“Chirripó” is derived from an indigenous word meaning “land of eternal waters”. Chirripó National Park itself is195 square miles (505 sq. kilometers) and contains over 400 species of birds and a large variety of animals including pumas, jaguars, peccaries, monkeys, and the largest population of tapirs in the country. Climbing to the top of Mount Chirripó is the ultimate Costa Rican trek. Adventure-seekers from around the world come to Costa Rica just make this journey.
Although mountain-climbing skills are not required, it is most certainly an endurance test. The ranger station at the village of San Gerardo de Rivas is the starting point for the hike, and the entrance to Chirripó National Park, located 15 km. northeast of San Isidro de El General. Keep in mind that reservations must be made for the hike and for overnight accommodation so plan ahead.
On a clear day, both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans can be seen from the peak. The driest time is of the year to make the trek is February and March, but there are cloudy and clear days throughout the year. Annual rainfall is between 138 and 197 inches (3,500 and 5,000 mm). Some long-time visitors love doing the trip in rainier times, saying when the vegetation is in full bloom it defies description.
Apart from the 400 types of birds observed to date, the other fauna is spectacular as well, with 263 species of amphibians and reptiles as well as plentiful population of big cats; puma, jaguar, and ocelot. But if you are a Birder you will see the famous quetzal (which is also endangered), mot-mot, crested eagle, red-tailed hawk, volcano hummingbird, black guan, crowned wren-thrush, elegant trogon, and acorn woodpecker, to name a few.
The National Parks Service began phasing in new regulations in 1993 because of excessive wear and tear on the trails. Now, only 60 visitors are allowed within the park at any one time and nobody is allowed to hike without a guide. There is a lesser known route called the Herradura Trail (minimum three days/two nights), via Paso de los Indios, with the first night atop Cerro Urán.
Hiking Chirripó, you will pass through a number bio-region from low pasture lands to thick rainforest to near-tundra like landscapes as you reach higher elevations. The elevation can take a toll, but with a slow pace frequent rests you will reach Costa Rica’s highest summit.
You will need to plan ahead as access is limited to reservation only and there is a waiting list. The park headquarters is in San Gerardo de Rivas. Its open 6 a.m.-5 p.m. The Visitors Guide has a map showing trails and landmarks to the summit. The park is administered from the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve office in San Isidro de General.