4.6377° N, 75.4891° W
EVERYTHING ADVENTURERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HIKING THE STUNNING CERRO MORROGACHO IN COCORA VALLEY, SALENTO, COLOMBIA.
If you have looked at any photos of Colombia, it is very likely you have seen at least a dozen photos of tower palm trees in a verdant green valley. While the whole landscape might seem a bit Dr. Seuss-ian, in fact, that place totally exists (actually a couple of places like that exist in Colombia).
Cocora Valley, or Valle de Cocora, is supposedly the second most visited place in the whole country (after Cartagena's Old City). While the place is absolutely beautiful and definitely worth seeing, it is also a bit of a madhouse, especially on the weekends and during the holidays. We have been lucky to visit a couple of times while living in Salento (the closest town to the valley) and have done numerous hikes in Cocora Valley.
And while the whole Cocora Valley Loop Trail is magical, we instead recommend maybe getting a bit more off the beaten path and taking on the Cerro Morrogacho Trail.
Cerro Morrogacho, which translates very roughly to slouchy nose hill (cerro = hill, morro = nose and gacho = slouchy/droopy) is the prominent mountain that stands along the right side of Cocora Valley. It is easily seen from almost all sides of the valley, including from the main touristy area (near the restaurants) and even as far away as the mirador in Salento.
If you want to get a totally different perspective of Cocora Valley and its famous wax palms, or you just want to take on a more challenging and off the beaten path Colombian hike, then this is the trail for you. Below is everything an adventurer needs to know about trekking up Cerro Morrogacho; including, the total distance, how to reach the trailhead and what to see along the way.
HIKING CERRO MORROGACHO IN COLOMBIA
\\ Why Hike Cerro Morrogacho
Sitting proudly on the edge of Cocora Valley, one of the most popular tourist sites in all of Colombia, Cerro Morrogacho is a fantastic hike to do if looking to experience the beauty of Cocora - and its famous wax palms - without all of the crowds.
Plus, along the way, you also have the chance to hike through some truly stunning landscapes. Including, dense jungles full of moss-covered trees, ridges with flowers that look like ocean coral and open meadows with cackling parrots. And if you are really lucky, you might just get a stunning view of the surrounding mountains - including Nevado del Tolima - from the very top.
While you do feel like you are totally alone while hiking Cerro Morrogacho, in truth, you are only around 6.4 kilometers (4 miles) from the main Cocora Valley area. Similarly, along the trail up to the top, you also pass two fincas and a refugio (which may or may not be abandoned).
Altogether, hiking Cerro Morrogacho is a great way to experience the famous Cocora Valley - while also exploring a stunning jungle-mountain landscape that is full of animals and almost no people. The hike, in our mind, truly checks all of the boxes a grand adventure.
💡 GOOD TO KNOW: this hike does not technically go all the way to the very top of Cerro Morrogacho but instead to a mirador a little farther down. But there is actually not a clear trail to the very top of the mountain and the mirador is the main endpoint for all hikes up Cerro Morrogacho. Plus, there is a nice wooden sign at the mirador that states the elevation (3,450 meters / 11,319 feet).
While there are two places you have to pay while hiking the famous Cocora Valley Loop Trail, you actually do NOT have to pay to do the Cerro Morrogacho trail. In fact, a good way to know you are on the right trail is if you get to the first pay station on the loop while going counter-clockwise, you have gone just a bit too far.
💬 INSIDER TIP: if you are a bit confused about where to start the Cerro Morrogacho trail, head to the pay station and ask the attendant. They will point you in the right direction.
The only thing you will need to pay for when trekking up Cerro Morrogacho is the Willy ride to Cocora Valley. This 15-minute ride costs 4000 COP ($1 USD // €0.90 Euros) per person, each way. Therefore you will need to pay 8000 COP ($2 USD // €1.80 Euros) total to go to Cocora Valley/Cerro Morrogacho and back. You will pay for the whole round-trip ride in Salento.
\\ Where is Cerro Morrogacho
Cerro Morrogacho is located right on the edge of the famous Cocora Valley, home to the tallest trees (the wax palms) in the world. The mountain is easily visible from the Cocora valley “town” - where you will find many restaurants, touristy photo spots and horse tours.
The closest town to the mountain is Salento, Quindio, which is located about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away. In fact, the mountain is so prominent in the entire Cocora Valley (not just where the palm trees are) that it is easily visible from the main mirador in Salento.
HOW TO GET TO CERRO MORROGACHO
To get to the Cerro Morrogacho trailhead, you simply need to follow the same route as you would to reach the famous Cocora Valley. This means taking a Willy (the big colorful, WWII-era jeeps) from the main plaza in Salento, Colombia to the parking area in Cocora Valley. This is about a 15-minute ride.
Once you get to Cocora Valley, the Cerro Morrogacho trail is easily reached by heading out on the same trail as you would to do the Cocora Valley Loop counter-clockwise. Simply head through the blue gate near the Willy parking lot and down the dirt road towards the trout (trucha) ponds. From there, keep walking until you see a smaller road heading off to the right towards a finca. This is the start of the Cerro Morrogacho hike. Altogether, it is probably a 5 minute walk from the main paved road in Cocora Valley (where the restaurants are) to the actual start of the trail.
You can find the entire, in-depth hiking trail route guide below.
MAP OF COCORA VALLEY + CERRO MORROGACHO
For the first time (maybe) ever, we found ourselves unable to use our usual off-line mapping service, maps.me. Instead, we had to rely on a mix of Alltrails (to give us an idea on the start of the hike), Gaia - another great offline map - and our own intuition. Luckily, the trail, once we found the start of it, was very easy to follow.
We recommend having some form of offline map handy during the hike, just in case you need to orient yourself while trekking up to Cerro Morrogacho. In our experience, we found Gaia to be the best mapping service - though even that one didn't have the full map available.
🗺 If you want to download our mapped route - which shows the exact elevation change and hiking path up to the top - then subscribe to Backroad Packers.