Surrounding the peak of Santa Bárbara, the second highest in the country at 2,744 meters, Santa Bárbara National Park covers about 13,000 hectares of cloud, pine, and semihumid tropical forest. Montaña de Santa Bárbara is not part of any major mountain range but an anomalous, solitary massif rising up between the town of Santa Bárbara  and Lago de Yojoa . The inaccessible, rarely seen forest on top of the mountain is reputed to be dense and wild, full of weird rock formations and lots of wildlife.
Parque Nacional Santa Bárbara was created by the government to protect this precious watershed, but local campesinos have been increasingly encroaching on the forest, cutting old-growth trees and planting illegal coffee with virtual impunity in this completely unenforced reserve. Venturing into the park is only for the most adventurous, machete-wielding souls, as there is no established trail system. Nonetheless, those who’ve been there rate it as one of the finest cloud forests in the country.
It’s possible to get into the forest from several of the villages around the edge of the mountain, if you’re willing to make the effort. From Santa Bárbara , you can catch a ride on a truck or drive 20 minutes by dirt road to the villages of La Cuesta, Los Bancos, and El Playón and look for guides. In El Playón, Mario and Reino Orellano are usually willing to take visitors into the forest for a negotiable fee.
Another route into the forest is via San Luis de Planes , a village set in a high valley on the north side of Parque Nacional Santa Bárbara; you can get there by bus from Peña Blanca  on Lago de Yojoa . (Ornithologist Malcolm Glasgow at D&D Brewery  leads hikes and bird-watching tours.) The road from Peña Blanca is best negotiated by four-wheel-drive vehicle and takes about an hour to drive. The forest starts just beyond San Luis, though it would take more than a couple of days of hiking to get up to the peak, and you’d need a guide. Shorter hikes into the lower parts of the forest are easily possible here, and you could make a serviceable campsite not far from San Luis without difficulty.
A third option, also reachable from Peña Blanca, is via the village of Los Andes. Take the road to El Mochito, and at the highest point (maybe 10 kilometers from Peña Blanca), look for a dirt road turning right uphill, signposted for Los Andes. The rough dirt road is about five kilometers long. In Los Andes, ask around for someone to guide you into the forest.
From El Mochito, on the south shore of Lago de Yojoa , you can get a truck to El Cedral and continue on foot or horseback to El Cielo, where guides can be found to lead you up to the higher reaches of the park. The extremely determined could probably find a way over the top and back down the far side to Santa Bárbara . As with most places in Honduras , guides generally charge about US$10 a day, plus expenses for food.
For more information on the park and access to it, stop in at the Santa Bárbara COHDEFOR office. The topographical map covering the park is 1:50,000 Santa Bárbara 2560 I.