Enjoy the vast and open terrain of the Highlands, with stunning views of five volcanoes including Cotopaxi, before entering the Pita River Canyon on your way to Cascada Fuego.
Situated in the heart of the Pedregal, a vast open highland, this section of the Avenue of the Volcanos provides views of the renowned Cotopaxi volcano to the South as well as Pichincha, Rumiñahui, Pasachoa and Sincholagua. You'll start north toward Pasachoa and past open pasture dotted with cattle. At the paradero, or rest stop, you'll turn south to enter the Pita River Canyon and make your way along the river to the waterfall, Cascada Fuego. This section of the hike alternates between dense brush and wider, more open banks with the river dropping away from you. Keep your eye out for hawks, raptors and eagles on the edge of the canyon above you. You will return to Chilcabamba along the same route.
Wake up early for the best views of Cotopaxi Volcano, to the south of Chilcabamba lodge. Bring binoculars with you on this hike as there will be plenty of opportunities to view hawks, raptors, eagles and kites.
The Pedregal is situated at over 11,500 feet, so it's important to wear plenty of sunscreen and to maintain proper hydration and nutrition for your day's hike. Pack plenty of food, water and snacks. Weather can also change rapidly, so bring your rain jacket and pants.
The Pedregal is a rural area, with few towns and more open pasture. Dogs are far fewer here than in Otavalo or Quito; even so it's important to remain cautious. Some dogs will approach you in a friendly manner, most will bark loudly as you pass by and others can be more aggressive. Carry a walking stick and be preapred to bend over and pretend to pick up rocks. This will often keep aggressive dogs at bay.
The Ecuadorian government monitors Cotopaxi Volcano 24/7 and has an early warning system and marked evacuation routes in place for visitors to the National Park. While an eruption is unlikely, check in with the staff at Chilcabamba Lodge regarding emergency procedures in the event of volcanic activity.
Points of Interest
A joint projected initiated by the Corporación Favorita, the Nature Conservancy and EPMAPS, Ecuador's main water provider, the Pita River Ecological Path provides plenty of opportunities to view volcanos, birds and of course the River and waterfalls. In addition to creating the path and signage for this area, funds go toward educating area communities on water conservation.
Food & Drink
Due to the remote location, there are no restuarants or shops along the route. Make sure to pack water and snacks, filled or purchased from Chilcabamba Lodge, before starting this out-and-back hike.
The weather changes rapidly in the Andes so pack accordingly, carrying plenty of warm layers and rain gear. Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are also strongly recommended, as the hiking surface varies greatly from dirt roads to slippery single-track trails.
Don't forget your camera as their are plenty of opportunities on this hike for spectacular shots of Cotopaxi, Ruminahui, Pasachoa and Sincholagua volcanoes, the Pita River and the Cacscada Fuego.