Mountain biking is a physical activity enjoyed by millions around the world. During the past year, a lot of Filipinos were drawn to the sport for different reasons. I, for one, got a mountain bike about a year ago because I wanted to use it for exercise.

If you’re planning on getting into the sport, now is the perfect time! This physically rewarding activity allows you to not only get around, but also save money on gas.

You don’t need to travel far to enjoy mountain biking. Aside from the comfort of your own neighborhood, here are some mountain bike trails that you can try in and around Metro Manila:

7. UP Diliman TrailsDiliman, Quezon City

UP Diliman is famous among joggers and cyclists because of its academic oval. The paved road has its own bike lane used by pedestrians, joggers and cyclists.

UP Diliman Oval

Biking in UP Diliman’s Academic Oval | Photo by Roegan Taron

But once you’ve honed the skills needed to bike on a paved road, it’s time to go… off-road.

Unknown to some, UP Diliman has bike trails that are perfect for newbies. The trail near Ylanan St. is known as the “beginner’s trail.”

UP Diliman's Beginner Trail

UP Diliman’s Beginner Trail | Photo by Roegan Taron

With the trail’s small bumps, short climbs and fast descents, you’ll learn how to handle your bike properly. It will only take you a couple of minutes to finish a lap – making it perfect for honing your basic trail riding skills.

There are a few parts of the trail that have lumps of soil that can quickly make your bike fly a couple of inches off the ground. If you’re a newbie, you may just want to just go around these lumps. Trust me, I landed directly on my face a couple times when I ignored my own advice.

UP Diliman's Beginner Trail

UP Diliman’s Beginner Trail| Photo by Roegan Taron

After mastering the beginner’s trail, it’s time to kick it up a notch by trying the “advanced trail.” This trail near Magsaysay Ave. will require more technical biking skills as it consists of medium-sized rocks and sharp turns. It is a MUST that you know how to control your bike well since the path is not wide enough to accommodate two cyclists.

Both of these trails are considered as “single tracks,” which means they are “one-way” paths. The trails were built and maintained by volunteers of the U.P. College of Kinetics and the U.P. Outdoor Recreation Group.

If it weren’t for them, cyclists wouldn’t have anything to test their off-road skills in U.P. Diliman.

How to get to the UP Diliman’s Beginner Trail:

  1. From Elliptical Rd., take Commonwealth Ave., then take a right on University Ave.
  2. Drive along University Ave. and then take E. Jacinto St. on your left.
  3. Continue driving along E. Jacinto St. and cross Magsaysay Ave.
  4. When you reach the UP Deptartment of Military Science & Tactics Building, the beginner’s trail should be on your left.

How to get to UP Diliman’s Advanced Trail:

  1. From Elliptical Rd., take Commonwealth Ave., then take a right on University Ave.
  2. Drive along University Ave. and then take E. Jacinto St. on your left.
  3. Stay on E. Jacinto St. and cross Magsaysay Ave.
  4. Right after crossing Magsaysay Ave., the advanced trail should be on your left.

6. Camp Aguinaldo TrailDiliman, Quezon City

If you live in the northern part of QC, Camp Aguinaldo’s bike trail is second to U.P. Diliman when it comes to accessibility since it’s only about 8 kilometers away from the campus.

The 2.5 kilometer (1.6 mile) track will introduce you to some small berms, small hills, and a couple of really sharp turns. It consists of loose soil with different sizes of rocks. The slightly harsh terrain will help improve your cardio and bike handling.

The main thing that sets Camp Aguinaldo’s trail apart from the other trails is how it looks. The trail was used for dumping decommissioned vehicles of the army like military trucks and jeeps. I can’t remember if there were any tanks. But seeing military vehicles inside will definitely make you feel like you’re in a post-apocalyptic movie.

Camp Aguinaldo Bike Trail

Camp Aguinaldo Trail | Photo by Manila Cyclist

To reach the trail, you have to take Bonny Serrano Rd. and then enter through the camp’s gate 6. You’ll have to leave your ID with the guard so they can keep track of civilians who are inside the headquarters of the AFP.

You also have to prepare ₱50 to get inside the trail. The entrance fee will be collected by a guard at the outpost just before the trail starts.

There’s no need to bring your own packed lunch or snack since there’s a cafeteria just outside the trail.

