Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
220.00 ft (67.06 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
3.00 mi (4.83 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Pipeline Road is an excellent hiking and bird watching location near the Panama Canal, not far from Panama City. It offers the opportunity to observe many species of birds, including toucans, motmot, trogon, and many others. The road was built in the mid-1900s as a service road for an oil pipeline also built at the time. However, the pipeline was never used, which left the road as a great access to Soberania National Park. Being a narrow road in the middle of the forest, it provides sufficient clearing to observe birds that would be harder to see among the branches. 

Some 400 bird species have been observed on this site. The dry season, generally speaking winter and spring months in the Northern Hemisphere, is probably the best time to visit, as there are wintering and migrating birds. However, even in the summer there is plenty of biodiversity, with toucans, trogons and motmots being very common. Mammals also inhabit the area, with howler monkeys being very common.

The road starts off the small town of Gamboa, by the Panama Canal less than an hour drive from Panama City.  If you will be going with a guide, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort is a common meeting place. Otherwise, access is open to the public without a guide. It is possible to park at the beginning of the road or drive the first 2 kilometers and park there. There are usually not many people, maybe just a handful of groups of birders in the area at the same time. As of the time of this writing, there was no fee to enter the road, but for $30 visitors can access the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, where hummingbird feeders are always busy, and a 40-meter observation tower that extends above the forest canopy.

The first 2 kilometers are fairly flat and make for an easy walk. After that the road is hilly but never too steep. The whole walk is 17-kilometers long, though it is not necessary to walk the whole distance to see plenty of species. It is recommended to start around sunrise, when parrots, chacalacas and many other birds are most active. As in any other tropical forest, it is recommended to dress appropriately and bring insect repellent and a rain cover. There are flush toilets and soft drinks and snacks for sale at the Discovery Center, but there are no services otherwise.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Beautiful birds on an easy hike with little traffic.

Cons

Need to share road with the occasional car.

Trailhead Elevation

168.00 ft (51.21 m)

Highest point

294.00 ft (89.61 m)

Net Elevation Gain

126.00 ft (38.40 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Wildlife
Flushing toilets
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Horseback riding
Guided tours
Potable water
Bird watching
Old-growth forest

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking
Horseback
Motorized vehicles

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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