From many vantage points within the forest, a lookout tower can be seen crowning a distant headland with likelihood of exceptional vistas from the summit. Who could deny such invitation that eventually surpassed any ground-level expectations? However, this one isn't for party poopers, so be prepared to suck it up! The Mt. Britton Trail is by far the most demanding hike within the system and exceeds classification as one of two challenging exploration opportunities.
Highway 191 terminates at 13km, where a small access road veers to the right, and a trail head for Mt. Britton is just beyond. Parking is along the narrow passageway, and an elderly park employee was always standing guard, whether to provide security within the remoteness or encouragement to the weary. He assured that the mile hike to the tower could be done within 45 minutes, though information estimates a 90-minute trek. Physical stamina and endurance dictate the real time factor.
At 941 feet, Mt. Britton is one of the lesser peaks within the Luquillo mountain chain. Path brevity is less than half the distance for reaching El Yunque, only because it doesn't take extended scenic routes terracing up the mountain.
This trail begins an immediate steep climb using a series of short step stairs dispersed amid narrow paved sections with barely room to pass around others. The forest, clinging to the side of the mountain, was some of the most dense and darkened ground cover around, the shade factor more a highlight than actual scenery.
Trail through the forest ends at a small service road that continues the vigorous climb before a brief jaunt resumes up a steep embankment. The Mount Britton Lookout Tower is swallowed by its lofty surroundings. Not until entering the stone structure, and trudging the final steps up an interior staircase, does such physical chastisement make any sense.
Arriving out of breath is further exacerbated by the breathtaking scope that encompasses the tower, including glimpses of Caribbean along the island's southern coast. Outward vistas were rather hazy, even on a clear day, but the most intriguing views lie below, overlooking the forest canopy. Binoculars would've been nice, but a telephoto lense was great for turning the above picture into a close-up work of art like pictured at bottom of the Gardener Free Form.
The Mount Britton trail should not be missed if only for panoramas from the lookout tower, if skies are clear. But unless you're training for a triathlon or are a glutton for punishment, an endurance challenge to the top can be avoided. If planning to hike El Yunque Trail, save here for the way back down using the Mount Britton Spur Trail for a short, level connection to the tower. This way the trek is all downhill and then a pleasant 1-mile walk along Highway 191 back to parking areas at Palo Colorado Information Center.