Wanting to go hiking in Ecuador? You’ll never be too far from a hiking trail in Ecuador, but when there are so many, and each is more beautiful than the last, how are you supposed to choose? Luckily, we’ve selected some of the best for you, so you don’t have to.
Whether you’re after a quick morning jaunt around a crater lake or you’re seeking a multi-day trek through mountain ranges, we’ve got you covered with this list of the best hikes in Ecuador. In a country so diverse in landscapes and with such a welcoming culture, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the country.
Hiking in Ecuador? Here are the 15 Best Hikes in Ecuador!
We’re starting the list off strong with a hike up a volcano. Rucu Pichincha is a volcano located right near Quito, the nation’s capital. It’s very easy to reach if you are staying in town. There’s even a cable car to take you right to the beginning of the trail to maximize your hiking time. Surprisingly, this hike isn’t frequented by many tourists, so it’ll be a relaxing trek free of crowds.
The cable car drops you at 3945 meters, and it’s an additional 755m to the top. This part of the hike takes around four hours, leading you through grassland and rocky patches. You’ll need to get used to the altitude, but once you’re at the top, the views of Quito are unreal.
Location: Just outside Quito
Insider Tip: Watch out for the sacred Incan bird, the Curiquingue.
If you’re going hiking in Ecuador you have to check out Lake Cuicocha. Only an hour or so away from the town of Otavalo is a beautiful crater lake that makes for a perfect day hike in Ecuador. It’s a four-hour trip around the lake, and there’s plenty to look at, so you definitely won’t be bored. From the two islands nestled in the middle of the lake (supposedly shaped like guinea pigs) to the rich diversity of flora and fauna in the region (keep your eyes peeled for beautiful exotic butterflies), you’ll be glad you carved out some time for this beautiful hike.
Though it’s not a terribly long Ecuadorian hike, start early to wrap up before the sun gets too hot. Because this lake is situated quite high, be sure to have enough water and snacks and a rain jacket in case of sudden drizzle.
Insider Tip: Don’t miss the massive weekly market for which Otalavo is famous.
The Inca Trail
For those unaware, the Inca Trail marks an ancient path that used to connect Quito to Cusco, Peru. This particular leg of the route follows the Inca Road to Ingapirca, which takes around three days to complete. The trail has a lot of difference in altitude – 4200m at its highest – and starts from Achupallas. As the name suggests, it finishes at Ingapirca, the site of some 1000-year-old Incan ruins.
Aside from the legendary ruins, you’ll pass stunning lagoons and the ancient but impressive water system ruins from Incan times.
Location: Alausi, Chimborazo Province
Insider Tip: This is another route where you’ll want to acclimatize to the altitude before setting out.
This is a small village in the province of Napo, northern Ecuador. It sits at an impressive altitude of 3300 meters—a city in the clouds! The region is well known for volcanic hot springs, and the wealth of wild mammal life in the area makes this a very unique place to hike in Ecuador. Watch out for possums, weasels, and the rare pampas cat.
Back in the city, there are quaint hostels, cozy restaurants, and the well-known Termas thermal resort, which is a hot springs spa perfect for a bit of relaxation after a day of trekking. Boiled trout caught fresh is a common local dish; be sure to sample this while you’re here for a taste of the cuisine.
Location: Napo Province
Insider Tip: If you partake in the resort pools, the water will be freshest in the morning.
Yasuní National Park
If you’ve been waiting to see a jungle trek on the list of best hikes in Ecuador, this one’s for you. Yasuní National Park is definitely tricky to get to (you’ll probably need to fly from Quito to Coca, the nearest city to the park, and then a boat to the specific area you want to hike), but given that the Amazon is one of the most biologically diverse regions on the planet, it will be worth the journey.
The tourism here is well-managed, so there are tour groups and guides available to ensure not only your safety but the preservation of the park. You’ll see animals you’ve probably only seen on a screen, like toucans, parrots, spider monkeys, and anacondas.
Location: Coca, Ecuador
Insider Tip: Most of the hiking routes are pretty digestible, only around two hours, so it’s worth staying a few days and doing several.
Casa de Arbol
This gorgeous hike is situated on the outskirts of a jungle near the town of Bãnos. While the surrounding valley has several hikes to choose from, the Casa de Arbol is a four to five-hour climb up to a well-known treehouse (how cool is that?), from which you’ll have some pretty awesome views of the town below. If you visit on a cloudless day, you’ll be able to see all the way to the Tungurahua volcano.
The trail starts right in the city, just follow the signage. Entrance into the treehouse is $1, and there’s even a swing that soars out over open valley (for that Instagram snapshot).
Location: Bãnos, Tungurahua
Insider Tip: This region is famous for its hot springs, which are a great way to relax after this uphill hike.
The Condor Trek
This is a three or so day hike in Ecuador, where you will pass through beautiful rainforest terrain between each evening campsite. The hike ranges in elevation, some of it through lowlands and some as high as Santa Lucia Lake, which sits at a staggering 4,500 m. The scenery ranges from lush greenery to huge glaciers, giving you a wide range of landscapes to experience.
You’ll arrive in Papallacta, head to the village of El Tambo, and from there begin your trek. The route finishes with the Mica Lagoon before heading back into Quito.
Location: East of Quito
Insider Tip: If you hadn’t planned on an equipment-heavy expedition, many options for guide-led tours will include gear rental.
