Hike the Pedregal Valley

Hikes · Ecuador
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Difficulty
moderate
Distance
17.9 km
Duration
6:00h
Ascent
376 m
Descent
98 m

Hike from Chilcabamba Lodge to Tambopaxi Lodge, making your way through the Pita River Canyon and a vast plateau of alpine tundra (or Páramo) as you enter Cotopaxi National Park.

You’ll experience the diversity of the Pedregal Valley in full, starting in dense high alpine scrubland at Chilcabamba Lodge. Pass through fields planted with quinoa, potatoes and wheat before dropping into the upper reaches of the Pita River Canyon. Turn south, and if it’s a clear day, see Cotopaxi Volcano looming ahead of you. Begin ascending up to the head of the canyon, passing through an old control gate and into the National Park. You’ll immediately ascend out of the canyon onto a broad plateau of open grassland dotted with giant boulders – an ancient lava flow. Wind your way through this otherworldly landscape, passing herds of wild horses and cattle, keeping your eye out for Condors (Ecuador's unofficial national animal) and pausing at Pucará Salitre (saltpeter fort), the ruins of an ancient Incan lookout. Finish your hike by turning west toward Rumiñahui volcano, crossing the open plauteau and arriving at the red-walled lodge of Tambopaxi.

Author’s recommendation

Check the weather ahead of time, for this day. You will be on the Páramo (alpine tundra), which is a awe-inspiring, beautiful landscape but is also exposed to the elements. 

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Difficulty
moderate
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
3795 m
Lowest point
3456 m
Best time of year
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Safety information

Today you climb from 11,330 feet to almost 12,500 feet. At this altitude, it’s important to maintain proper nutrition and hydration, so plan ahead by packing plenty of water, snacks and lunch. The sun is especially strong at this elevation and can cause sunburn even on a cloudy day, so sunscreen is a must.

The terrain is also open and exposed, especially as you leave Pita River Canyon and enter the National Park. While most days are relatively clear, the weather in the National Park can change rapidly and thunderstorms do occur. Plan ahead by checking the weather ahead of time and familiarize yourself with what to do in the event of lightning on open terrain.

As you hike you will pass herds of wild horses and cattle, in addition to some bulls. While they are rarely aggressive, proceed with caution and give these animals wide berth.

Please note that there is no cell phone service in the park.

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

Old Control Gate

This marks the border of Cotopaxi National Park. Once an entry point for vehicles, the park closed down this entrance for the more popular Tambopaxi entrance to the west. This means more wide-open terrain for you.

Pucará Salitre

Situated at the head of the Pita River Canyon on the slopes of Sincholagua, the remnants of this Incan fort offer commanding views of the surrounding terrain and volcanos. Cotopaxi looms to the south and Rumiñahui to the wet. On a particularly clear day, this site offers views down into the sprawling Quito valley, allowing the fort’s occupants to prepare for any intruders coming their way from the city.

Food & Drink

There are no stops for food or water today, so pack plenty of snaks and water and pick-up your packed lunch from Chilcabamba lodge.

Start

Chilcabamba Lodge (3459 m)
Coordinates:
Geographic
-0.523060, -78.448800
UTM
17N 783967 9942128

Destination

Tambopaxi Lodge

Turn-by-turn directions

Start with your back to Chilcabamba Lodge. Head out the gate and TURN RIGHT to follow the dirt road. 

0.30 miles - At the t-junction, TURN RIGHT following the sign for Tambopaxi. 

0.40 miles - Come to a steel gate on your left. TURN LEFT to climb over the brick wall next to the gate and continue up the road. This is a local road for the farmers in the area, but walkers are permitted. 

2.10 miles - TURN LEFT at the cement building to follow the cobblestone road down the hill (picture). 

2.20 miles - At the bottom of the hill BEAR LEFT to cross the bridges. Immediately after the bridges, TURN RIGHT to follow the double-track road up the valley, on the left side of the Pita River. 

3.40 miles - Continue STRAIGHT ON up valley. Don't take the road to the left. 

3.60 miles - TURN RIGHT to cross over the barricaded bridge (picture) to the west side of the Pita River. Follow the double-track as it skirts to the right of a bedrock ridge and BEARS LEFT and up (picture). 

4.00 miles - Arrive at two dilapated buildings, the old control gate for this side of Cotopaxi National Park. TURN RIGHT at these buildings to cross over the river and enter through the gate into the National Park. Follow the double-track as it climbs up out of the canyon (picture).

4.70 miles - At the top of the hill, arrive at a t-junction and BEAR LEFT to continue following double-track. You will follow the double-track for the next 1.2 miles as it winds through boulder fields toward the pyramid-shaped hill and Cotopaxi (if it's clear) in the distance. 

5.50 miles - BEAR RIGHT to continue following the double-track up the valley, south toward Cotopaxi (picture).

5.90 miles - BEAR RIGHT to follow the faint double-track up the hill (picture). At the top of the hill you'll see the sign for Pucara de Salitre, the ruins of an Incan lookout at the head of the valley (picture). 

6.50 miles - Continue STRAIGHT ON through the ruins. 

6.60 miles - Immediately after the ruins you'll see a dirt singletrack path dropping to an old brick hut to your right. BEAR RIGHT to follow this path (picture). 

6.70 miles - BEAR RIGHT again at the hut to follow the path into and across the gully. Climb the path up the other side of the gully. 

6.80 miles - At the top of the gully you'll see a double-track road across a small patch of grass. BEAR LEFT to follow this road. 

7.00 miles - At the T-junction marked by a sign with a small roof, TURN RIGHT, passing by a signpost with a green arrow (picture). 

7.70 miles - BEAR LEFT of the big rock to continue toward ridge to your left. 

7.90 miles - Continue to follow the double-track dirt road as it crosses the river, passes a sign post and BEARS RIGHT to head toward the northern edge of the ridge (picture). 

8.40 miles - Continue STRAIGHT ON following road as it curves around the northern end of the ridge (picutre). 

9.20 miles - BEAR RIGHT to follow the bike route sign (picture). 

9.90 miles - Come to another wood sign post with green stripes. TURN RIGHT to follow the road north toward the red stucco Tambopaxi Lodge in the distance. 

10.40 miles - Merge with the main road and continue STRAIGHT ON to Tambopaxi. 

10.90 miles - Arrive at Tambopaxi. 

 

 

 

Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Book recommendations for this region:

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Equipment

The weather changes rapidly in the Andean Highlands 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 singletrack trails.

Responsible for this content
Macs Adventure 
outdooractive.com User
Author
Claire Peters
Updated: November 18, 2018

Travel Guide: Hikes in Ecuador


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