Parque Nacional Pico Pijol
In Parque Nacional Pico Pijol, a little-explored cloud-forest reserve, the sheer-walled mountains of Pico Pijol are a major water source for the El Cajón reservoir and San Pedro Sula. The land has been set aside as a protected area more in the interests of resource conservation than tourism. No trails have been developed in the 11,206-hectare park, apart from those used by local hunters, but it is possible to explore the upper reaches of the forest with the help of guides and a machete.
The imposing rock massif has several peaks, the highest being Pico Pijol, at 2,282 meters. On the western edge of the massif rises Cerro Mulato, 1,852 meters, from which you can see San Pedro Sula on a clear day. Four major rivers flow off the mountains: Río Pijol, Río Pataste, Río Chilistagua, and Río Jacagua. Parque Nacional Pico Pijol boasts 237 wildlife species, including a significant quetzal population.
Much of the mountains’ lower-elevation forest cover has been cut down to make room for coffee plantations, milpas (cornfields), or grazing land, but the core zone of the park, above 1,800 meters, is still in good shape. The south side of the Río Pijol valley is particularly pristine, due to the precipitously steep mountain slopes.
Hikers aiming to get into the central, highest section of Parque Nacional Pico Pijol can choose between several potential access routes. From Morazán, the quickest way is from the village of Porvenir de Paya, reached by pickup truck or foot via Mojimán. Another option is to go in from the southeast side of the park, from the aldea of Alto Pino, the end of a dirt road turning off the Morazán–Yoro highway several kilometers east of Morazán. Near the village of Tegucigalpita, before Alto Pino, is a major cave system of unknown depth, with wide chambers and an underground waterfall near the cave mouth. An aboveground waterfall can be visited by hiking in from Tegucigalpita.
Along the Río Pijol, reached from the village of El Ocotillo, is a triple waterfall called Las Piratas, an excellent swimming spot surrounded by forest, a short 20-minute walk from the road. Visitors can get out to Las Piratas and back to Morazán in the same day without any difficulty by catching rides on pickup trucks or walking from Morazán via San Juan Camalote. Buses do go out to some of the villages in Parque Nacional Pico Pijol from Morazán, but the schedule changes regularly, so you have to ask in Morazán for departure times.
Guides can be arranged through the AECOPIJOL office in Yoro and are highly recommended given the lack of established trails. The COHDEFOR office in Morazán has a large topographical wall map that can give you an idea of the park’s geography. Topographical maps covering the park are 1:50,000 El Negrito 2661 I and Las Flores 2661 II.
“No-see-ums,” or tiny biting gnats, are abundant at Parque Nacional Pico Pijol, so be sure to bring heavy-duty repellent.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition