Reserva Biológica El Güisayote
The Reserva Biológica El Güisayote is what you would call a last-ditch effort to save a patch of disappearing cloud forest. The reserve covers a ridge above [node>82133 link Nueva Ocotepeque], and the remaining strip of forest looks for the world like a mohawk haircut, surrounded by denuded hillsides.
It may not be anything like Celaque or some of Honduras’s other mountain reserves, but Reserva Biológica El Güisayote has a number of endangered birds and mammals hanging on in the reserve, including quetzals, blue foxes, wild hogs, monkeys, and maybe even a couple of pumas. The views across three countries on a clear day (admittedly rare) and easy access to a cloud forest are enough to make it worth a day trip from Nueva Ocotepeque if you travel this way, easily accomplished with or without a private vehicle.
One of the reasons the forest is so decimated is that the Honduran Army built a road along the ridge at the time of the 1969 war with El Salvador in order to patrol the frontier, which gave farmers and ranchers easy access into hills. That same road is now being allowed by environmental authorities to deteriorate into a trail, which can be used by hikers in the reserve.
To get to Güisayote, take any Santa Rosa–bound bus from Nueva Ocotepeque 18 kilometers uphill to El Portillo (The Pass)—at 2,000 meters, this is the highest point of any paved road in Honduras. El Portillo is a collection of huts at the pass, from which a dirt road turns south up into the hills, following the ridge to a Hondutel tower five kilometers from the highway, inside the reserve.
A 45-minute walk past the Hondutel tower, the road comes to a three-way junction. The left road turns into a path descending the hillside, while the middle and right-hand paths (formerly dirt roads) continue into the forest. The middle road continues around the mountain to the villages of Ocotlán and Plan de Rancho, from which one can catch a truck ride back to Nueva Ocotepeque. The right-hand branch leads to Cerro El Sillón (Big Chair Mountain), the massive wall behind Nueva Ocotepeque. At 2,310 meters, it’s the highest peak in the vicinity. Even if you don’t go that far, walking along these trails, with forays along animal and hunters’ paths deeper into the forest, is an easy way to get a taste of the cloud forest, without having to camp out. Wildlife is not extensive, but the patient and quiet can spot a variety of cloud-forest birds.
Those visiting the park by car can drive up the entrance road as far as the junction and from there must walk, as the road deteriorates beyond that point.
In the southern section of the reserve is a large mountain lake called Laguna Verde; ask a local campesino to guide you there. North of El Portillo, on the other side of the highway, another dirt road follows the ridge through another, smaller patch of forest.
The reserve extends north on from the Ocotepeque–Santa Rosa highway and has a good-sized patch of cloud forest, but it is more difficult to reach than the south side, as no roads or major trails head in this direction.
The topographical map covering Güisayote is Nueva Ocotepeque 2359 II. Some limited information on the reserve can be found at the Plan Trifinio office (tel. 504/653-3009) in Nueva Ocotepeque, on the edge of town on the road toward El Salvador. Guides are reportedly available into the reserve from the village of San Marcos.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition