It was under U.S. jurisdiction as part of the Panama Canal Zone for much of the 20th century and therefore was never developed like most of the surrounding urbanized parts of the city. As a result, it became a kind of an "island" of jungle in an urban area, where wildlife still survives cut off from other jungle areas. It is not uncommon to see sloths, coatimundi, armadillos, Geoffroy's Tamarins or deer on Ancon Hill, which status is now protected. Its name is used as an acronym by a Panamanian environmental group, Asociación Nacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (ANCON).
The lower slopes contained residences and Gorgas Hospital. Higher up were the residence of the Governor of the Canal Zone, and Quarry Heights, where the U.S. Southern Command was located. Quarry Heights was named for being adjacent to a large rock quarry on one side of the hill, which left a visible cliff face on one side. The hill contains an abandoned underground bunker once manned by the U.S. Southern Command. At the top are two broadcast towers and a small road that reaches them. One way vehicular traffic is now allowed during daylight hours. Hikers can use the road to reach the summit, and it is a popular jogging and hiking trek. Along the path, all manner of vegetation and birds can be seen, including large number of orchids (all of which are protected by CITES).
Its name was given to the first ship which transited the Panama Canal in 1914.