Mount Makiling is a state-owned forest reserve administered by the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Prior to its transfer to the university, the mountain was the first national park of the Philippines. Mount Makiling National Park was established on February 23, 1933 by Proclamation No. 552. However, it was decommissioned as a national park on June 20, 1963 by Republic Act no. 3523 when it was transferred to the University for use in forestry education and information.
The mountain is sacred to many pilgrims and is widely believed to be the home of an anito named Maria Makiling. It is one of the most known bundok dambanas in Calabarzon. It was declared as an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2013, with the title of "Mount Makiling Forest Reserve".
Legends surrounding the mountain relates to Maria Makiling, which is said to be the 'guardian' of the mountain. The contour of the mountain is said to be that of her in a reclining position. In some accounts, Maria Makiling is one of the anitos sent by Bathala to aid mankind in their everyday lives. However, she was heartbroken by a mortal man, and thus chose to remain hidden from mortal view afterwards.
Mt. Makiling is a popular hiking destination. The two major trails begin at the UPLB College of Forestry and Brgy. San Miguel, Santo Tomas. The UPLB trail is more commonly used, taking 4–5 hours to reach the summit (Peak 2). This trail was closed in October 2007 due to trail damage wrought by Typhoon Xangsane on September 2006. The trail was closed again in December 2012 after two students were found drowned in a restricted area on the mountain. The trail was re-opened most recently in March 2013. The second trail, known as Maktrav, starts in Santo Tomas. This route is more difficult and requires 6–7 hours to reach the summit. Both trails are generally established and safe, although throughout the years there have been occasional reports of fatal accidents and injuries, especially on the Santo Tomas side. Climbers also frequently encounter leeches along the way.