Trekking Up Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, Indonesia

Finding Indonesia's Wildest Jungle on a Sleeping Volcano

Gunung Pangrango, as seen from Gunung Gede
••• Gunung Pangrango, as seen from Gunung Gede. Alfian Widiantono/Getty Images 

Trekking through Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park should be a rite of passage for any environmentally-minded tourist visiting western Java in Indonesia for the first time.

The Gunung Gede Pangrango Park is a parcel of rainforest surrounding the twin dormant volcanoes that give the park its name (Mount Gede and Mount Pangrango) - almost 22,000 hectares of mountainous rainforest cover that supports a variety of rare plant and animal species, while providing the Indonesian capital Jakarta with the bulk of its water supply.

Beginning at the Cibodas visitor’s center at an elevation of 3,200 feet above sea level, hikers can proceed up a cobbled path winding up the side of the twin peaks, hitting numerous landmarks along the way: an unreal blue-colored lake, a rather dilapidated boardwalk spanning Gayonggong swamp, a triple waterfall, and ultimately the peak of Mount Pangrango at 9,900 feet above sea level.

Entering Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park

The Cibodas Gate in Cianjur (location on Google Maps) is the site of the park headquarters and visitors’ center, and is thus the main entrance for most visitors to Gunung Gede Pangrango.

The easiest Gunung Gede Pangrango Park experience will take about four to five hours (round-trip), walking 1.7 miles up the cobbled trail from the Cibodas entry gate to the Cibeureum triple waterfalls, at an elevation of 5,300 feet above sea level.

At the Cibodas entry gate, you'll pay the weekend rate of IDR 27,500 (about $3), or the weekday rate of IDR 22,500 (about $1.70), to gain entry.

The cobbled walkway is easy to navigate, but can get rather tiring for novice trekkers as the hours go by. Signs describing the local flora and fauna line the path, but they are all in Bahasa Indonesia, and almost illegible given the vandalism inflicted on them by passing trekkers.

The unvarying rainforest give way to some key sights as you ascend:

Telaga Biru (location on Google Maps) is a blue-colored lake located about a mile from the Cibodas entrance gate. The lake is set about 5,100 feet above sea level. The lake is about five hectares in area, and comes in an unearthly blue color thanks to the algae floating in the water. The color is actually variable; depending on the algal growth cycle, the lake can appear green or even red.

A little past Telaga Biru, visitors will come across a sudden opening in the forest cover- this marks the edge of Gayonggong Swamp (location on Google Maps), a marshy reservoir that holds water flowing down from higher ground.

The marsh grasses that predominate in the swamp are a favorite hunting ground of Java leopard (Panthera pardus weld). Java leopards are nocturnal, so unless you happen to be crossing the swamp at night, you’ve got nothing to be afraid of.

From Swamp to Falls

Visitors traverse the swamp by crossing over a walkway that is frankly in very bad shape. Part of the walkway is made from faux logs made of concrete, which stand up rather well to the elements; the rest is made of wooden planking, which is in constant danger of falling apart.

The clearing provided by the swamp gives visitors their first good look at Mount Pangrango, which looms up, its peak often lost in the clouds.

Finally, visitors arrive at the 160-feet-high Cibeureum Falls (location on Google Maps), which is actually made up of three falls converging at this spot: Cikundul falls, Cidenden falls, and the Cibeureum falls. Much of the water coming from these falls eventually ends up as part of the Jakarta water supply.

The word cibeureum (in Indonesian, “c” is pronounced “ch”) refers to “red water” in the local Sundanese language; the red moss (Sphagnum gedeanum) that occurs around the falls sometimes imparts a red tinge to the water flowing from the falls.

Climbing to the Pangrango Summit

The path heading to the peaks of Gede and Pangrango make a detour after Gayonggong Swamp; visitors will need another ten to eleven hours to reach either peak from Gayonggong onward. If you plan to forge ahead to either peak, you will need to get permission from the park office, and accept the company of a local guide.

You’ll find hot springs some 5.3km from the Cibodas starting line. Some 1.5 miles further up the trail, you’ll reach the Kandang Batu and Kandang Badak camp grounds (location on Google Maps) at an altitude of 7,200 feet above sea level. The grounds are excellent places to go birding and examining the area’s unique plant species.

The summit and crater of Mt. Gede (location on Google Maps, approximate) are a full five hours’ hike from the Cibodas gate, about six miles away from the starting point. The volcano has a total of three relatively active craters at this point, which is about 9,700 feet above sea level.

Descend a few more km down the trail and you’ll come across Suryakencana Meadow (location on Google Maps), a large plain populated with edelweiss flowers. The meadow is situated at an altitude of 9,000 feet above sea level, and is 7.3 miles, or a six-hour hike, from Cibodas.

Camping in Gunung Gede Pangrango Park

Depending on your pace and route, you can set up camp in one of a number of camp sites in or around Gunung Gede Pangrango Park: Gunung Putri (Google Maps), Cibodas Golf (Google Maps), Selabintana (Google Maps) and Calliandra (Google Maps).

To pre-arrange an overnight visit at any of these Gunung Gede Pangrango park campsites, contact the National Park staff at +62 856 5955 2221.

A “five-star” camp in the vicinity allow visitors to enjoy a more refined camping experience. Nearby Situ Gunung Sukabumi is home to Tanakita (tanakita.id), a two-hectare camping ground which provides their own tents, mattresses, sleeping bags, and pillows; and hot and cold shower and toilets.

Reaching Gunung Gede Pangrango Park

The Cibodas Gate of Gunung Gede Pangrango Park is easily accessible by car.

From Jakarta, you should take the Jagorawi Toll Road out of the city, and exit at the Gadog toll gate. Drive straight towards Puncak, about 4.7 miles, until you reach the intersection after the Outlet TSE store, where you can turn right. Go straight for about 1.8 miles more until you reach the Cibodas Gate. Each vehicle will be charged an entrance fee of IDR 3,000 (about 30 US cents), with an additional IDR 1,000 (10 US cents) per head.

If you’re staying at a nearby resort, your accommodations may be able to arrange a visit to Gunung Gede Pangrango park using their own in-house vehicle. Ask your hotel or resort if this can be arranged.

When to Visit Gunung Gede Pangrango Park, What to Wear

Visit Gunung Gede Pangrango park from May to October, when the dry season is on and the paths are at their most passable. The paths are closed to visitors from January to March and throughout August – the park takes advantage of the bad weather to let the ecology recover from the year-round visitors.

Day trekkers can just take about five hours to tramp up to the Cibeureum Falls and back; more seasoned trekkers will want to take a full two days to explore the park and its treasures.

Visitors will experience cool and wet weather at the mountain’s higher altitudes, so rain jackets and waterproof trekking shoes are recommended.

For more information, visit the official site at www.gedepangrango.org, email: info@gedepangrango.org or call +62-263-512776. To book visits or camping privileges, email booking@gedepangrango.org or call +62-263-519415.