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Spots on the Rock

To hell and back: The southern peak of Mt. Sasalaguan

  • 5 min to read

This week we will be taking you up a long, almost entirely uphill climb through an ocean of neti with virtually no cover, which terminates at the peak of a mountain that literally translates to "hell" in CHamoru.

That's right – it's time for another Spots on the Rock mountain trek!

Keeping in line with the poetical aesthetic, we thought it only fitting to cover Mt. Sasalaguan, also known as Mt. Hell, after first leading you to "heavenly" Punto Christo, or Mt. Schroeder, in a past feature.

Mt. Sasalaguan sits at the tail end of Guam's southern mountain trail and offers stunning, picturesque vistas of Guam's southern reaches.

Despite its namesake, the mountain trek is a must for any trueborn Guam resident. You've got to get that achievement unlocked, if you know what we mean.

Although Sasalaguan is indeed another southern peak and offers many of the same views as other southern trails, it is unique in its offer of a lengthy challenge to those intrepid enough to test their mettle.

The reward for hikers is a smug feeling of satisfaction that you've traversed where other souls rarely frequent, not to mention bird's-eye views!

Along the upward trail, sweeping views of rolling verdant hills accompany the hiker to the peak, where a lone ironwood tree provides the perfect little spot for a well-deserved nap in the shade.

Important note: The shade at the end may be the only shade you get for the entire hike, so a hat is strongly recommended, as well as the usual necessities like gloves and plenty of water. 

Forge your own path

To begin your hike to hell, start down the road paved with good intentions. Whoops, that's the wrong trail.

Begin your hike to Sasalaguan by parking your car outside the front gates of the Ija Research Farm in Inarajan. Drive south along Route 4, almost three miles past the Inarajan Pools and take the right turn marked by the Ija Research Farm sign.

Continue along this road as it curves left and terminates at a row of large trees before a chain link fence. Park your car in between the trees off the roadside.

Commence hiking along the edge of the fence going left into some dense sword grass. The sword grass is usually quite overgrown here and creates something like a tunnel that you may have to stoop through. The ground here is also often muddy and uneven, so watch your footing.

While the fence along your right side may disappear into the foliage, keep an eye out for the fence line to reappear and follow as it eventually turns abruptly to the right.

Make sure you keep out of the Ija Research Farm property. Follow the fence line for a while until it turns yet again, but this time, don't follow it.

Instead, a path of sorts should emerge, which you can follow until you see a large barren hill of red dirt and spotty grass.

stark red hill marks the real start of your hike to hell

GATES OF HELL: Aren't they pretty? This stark red hill marks the real start of your hike to hell. Going up to the base and then circling around to the right provides easier access to the top. Photo courtesy of Neil Pang

Head toward the hill following whatever path seems easiest until you reach the base of the hill. Find your way up the hill by circling around and going up the slightly less steep side.

From the top of the hill, an expansive rolling savannah extends as far as the eye can see. Your aim is the highest peak straight ahead marked by a solitary tree that should be visible to the naked eye.

top of the red-dirt hill

MORE TO GO: From the top of the red-dirt hill, follow the ridgeline to the left keeping the far distant peak in the distance as your guiding compass. Photo courtesy of Neil Pang

Keeping an eye out

Stay atop the crest of the ridgeline to your left as best you can as you make your way forward, one step at a time. Since this hike is not a very popular one, any visible trail to Mt. Sasalaguan has long since diminished over time or has otherwise been reclaimed by nature.

You may lose the trail at times, especially as it plunges into densely packed pockets of neti, but as long as you keep the peak as your bearing, you should be fine.

Continue along this heading with the descent into the Ajayan River valley to your left. Eventually, the climb will become steeper until you hit an almost sheer vertical ascent, which you should be able to carefully maneuver up.

ridgeline steep climbs
GETTING CLOSER: The ridgeline goes up and down with increasingly steep climbs as you approach your goal. Watch your footing to the left, as the descent into the nearby Ajayan River Valley is precarious at times. Photo courtesy of Neil Pang

At this point, you should be able to distinguish two ironwood trees and the remnants of an old radio tower in the not-so-far distance.

Your path now heads in their general direction via a somewhat circuitous direction from the right.

You should eventually merge onto what looks like an unused service trail that makes walking much more pleasant at this point.

You will first encounter the remnants of an old radio tower and a concrete building shrouded in grass. For even better views of Merizo's Cocos Lagoon and the South, you can carefully climb atop the concrete building. As a plus, the breeze from up there is much better.

Testing your limits

Continue toward the ironwood tree that has faithfully served as your beacon for the entire hike, which is now just a short walk away.

guiding tree
IRONWOOD: The tree in the distance, your guiding tree. Finally, the lone ironwood far in the distance isn't quite so far. Photo courtesy of Neil Pang

There is another small concrete building located just below the tree, but you might find yourself interested in nothing more than a quiet sit-down under the tree when you finally get there.

Besides the beautiful coastal vista on one side, the top of Mt. Sasalaguan also provides hikers with grand views of the southern mountains and Guam's inner reaches.

return trail

Once you've rested up, return to your parked vehicle the same way you came and reward yourself by never doing that again – unless you're some kind of masochist.

For those aspiring to hike the great southern mountain range, we highly recommend doing Mt. Sasalaguan first, not only because it serves as a gauge to test your limits, but also because the southern mountain range terminates with Mt. Sasalaguan and the lack of a clearly marked trail makes finding your way difficult if you aren't familiar with the area.

Happy hiking!

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