Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Cerro Kennedy View

Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of Colombia lies Cerro Kennedy, a hike known only mostly to avid hikers, nature enthusiasts, and locals. This prominent peak stands tall at an elevation of approximately 3,100 meters (10,170 feet), offering panoramic vistas that stretch from the green landscapes to the shimmering Caribbean Sea.

I’ve put in lots of effort to share the best info and make your journey super enjoyable. Why trust me? Well, I’ve done my homework and have done this hike myself.

So, get ready for an awesome trip with a guide that’s got your back!

What Makes Cerro Kennedy Special?

As you ascend towards the summit, you will be treated to close to a 180-degree view of the Sierra Nevada, revealing its grandeur and diverse ecosystems. The hike takes you through a bird sanctuary, adding a touch of natural marvel to the journey.

The vegetation undergoes a remarkable transformation as you ascend, resembling a meticulously curated garden that has flourished organically. There’s also plenty of birds to observe and admire along the way, mostly collibris.

Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide - Everything You Need to Know -

While the sunrise view from the Cerro Kennedy peak is undoubtedly mesmerizing, I found the sunset vistas from El Ramo Hostel (I would guess the same for Donde Moncho that sits at a slightly higher elevation) to be equally spectacular.

The play of light over the Sierra Nevada creates a visual spectacle reminiscent of the sunrise views from other famous hikes like Acatenango, albeit in a completely different terrain.

Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide - Everything You Need to Know -

Beyond its geography, Cerro Kennedy holds profound cultural and historical significance to the indigenous communities of the Sierra Nevada, particularly the Kogi people. They consider the mountains, including Cerro Kennedy, as sacred sites integral to their spiritual beliefs.

The mountain range itself is regarded as the “Heart of the World” by the indigenous peoples, emphasizing its vital role in maintaining ecological balance and harmony.

Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide - Everything You Need to Know -

Whether you seek the thrill of conquering a challenging peak or wish to admire Colombia’s natural wonders, Cerro Kennedy promises a worthwhile experience high in the Sierra Nevada.

How to Get From Minca to Cerro Kennedy

There’s a variety of ways to do this hike and it can be as cheap or as easy as you’d like it to be.

Hiking all the way from Minca

For the avid hiker used to long days on the trail, hiking all the way from Minca will be a challenging yet rewarding option. The approximately 8-hour hike takes you through diverse landscapes, from dense forests to open vistas, giving you an experience of every terrain there is in Sierra Nevada.

The first half of the hike would be the most mentally and physically challenging, because this is the part where you have to hike on very steep roads to the Y alongside cars and with the least amount of shade.

Need a guide?

Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide - Everything You Need to Know -

Wi Make Tours is the only tour company I found to have a good itinerary for Cerro Kennedy.

This tour is a great way to explore the beautiful nature of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, without other tourists around. The stay at finca Santa Elena was a highlight of my trip, the hosts Ana and Alejandro were so welcoming and served delicious traditional food and coffee. A Tripadvisor Reviewer, Jan 2018.

Mountain Biking Expedition

Thrill-seekers can opt for an exhilarating mountain biking tour to Cerro Kennedy. Guided tours are available, offering not only an adrenaline-pumping ride but also the opportunity to appreciate the changing scenery along the way.

The ride is designed for various skill levels, making it accessible to both beginners and seasoned bikers.However, the mountain bike ride on the second part of the hike will be a bumpy one because it gets extremely rocky.

Bus Ride to the Y and Hike

If hiking or biking all the way sounds a bit too much, a more accessible option involves taking a bus to the Y, with a fare of 10,000 COP.

Departures are scheduled as: 6:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, and the last bus leaves at 3:00 pm.

In our experience, these departure times mostly depends on when the bus is full though. We planned to take the 11:00am but the bus did not arrive until 12pm.

The hike from the Y offers a gradual ascent, allowing you to acclimate to the elevation while enjoying the scenic beauty of the Sierra Nevada.

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Bus Ride to the Y, Moto Ride, and Hike

Let’s say that you really want to reduce your hiking, and you’re mostly there for the sightseeing. You can also take a ride straight to the hostel and just hike at sunrise or even just take in the view from the hostel.

Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide - Everything You Need to Know -
Source: https://naarcolombia.com/

You can take a bus to the Y and then a moto to the hostel. This route is ideal for those who prefer to only hike during the serene hours of sunrise. Costs include 10,000 COP for the bus and an additional 30,000 COP for the moto to El Ramo. The moto ride adds an element of excitement because it really is a rocky ride, and it will allow you to conserve energy for the final ascent.

Direct Moto Taxi to the Hostel

Opting for a swift and direct approach, a moto taxi can take you straight to the hostel. While this is the most expedient choice, it comes at a cost of 80,000 COP.

The direct moto taxi is suitable for those with time constraints or those desiring a more relaxed experience at the summit without an extended hike.

