Valle do Cocora

Just east of Salento on the edge of the Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados is the small village of Cocora. It sits in a green valley and there is a popular nature trail that leads from here up into the end of the valley along the edge of the Rio Quindio.
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We are told the hike takes 5-6 hours and there are a couple of additional add-on legs you can opt for as well. One goes to a hummingbird preserve and the other goes up to a mountain overlook at Estrella de Agua. From the we arrive at Salento we are given mixed reviews about the two “add-ons” but it’s unanimous that the hike is fantastic.
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We walk just over a mile into town to the central plaza to catch a ride in one of the Jeep Willy’s that run the Salento-Cocora route all day long. It’s just under $2 USD per person for the 20-minute ride to the drop off point. When we arrive we see lots of stables where you can rent horses to make the trip if you prefer that to hiking.
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The trail leads down a rough road filled with “baby heads”, large rocks to the valley floor. We pass a fish nursery and then follow the trail between farms. The horses have worn trenches into the trail, and in some places it nearly 2 feet deep and only 8-10 inches wide. The river runs along our left edge for a ways and then we start the crossings, 9 in total, that are described as straight out of Indiana Jones movies.
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Some of these wooden slat suspension bridges are missing a few boards. And I’m told they are extra slippery during a rain so to be very careful on them. I’m just glad it’s a dry day.
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The trail is pretty rugged and rocky. It doesn’t seem to be maintained as much as simply worn into the land.
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We meet a few horses along the way and I’m impressed by their conditioning. The trail hasn’t been bad so far but it’s getting steeper the further we go along. And it’s extremely narrow and wet in places.
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We wind our way back to the point in the trail where we can branch off on a leg to Acaime to see the hummingbirds. I’m already tired and the small map I have brought along says we haven’t started the hard part yet, so we opt to stay on the loop road rather than walking out this dead-end and having to come back.
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On we go, and now we get to the steep part filled with switchbacks. I have to stop and huff and puff every few feet it seems as we continue to climb from the 6200 feet in altitude at Salento to 9200 at the top of the trail here.
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Finally we reach the top of the trail and now start the 3 miles of road that leads back down to Cocora. I think all in all we walk almost 7 miles on the trail.
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And as we finally reach the top we are rewarded with a bench to rest on….
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And that incredible view.
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As we descend we start to see the Skyscraper or Wax Palms I have been reading about. These are the national tree of Colombia and can reach nearly 200 feet in height, allowing them to tower above the rest of the forest.

Simply breathtaking.
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