A quick way to Britton your day!
Overview:This is a quick and easy trail and is one of the more popular hikes in the EYNF because it affords the hiker with the opportunity for an excellent overview of the forest from an old stone lookout tower with minimal time and effort required.
History: See the El Yunque Trail description for a more descriptive history of the El Yunque National Forest. (The El Yunque Trail can be combined with this trail as part of a loop hike).
Both the mountain and lookout tower were named after botanist Nathaniel Britton and his wife Elizabeth Knight Britton, who, in the 1920s were credited with identifying many of the plant and tree species found in the El Yunque National Forest.
Hike: The hike begins at the end of PR 930, about 1/4 mile west of the junction with the upper end of PR 191, at the 13km marker (8.1 miles) into the El Yunque National Forest. Parking is limited and could be problematic on summer weekends. The trailhead is signed and easily found.
While this hike ascends through the rainforest, the trail is constructed of a narrow band of elevated concrete and rock, providing an easy hiking surface that is also free of mud and puddles that are associated with the ground around it. On some of the steeper slopes there are steps, and texturing in concrete the provides good footing even when wet (which is nearly always!) One thing to keep in mind is that the path itself is not wide, perhaps 18", so when encountering oncoming hikers, a step off the concrete is necessary. There's plenty of room for this, but it does make passing a bit more cumbersome than it could be.
The first .55 miles ascends about 500 feet on this concrete path, taking you through dense Sierra Palm Forest, and crossing a couple of small drainages that may be flowing with water depending on the recent rainfall. The concrete single-track ends at the junction of a closed access road, which the trail utilizes for the next 1/10th of a mile uphill to the well-marked turn toward the tower.
For the final .15 miles, the trail again takes on a narrow single-track, but this section was once paved, and the pavement is now crumbling in many places. You pass by what remains of an old shelter/recreation ramada built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s featuring a fireplace and plenty of graffiti. In the very likely event of rain, this is a nice spot to take a break and dry off, though the tower is just a 5 minute trip from here.
You may hear the voices of other visitors at the tower, but the dense rainforest prevents any view of the tower until you have arrived at its base. Climb the spiral stairs to the top, and hope for clear skies for breathtaking views of the Atlantic to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, El Yunque Peak and the triple-peaks of Los Picachos. On a clear day, the outskirts of San Juan are visible through the mountains to the west. If the clouds obscure the view, a nice breeze should be refreshing and the movement of the clouds around you is nearly as magical as the view a clear day provides.
Enjoy a picnic or take a break before heading back the way you came or taking the Mt. Britton Spur trail across to the El Yunque Trail.
Warning: Its a RAIN forest. It WILL RAIN. It IS WET. ALL the time. You will be wet. Your stuff will get wet. Be prepared. Plan ahead. If you feel comfortable hiking in Teva's, they are a good option, and this trail has easy footing. I do not recommend unsecured sandals. While footing is good and it is an easy trail, it is steep and requires secure footwear.
Camping: As a note, camping is allowed throughout the El Yunque National Forest. However it is required to obtain a free permit from the FS. There are no developed campsites, and it will be a wet experience for you! It's a great place for all you "hangers" who like to hover above the surface and there are plenty of trees and a lack of flat ground! There are no poisonous snakes, and no predators (at least not for you), so an overnight might be a great way to maximize your experience. Just be prepared to keep you and your stuff dry!
There is a gate along the road that closes at 6pm daily, so you must be out of the forest by that time or else you may be forced to be camping! There are ample signs warning you of this.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.