The Pipeline Trail in Boquete, Panama – Hiking Guide

The Pipeline Trail in Boquete is one of the most popular hikes in the area. Located in the Bajo Mono area just outside town, this cloud forest trek offers a wonderful opportunity to explore lush jungle and spot exotic Panamanian wildlife. The trail finishes with a hidden waterfall at the end of the out-and-back trail. 

If this hike is on your Panama itinerary, read on. I’ll reveal everything you need to know about getting to the trailhead, whether you need to take a tour and what to expect from Boquete’s Pipeline Trail. 

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Pipeline Trail, Boquete, Panama – A Guide

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The Pipeline Trail Map

The Pipeline Trail – Independent vs. Tour

Although some companies offer tours of the Pipeline Trail, a guide is not necessary to experience this hike. Unlike more difficult hikes such as the one to the top of Volcan Baru, this is a moderate trail that can easily be completed independently.

Pipeline trail bridge, Boquete
The Pipeline Trail is easy to hike independently.

As transport can be easily arranged from Boquete and the entrance fee is very reasonable, the only time that I would recommend taking a tour of the Pipeline Trail is if you are wanting to go birdwatching. 

As this hike is in the same area as the Lost Waterfalls Trail and Sendero Los Quetzales, there is a chance of seeing the elusive quetzal bird in this area. In this instance, a guide would be a valued addition to your hike. They know the best places to see such wildlife and have the knowledge to recognise specific bird calls. 

Also read: Panamanian wildlife to look out for.

The beautiful Resplendent Quetzal.

If you want to take a tour of the Pipeline Trail, it costs around $35-45USD per person. Return transport, entrance fee and a guide are usually included in this cost. 

The Pipeline Trail Hike

  • Distance: 6.1km (out and back)
  • Duration: 3 hours (out and back)
  • Difficulty: Moderate

After you’ve paid your entry fee ($5USD per person) and signed in, you begin the Pipeline Trail through private property. The path is well-beaten and easy to follow so you shouldn’t have too many difficulties finding your way.

Beginning of pipeline trail
This sign marks the beginning of the trail.

Prior to embarking on this track, a fellow traveller described it to me as flat. While that is a definite exaggeration of the truth, it isn’t too challenging and could instead be described as a gradual incline on the way out and a decline on the way back. The total elevation gain is around 466 metres. 

The trail is named after the pipelines which carry water along the trail. Although some say these detract from the trail’s natural beauty, I appreciated the way that nature is reclaiming these urban installations. Be warned that sometimes the pressure builds up in the pipes and you could get sprayed by one of the release valves! 

Pipeline trail, Panama
The Pipeline Trail is named after the pipes which characterise the trail.

It is always good to have an offline copy of your trail map. After all, phone signal comes and goes, especially in more remote areas! To make sure that I don’t get caught out, I use AllTrails Pro. It allows me to download trail maps direct to my phone and also tracks my journey, compiling my stats at the end. I also love sharing my adventures with the AllTrails community! Try a 7-day free trial of AllTrails Pro here.

We saw a number of hikers on this trail, from young to old. As the incline isn’t too steep, the trail is suitable for people of decent fitness ability. The main challenge of the hike comes with the river crossings, some of which will require you to traverse a pipeline and others that require you to use stepping stones. This is a challenge for your balancing skills, made a lot harder without hiking poles!

Walking the Pipeline Trail Boquete
Trying out my balancing skills!

The highlight of this cloud forest hike can be found towards the end of the route on an offshoot of the trail. On the left-hand side, you can see a giant tree alongside a sign which claims that it is around 1000 years old! As a tree lover, I loved being up this close to one of nature’s giants. 

As you near the end of the trail, you will see a sign at the side that says ‘no pase peligro’, meaning that you shouldn’t pass. I was a little confused upon seeing this as the trail continued on my offline map and there appeared to be no obstacles. I would assume that in the rainy season when the river is in spate, the trail can be impassable from this point.

1000 year old tree
The photo doesn’t do it justice – it was huge!

When I visited, it was possible to traverse the small stream via stepping stones and follow the route up and around. After around five minutes or so, you’ll arrive at the hidden waterfall. Even though this wasn’t particularly full when I visited, it is tall and still very impressive.

Mudslides occur in this area so you should be very careful if you’re attempting the Pipeline Trail during the rainy season (April-December). If the river starts to run muddy, quit the hike and return by the same route, just in case. 

Waterfall at the end of the Pipeline trail
The hidden waterfall at the end of the Pipeline Trail, Panama.

Getting to the Pipeline Trail, Boquete

There are three options to get to Boquete’s Pipeline Trail. As already discussed, you can take a tour which will drop you at the entrance. If you are doing the hike independently, either take a taxi or colectivo to Los Naranjos. You’ll want to get out at the pink bus shelter (the colectivo will stop here anyway). This is one stop earlier than you will get out if you are heading to the Lost Waterfall trail. Colectivo costs $2USD per person each way.

Colectivo bus near pipeline trail drop off
The colectivo that dropped us off at the start of the Pipeline Trail.

From there, head across the road towards the sign which says ‘Pipeline’ and walk up the gravel track. You will see the shack where you can sign in on your left. 

Also read: Getting from Panama City to Boquete.

How Much Does it Cost to Do the Pipeline Trail?

Entry into the Pipeline trail is $5USD per person. You need to sign in and pay the fee at the small shack which is located on the left-hand side of the gravel track. If there is no one there, just hang around for a minute and somebody will turn up. 

Gate at entrance
This gate is next to the place where you pay for entry to Boquete’s Pipeline Trail.

Don’t be surprised if people come out of any of the local houses to collect the payment, the entry fee is to allow you access to the trail as it is located on private land. You only need to pay once but it is very important to keep hold of your receipt in case you do get asked to pay again. Once you finish the trek, you should return to the shack to sign out. 

Good to know! The Pipeline Trail is only open from 8 am to 3 pm so make sure you give yourself enough time to complete the hike. I wouldn’t recommend arriving any later than around 12:30 to be safe. 

What Should I Bring for the Pipeline Trail

  • Packable rain jacket
  • Camera
  • Drinking water
  • Closed toe shoes
  • Long trousers/pants
  • Insect repellent
  • Suncream
  • Cash
  • Hiking poles (if you have them)
Boquete Pipeline trail
Long trousers or pants will keep the bugs away!

Places to Stay in Boquete, Panama

Boquete is the adventure capital of Panama and there are loads of places to stay in town catering to all budgets. A few of the best-rated include Selina, Bambuda Castle, Boquete Garden Inn and The Inn at Palo Alto

For more options, check out this Boquete accommodation guide.

Have you hiked the Pipeline Trail in Boquete yet? Share your experience in the comments below!