The Cayambe National Park is one of the most biodiverse areas in Ecuador and one of the best places in the world for bird watching. The reserve was created on November 17, 1970 and has a system of 80 glacial lagoons, fed by the melting glacier on the Cayambe volcano. Cayambe also the highest mountain in the world crossed by the equator line, at latitude 0º and the third largest peak in Ecuador.
You can take a tour to visit Cayambe, which for us its the best volcano in Ecuador to visit due to its beautiful glaciers.
→ Fun fact: The name Cayambe (Caranqui kayan) comes from the local language and means “ice”.
Map to get to the Cayambe Coca National Park in Pichincha
How much does it cost to enter the Cayambe Coca National Park?
Entrances to national parks in mainland Ecuador are free. You only have to register during the public open hours. Remember that you cannot bring any pets into the national park. One very important thing to note is that you need a 4×4 car to reach the Cayambe refuge, preferably manual and lifted.
Our car, a Jeep Patriot with 4 wheel drive, has not been able to reach the top on 3 separate occasions. If you want to take a tour from the entrance (any car can arrive there) you can call Edwin (+593 96 917 3914) or Rafael (+593 99 135 1448).
Where to sleep at the Cayambe Volcano?
You can sleep in the refuge which costs $31.50 including breakfast. If you want the lunch service, it costs $8 USD, the same with dinner as.
In order to make a reservation, I recommend calling the refuge administrator, Segundo, in advance at the following number: +593 959559765.
When is the best time to climb Cayambe?
Although the Cayambe volcano can be climbed in any month of the year, it is recommended that you do it in the months of June to December, since these are the driest months. The weather is very unpredictable at the peak, so we recommend you hire a certified guide to safely climb this summit.
What is the weather like in the Cayambe Coca National Park?
Being an area of 403,103 hectares, its climate varies according to altitude ranging from 5 to 25° C depending on your elevation.
Where is the Cayambe Coca National Park?
The Cayambe-Coca National Park is located in the provinces of Imbabura, Pichincha, Napo and Sucumbios. It is a protected area of humid forests and plains just 38 km west of Quito.
How do you get to the Cayambe volcano?
The Cayambe-Coca National Park has three separate entrances. You can enter through Cayambe in the province of Pichincha (to enter the volcano and its glacier), through Papallacta in Napo and the eastern slopes near Lago Agrio in Sucumbíos. The interesting thing is that each of the entrances offers access to a different ecological region.
- Cayambe entrance: First you have to get to the city of Cayambe, which is considered a Pueblo Mágico by the Ministry of Tourism. To get to Cayambe you have to take the Panamericana Norte highway. Once you get to Cayambe, you must take a secondary road Juan Montalvo – El Hato – Pie Monte that leads to the refuge. This section lasts approximately 45 minutes until you reach the checkpoint. To be able to go up to the refuge you need to have a 4×4 car and 4×4 tires. I’m telling you about the tires, because my car is a 4×4 (Jeep Patriot) but it didn’t have the right tires and I couldn’t get on it. In case you do not have a 4×4 car, you can hire a van taxi service from the entrance of the Refuge, which costs $40 USD and can accommodate up to 8 people. This price is for a round trip and 2 to 3 hours of waiting. If you want to hire the guide to visit the lagoon or the glaciers, there is an additional cost between $10 to $15 in total. We had to hire a taxi halfway through as our car got stuck. You can call the guides Edwin (+593 96 917 3914) or Rafael (+593 99 135 1448). When there is a lot of snow, the van drops you below the refuge, and you have to walk between 15 and 20 minutes, but when there is no snow they can drive you all the way to the refuge. It is only 30 minutes walking to the Hermoso Glacier and an hour and a half to the Green Lagoon and an hour and 15 minutes to the Superior Glacier.
- Oyacachi Entrance: You have to take the road to Cangahua for 40 kilometers until you reach the Control Point.
- Rafael Waterfall: you have to get to Chaco and from there drive about 50 kilometers to the entrance to the waterfall.
What can you see in the Cayambe Coca National Park?
The most popular activities to do in the Cayambe Coca National Park are hiking, fishing and bird watching. Here you will be able to observe a vast range of wildlife including condors, hummingbirds, parrots, toucans, bears, Andean foxes, rabbits, among others.
Within the reserve there several major volcanoes and mountains including Cayambe (5,790 m), Sarahurco (3,485 m), Cerro Puntas (4,425 m) and Reventador (3,562 m). Visiting the last volcano is not recommended due to its constant eruptions. In fact, it is one of only five currently active volcanoes in the country. To access Cerro Puntas you have to go through the El Quinche parish, but keep in mind that from Checa there are narrow roads and you can only go in 4×4 vehicles.
Another of the activities that you can enjoy in the reserve is visit the thermal waters of Papallacta and Oyacachi, Lake Puruhanta, rock climbing in Cuyuja, and the San Rafael waterfall (131 m.), which is the highest waterfall in Ecuador. You can also visit the Lagoons of Sucus, Loreto, and Baños.
→ Interesting Fact: In this reserve is the third highest peak in Ecuador after Chimborazo and Cotopaxi, the Cayambe volcano, which crosses the equator.
In the refuge of the Cayambe Coca Pichincha National Park there is a bathroom, food and hot drinks. Drinks and food start at $1.00 USD and up. Lunches and dinners are $8.00 USD. If you want to sleep in the shelter, it costs $31.50, including breakfast.
What animals can you see in the Cayambe Coca National Park?
The reserve is very large and is one of the most biodiverse regions in the country. You can see a wide range of fauna and flora, but among the easiest animals to see are rabbits, deer, condors, and spectacled bears.
What do you need to pack to visit the Cayambe National Park?
- Warm clothing
- Two pairs of socks
- Comfortable shoes, preferably mountain or hiking
- Hat for the cold
- Coat, sweater, jacket or windbreaker
- Food and snacks
- Plenty of water
- Hiking sticks