How to get to Camp Aguinaldo’s Trail Entrance:

  1. From Katipunan Ave., take Bonny Serrano Ave. on your right.
  2. Then turn left going to Arturo Enrile Ave. (Camp Aguinaldo Gate 6).
  3. From there, leave your ID with the guard and then continue taking Arturo Enrile Ave.
  4. When you reach the golf driving range, take P. Santos Ave. on your left.
  5. Continue for about 1.5 kilometers and then take a left on the unnamed road before De Jesus Ave.
  6. Continue straight until you reach the guard house where you’ll pay the trail entrance fee.

5. Filinvest TrailsAlabang, Muntinlupa

If you live in the southern part of the metro, you’ve probably been to Filinvest City,Alabang. But did you know that it has one of the most newbie-friendly trails in Luzon?

Filinvest Trails

Filinvest Trails | Photo by Roegan Taron

The trail was built by Filinvest City and is famous among trail runners, joggers, and cyclists. A lot of race events happen here such as the yearly Endurance Weekend for both trail runners and mountain bikers.

I had the chance to compete in the 2014 Shimano Dirt and Play MTB race. The sponsors and organizers of the race encouraged amateurs to join and experience how it feels like being in a race. The race event is usually held either in April or May. This year, it’s going to happen on May 24.

2014 Shimano Dirt and Play MTB Race

2014 Shimano Dirt and Play MTB Race | Photo by Roegan Taron

The terrain here is similar to U.P. Diliman, but bigger. The trail has 6 to 7 different sections that you can try. The nice thing about the trail is that most of the sections are shaded by trees.

Filinvest Trails Section 1

Filinvest Trails Section 1 | Photo by Roegan Taron

Getting to some sections of the trail involves crossing some roads that motorists use. It’s important that you slow down and look out for oncoming traffic before crossing. Although not a lot of vehicles pass by, it doesn’t hurt to stop, look, and listen before you go.

There are some parking slots available along different roads. South Point Driving Range offers free parking. A lot of mountain bikers also park their cars along Pacific Rim Drive.

How to get to the starting point of Filinvest Trails:

  1. Coming from Alabang-Zapote Rd., take Filinvest Ave. on your right.
  2. Continue straight along Filinvest Ave. for about 1.5 kilometers.
  3. Then turn left on Parkway St.
  4. When you get to Parkway St., the start of the trail should be on your right. The starting point is just beside La Vie Flats.

4. Mt. Maarat / Timberland HeightsSan Mateo, Rizal

You know your mountain biking skills have improved when you start thinking of trying the “Mountain Biking Capital of the Philippines.”

Known as the only IMBA-certified (International Mountain Bicycling Association) bike trail in the country, this place is a haven for mountain bikers since it has a lot of different trails.

Mt. Maarat's "The Wall 1"

Mt. Maarat’s “The Wall 1” | Photo by Roegan Taron

But before reaching the gates of Timberland Heights, one must conquer The Wall,” a 2-kilometer (1.25 mile) long road with a steep grade.

Your endurance will be tested as you bike along The Wall. Getting a good night’s sleep the day before and eating a hearty breakfast is highly recommended before you attempt the uphill climb.

When you start your climb, take it slow. It will help you preserve your energy.

A lot of stores can be found on the side of the road but I always recommend to bring your own water.

If you feel like you need a breather, stop the climb. There’s no shame in resting and seeing others pass by you. I had to get off my bike three times when I first tried The Wall.

Here’s a tip: if you’re trying to impress other cyclists behind you but you badly need a rest, get off your bike and pretend to tie your shoelaces. Tie it slowly so that you get more rest!

Mt. Maarat's "The Wall 2"

Mt. Maarat / Timberland Heights “The Wall 2” | Photo by Roegan Taron

After conquering The Wall, you’ll be asked by the guards at the gates of Timberland Heights to leave an ID. After that, you’ll be on your way to conquer your second challenge, known to regulars as the “Wall 2.”

But do not be discouraged! It should actually be called “Wall ½” because it’s half as easy as The Wall. 

Once you’re done with The Wall 2, you should see the entrances for the different trails. The Green Zone entrance will be on your left, the Basic Trail entrance straight ahead, and the exit of the Blue Zone will be on your right.

A lot of mountain bikers rest at the entrances of these trails. They’ll be more than willing to help you find your correct entrance if you get confused.

As a newbie, I suggest taking the Basic Trail since it will give you an idea of what kind of terrain to expect at the other trails. You’ll also see an awesome surprise at the end of the trail.

Biking on Sapinit Road

Sapinit’s Picturesque Road | Photo by Roegan Taron

Taking the paved road will take you to the barangay of Pintong Bukawe. On your way, you’ll be surrounded by lots of pine trees! The road is very picturesque and will remind you of Baguio.

