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Fitness
Hiking trail

Hike the Pita River

Hiking trail · Ecuador
Responsible for this content
Macs Adventure Verified partner  Explorers Choice 
  • 0.35 Miles - Signs for "Ruta Avenida de Volcanes."
    / 0.35 Miles - Signs for "Ruta Avenida de Volcanes."
    Photo: Alec Norton, Macs Adventure
  • / 3.0 Miles - A sign for the paradero.
    Photo: Alec Norton, Macs Adventure
  • / 3.10 Miles - Blue gate with signs for "sistema Pita."
    Photo: Alec Norton, Macs Adventure
  • / 3.60 Miles - "Siga el Sendero" sign.
    Photo: Alec Norton, Macs Adventure
  • / Cascada Fuego
    Photo: Alec Norton, Macs Adventure
  • / Views of the open range and foothills below Pasachoa Peak
    Photo: Alec Norton, Macs Adventure
ft 12200 12000 11800 11600 11400 11200 11000 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 mi

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. 

moderate
12.2 km
4:15 h
159 m
159 m

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. 

Author’s recommendation

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.

outdooractive.com User
Author
Claire Peters
Updated: November 18, 2018

Difficulty
moderate
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
3557 m
Lowest point
3354 m
Best time of year
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
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Dec

Safety information

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.

Tips, hints and links

Points of Interest

Pita River

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. 

Start

Chilcabamba Lodge (3463 m)
Coordinates:
DD
-0.523454, -78.448904
DMS
0°31'24.4"S 78°26'56.1"W
UTM
17N 783955 9942084
w3w 
///universally.spruced.perplexes

Destination

Chilcabamba Lodge

Turn-by-turn directions

Start with your back to the lodge. Go out the gate and TURN RIGHT on the road.

0.35 miles - At the t-junciton, TURN LEFT, following signs toward the "Ruta Avenida de los Volcanes." (picture)

3.0 miles - You'll come to a cluster of buildings and a rock sign advertising the Paradero, or rest stop (picture). Continue STRAIGHT ON

3.10 miles - Arrive at the Paradero, a red-roofed building (picture) and TURN RIGHT, sharply, to head down the hill toward the river.  You'll come a steel gate painted light blue, with signage for the "Sistema Pita." Continue STRAIGHT ON past this gate.  Soon after you'll come to a sign welcoming you to the "Sendero Ecologico Rio Pita" (picture).  BEAR RIGHT to follow the path past this sign. 

As you continue up the canyon, you'll follow a path that winds between the river on your left and the canyon wall above you on your right.

3.40 miles - You'll come to a sign stating "Sendero Ecologico Rio Pita, No Arrojar Basura" (picture). BEAR RIGHT to continuing following the path past this sign. You will also begin to see a few white arrows painted on rocks pointing the way along the river (pciture). 

3.60 miles - You'll come to a bridge over the river. Do not cross this bridge. Instead BEAR RIGHT following signs for the path, "Siga el Sendero" (picture).  The path briefly passes through dense brush before opening up to provide views of the waterfall a short distance upriver (picture).

3.70 miles - As you near the waterfall the path crosses a stretch of open bedrock before re-entering brush to continue upriver. 

3.80 miles - Shortly after, you will arrive at the base of the waterfall and a sign for "Cascada Fuego" (picture). This is your turnaround point. You will follow the same route back to Chilcabamba Lodge. 

7.60 miles - Arrive back at Chilcabamba Lodge. 

Note


all notes on protected areas

Coordinates

DD
-0.523454, -78.448904
DMS
0°31'24.4"S 78°26'56.1"W
UTM
17N 783955 9942084
w3w 
///universally.spruced.perplexes
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Equipment

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. 

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Difficulty
moderate
Distance
12.2 km
Duration
4:15h
Ascent
159 m
Descent
159 m

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