El Yunque NF
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  • Wilderness Areas

    The United States Congress designated the El Toro Wilderness in 2005 and it now has a total of 10,254 acres and is managed by the Forest Service. The El Toro Wilderness, named after the highest peak (3,524 feet) in the El Yunque National Forest, is the only tropical wilderness in the U.S. National Forest System (NFS).

    The vegetation is dense, mixed evergreen forest ranging from 3 meters in height on the peaks to 30 meters at lower elevations. Four major forest types: Tabonuco, Palo Colorado, Sierra Palm, and Cloud Forest occur in the area.

    Several species of bats are common along with numerous lizards, tree frog species and several species of fish are found in the streams. The area is occupied by 42 year-round and 35 migratory species of birds. Federally listed endangered plants such as the Miniature Orchid (Lepanthes eltoroensis) and Palo de Jazmín (Styrax portoricensis), plus several other rare plant species, are known to occur. Four endangered wildlife species are present: The Puerto Rican Parrot, Puerto Rican Sharp-shinned and Broad-winged Hawks, and the Puerto Rican Boa. There are also cultural / historical features within the area containing artifacts and Taíno petroglyphs.

    What is "Wilderness"?

    The El Toro Wilderness is part of the 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the El Toro Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

    General Wilderness Prohibitions

    The Wilderness Act requires management of human-caused impacts and protection of the area's wilderness character to insure that it is "unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as wilderness."

    Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited on all federal lands designated as wilderness. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters, unless provided for in specific legislation.

    A Wilderness Area designation by Congress can be considered the most protected of management areas, since once so designated only another act of Congress could change a Wilderness Area status. Areas allocated to the Wilderness Management Area are managed under the following constraints: 

    • No road construction or other development 
    • No motorized or mechanized (e.g., bicycle) use
    • No timber harvesting
    • No water development
    • No treatment vs. control (manipulative) research
    • No mineral activity
    • Recreation management for low use, primitive experiences
    • Primitive standards for trail construction

    Recreational opportunities in the Wilderness area:

    include hiking and birdwatching. Tradewinds and El Toro trails meet at El Toro Peak and originate on the East and West side of the wilderness area. The environment provides visitors with opportunities for a feeling of solitude and serenity, a spirit of challenge, adventure and a sense of self reliance. To help maintain its primitive nature, group sizes should be 6 person or less, unless otherwise authorized by a permit.

    Please follow the Responsible Hiking Tips and use Outdoor Ethics / Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the El Toro Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.