How to Get Back from Cerro Kennedy to Minca

Like the hike up, the descent from Cerro Kennedy provides various options, allowing hikers to tailor their journey back to Minca based on how you feel after the hike on first day

Scenic Descent by Foot

If the prospect of another day filled with adventure appeals to you, consider hiking all the way down. The descent offers a different perspective of the landscape, allowing you to absorb the surroundings at a leisurely pace. An early start ensures you have ample time to explore and enjoy the trek.Since it’s mostly downhill, expect your hiking time to be get cut by at least 30%

Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide - Everything You Need to Know -
Hiking Combined with Bus Ride

For a balanced approach, hikers can choose to descend on foot and then catch a bus for the latter part of the journey.

The descent typically takes 2-3 hours, with the buses departing from the Y at 8:30 am, 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, and the last bus at 5:30 pm. Again, buses usually depart late and usually depends on when buses arrive from Minca.

Also be mindful that the 12 pm bus tends to fill up quickly. The friends I went with ended up hitchhiking with a family on the way down because the next bus would have been closer to late afternoon.

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Embrace the Hitchhiking Experience

An adventurous option is hitchhiking back to Minca. Since the route is frequented by individuals with 4×4 vehicles and motorbikes, it’s uncommon to find riders willing to offer rides to hikers.I hitchhiked myself even I had the option to hike because my food poisoning situation was taking a toll on my hike down.

What I have found to work is to look cheery on the way down and walk at a deliberately slow pace when potential rides approach.This got me a free ride back to Minca within 10 minutes after I started my hike down, and I just tipped the driver enough to compensate for his help.

Those that are wary of riding motorbikes may need to be picky with whom to hitch a ride with. The motorbike ride going down isn’t for the faint-hearted.

As I mentioned, the path is extremely rocky and you really have to hold on tight especially that most motobikers don’t carry extra helmets for passengers (or hitchhikers in this case).

How Difficult is the Cerro Kennedy Hike?

I’d consider the Cerro Kennedy hike to be a moderate hike, mostly because of the length rather than intense difficulty. There are even trail runners that did the run to Cerro Kennedy and back to Minca within the same day.

Despite my personal circumstance of recovering from food poisoning, the hike was manageable, especially because of my decision to take the bus to the Y.

If you’re in your prime physical condition, this hike should be a relatively easy one. Even at a deliberately slow pace, we reached El Ramo Hostel within 4 hours.

Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide - Everything You Need to Know -

The initial stretch from Minca to the Y poses the most demanding section, featuring steep roads and predominantly concrete pathways. The lower altitude and lack of shade intensifies the heat, making this segment less enjoyable. This wouldn’t be an issue at all if you choose to take a bus on the first half of the hike.

Upon reaching the Y, a noticeable change occurs. The temperature begins to drop, thanks to the shade from the lush trees. The loud chirping of the birds from the bird sanctuary are also a nice distraction until you start seeing the views of the jungle below and the ocean ahead. These views show themselves closer to San Lorenzo.

Where to Stay in Cerro Kennedy

There’s three (if you exclude tenting in random spots) places to stay when doing the two-day Cerro Kennedy tour.

San Lorenzo

Estacion San Lorenzo, managed by the National Parks office, offers a serene abode. From San Lorenzo, you’re already above the clouds offering nice vistas of the jungle down below.

Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide - Everything You Need to Know -

However, it doesn’t offer the same view as that from Donde Moncho or El Ramo. Plus, the hike to summit will be approximately two hours which makes it an earlier wake-up call if you decide to do the sunrise hike.

Also note that it’s essential to secure bookings in advance for a tranquil stay.

Donde Moncho

Boasting of more accommodation options and closer proximity to the peak, Donde Moncho is an ideal resting place with campsites, dorm beds, and private rooms. This haven not only provides a comfortable stay but also hosts engaging night photography workshops, which may be interesting to some hikers.

Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide - Everything You Need to Know -

The communal atmosphere encourages interaction with fellow travelers, fostering a sense of camaraderie. With a mere 40 minutes to the summit, it serves as a convenient base for your Cerro Kennedy adventure.

El Ramo

For those seeking a more intimate and cozy retreat, El Ramo is the answer. It has two rooms with one having 4 beds and the other with 3 beds. Characterized by its smaller size, this establishment offers delightful meals, especially during supper, making it a delightful for those looking for something more flavourful (Colombian is not that known for food so this was a nice change).

Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide - Everything You Need to Know -

It’s a restaurant too, so you will definitely get a meal better than what restaurants in Minca has to offer. Planning to catch the sunrise? Depart no later than 4:30 am from El Ramo, as the summit is 1.5 hours away.

What to Wear for the Cerro Kennedy Hike

If you’re kickstarting your hike from Minca, brace yourself for heat in the initial stretch towards La Victoria. For this reason, I would still recommend to wear shorts and something light on day one.

I also mentioned that the trail becomes shaded once you get past the Y, offering a much-needed break from the blazing sun. Still, sticking to shorts is a wise move, ensuring you’re comfy and ready to take on the ascent towards Cerro Kennedy.

That’s for day 1, the sunrise hike is a bit different. It’s definitely cold at 4:30 when you start your ascent. Pants and some layers will be your best friend. Those that get cold easily may even want pants that are a bit more wind-proof.

