Hiking Piedra de Zopilote at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve

Hiking Piedra de Zopilote at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve

Cloudbridge Nature Reserve is a hidden gem deep in the mountains of Costa Rica. It is located directly next to Cerro Chirripó, one of the tallest mountains in Central America. Within Cloudbridge are several different hikes, each varying in difficulty. However the best and most rewarding is hiking Piedra de Zopilote at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.

Hiking Piedra de Zopilote at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve

Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, located directly next to the small town of San Gerardo, is the perfect hiker’s destination.

Piedra de Zopilote, also known as “Vulture Rock”, is the one of the most difficult hikes Cloudbridge offers. The hike is only a round trip of 1.6 km or about 1 mile. However, you will reach altitudes of 1800-1905 m (5906-6250 ft) as you climb into the lush Costa Rican mountains.

Directions to Piedra de Zopilote

Hiking Piedra de Zopilote at Cloudbridge Nature ReserveHere is a PDF map of Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. Use the map and follow the directions below:

  1. Take Sendero Principal past the covered bridge until you reach a fork in the trail
  2. Turn left and continue through a small gate
  3. Cross the Rio Uran using the replacement bridge (a little sketchy but definitely safe)
  4. Continue hiking along the main trail, following the Rio Uran river valley
  5. When you reach a fork in the trail, continue along the right hand path along the ‘Don Victor’ trail, located within Cloudbridge North
  6. Take the left hand fork and follow the trail up the mountain to start hiking Piedra de Zopilote at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve

The hike is pretty strenuous, with a steady uphill climb. Whether you hike the trail in the summer or rain season of Costa Rica, you will want to start early in the morning; in summer because of the heat and in winter because of the rain. While much of the trail has forest covering, it is no match for the midday sun or rainstorm.

Warning about Don Victor trail

Hiking Piedra de Zopilote at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve - waterfall

Hiking Piedra de Zopilote at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve begins at Don Victor trail. When you arrive, you will see the Don Victor Falls. While not one of the most captivating waterfalls in Cloudbridge, it is definitely unique. The small stream trickles down a large rock-face, tucked within two, leafy green forest areas. There might not be a giant cascade like Pacifica Falls, but the unique features of Don Victor Falls make it a site to see.

Hiking Piedra de Zopilote at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve - trail


Immediately after the Don Victor Falls, my friend and I were approached by two Ticos, one of which I knew from town. They were working for Talamanca Nature Reserve, and were stationed there to turn people away from going any further. The two Ticos claimed that the following land was owned by Talamanca Nature Reserve, and that Cloudbridge hikers could not pass through.

My friend, who currently works for Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, said we should keep walking because she was expecting this to happen. She had been previously warned that people from Talamanca were turning people away from continuing any further on the trail.

Apparently Cloudbridge and Talamanca Nature Reserve are in a legal battle right now over land ownership disputes. Talamanca claims they own a small strip of land after the Falls, but Cloudbridge disagrees. After talking with one of the directors at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, I was assured that they actually do own the land and Talamanca is in the wrong.

When we were confronted by the Ticos, my friend continued walking but I stayed to try to understand what was going on. A little confused and attempting to have a conversation in Spanish (my Spanish is still pretty weak), I discussed the issue with them. However eventually after talking with one of the Ticos whom I knew, they said we could pass through this time.

Continuing the Hike to Piedra de Zopilote (Vulture Rock)

After getting past the Talamanca employees, we continued our hike through a lush, jungle-like setting. The trail is surrounded by massive, moss covered trees, probably hundreds of years old. The path continues to wind further and further up the side of a forested mountain.

Once you get to the top, you see the massive Piedra de Zopilote (Vulture Rock). Continue up the trail to get the viewpoint. You are met with a staggering view of green, fluffy mountains spanning across the whole horizon. Large birds soar through the sky at breakneck speeds, whipping and weaving through the mountains. Piedra de Zopilote is a perfect picnic spot to have lunch in the mountains of Costa Rica.

The trail is not a loop, so you will have to descend back down the way you came.



Originally from Chicago, now traveling around the world while working remotely as a web designer / developer. A Christian trying to be a shining light in a dark world.

1 Comment

  • John Cicero April 22, 2018 at 3:53 pm Reply

    I sure looks like paradise there. Enjoy!

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