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Backpacker Magazine – March 2009

International Multisport Meccas: Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

Trek across the roof of the Andes, mix in some trail riding–on bike and horseback–and climb a 19,000-foot volcano.

by: Michael Lanza

Wild Horses Roam Cotopaxi (Glen Delman)
Wild Horses Roam Cotopaxi (Glen Delman)

Vancouver Island, British Columbia | French Alps
Darjeeling, India | Queenstown, New Zealand
Sardinia, Italy | Julian Alps, Slovenia | Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

Hike
Less than two hours south of Quito, the four-day, roughly 40-mile Volcano Trek from Santa Rita Private Reserve to Cotopaxi National Park plunges you into the heart of Andean volcanoes: Rumiñahui, Pasochoa, Sincholagua, Antisana, and cone-shaped 19,342-foot Cotopaxi. Staying mostly above 12,000 feet, the trail leads to the Inca fortress Pucara del Salitre, across ancient lava flows, and through otherworldly expanses of a wildflower-covered paramo, or grassland plateau. Go independently or with a guide (volcanoland.com), who also offers horseback riding, mountain biking, and cable-assisted ascents into the lush forest canopy.

Climb
A two-day mountaineering ascent of snow-capped Cotopaxi is nontechnical, but beginners should hire a guide. surtrek.com

Jungle Walk
See pink dolphins, crocs, and toucans in an ecosystem supporting 25,000 species of flora on hikes from Napo Wildlife Center Amazon Lodge at Yasuni National Park. surtrek.com.

Cost $$

Guidebook
Trekking in the Central Andes, by Rob Rachowiecki, Greg Caire, and Grant Dixon (Lonely Planet, $18.50 for the book or $5.50 to download the Ecuador chapter)




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READERS COMMENTS

Jeremy J Scully
Feb 02, 2012

I lived in Ecuador for 5 years. Been up to the refuge at Cotopaxi a number of times and camped in the National Park and on the mountain a few times - A MUST DO! The mountain is perfectly shaped and beautiful. From the parking lot (if you decide to drive) is approx. 1,000Meters to the Refuge, and a steep climb. One of my best experiences ever!

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