Cotopaxi is an active volcano in the Andes Mountains located about 50 km (31 miles) south of Quito. It is the second highest summit in the country, reaching a height of 5,897 m (19,347 ft) and is one of the world’s highest volcanoes. Since 1738, Cotopaxi has erupted more than 50 times resulting in the creation of numerous valleys formed by mudflows around the volcano.
The National Park protects the landscape as well as myriad bird and mammal species, including wolves, pumas, bears, rabbits, Andean condors, wild horses, and foxes. Keen climbers and trekkers arrive to Cotopaxi from all corners of the world, excited to explore its unique landscapes and to try and capture some of the park’s wild spirit. Whether you want to conquer a volcano or relax and admire the Andes’ beauty, Cotopaxi National Park never fails to satisfy. Exploring four different volcanoes from different perspectives, you will hike through spectacular valleys and verdant grasslands, travelling from rocky mountain peak to volcanic glacier, and all in the most environmentally responsible way: walking!
Climb the Pasochoa peak. At 4,200 meters this is a challenge that will get our engines revving in anticipation of the second part of our adventure. Access is not difficult and our hike to the peak will take about 3 hours over grassland trails.
From here you will get a spectacular view of the mountains surrounding Quito, the inspiring scenery of the Pasochoa crater, as well as the impressive surrounding mountain crests: Antisana, Sincholagua, Quilindaña, Cotopaxi, Rumiñahui, Corazón and the twin Iliniza peaks. The second part of our day consists of the descent to the Pita river canyon, a downhill walk of about 3 hours through grasslands and low ‘Chaparro’ forests, ending at the Lodge, situated at about 3,200 meters above sea.
We start at the Pita River. This river gives life to hundreds of thousands of Quiteñios (as Ecuador capital city residents are known), and its source is the pristine glacial meltwater of Volcan Cotopaxi. Its rushing waters will guide us throughout much of our adventure. This is a special and beautiful hike, but it’s more than just the beauty and activity. By hiking here, we are working to conserve the Pita River. We hike to raise awareness for both locals and visitors alike about the importance of this water, how conserving it is important, and how melting glaciers will impact our population. The hike enters the Cotopaxi National Park towards an archeological site called Pucara de Salitre, where we can see a variety of migrant and resident Andean bird life. On the way, we might see some of the wild horses, deer or llamas that make the park their home, as well as gorgeous seasonal mountain wildflowers and breathtaking scenery. We will spend time at the water’s edge of the Pita and the natural springs at the park , admiring classic views of Cotopaxi Volcano or perhaps the reflection of Rumiñahui Mount in its waters. During our adventure, we will stop to enjoy a picnic in the crisp alpine environment. We will finish our exploration at our next cosy mountain lodge, Tambopaxi.
From the lodge we will drive in our private vehicle to the parking area of the Cotopaxi mountain refuge. We will then walk for approximately an hour before reaching the mountaineers’ lodge, and hike from there to the edge of the glacier, a walk of approximately two hours. From here, the northern side of the mountain offers a spectacular panorama. You will be able to identify (with the help of our guide) all the ground we have covered since the first day of our adventure: Quito, its valleys, the distant mountains in the north, and the road from Pasochoa, through the Pita canyon, to el Pedregal, Sincholagua, Rumiñahui and the magnificent Limpiopungo valley. The descent, which will take approximately 2 hours, takes the same route back to the parking lot and we head back to Quito.