What to Bring to Cerro Kennedy

Gear up with these must-haves that ensure you’re prepped for every twist and turn.

  1. At least 1.5L of Water to stay hydrated 
    A hydrated hiker is a happy hiker! Keep the energy flowing by packing at least 1.5 liters of water for your ascent. There should be available water for you at the hostel so you won’t need to pack two-days worth of hydration.
  2. Snacks to elevate energy levels 
    The trail’s challenges call for fuel. Pack your favorite snacks to munch on, providing the necessary energy bursts for those uphill stretches and ensuring you’re ready for any surprises the trail throws your way.
  3. Waterproof hiking boots for stream crossings (optional) 
    The journey might take you across refreshing streams. Slip into waterproof hking boots, letting your feet breathe and making those crossings a breeze without dampening your hiking shoes.
  4. Puffer Jacket for Chilly Peaks 
    As you ascend, the temperatures will dip, especially towards the summit. A lightweight puffer jacket ensures you stay warm and cozy, adding that extra layer of comfort against the mountain chill.
  5. Fleece Jacket for Versatile Warmth 
    A fleece jacket is your versatile companion, providing warmth without compromising on flexibility. It adapts to changing temperatures, offering the right balance as you traverse through diverse landscapes.
    Fleece Jacket for Versatile Warmth 
    A fleece jacket is your versatile companion, providing warmth without compromising on flexibility. It adapts to changing temperatures, offering the right balance as you traverse through diverse landscapes.
  6. Long Sleeve or Shirt for Sun Protection on the Hike Down 
    Shield yourself from the sun’s rays with a long-sleeved shirt. It acts as a protective barrier, preventing sunburn and ensuring you’re covered during extended periods under the open sky.
  7. Beanie for Cozy Nights 
    If you’re planning a night under the stars, a beanie is a snug addition. It keeps you warm during chilly nights, ensuring you enjoy a comfortable sleep and wake up refreshed for more exploration.
  8. Warm Pants 
    Opt for warm pants as you approach the summit. They offer insulation against the mountain chill, making your ascent more comfortable, especially in the early hours or late evenings.
  9. Headlamp to illuminate your path on the summit hike 
    For the pre-dawn start, a reliable headlamp is a game-changer. It guides your way, ensuring you navigate the trail safely and efficiently.

With these essentials in your backpack, you’re now ready for Cerro Kennedy!

Cerro Kennedy FAQ’s

Do I need a guide for the Cerro Kennedy Hike?

No, the trail is well-marked, and many hikes have successfully navigated it without a guide. However, ensure you’re well-prepared with maps and information. Maps.me and Google Maps are good to get the job done.

How difficult is the Cerro Kennedy hike?

The hike is more long than difficult, with manageable terrains mostly for biking. The challenges are outweighed by the stunning views and unique experiences along the way.

What is the best time to hike Cerro Kennedy?

The dry season, from December to March, is ideal. It minimizes rain-related challenges and provides clearer vistas.

Are permits required for the Cerro Kennedy trek?

No permits are required for this trek. It’s a nice hike open to passionate hikers looking for amazing vistas.

What should I pack for the Cerro Kennedy hike?

Essential items include water, snacks, sandals, a puffer jacket, fleece jacket, long-sleeved shirt, beanie, warm pants, and a reliable headlamp.

Are there guided tours available for Cerro Kennedy?

While the trail doesn’t demand a guide, some may prefer guided tours for added insights. Options are available for those seeking a more curated experience.

How long does it take to reach the summit of Cerro Kennedy?

The duration varies based on your starting point. Factor in around 4-5 hours from Minca to the summit, considering your pace and stops.

Can I camp on Cerro Kennedy?

Camping options are available at Estacion San Lorenzo, Donde Moncho, and El Ramo, offering immersive overnight experiences beneath the starlit skies. However, you can also just bring your own tent and pitch near the summit.

Are there any safety precautions for the Cerro Kennedy hike?

Stay hydrated, carry essentials, inform someone of your plans, and be mindful of changing weather conditions. Prioritize safety over anything else.

What are the trail conditions on Cerro Kennedy?

The trail varies from steep concrete roads to shaded paths. Be prepared for diverse terrains and changing landscapes as you ascend.

Is it possible to do a day trip to Cerro Kennedy, or is an overnight stay recommended?

I’ve seen trail runners doing the Cerro Kennedy within the day so it surely is possible. But while a day trip is feasible, an overnight stay is a better experience, allowing you to enjoy the sunset, sunrise, and the calmness of the Sierra Nevada.

2 thoughts on “Ultimate Cerro Kennedy Guide – Everything You Need to Know”

    • Hey Luke! You’re welcome! Glad it was helpful. I’m not sure if it’s a town because it’s seems to be so small to even be one. There’s a handful of houses and stores there but that’s about it. Here’s a landmark that gives you an idea where the Y is: https://maps.app.goo.gl/m5DGiKbz4DzHtRax5 It’s a store called Tienda la Y and you’ll see that across from that store, the route to Cerro Kennedy starts


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