Subscribe!Get all the best of On Walkabout by subscribing.

Hikes on Guam: The Pagat Caves Trail

Basic Information

  • Name: Pagat Caves Trail
  • Where: Guam, USA
  • Distance: 2 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 481 feet
  • Time: 2-3 hours round-trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • More Information: The Best Tracks on Guam

Terrain Map of the Trail

Pagat Caves Trail Topographic Map

Narrative

One of the most popular and historical hikes on Guam is the Pagat Caves Trail.  This trail is well known with the various tour companies on Guam that shuttle tour groups to hike through the jungle to the remains of a historic Chamorro village.  Additionally next to the village is a cave with a fresh water swimming hole in it.  Pagat is not the only place on Guam with a swim hole or remains from a historic Chamorro village, but it is the easiest to access.  The trailhead is located off of Highway 15 between the villages of Yigo and Mangilao:

There is parking on both sides of the highway for about 20 vehicles.  I have seen this trailhead completely full with parked cars on weekends which is testament to its popularity.  I recommend getting to the trailhead around 0800 to ensure parking is available and to avoid crowds.  Finding the trailhead is easy because the big brown sign located there that is impossible to miss from the highway:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

At the trailhead there is another sign that provides information about what is allowed at the Pagat Caves:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

I was really not interested in swimming in the cave because of the possibility of a leptoseptosis infection.  I actually had a friend of mine come down with this after swimming in the “Lost Pond” swim hole.  He was extremely ill which was enough to convince me to stay away from fresh water swimming on Guam.  I was more interested anyway in seeing the remains of the Chamorro village to compare to the other ones I have seen on Guam before.

The start of the hike is very easy with a very wide trail to follow:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

By Guam standards this trail is a superhighway.  It does eventually narrow as it goes deeper into the jungle, but it is still very easy to follow:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

Further into the jungle the trail narrows even more:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

I have been on some many hikes on Guam with horrible trails so it was nice to go on a hike with an actual well defined trail.  The trail does eventually become rocky as it begins its descent down the cliff face towards the village below:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

The rocks are moist which makes them slick so I walked very carefully on this section of the trail:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

There is a spot on the trail where a rope is installed to help hikers lower themselves down a particularly steep section of slick rocks:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

The threat of slipping on wet rocks is the only real danger on this hike and is why I rate this hike as moderate and do not recommend little kids on the trail. At the bottom of the rope section I found myself now on a flat bench of heavily vegetated land.  The trail next took me to a depression in this bench of land where the Pagat Caves are located:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

At the depression there are a few small cave entrances that can be seen.  The largest cave entrance to the left is where the swim hole is located.  It is very dark in there so definitely bring a light:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

After briefly checking out the cave I then scrambled up the right side of the depression and found the trail to village:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

This ended up being a mistake because the far better trail to take is one on the left side of the depression.  The trail I followed had orange ribbons marking it, but the trail was less defined with a lot of vegetation in the way:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

This trail then intersected with the better trail that runs from the left side of the depression which was easier to follow.  Shortly after intersecting on to the main trail I did spot my first lusong of the hike:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

Lusongs are grinding stones that ancient Chamorros used to crush food in.  Shortly after spotting the lusong I then stumbled into the remains of the village:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

The size of the village is actually the largest Chamorro site I have seen on Guam.  There are plenty of Guam’s famous latte stones to see here:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

Here is a closer look at one of the latte stones:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

The latte stones were used as pillars for ancient Chamorro huts.  Only in the Mariana Islands were latte stones used in such a way:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

These latte stones would have allowed the builders to make their homes raised above the jungle floor.  By being above the jungle floor it would have kept critters out of their homes and thus protecting their food stores.

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

It is hotly debated by archaeologists whether all Chamorros lived in lattes or whether just families of high social status.  It seems to me that if everyone lived in latte structures a lot more of them would be seen around Guam unless they all lived in cramped living conditions.  If someone had a stone latte structure that would mean that they would need people to work for them to quarry out the rock which once again leads me to believe people of higher social status are the ones that lived in the structures.

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

Besides the latte stones I also spotted two more lusong rocks as well:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

After spending a few minutes checking out the main latte area I then followed the trail towards the coast.  Along the way I spotted some more smaller latte stones:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

After a short walk I could hear the ocean ahead of me:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

As I broke out of the jungle I had a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean in front of me:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

Also in front of me was a natural rock arch formed by the ocean waves crashing against the shoreline:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

Here is a closer look at the thrashing water I could see in the arch below me:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

I actually hiked on to the top of the rock arch and proceeded to take in views of the coastline.  Here is the view looking towards the north where there was not much to see except more of the jungle covered cliffs that compose northern Guam:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

Of interest though to the north is the fact that the US Marine Corps actually wanted to turn the cliff line into a firing range.  The Marines are in the planning stages of moving 5,000 personnel to Guam as part of troop reductions on the island of Okinawa in Japan.  These new Marines need a place to train and this cliff line was floated around as a possible site.  Considering how close the range would be to one of Guam’s most popular historic and recreation sites it is no surprise that the locals were highly upset with this proposal.  The idea of building the range near Pagat was scrapped and will now be built near Ritidian Point.

To the south I had better views of the coastline to include Taguan Point in the distance where the 1,000 Steps Trail is located:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

Behind me I could see the cliffs I descended just over 400 feet to reach the village and the ocean:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

It was an absolutely beautiful day out so I spent about 30 minutes sitting on top of the arch and just taking in the great views offered of northern Guam:

Picture from the Pagat Caves Trail

The hike back was overall easier than the hike down because the rocks are not as slick climbing up them.  I did make a wrong turn on to one of the social trails on the cliff line.  Once I realized my mistake I backtracked and spotted the main trail again where the ropes were located.  Besides that it was an uneventful walk back to the trailhead.  On the way back it was about 0900 in the morning and the first van of tourists had arrived which I could hear from all the noise they were making ahead of me.  By starting the hike at 0700 I had the whole trail to myself which made the experience more enjoyable.

Conclusion

Overall I enjoyed this hike.  The trail was in mostly good shape which is a rarity on Guam and has some interesting sights to see as well.  For those that want to go swimming in a cave that option is available too.  So I highly recommend people visiting Guam to consider adding this hike to their itineraries if they only have limited time available.  For those wanting to see a Chamorro village and have more time available I recommend the Sella Bay Trail.  Pagat has a larger village to see, but the Sella Bay Trail has much better scenery, a historic Spanish bridge and snorkeling.  However, the Sella Bay hike requires a 1-2 hour longer time commitment compared to the Pagat hike.  Better yet is that for those who have the time available do them both because they are both a couple of the best hikes on Guam.

CLICK HERE TO FIND MORE HIKES AT THE GUAM REGIONAL TRAIL FINDER!

Get The Best Tracks on Guam for more trail information:

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *