag Terraces”. ‘Deca-a’ is where the rice paddies at the lower portion of the picture while ‘Dinumpag’ are the terraces above it but are not being planted with rice for lack of irrigation.
    Unfortunately, maybe you forgot to take a picture of the “Dagiwdiw Rice Terraces” which is are just on the opposite side of what you showed in this picture. You could have taken a picture of Dagiwdiw Rice terraces from the Panorama Park viewpoit along the Halsema Road.
    Thank you and hope you will come back for a second mountain trek to Mt. Kalawitan. You missed the ancient legendary cultural site at the peak, the At-atowan of the first family in our place.
    Manang Noela

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*