El Yunque

(Courtesy US National Forest)

El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the United States forest system, is gearing up for a busy summer season as it continues to recover after the impact of Hurricane Maria.

The Forest Service has been able to reopen access along most roads and restore about 40 percent of the recreation areas, trails and services.

Some of the trails currently open in El Yunque are: the Mt. Britton Trail which offers scenic views; the Angelito Trail and Puente Roto along PR 988, which leads to the Las Damas pool in the Mameyes River; and the El Toro Wilderness Trail along PR 186 with views of streams and waterfalls in the western portion of the forest and Río Sabana Recreation Area on the south side of the forest in Naguabo.

While recreational activities within the forest are limited, there are options in the communities close by. Zip lines, water sports, swimming and hiking are some of the recreational activities available in neighboring towns.

El Yunque, with its mystical name that dates back to the Taíno civilization, is home to hundreds of small animals like birds, bats, and lizards. Of all the animals that live in El Yunque, several can only be found here, including the Puerto Rican Boa, the Puerto Rican Parrot and tiny tree frogs called Coquí.

At its highest elevations, rainfall in El Yunque can reach up to 250 inches a year, three times the amount of rain that falls in San Juan. Caressed by gentle easterly winds, the forest has an average temperature of 73 degrees and seasonal changes are almost imperceptible.

Visitors to the rainforest are encouraged to stop by El Portalito HUB at 54 calle Principal in Palmer for information, exhibits, educational activities and a movie. El Portalito HUB is currently serving as a temporary visitor and community engagement center while the El Portal Visitor’s Center undergoes renovations.

El Yunque has a parking capacity of approximately 160 spaces, a significant reduction from before the hurricanes Irma and Maria. For visitors safety, when the parking capacity is reached, the gate at La Coca Falls may be temporarily closed; as vehicles leave the forest, the gate is opened.

Parking areas in the forest are designated and some are limited to 30 minutes. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early to avoid the traffic. USDA Forest Service personnel may be available to provide assistance, orientation and greet visitors. El Yunque National Forest is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  

Managing Editor for The Weekly Journal. She has 14 years of experience as a print and radio reporter, news editor and TV anchor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Journalism from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.

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