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Pipeline Road

pipeline road panama soberania national park birdwatching in panama

Perhaps Panama’s most famous birding destination, Pipeline Road, is located inside Soberania National Park. The park, measuring 48,287 acres (19,541 hectares), was established in 1980 and contains numerous trails, one of which is Pipeline Road.

The trail begins slightly north of Gamboa and is not far from the Panama Canal. It measures approximately 10.5 miles (17 km), though the section after the turnoff for the Rainforest Discovery Center is currently closed.

pipeline road panama soberania national park birding in panama
The Trail

The trail is well-maintained and composed primarily of dirt and stones. Thick forest lines both sides, so there are no expansive views; the overhead area is usually open. The road is mostly flat, with gradual inclines and declines. I'd say it's easy, low-impact walking. After a hard rain, there might be areas with large, deep puddles and mud, so I highly recommend hiking shoes — not sandals. If you get there early, it can be pretty dark. It isn't until 8:00-9:00 that the sun rises high enough to illuminate the trail.

pipeline road panama soberania national park birding in panama
pipeline road panama soberania national park birding in panama
pipeline road panama soberania national park birding in panama

Getting to Pipeline Road

Google Map - Pipeline Road Google Map - Albrook Bus Terminal

There are no public buses that reach the entrance of Pipeline Road. Metro buses only go as far as Summit Gardens. However, small, private mini-vans service Gamboa from the Albrook Bus Terminal. They depart five times daily from behind the food eatery; you will need to look for the PIO PIO chicken fast-food restaurant. Walk to the right, and then turn left at the first entrance; you will see buses in front of you. To pass through the turnstiles, you will need a RAPI>PASS bus card, which you can purchase for $2.00 at the machine along the wall before reaching the turnstiles. In addition to the card, you will need to add $1.00 to cover the terminal entrance fee, which is $0.10. The bus trip costs $2.00 per person (each way) and takes approximately 45 minutes, depending on traffic.

Get off the bus at the last stop along the main road before turning right; before reaching Gamboa, you will cross over the Chagres River. There is an abandoned basketball court on the left side of the road.

From here, continue walking straight along the cement road, and shortly, you'll pass a Smithsonian Institute Scientific Research Station to your right. A few minutes later, the left side of the road opens up, and you'll see the canal and the many maintenance installations. Continue walking until you reach the intersection. From the bus stop, it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes.

At the intersection, stay left and continue along the asphalt road. There is a sign pointing to the Rainforest Discovery Center (2.4 Km).

After 4-5 minutes, the road turns to gravel and bends to the right. On the right side is a steel guard rail, and on the left is a railroad crossing. As you walk around the bend, there's a noticeable incline.

Follow this road for another 4-5 minutes, staying left until reaching a yellow security gate. Before the gate, turn right. There is another sign pointing to the Center (2.2 Km).

Further ahead (2-3 minutes) is the entrance to Pipeline Road, where you'll find an abandoned ranger station. If you are arriving by car, there is space off to the right where you can park; the road is not well suited for automobiles. Passenger vans, pick-ups, and SUVs are needed.

You can find more information here if you intend to visit the Rainforest Discovery Center.

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