Summits of Southern Belize: Where To Hike in Stann Creek

by Carolee Chanona

Visiting Belize, with its embarrassment of wilderness and cinematic coastlines, might convince you to forget about even heading out to the islands. A bastion of undiscovered authenticity where it’s always possible to live like a local, this is a place where the fishing culture is alive, the rain plentiful, and the hiking legendary.

A misty morning on the Hummingbird Highway in all its glory. Image by Tom Hines/@TomHines23

The drive from the City of Belmopan to the Stann Creek District on the Southeast edge of the country is one of the better ways on this planet to spend 90 minutes: something magical happens on the Hummingbird Highway. At the very least, the emerald expanse calls to you for further exploration, begging you to discover it in all its intensity of beauty; answer with a hike. Hiking is one of the best ways to truly explore a landscape—that slower pace and on-the-ground perspective can make it easy to appreciate your new surroundings, taking note of sights, scents, sounds, and textures easily missed at a faster clip like a quick drive past.

With destinations of varying difficulty and intensity, many trails in Southern Belize end at waterfalls like the magnificent Davis Falls, the hidden slip of Belize’s second-tallest waterfall eight + miles down a rugged trail, or the double- tiered beauty atop the Tiger Fern trail. Stretches along the Hummingbird and Southern Highways melt as Belize’s best word in hikes, really—a mic drop of sand-meets-sea just around the bend, while pristine jungle cascades culminate hundreds of feet below into a refreshing reward. Plus, if you’re lucky, spot wildlife from a safe distance.

Here are two hikes to summit in Southern Belize's Stann Creek District.
waterfall Davis Falls
The Cockscomb Basin expanse from Outlier summit. Image by Harvey Valenzona

For the intrepid: Outlier Trail
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

Elevation: 585 m

Estimated hiking time: 6 hours

Note: Expeditions require guided assistance and are available during the dry season only. Contact co-manager Belize Audubon Society (info@belizeaudubon.org) for details.

For a truly challenging hike, try the trek to Outlier as the 14-kilometer one-day challenge inside the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. As an out-and-back trail, hikers follow the same path towards Victoria Peak (Belize’s second-highest point) for four kilometers before taking a right turn into the dense, tropical forest. 

Rising steeply as a strenuous climb, the way to the top sends hikers to the upper peaks in the northern rim of Cockscomb Basin, but not before passing through remnants of elfin woodlands. Heavily burdened with epiphytes and carpets of moss, the quasi-cloud forest is ethereal, dwarfed, and damp from its high-elevation; hikers scale the mountain face with the help of tree root footholds and on occasion, rope assistance. It’s difficult, but the payoff comes in the form of true satisfaction: hands on hips, drinking in sweeping 360 views of the Cockscomb Basin with a side of uninterrupted accomplishment.

Vistas from the top of Antelope Falls, Bocawina. Image by Carolee Chanona

For the modest: Antelope Falls, Mayflower Bocawina National Park

Elevation: 196 m

Estimated hiking time: 90 minutes

Note: Hikers can end at the lookout shed, or take a short 20-minute spur up to the Fall’s crest.

Classed as moderate but sweat-inducing nonetheless, the hike to Antelope Falls inside Mayflower Bocawina National Park winds a route with two incredible vantage points. As a 3.1 kilometer out-and-back trail near Dangriga, hikers are engulfed in dense rainforest before the fringes of the Maya Mountains. Mostly flat terrain leads with gradual incline for a little over a mile, tracing to the base of the impressive Antelope Falls— tumbling over 1,000 feet below.

There’s a lookout shed at the base, perfect for catching your breath and a snap of the Falls in all its vertical expanse. Craving more? Climb 1.2 kilometers further to the crest by taking a right at the shed; in pursuit of purity, Manila ropes lead you to salubrious splash pools and vistas of the Stann Creek River Valley.

Written by Carolee Chanona for the 2021/2022 Belize Gold Book.
Header image courtesy Kevin Quischan Photography. Article found on page 74 of the 2021/2022 Belize Gold Book. Read more articles from the #BelizeGoldBook below:

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