The weather in the Highlands changes rapidly, so please remember to pack extra layers and raingear. In addition, this loop hike starts at 10,000 feet, so pack plenty of water, snacks and lunch to maintain proper hydration and nutrition and to set yourself up for success during the rest of your time in Ecuador. Please note that you can turn around and head back to the start at any point, making this hike as challenging or laid-back as you'd like.
Cotocachi Cayapas Ecological Preserve is a part of Ecuador's preserve system. It includes diverse biological zones including rainforests, subtropical and Andean and ranges from about 1,000 feet to over 14,000 feet in elevation. Because of its protected status, the preserve is home to a range of indigenous flora and fauna. Cuicocha Lake is in the Andean Zone and hosts plants and animals that have adapted to the high altitude.
Cuicocha is a two-mile wide caldera formed by an eruption over 3100 years ago. The lake has two lava dome islands, Teodoro Wolf and Yerovi and the lake itself draws its name from the shape of the larger of the two islands: Cuichocha means "lake of guinea pigs" in the local Quechua language.
Food & Drink
There are few stops today for lunch, however, included is a packed lunch provided by Casa Mojanda. The Cotacachi Cayapas visitors center also offers lunch, along with a restaurant located at the end of the hike, although its hours may vary on the weekends or holidays.
Please bring comfortable hiking clothes, sturdy hiking shoes, a backpack, water, your packed lunch, raingear and layers. You may wish to use walking poles to help on the ascents and descents and to provide balance on uneven or rocky terrain. During January to May, the rainy season, these months can be prone to afternoon thunderstorms and showers, so waterproof clothing is essential in the case of heavy showers. Sunscreen and a sunhat are highly recommended, especially at this high altitude.
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