Key information: Quito Area
- A huge selection of fabulous day walking from Ecuador's capital.
- Walkopedia rating87
- Natural interest17
- Human interest3
- Negative points0
- Total rating87
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: Your Choice
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
There are numerous fine day walks around Quito, which provide excellent opportunities to acclimatize after arrival.
Consider also basing yourself in the Otavalo Area for superb walking options.
There is a plethora of great walks here, from short explorations to multi-dayers:
The Pichincha Volcanoes: a pair of volcanoes (one active) to the west of Quito. Ruca Pichincha is accessible by cable car from Quito, to 4,000m where you can tailor your walking to fit your state of acclimatization. Superb views as well as geological fascination.
Pululahua Crater: Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, north of Quito is a fascinating place to explore on foot, a deep caldera some 5km across with exceptionally rich and varied vegetation and wildlife on its slopes, and covered on its outside in dense forests with farmland on its fertile floor.
Bellavista Nature Reserve: This magnificent tract of steep cloud forest harbours an extraordinary diversity of bird and plant life, including a delightful selection of humming birds. Explore these mysterious, often misty slopes on an excellent network of paths.
Cerro Atacazo: Another spectacular, eroded volcano with superb views, in the western cordillera. A steady ascent until you reach the crater rim, where the (visual) fireworks really start. You can get close to the top (an hour or so) with a 4WD, so a good acclimatization day walk.
El Chaupi: A gorgeous walk across rough paramo, taking in three minor peaks. Huge views of surrounding volcanoes, and also of lovely farmland valleys, so a delightful variety to enjoy. This is a (relatively) lower-level walk, so a good acclimatizer.
Cerro Pasochoa: This heavily eroded extinct volcano has superb views of the Avenue of Volcanoes. It is a day walk but would be demanding if you are fairly recently arrived. There are several approaches, and you can choose from a selection of trails on its slopes.
Papallacta Lake District: Beautiful glacially scoured lakes and mountains near Ecuador's best hot springs.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books and Maps
Books on these walks
Ecuador Climbing and Hiking Guide – Viva/ Rob Rachowiecki and Mark Thurber. THE walking book. But evidently out of print and vilely expensive second hand on Amazon, as of end 2015. Available as an e–book. There is a Bradt predecessor from 2004, which is, obviously, out of date in places but much cheaper!
Trekking in Ecuador – Robert Kunstaetter – 2001. Good on day walks.
Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands – Lonely Planet/Regis St Lois.
LIVE Travel Guide to Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador Footprint Handbook by Robert Kunstaetter and Daisy Kunstaetter
Ecuador and Galapagos, Viva Travel Guides by Lorraine Caputo and Chris Klassen
The Rough Guide to Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands by Melissa Graham and Harry Ades
Ecuador – Insight Guides
Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Moon Handbooks. We have to say we were underwhelmed in 2015.
Travels Among the Great Andes of the Equator – the great C19 mountaineer Edward Whymper’s classic account.
Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands - Travellers’ Wildlife Guides – gorgeous, good illustrations.
Maps aren’t great, but there are topographical maps available and worth getting.
GPS can therefore be worth having.
http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/ - worth checking their travel maps.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Lying across the equator, Ecuador does not have seasons as those from temperate climates would understand them. The weather is amazingly different between areas of the Ecuadorean Andes. Late June to early September, and December and early January (althought colder and wetter) are best times for the Quito area. February to May are the wettest months.
Very changeable. Even if you are there in the “dry” season, come prepared for both hot sun and rain.
It often gets cloudy in the afternoons, so usually best to start early.
Most people fly in to Quito or Guayaquil. You can fly internally in Ecuador. Skyscanner is an excellent (relatively new) site for finding the flights you need; otherwise try Lastminute.com, or look at what’s available on TripAdvisor.
There are plentiful buses in Ecuador, and it is viable to get to most places this way, but they can be crowded.
Car hire is reasonably easy, but driving isn’t straighforward, not least because of the lack of roadsigns. Local taxi services generally exist in the towns, can (eg) take to or pick you up from a roadhead, or transport luggage.
Those on organised expeditions will be transported from/to arranged points.
See Walk Summary above.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
· Altitude: can affect some; potentially fatal. Acclimatize appropriately, come prepared to cope, be ready to evacuate people in extreme cases.
· Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year and the weather can change rapidly. Come prepared.
· Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
· Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
· Dangerous/harmful animals, including snakes in the lower regions and stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
· Canyon dangers: canyons can be lethal, particularly as a result of flash floods. Assess and prepare for all risks on those walks involving canyons. In particular, check the weather carefully and don’t go after rain or if it is possible.
· This can be remote country: you will have to carry all your food and other supplies on remoter walks and help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
· Health risks: you may not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Potential problems can include malaria. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications in good time.
· Bulls: can be encountered – keep your distance if you see them.
· Beware of dogs: Carry a stick/ throw stones if they threaten, keep well clear if possibly rabid.
· Be sensitive about photographing people: don’t without permission. Ask permission if in doubt about whether they would mind.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do these walks independently, but you will need to be self-sufficient, so come fully prepared.
Many people form or join organised/supported expeditions when doing multi-day walks. Given the remoteness of the country and difficulty of getting supplies, many will prefer to do it this way, and travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages. Choosing a suitable guide or company is of course vital, and the guidebooks contain good advice in this regard.
If hiring a guide locally, meet him/her and get comfortable before committing. Make sure all requirements are understood and agreed – including how you will eat and the importance of avoiding illness, as well as overnighting and, of course, remuneration!
Check TripAdvisor for some reviews of this walk and walk organisers which may prove helpful.
PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable tour organizers that you know of – local or otherwise.
The guidebooks have a selection of possible accommodation. There are relevant accommodation websites.
Camping is the only realistic option once on trail.
See what the commentary on TripAdvisor is on possible places to stay – although do take their reviews with a pinch of salt, as they can be “interested”.
A good range of hotels can be found on the unimaginatively named but effective Hotels.com.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
· South American Explorers (www.saexplores.org) in Quito is a fabulous non profit group with a clubhouse in Quito with a wealth of information (including on current status of safety/volcanic issues).
· Wikipedia. As usual, a good starting place.
· Have a look at TripAdvisor – there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views on this area
· Wikiexplora is a useful site if you can read Spanish. The automated translation means it’s not ideal for non-Spanish speakers, but it does have some good trail maps.
Other things to do in the area
Ecuador has a huge variety of great walks. There is likely to be a good walk within range wherever you may be, in the mountains at least.
Mountain biking, climbing, some white water rafting, birdwatching.
Culture, history (Inca, other pre-Spanish, colonial) and people watching.
Coastal/sea fun and chilling.
We are not a shopping website. But, there are beautiful and interesting things to be found, and anything bought from local people must be of some help to this poor area. So, wallets out! (And don’t try to extract the very last cent when bargaining…)
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more