If you still have the strength, try the Green Zone when you get back to the entrance of the Basic Trail. Trying it will help you sharpen your turning skills as it has a couple of narrow “switchbacks” or hairpin turns.

The Green Zone's Muddy Trail

The Green Zone’s Muddy Trail | Photo by Roegan Taron

If you’re really new to the sport, I would avoid the Blue Zone. Intermediate to advanced mountain biking skills are required to finish it without hitting a tree. The trail has a lot of bumps, medium-sized rocks, and some small gaps on the ground. Don’t take this trail alone because you may get lost and end up at a different mountain.

Probably the hardest of them all is the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) downhill trail called Black Diamond. I personally haven’t tried this since none of my friends want to try it.

Mountain bikers rank the trails with colors based on IMBA’s trail difficulty system.

Trail Difficulty Rating System

Trail Difficulty Rating System | Photo from imba.com

There are a lot of parking slots available if you’re planning on bringing your car. Most people park their cars on the side of the road leading to The Wall. If you feel like skipping the long climb of The Wall, you can drive all the way up and park your car near the gate of Timberland Heights. But that’s kind of cheating.

At the end of the day, you’ll be proud of yourself for riding any of the trails above. And you should be! You just rode your first-ever mountain on a mountain bike!

Important Notes:

  • Some vehicles use the road since Timberland Heights is a residential area. Be aware of your surroundings when you bike here. Stick to the right side of the road to give vehicles enough room to overtake you.
  • Be very careful on your way down as some cyclists have crashed in the past. Even seasoned cyclists slow down once they see sharp turns ahead.
  • You will be exposed to the sun. Save your skin and wear sunblock or even better, a rash guard.

How to get to Mt. Maarat / Timberland Heights:

  1. From Commonwealth Ave., take a right on Batasan Rd.
  2. Continue straight on Batasan Rd. for about 2 kilometers.
  3. Then turn right on Batasan-San Mateo Rd.
  4. After crossing the Batasan-San Mateo bridge, turn left on Gen. Luna Ave.
  5. Stay on Gen. Luna Ave. and then turn right on E. Delos Santos Rd. The road is right before Ampid Market.
  6. Continue straight on E. Delos Santos Rd. for about 1.5 kilometers.
  7. Then turn left on Kambal Rd. Ext. Stay on it for about 1.5 kilometers.
  8. After a couple of meters, you’ll start to see parked cars along the road. This is where you can start biking to go to Wall 1.

3. Puray FallsRodriguez, Rizal

Not necessarily for a newbie, but once you’ve polished your basic mountain biking skills and have been exposed to the trails at Timberland Heights, you should be ready for a long bike ride. Consider Puray Falls as your first one.

Puray Falls, Rizal

Puray Falls, Rizal | Photo by Roegan Taron

Located in Rodriguez (formerly known as Montalban), Puray Falls is famous among mountain bikers who enjoy long bike rides. Coming from UP Diliman, going here should take around 5 to 6 hours of biking mostly on paved road.

Reaching the center of Brgy. Puray will show you two different routes to get to the falls. The routes are dubbed as the “wet route” and the “dry route.” Taking the “dry route” is tougher since it consists of multiple short uphill climbs and it’s the longer route to the falls. The good news is that the first few parts of the road are well-paved. Also, there’s no need to worry about your socks getting wet when you take the dry route.

But to really get a feel of being in the mountain, I suggest taking the “wet route.” This involves getting off your bike and carrying it across multiple river points. The water in the river is usually at knee-level. But during the wet season, the water goes up to your waist. In rare cases, the river is not passable at all so you’ll be forced to take the tougher (but safer) dry route.

River Crossing in Puray

River Crossing in Puray | Photo by Roegan Taron

The locals are really friendly and will gladly answer any of your questions about the area. They would actually recommend which route is better to take depending on the day of your visit since they cross the river almost every single day.

Finishing either the wet or dry route will lead you to the start of a short trail. The trail is pretty easy since it’s only soil and sand. Once you reach the end of that trail, you’ll have to leave your bikes at the store by the riverbank since it’d be impossible to take it with you.

From that point, you’ll be on foot and will have to hike upstream for about half a kilometer. On a normal pace, it should only take 15 to 20 minutes before you see the falls.

Hike to Puray Falls

Hike to Puray Falls | Photo by Roegan Taron

The streams are gorgeous and they’re a beauty to look at since the water is crystal clear. Once you reach the falls, I suggest swimming in the catch basin to help cool off your body. Like really cool off. The water is freezing, even on a sunny day.

