Discover the Mysterious Beauty of Blue Soil Hills (Kaman-utek) in Sagada without Trekking
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When most people think of the Philippines, they imagine beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters. However, this country has so much more than meets the eye. Tucked away in the mountains of northern Luzon is the small town of Sagada. Though it may be off the beaten path, Sagada is well worth visiting for those looking to discover something different.
So, what's there to do in Sagada?
Apart from exploring caves and watching the sunrise and the sea of clouds, there are many more things and places you can explore in Sagada. For starters, visitors can explore the mysterious Blue Soil Hills or what locals also call Kaman-utek Hills.
This place was recently opened to tourists in 2018, and this was the first time I heard about this place on the news. These huge boulders lined up beautifully against the area's lush pine trees. I initially thought it was man-made since it looked like a quarry site, but what made it most attractive was its bluish hue. When wet, the bluish color becomes more pronounced, and you'll see the hills in a deeper shade of blue. We didn't join any tours, so there was no one to explain this mystery to us, but I learned from what I read online that the bluish color of Blue Soil Hills is caused by the soil's high copper sulfate level. Despite the high copper sulfate content, there are still a lot of trees and plants growing around the area, and before they opened up the site, researchers were made to examine the soil content to ensure that it is safe for tourists.
Around the area are tall pine trees and thick grasses, and I also saw lots of pitcher plants, which are most commonly seen in rainforests. Probably it signifies that the area surrounding the Blue Soil Hills is still very lush and healthy, which I hope will be kept that way despite the number of tourists hiking in the area.
The most common way to reach Kaman-Utek Hills is by booking a tour via the Sagada Tourism Office, which you'll find along the main road right in front of the Sagada Municipal Hall. There are also other private tours that you can book when you get to Sagada, or you can also pre-book this online. Usually, the Blue Soil Hills tour is packaged with Marlboro Hills, and they call it Marlboro Hill - Blue Soil Hill Traverse Trek:
Number of trekking hours: 4-5 Sites to see: Marlboro Hill and Blue Soil Hills Price: P1,800 for 1-5 pax + P1,300 for transport to jump-off point (price as of 2021) Call Time: 4:00 am End Time: 8:30 - 9:30 am (depending on your speed)
If you want to save on the additional transport cost, you may opt to hike from the town center to the jump-off point. This hike will take about 30 minutes over a paved road. When you get to the jump-off point, you'll find a booth where you can register and get a guide. Our trip to the Blue Soil Hills was arranged through a different route, more of a lucky accident and a chance encounter, really. We were having breakfast and looking for something we could do on that bright sunny day. I searched Google Maps for tourist spots nearby and saw Blue Soil Hills. Our route didn't involve a lot of trekking, so it's more appropriate for titas, wannabe titas, and titas-by-heart who were never fans of anything that involves walking and hiking.
So, how can you go to Blue Soil Hills without trekking?
Okay, I may have gotten your hopes too high. There will be SOME hiking involved but not as much as if you were to arrange this via the Marlboro Hill - Blue Soil Hill Traverse Trek. But yes, you can go to Blue Soil Hills without the 4-5 hours of trekking. We stayed at the Sagada Blue Mountain Cabins, which is strategically located near the Blue Soil Hills, so this was where our jump-off point was. The staff just gave us instructions that didn't even register because I haven't had enough coffee yet at that time. All I remember was to go up until you see a water tank, something like going straight until you see a sari-sari store, and then turning left. Maybe that's all we needed because we eventually reached the site and didn't even need a tour guide.
So yes, you'll need to book a room with Sagada Blue Mountain Cabins or somewhere in this area. Sagada Blue Mountain Cabins is located along Mabisil - Payag-eo - Balili Road if you want to search for options. I would highly suggest Sagada Blue Mountain Cabins, though, since they can assist you on where to go, and their location is quite close to the path going to Blue Soil Hills. And the best thing I love about Sagada Blue Mountain Cabins is that one of their dogs, Bellawill accompany you up the hill until a few steps away from the property right before you reach the sari-sari store, which another dog guards.
I have reviewed this accommodation here if you want to read more about our stay with them.
If you don't mind the sun, I suggest you do this after all other tourists coming from Marlboro Hills are done with their trek. I would say that's around 9:30 am onwards. We got there at about 10:00 am, and it was as quiet as it could be. There are no tourists around, so we have the entire place to ourselves and can take photos without any photo bombers around. It wasn't as hot since the area is surrounded by trees, and there's also a sari-sari store somewhere in the middle of the hike where you can refresh and drink something. Just make sure you start your walk back before sundown.
How long does it take to hike to Blue Soil Hills from Sagada Blue Mountain Cabins?
While the usual traverse trek from Marlboro Hills to Blue Soil Hills is all downhill, ours was ascending from Sagada Blue Mountain Cabins, but it shouldn't take you more than 30 minutes. We slacked a lot and took many photos and videos along the way, took a lot of breaks too, so it was 45 minutes until we reached the site. The hike was very easy, we comfortably did it in flip flops and sneakers because we didn't bring appropriate footwear. We saw a couple of trekkers coming from Marlboro Hills and they were looking at us funny. They were probably thinking why we were going the opposite direction, why we wearing flip flops and sneakers and why were we not breaking any sweat. LMAO!