This weekend we hike up to the second-highest peak in Guam, Mount Jumullong Manglo, for an outstanding 360-degree view of Guam, a couple of religious sites, and, hopefully, one of the island’s “only-on-Guam” sunsets.
Not to be confused with Mount Lamlam, its sister mountain about a mile over, it is actually Mount Jumullong Manglo that motorists from below and hikers identify as the mountain peak with crosses and the mountain to which Catholics make an annual trek.
Mount Jumullong Manglo towers above most of Guam at 1,283 feet from its base, just less than 50 feet below the summit of Mount Lamlam, the highest peak on Guam.
Conveniently, this weekend’s hike up the mountain comes after the annual Good Friday trek, which takes place today and brings hundreds of hikers of all ages and from all around the island to the peak of the mountain, as island Catholics commemorate the religious holiday by making the trek and mounting an additional wooden cross atop the peak.
Plan for sunset
First off, I highly recommend doing this hike near sunset. As you'll see, the mountaintop could be considered the best spot on the island to watch a “Guam sunset.”
If you do choose to experience what feels like a once-in-a-lifetime moment atop the mountain, start your hike by or before 5 p.m., because it's roughly 45 minutes to the top. And don’t forget to bring flashlights to safely hike back down after sunset.
To begin, cross the parking lot and find the sign that reads “Mount Lamlam.” Here you will find the trail that, by now, thanks to the Good Friday hikers, is very defined and clear cut.
Along the hike, you will see a few small and dilapidated crosses placed along the trail. There are precisely 14 of these crosses lining the path toward the top: They are the Catholic religions’ “Stations of the Cross”, and mark a devotional series of prayers commemorating Jesus’ last day on Earth. Count the crosses to keep track of how close you are to the top.
We start the first section of the path on highly eroded red dirt, passing the first of the 14 crosses at the top of the first slope. Here you can take a first breathtaking view of Sella Bay and the southwest coast of Guam.
Views all the way
Though the trail takes you up and up, it does level out every now and then. Choose to take a few breaks when warranted, with great views all around the whole way up, and with beautiful wild orchids and other flora and fauna to enjoy.
About midway through the hike, you'll enter into a short section of jungle. The terrain here is frequently moist and possibly muddy, so be aware of your footing and handholds. Mosquitos – rather unenjoyable fauna – also frequent the area, so this might be a good time to freshen up the bug spray.
The wet clay and limestone terrain can be especially slick in parts of the jungle, so be careful when you walk up the small hills and over rocks.
You’ll soon break out into the light and open skies again, to outstanding views of the southern mountain range, an abundance of colorful wild orchids, and the green grassy hillsides. Another great spot for a break!
After resting for a moment, continue your journey up a few more slopes before reaching another spot of jungle. Just after exiting that jungle path, you should see the Virgin Mary Grotto to your left.
Catholic faithful light candles, lay rosaries and say prayers along their trek here, so please be respectful of the environment.
Soon, you'll begin to travel up a grassy hill walled off by sword grass. There are quite a few ditches and small holes along this part of the hike, so, again, be careful of your footing.
When you reach the top of this slope, you should see Cross 11 (XI), which also marks a fork in the path. To the left is the trail to Mount Lamlam, about 20 minutes or so away. Continue to the right to reach the summit of Mount Jumullong Manglo.
On top of the world
After about five more minutes, you'll have arrived at the top!
Soak in the views of the southern mountain ridge line, the southwest coastline, the restricted Fena Lake reservoir, and most of Guam, actually.
The crosses before you were hand-carried by a group of local residents, both physically strong and strong in their faith – one cross every year on Good Friday since the 1970s.
The wooden crosses are about 11 feet tall, 6 feet wide, and weigh roughly 500 pounds each.
The largest iron cross, known as the “Tricentennial Cross” has stood atop the mountain for 37 years now, braving typhoons and the brunt of Guam’s weather. Built in 1980, this cross commemorates the 300th anniversary of the founding of Guam’s oldest villages.
If all has gone according to plan, time-wise, you should have reached the summit with just enough time to enjoy the sunset, the views, and a breather before heading back down.
After enjoying as much of the screensaver-worthy sunset as possible, grab your flashlights and retrace your steps carefully back down the mountain along the same path. Watch your footing. And happy hiking!