Belize’s Mountain Pine Ridge covers a little over 1,000 square miles, and visitors will be exposed to a sharp contrast in the sub-tropical landscape; here, pine needles rather than palm fronds, fill the usual rainforest landscape. The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve offers cool temperatures and reveals splendid natural monuments. Expeditions can be carried out by mountain bike, on foot or on horseback (horses for hire on site). Venture among the pines to examine the colorful vegetation, various bird species and other animal life such as tapir, cougar, jaguar and ocelot. The Pine Ridge is the region par excellence to reconnect with nature.Tourists and visitors find gorges and deep ravines, traverse dramatic granite expanses atop the Maya Mountains and observe meandering rivers, streams, waterfalls and pools in this area of the Cayo District.
It’s a landscape of sweeping pine forest sprinkled over granite hillsides, a majestic and cool area with stands of uniform pine sporadically dissected by fire breaks and broadleaf gallery forest. The forest represents a distinct genetic provenance of Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis – the Caribbean Pine. Beginning in late 2000 the pine forest of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in the Maya Mountains of Belize has been heavily attacked by the Southern Pine Bark Beetle (Dendroctomus frontalis), an insect that is native to the pine areas of Central America and the United States. Established in 1944, the reserve has been logged on a carefully managed basis ever since.
The reserve’s wildlife is very different from the lowlands. Birds can be quite hard to see secreted away in the scrub around the pines but there are exceptions. Acorn Woodpeckers are busy pecking at buildings. Their habit of storing acorns in tree stumps will be familiar to visitors from North America. Other reserve avian species include the Rufous-capped Warbler, Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Stigeon Owl and Eastern Bluebird. Between Autumn and Spring, visitors will see the Hepatic Tanager and Chipping Sparrow. Raptors prowl the valleys, and it’s the most likely place in Belize to see the Orange-breasted Falcon, Solitary Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk , Black-and-white Hawk-eagle, and the Crested Eagle.
A special part of the reserve is Baldy Beacon. Speculation continues on the cause of its infertility – soils are so poor they can’t even support trees. The most probable explanation for the infertility is that in geological history, while the rest of Central America was under water, protected from the elements, these parts were still above sea level and exposed to erosion and leaching for millions of years longer than anywhere else.
Another different part to Mountain Pine Ridge is the areas that did have limestone deposited on them. These now support broad leaf forest, and the most spectacular example is the Rio Frio caves area, the largest accessible limestone cavern in the country.
Things To Do At Belize’s Mountain Pine Ridge.
Visit the Thousand Foot Falls
The 1000ft falls in Belize is the tallest waterfall in the country and it is quite an impressive sight, especially being taller than any Belizean man-made building by about 90 floors! It easily accessible with upgraded roads and tourist facilities put in by the government.
Explore and Swim At The Rio On Pools
The Rio On Pools embrace a wide shallow stream cascading over the granite rock formations, forming pools in the deeper crevices and mini waterfalls on the overhangs. CAUTION: The area features fast-moving water and deep holes that be dangerous for children and inexperienced swimmers.
The pristine spring water that runs across and down the mountain is always clear and pleasantly cool even on the hottest of days, this mountain oasis makes the perfect rest spot for any phase of a trip, you might even want to make it your entire trip! Scenic and serene yet perfect for an adventure this is a definite must stop at the Mountain Pine Ridge.
Visit Big Rock Falls
Located within the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, this waterfall will leave you in awe as soon as you set eyes on it. Aptly named Big Rock, it is a magnificent, monumental, and massive waterfall with a small pool at the bottom that flows into a larger cenote (large open-water pool), rushing over large rocks.
After descending numerous wooden stairways through the forest, you will reach the base of the 150-foot waterfall. After all those steps, jumping off a rocky cliff into the pool is a thrilling option. If you prefer a more relaxing entry, you can simply wade among the rocks before dipping into the large cenote at the base of the falls. The recommended way to experience Big Rock Falls is to lie on your back and gaze at the cloudless sky while floating in the water. For a free, natural massage, position yourself near the rocky walls and let the cascading water pummel your back while refreshing your face. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking to dive off the cliff or a relaxation lover content with wading or lying on the rocks, Big Rock has something for everyone. Being deep within the reserve ensures that you’ll likely have the place to yourself, providing an excellent opportunity to appreciate nature’s creations up close.
Explore The Barton Creek Caves
The Barton Creek cave system is part of a much more extensive limestone cave system in the region is a little over a mile and a half long and home to a host of wonders.
The ancient Maya believed that the limestone caves that dot Belize were entrances to Xibalba (which roughly translates to “place of fear), their ancient underworld and home to their death gods.
While canoeing through the mile long cave waterway the cave opens up into large high ceiling rooms which are reminiscent of old cathedrals and centuries old Mayan pottery can still be seen perched on the many ledges overlooking the water.