Mount Makiling Trail with kids
The main trail to Mount Makiling (Marian Makiling trail) in Laguna starts at University of the Philippines- Los Banos campus. It takes just over an hour from Makati. Once in UP Los Banos, follow roads that go uphill toward the College of Forestry. Pass the Botanic Gardens on your right and Natural History Museum on your left (both are great places to visit). The start to Mount Makiling trail is a few hundred meters past the Natural History Museum on the main road. Park to the left before the gate.
Register and pay the php20 fee and you're on your way. The trail to the summit of Mount Makiling is 8km long, so 4-5 hours to get to the top. If you plan to go to the top, you need to enter the trail by 9am (they have a cut-off time). If you plan to just go to Flat Rocks or Mud Springs (the two main destinations if you aren't going to the top, 45 min and 2.5 hour hikes, respectively), cut-off times are 2pm and 1pm respectively.
We walked the first 4km of the trail before turning around with our kids. It was all paved and really well shaded by tall trees. The only thing we had to worry about were cyclists zipping back down the hill and some motorcyclists and a few cars going up the hill. The shade made this a very pleasant walk, and we even had the treat of a vendor walking down the trail with ice candy. Note however, that he is the only vendor on the trail. Unlike other trails in the Philippines, there are no sari-sari stores along the trail, so pack enough water and food!
Had we continued two more kms (so around km 6), we would have reached Mud Springs, which are: "mud pots, a type of hot spring where volcanic heat and sulphuric acid break down surrounding rocks into clay" (from mountmakiling.org).
We did however go to Flat Rocks, which are slabs of rock that the Molawin Creek flows over, forming natural pools and little waterfalls. The kids LOVED this!
To get here there are two ways to do it.
1) Just 20 meters away from the start (gate), you veer off the main trail (to the right) and take the hike to flat rocks uphill for about an hour. This trail is very adventurous (spider webs in your face, ducking under fallen trees) but a lot of fun and very pretty as it is alongside the river. I wouldn't recommend this way on a rainy day bc it wouldn't be fun in the mud.
2) Hike for a longer time up the Makiling trail about 30 min and then take the path that veers off to your right to Flat Rocks. This is about a 30-min level, slightly downhill walk to Flat Rocks. It's called an easy trail, but the roots of the trees to trip over and the branches in your face, make it a little challenging- it's not flat ground.
We played and had a picnic lunch at Flat Rocks, the water is nice and cool. The depth of the pools is about knee-deep on an adult, enough to make us wish we brought the kids' swimsuits as they did more than just dip their toes in. It is clean and there's no garbage here, thanks to the area being managed by the UP College of Forestry. Other websites warn of flash floods if it's raining, as well as leeches so watch out for these- luckily we didn't encounter any.
After playing at Flat Rocks, you can choose which of the two trails to go back on. I recommend choosing one trail to go to Flat Rocks and choosing the other trail to come back. To go there we did the trail that starts from higher up on the main Makiling trail, and then came back by taking the trail along the river.
Websites that were useful:
After the hike, go visit the dairy store on the university campus and enjoy a treat from their agriculture department. Fresh milk, chocolate milk, flavored yoghurt, kesong puti (white cheese) and more!