Stream in Puray Falls

Stream in Puray Falls | Photo by Roegan Taron

Important Notes:

  • Bring your own food. Even though there are stores around, not all of them sell meals.
  • Make sure to bring plenty of water as some stores in the area run out of bottled water.
  • If you’re planning on taking the wet route, I suggest bringing hiking sandals or slippers. You don’t want to wear wet socks on your way home.
  • This ride is considered as an “epic ride” since it involves long hours of biking. Know your fitness level and see whether you can endure the ride.

How to get to Puray Falls:

  1. From Commonwealth Ave., take a right on Batasan Rd.
  2. Continue straight on Batasan Rd. for about 2 kilometers.
  3. Then turn right on Batasan-San Mateo Rd.
  4. After crossing the Batasan-San Mateo bridge, turn left on Gen. Luna Ave.
  5. Stay on Gen. Luna Ave. for about 20 kilometers.
  6. Then turn left on Rodriguez Highway and stay on it for 2 kilometers.
  7. When you reach the end of the highway, turn right on Mayon Ave.
  8. Stay on Mayon Ave. until you reach the barangay of Puray. From there, you can ask the locals about taking either the wet route or dry route going to the falls.

2. Mt. BalagbagRodriguez, Rizal

If you think the route to Mt. Maarat or Timberland Heights and Puray Falls is long and tiring, wait until you see the trail that leads to Mt. Balagbag.

Mt. Balagbag

Mt. Balagbag | Photo by Kris Crismundo for Philippine Canadian Inquirer

The mountain is famous among newbie hikers as it’s one of the few mountains near Metro Manila. A 777 MASL (meters above sea level) mountain might sound intimidating to most. But it’s actually easier to conquer than Pico de Loro (664 MASL). Unlike the famous mountain in Cavite, this mountain in Rizal doesn’t have large roots to overcome nor narrow pathways to squeeze through.

Hiking up Mt. Balagbag

Hiking up Mt. Balagbag | Photo by Roegan Taron

On the other hand, the mountain will definitely be a challenge for newbie to intermediate mountain bikers. The uphill trail has medium to large rocks, making it hard to bike all the way to the top. You will be carrying or pushing your bike just to continue the climb.

As you reach the halfway mark, you’ll be welcomed by a large red gate. Caretakers of the area will charge ₱20 to each person who wishes to continue. You’ll also be asked to sign a logbook so that they can track the people who goes to the summit.

From that gate, you’ll have to continue the climb for another 200 meters. The trail near the summit is more newbie-friendly since it’s mostly soil with a couple of bumps and wide switchbacks.

Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded by seeing the mountain range surrounding Rodriguez. If you reach the summit really early, you’ll get the chance to glance at the gorgeous, cotton candy-like sea of clouds!

The mountain is famous for its rock garden which is basically the trail that you’ll be climbing to reach the top. The climb will you take you about 1 to 2 hours depending on your pace. But going down will only take 30 minutes. This is where the fun begins.

Mt. Balagbag’s Rock Garden

Mt. Balagbag’s Rock Garden | Photo by Trail Adventours

The downhill ride is pretty risky since the trail has medium to large-sized rocks. Your bike handling and braking skills will be tested since you’ll have to make lightning quick decisions on whether you’ll roll over a rock or avoid it.

The fun here is the adrenaline rush that you get on your way down. Not everyone is encouraged to bike downhill. But if you think you can handle it, then by all means, do it!

One of the things that make mountain biking fun is the extreme aspect of it. Finishing the downhill ride will be a great accomplishment!

Important Notes:

  • You can bring your car up to the jump off site of Licao-Licao. Simply ask some of the stores there to keep an eye on your car. Just make sure to thank and tip them when you return.
  • The locals are really friendly. They will give you tips and information about the terrain.
  • The trail is also famous among 4×4 truck enthusiasts. Be prepared to share the trail with these off-road vehicles.
  • There are no trees at the summit of the mountain. If you plan on eating lunch there, don’t. Nothing will shade you from the scorching sun.
  • I wouldn’t recommend biking all the way to the mountain if you’re coming from somewhere really far. It’d take long hours of biking. My friends and I have tried it and we got lost on our way. We ended up climbing a different mountain before getting to Mt. Balagbag!

