Cotopaxi National Park is an intense experience that is not to be missed if you have an extra day in Quito, Ecuador. It's also a hike you don't want to underestimate! Check out our guide and review of Rebecca Adventure Travel as your choice for Cotopaxi hiking.
Cotopaxi National Park is 128.9 square mile park in Ecuador. It's known for its active Cotopaxi volcano, which had an ash eruption in 2015. The volcano is finally open to the public again for hiking, and it's an amazing and intense experience that you must include on your itinerary in Ecuador!
If you want to visit Cotopaxi National Park, there are a few things to know:
With these things in mind, while Cotopaxi National Park is an intense experience, if you're prepared and know what to expect, it is also life changing and well worth the effort. Here are some of the amazing things to expect.
Cotopaxi National Park is full of wild horses and cattle. You are not allowed to hunt in this park, so these animals are left alone. They do sometimes starve and you may see some that are thin. Do not approach these animals, and remember that their deaths play a role in the cycle of life for other animals in the park.
Mostly you will see cloud coverage and in fact, you will be IN THE CLOUDS when hiking to the refuge or higher. I have heard that some people never get to see the peak, but we were lucky. On our drive in Cotopaxi peaked from the clouds many times. We were able to see it's glory and snap some pictures, although still cloudy!
The goal of the most basic hike at Cotopaxi is to make it to the refuge. It's incredibly strenuous and there are many moments you want to give up. However, once you get to the top, you have a fantastic accomplishment under your belt. The refuge is a small spot that you can sleep in if you intend to hike higher to the glacier. For day visitors, it has hot drinks, soups, and other necessities, but is overall basic. It's a good spot to warm up before the descent.
Luckily, the way down is easier than the way up. It took us approximately 1 hour to climb and less than 10 minutes to work our way down back to the refuge parking lot. We had intended to ride bikes as well, but were so exhausted that we just passed out and let Adrian drive us home!
Hiking Cotopaxi was one of the most difficult things we've ever done, but also an enormous accomplishment. As our guide Adrian said, motivating us to the top, "every step you take is the highest point you've ever been."