Exploring Parque Nacional el Imposible

Parque Imposible is one of El Salvador's most and diverse forests and should be a definite stop for nature lovers. The 3,278-hectare (8,100-acre) park derives its name from its challenging terrain and once-dangerous gorge, which for years claimed the lives of men and mules who traversed the area transporting coffee crops to the south. The animals had to be blindfolded, so terrifying was the crossing, with a narrow ridge and a drop of 3,000m (9,843 ft.) on either side. A bridge was built over the gorge in the 1960s and celebrated with a plaque declaring May 1968 -- No Longer Impossible. The forest was declared a national park in 1989. Today, the park is home to more than 400 types of trees, 275 species of birds, and hundreds of species of butterflies. Pumas, wild pigs, and some 100 other types of mammals, many on the endangered species list, make their home in the park, along with more than 50 kinds of reptiles and amphibians. In addition to enjoying ample opportunities to spot wildlife, visitors can easily spend days hiking trails through the thick forests, swimming in the natural pools, and jumping off the waterfalls here.

Park admission is $6 per person. All visitors must first register with park administrator SalvaNatura (33 Av. Sur, #640, Colonia Flor Blanca, San Salvador; tel. 503/2279-1515; www.salvanatura.org) to secure a guide and get permission to enter the park. SalvaNatura also offers $10-per-day Spanish-language guides and $40 day trips from San Salvador including transportation, a Spanish-speaking guide, and entrance fee.

The official park entrance is on the park's south side, near the community of San Benito. To enter from the south, beginning in Sonsonate, catch bus no. 24-HAS to Cara Sucia. In Cara Sucia, you can catch a $1 pickup ride for the remaining 45 minutes to the park. The pickups leave Cara Sucia at 6:30, 8, and 10am, and 12:30 and 2:30pm. They leave the park to return to Cara Sucia at 7, 9, and 11am, noon, and 2pm. You can also make the drive yourself, but the road is very bumpy and requires a four-wheel-drive or truck with good ground clearance. There is a new entrance farther west at San Francisco Menéndez, the turnoff for which is 5km (3 miles) west of Cara Sucia.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.