This volcano often gets ignored in favor of its much larger neighbor, Cotopaxi. It’s a great option if you want something a little tamer, or you need to acclimatize yourself before tackling Cotopaxi. The volcano is fully extinct, and thanks to a year-round absence of snow and relatively forgiving terrain, it actually is quite popular as a Ecuador hiking route.
Though not as famous as Cotopaxi, the views of this volcano from Rumiñahui are impressive. You’ll also get an incredible vantage point to see El Corazón, Los Ilinizas, and Sincholagua.
Location: Cotopaxi Province
Insider Tip: Don’t miss nearby Limpiopungo, a stunning lake ideally situated for 360° views.
Sangay National Park
Occupying a hefty territory in the middle of Ecuador is the largely-unvisited Sangay National Park. From extinct volcanoes to crashing waterfalls and lush, sweeping valleys, this national park pretty much has it all. There are also glaciers and tropical rainforest, two landscapes you typically wouldn’t think of as existing in the same region, let alone the same country.
There aren’t a lot of human settlements here, so it’s a rich tapestry of wildlife – think pumas, foxes, bears, guinea pigs, jaguars, and more. There are a few peaks to climb and some volcanic craters. Do your research ahead of time because the difficulty ranges wildly from one area of the park to another.
Location: Morona Santiago, Chimborazo, and Tungurahua provinces
Insider Tip: Skip Tungurahua for climbing, as the volcano has become quite active in recent years and is no longer considered sufficiently safe. Admire from a distance!
The town of Vilcabamba is becoming a popular relocation spot for ex-pats, but fortunately, it hasn’t lost any of its charms. The Mandago Loop is the town’s most popular Ecuador hiking route and also its most challenging—so much so that we recommend undertaking this one with an experienced guide. The way up is steep, rocky, and often with dangerous drop-offs, so it’s especially not recommended for new hikers or those afraid of heights.
Find the start of the path behind the town bus station (it costs $1.50 to do). The full loop is around four hours, and you’ll get some beautiful views of the surrounding valleys.
Location: Vilcabamba, Loja Province
Insider Tip: Hikers occasionally get lost, so a compass & map is recommended for this hike.
The Pululahua Crater
This is the crater of an extinct volcano—the largest on the continent! It’s four kilometers wide and 300 meters deep, and surprisingly, it’s full of extremely fertile soil, so it’s a haven for growing crops. It’s located in a geological reserve, thanks to a staggering diversity of plant and animal life unique to this region (particularly birds and insects).
There are homes located within the crater, which in turn has its own kind of magic—a lush oasis with a small community tucked within. It’s so close to Quito, yet has very few visitors. Take an hour-long bus ride for less than $0.50 to get there; most paths are around five-hour loops.
Location: One hour north of Quito
Insider Tip: Rain clouds tend to roll in towards the late morning, so this is a Ecuador hike best done early in the day.
This is a challenging trail but worth the effort. Located north of Quito in the Cotacachi Cayapas reserve, the Pinãn Trek takes you up Churoloma Mountain, through the Andean forests, and down along the edges of the Yanacocha Lagoon. There really is a little bit of everything on this hike.
The full hike in Ecuador is around four to five days, and guided tours are available. It’s recommended for at least an intermediate-level hiker, due to the range in elevation and difficulty. But if you can swing it, the views you’ll get of glaciers, mountain ranges, and verdant valleys are absolutely worth it.
Location: North of Quito
Insider Tip: The route technically starts in Otavalo, but many guides will meet you in Quito.
Calling all adventurers, this is a hike to the world’s highest active volcano. The Cotopaxi volcano is a couple of hours south of Quito, the capital city, and there are always transport options to get you there if you aren’t staying in the nearby countryside.
The climb to the top (which is usually snowy!) needs to be guided, since it’s a whopping 5000m elevation, and symptoms like altitude sickness are common. Be sure to pack sunglasses and a hiking hat because the sun reflecting off the snow can be blinding! Despite these minor inconveniences, if you visit on a clear day, you’ll have some pretty unreal views from the highest point.
Location: Cotopaxi Province
Insider Tip: Little to no ATMs in the surrounding areas outside of Quito, so make sure you’ve got cash.
Cajas National Park
This national park is a UNESCO heritage site, so you know it’s going to be amazing. This isn’t so much a specific route as an enormous region covering some 280 square kilometers, and trails that alternate between moderate and high altitude, just to give you options.
Natural wonders include ancient volcanic rock, cloud forests, and endless lakes. There’s even a section of the famous Inca Trail that passes through the park. The most popular route is only eight km and winds past three of the most-visited lakes in the area.
Location: Azuay Province
Insider Tip: The park is absolutely huge, meaning lots to explore, but also a higher chance of getting lost. Either grab a guide or do research in advance.
If you want to see some of the more rural parts of Ecuador and really immerse yourself in the culture, this is a great place to start. The Quilotoa Loop is more of a trek than a hike and spans around three days. There are guesthouses and homestays along the route, and food and water can be refilled. This trek is the definition of roughing it, but will give you a new perspective on life in a South American country as you make your way quietly through the farming communities.
Despite the length of the hike, it’s not an arduous journey. It’s fairly level aside from the odd climb here and there, and you still get incredible views of the valleys and mountains.
Insider Tip: This isn’t a loop, so you can start from either end—Quilotoa or Isinlivi.
Insider Tip: Overnight accommodations are possible along this route.
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What to Pack For Your Hiking Trip to Ecuador
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around Europe in the winter. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. Sometimes even the summer depending on where I’m at. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside and great for nighttime in Europe.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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