How to get to Mt. Balagbag:

  1. From Commonwealth Ave., take a right on Batasan Rd.
  2. Continue straight on Batasan Rd. for about 2 kilometers.
  3. Then turn right on Batasan-San Mateo Rd.
  4. After crossing the Batasan-San Mateo bridge, turn left on Gen. Luna Ave.
  5. Stay on Gen. Luna Ave. for about 20 kilometers.
  6. Then turn left on Rodriguez Highway and stay on it for 2 kilometers.
  7. When you reach the end of the highway, turn left on Mayon Ave.
  8. Continue straight on Mayon Ave. for about 15 kilometers.
  9. Then on your left, you’ll see the entrance gate to Metro Manila Hills Communities.
  10. Take a left and pass through Metro Manila Hills Communities until you reach the end of the road.
  11. Then take a right on Payatas Rd. Stay on it until you reach the center of Brgy. Licao-Licao.

Going to the jump-off point in Brgy. Licao-Licao is also accessible by car. You can park it near one of the stores and just ask the store or the locals to look over your car.

1. La Mesa Nature ReserveRodriguez, Quezon City

While the list may seem sorted from easiest to hardest, I saved La Mesa Nature Reserve for last but it’s not the hardest.

La Mesa Dam Reservoir

La Mesa Dam Reservoir | Photo by Roegan Taron

I saved it for last because it’s the best place to ride your mountain bike!

La Mesa Nature Reserve is the last remaining rainforest in Metro Manila. It’s under ABS-CBN’s Bantay Kalikasan. They started a reforestation project 16 years ago and the forest is now thriving. They were able to add 74 species to the forest. With an overall survival rate of 92.5%, it has the highest rate among other reforestation projects in Southeast Asia.

Biking in La Mesa Nature Reserve

Biking in La Mesa Nature Reserve | Photo by Roegan Taron

Unlike other trails, you’ll be shaded by trees 98% of the time while biking. The trail isn’t as hard as climbing Timberland Heights nor going down Mt. Balagbag’s rock garden. This lets you focus on the beauty of the forest.

The trails have certain rest stops where you can rehydrate and eat your packed lunch or snacks. Each rest stop has its own unique view to offer.

Some of the other rest stops are called treehouse, Lake Violago view deck, Kawayanan, etc. The trail consists of grass, dried leaves, small lumps of soil, fire roads, and some small rocks. The terrain itself is very newbie-friendly. The short uphill climbs and long downhill descents make it ideal for newbies who want to perfect their balance and focus.

La Mesa Nature Reserve’s Fire Road

La Mesa Nature Reserve’s Fire Road | Photo by Roegan Taron

Most parts of the trail are wide enough to accommodate two mountain bikers at a time. The terrain changes quickly though so make sure that you see what’s ahead so you don’t end up crashing into the biker next to you.

Bantay Kalikasan charges ₱1,000 for a group of five. They will then charge ₱200 per extra person if you’re more than five. But if you’re less than five, you will still be charged ₱1,000 for the whole group. The money is used to maintain the trail and also helps fund the reforestation of La Mesa.

La Mesa Dam Reservoir

La Mesa Dam Reservoir | Photo by Roegan Taron

Since the trail is over 60 kilometers (37 miles) long, a trail guide will be provided for no extra charge. These guys are the masters of La Mesa so when they tell you to slow down, you slow down. When they tell you that they’re hungry, you share your food with them.

Important Notes:

  • Walk-ins are not allowed. It’s important to reserve a slot 2 to 3 days before you go there. For reservations, you can contact Mr. Mar Ramirez at +639 372 277 700 or +639 266 700 320.
  • La Mesa Nature Reserve has a huge parking area. Most of the mountain bikers here bring their cars because they don’t want to waste their energy going to the trail.
  • If you plan on biking all the way to La Mesa, you can rest at the start area of the trail before you start biking inside. The place has multiple wooden tables and chairs that you can use.
  • They also sell bottled water, bananas, and hard-boiled eggs at the briefing area. Buying at least one of each will help you endure the long ride ahead.
  • Bring lots of water! I recommend having a hydration pack in your bag. This makes it easier to rehydrate without getting off your bike.
  • In case you need to bail out inside the trail, your trail guide will radio a pickup truck that will fetch you and bring you back to the parking lot.
  • Lastly, stay with your group. This goes for any type of bike ride. If you need to take a bathroom break, ask your group to stop.

How to get to La Mesa Nature Reserve:

  1. Coming from Commonwealth Ave., take a right on Regalado Highway.
  2. When you reach the end of the highway, turn right on Quirino Highway.
  3. Continue straight on Quirino Highway for about 3 kilometers.
  4. When you see UNO Fuels on the left side of the road, the entrance gate of La Mesa Nature Reserve should be on your right.

Mountain biking is also a social activity so it’s better to try out these trails with your friends. Nothing is more fun than having a good laugh with friends about the slope that you couldn’t finish.